When your field of work is really a warzone

  • 704 views
Uploaded on

For most people, ‘conflict’ means a confrontational board meeting. For three alumni, though, the field of work really is a warzone. In the campaign to clear the world’s battlefields of landmines and …

For most people, ‘conflict’ means a confrontational board meeting. For three alumni, though, the field of work really is a warzone. In the campaign to clear the world’s battlefields of landmines and other unexploded ordnance, an MBA from London Business School emerges as a surprisingly potent weapon.

This was first published in AlumniNews, Issue 131, February 2014. Find out more about our alumni community at http://www.london.edu/alumni

More in: Education , Business
  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Be the first to comment
    Be the first to like this
No Downloads

Views

Total Views
704
On Slideshare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
2

Actions

Shares
Downloads
2
Comments
0
Likes
0

Embeds 0

No embeds

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

Cancel
    No notes for slide

Transcript

  • 1. AlumniNews ISSUE 131 FEBRUARY 2014 Treading carefully For most people, ‘conflict’ means a confrontational board meeting. For three alumni, though, the field of work really is a warzone. In the campaign to clear the world’s battlefields of landmines and other unexploded ordnance, an MBA from London Business School emerges as a surprisingly potent weapon. By ALEXANDER GARRETT
  • 2. ■TheBigIssue/Masterminding mine clearing PAUL HESLOP AS DEPUTY DIRECTOR AND chief of programmes for the United Nations Mine Action Service, Paul Heslop MBA2004 has seen at first hand the carnage and misery wrought by unexploded landmines. Yet he cheerfully professes to have “the best job in the world”. Paul, a graduate of Sandhurst and the Defence Academy at Shrivenham, oversees 18 programmes in 14 countries worldwide from his office in New York. After a brief stint as a financial advisor (following an injured knee that put his army career on hold) Heslop joined mine action charity the Halo Trust and spent eight years clearing mines in Mozambique, Angola, Cambodia, Kosovo, Laos and Afghanistan. “My job was to run teams of local staff in each country to find bombs and landmines, and once they’d found one, it was my job to blow it up,” he recounts. “I’ve probably been involved in the destruction of somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 items.” A highlight of those years was hosting Princess Diana on a visit to de-mining operations at Kuito and Huambo in Angola; the images of Diana in full body armour were beamed around the world, proving a watershed moment in the campaign to rid the world of landmines. In one picture she laughed as she held a decommissioned mine; “I’d just presented her with that and when I gave it to her. I said, ‘For God’s sake, don’t put it in Charles’s bed,’” says Heslop. His decision to do an MBA came after he was promoted to Paul Heslop MBA2004 guided Princess Diana through the minefields of Angola
  • 3. ■TheBigIssue/Masterminding mine clearing director of New York-based Halo USA. “After ten years of mine clearing I’d probably started using up my luck,” says Heslop. “I was interested in joining the UN and I thought it would enable me to join at a much higher level.” After graduating he successfully applied for a vacancy at the UN and was subsequently promoted. As the head of UNMAS operations, he manages a $250m budget, comprising $70m from donors and the balance from UN peacekeeping operations. “I love it, because every day is a different challenge,” says Paul. “I’m well paid, have a great team, travel to interesting countries. Three times a week I sit in on meetings with the head of peacekeeping operations and find out what’s going on around the world. And I’m helping people.” “I use more than one aspect of my MBA every day whether it be finance, building a brand, marketing or organisational behaviour,” he adds. “Major budget negotiations, for example, involve accounting, strategy and presentation skills, as well as justifying spending to donors. Organisational behaviour skills are key to understanding what motivates people and the reasons behind their decisions.” Since completing his MBA, he’s maintained a close relationship with the School, conducting more than 50 interviews and speaking at numerous recruitment events. Paul is particularly proud of playing a part in bringing down annual landmine casualties from 20,000 to 3,000 over two decades. “I’ve also been instrumental in bringing in an extra half-a-billion dollars over the last ten years to clear mines and remove explosive hazards. Part of that has been because of my knowledge of finance and how budgets work.” If funding is maintained, most of the mines around the world could be cleared within five years, he believes, adding that UNMAS is now extending its role into clearing other unexploded ordnance, such as shells, bombs, rockets and grenades. The next challenge is Syria, where, Heslop says, “we are looking at supporting OPCW with regard to chemical weapons, and planning how to clear mines and unexploded bombs, and protect the peacekeepers and humanitarian actors from IEDs and other explosive devices.” A daunting but vital task, if peace is to be achieved.
  • 4. ■TheBigIssue/Masterminding mine clearing OLIVIA SELBIE On her first day with UNMAS flying out to Afghanistan, Olivia Selbie MBA2005 heard there had been a suicide bomb in Kabul. “That’s our office,” said her colleague who was also on the flight. The next few days were spent sweeping up shattered glass and moving furniture to get the office back up and running. Olivia worked in technology, latterly at Skype, before attending the School. Her change of career came about through serendipity after she bumped into Paul Heslop on a School trip to Kenya and found out about UNMAS’s work. “We kept in touch and he let me know when an opportunity came up in Afghanistan,” she says. “It was a big step to jump to such a different sector, but there was a common thread because the job involved managing relationships with suppliers and NGOs – and I had been managing partnerships at Skype.” Olivia spent a year in Afghanistan, visiting a number of landmine sites during that time. “They had been left there over the course of 20 years, from the Soviet occupation, through the mujahadeen, right up to the present conflict. Nowadays, the biggest problem is improvised explosive devices,” she explains. Putting it in context, Olivia says: “Landmines are a development inhibitor because it means you can’t use the land safely. So at the moment the emphasis is on development enablement. The other thing is that there are 15,000 locals hired as de-miners who are contracted to clean up the land. So that is providing employment and supporting all of their families.” After a year she moved to New York and managed a portfolio of smaller projects such as Nepal and Colombia, also getting a firm grasp OLIVIA SELBIE MBA2005 (left) is an UNMAS Planning and Monitoring Consultant “Landmines have been left in Afghanistan over 20 years, from the Soviet occupation, through the mujahadeen, right up to the present conflict. Nowadays, the biggest problem is IEDs”
  • 5. ■TheBigIssue/Masterminding mine clearing of how the organisation really works. She has since returned to London and is now working on a project to improve the monitoring and evaluation of UNMAS’s mine clearing projects globally. “This is being done at a local level, but we need to be better at aggregating the information globally,” says Olivia. “Donors quite rightly ask what happens to the money we spend.” At the heart of that project is the creation of a global database management system that maps the consequences of UN programmes, such as land use and personnel training. “The aim is that in future it will allow us to use more evidence-based decision making.” Alongside specific skills such as project management and finance which have proved invaluable, Olivia says of her MBA: “It has given me much more confidence. What I walked away with was a breadth of understanding about how organisations function, how all the parts fit together to drive the organisation forward.” The satisfaction that comes from the work is largely selfish, she claims. “You are working with interesting people, you travel to interesting countries, experience different cultures. Compared to other sectors, you get a broader picture. You work with governments, you work with suppliers, as well as with colleagues in the UN.” And there’s particular pride in having taken steps to empower the three Afghan women in her team in Kabul. Looking forward, Olivia says: “I would love to stay in this area but juggling with a two-year-old son is difficult. When he’s older I would love to do more field work, so I suppose I will have to negotiate that with my husband!”
  • 6. ■TheBigIssue/Masterminding mine clearing PIU BOSE Since February 2013, Piu Bose JEMBA2012 has been based in Juba, South Sudan, where she is programme officer for UNMAS in one of the world’s newest countries. It’s a long way from her previous job as a management consultant with Accenture. Piu has two main roles in South Sudan: managing the programme of mine clearance through contractors and NGOs, and building capacity through the National Mine Action Authority, so that it can take over when UNMAS exits the country. A key part of her job is developing evaluation and monitoring of the UNMAS programme that can be used to demonstrate outcomes to donors. That means going out to the field “to make sure the people collecting the data are asking the right questions,” she explains. And that entails danger. “You have to go in a convoy of UN vehicles, and in the minefield you have to wear mine protective armour. We operate to very high standards but there is always an element of risk.” The conflict between north and south Sudan went on for decades until the south eventually seceded, two years ago, with both parties laying mines to strategically guard their territories. “It’s not well documented where the mines were laid, and you often have to rely upon hearsay from villagers,” says Piu. When she started her Executive MBA, she was already interested in switching to a career in International Development, and the breakthrough came as a result of networking. “One of the team in the School’s career development services suggested I email Paul Heslop,” says Piu. “He put me in touch with Olivia, who I was then lucky enough to work with on the impact monitoring system.” That helped her get a six-month posting PIU BOSE JEMBA2012 (far left) is UNMAS Programme Officer in South Sudan
  • 7. ■TheBigIssue/Masterminding mine clearing with Accenture’s international development practice in Tanzania, prior to joining UNMAS. Bose feels very close to the School. “Whenever I am in London I try to stay in or near the School. For me it is home.” She would love to set up an internship for students to come to UNMAS. The most valuable aspect of her MBA, she says, is the organisational and change management skills she acquired to motivate the people in South Sudan’s NMAA. “There are treaties the Government needs to sign up to and we need people in the NMAA to act as advocates,” Piu explains. She has taken the ‘small steps’ approach embedded in Kotter’s Principle to drive incremental change in that organisation, with some success. Fulfilment comes from “having the vision of a world that is safe and being able to deliver that,” says Piu. “The victims of landmines are often far removed from the war and end up being women, children and animals. What I particularly like about UNMAS is that it’s very easy to measure the impact of the work being done.There is huge satisfaction in going back after six months and seeing land that was previously unusable, due to contamination from landmines and other explosive remnants of war, now being used by the community for socio-economic development such as building houses, growing crops and raising cattle.” To find out more, visit unmas.org “Any time you go out to an operations site, you have to go in a convoy of UN vehicles, and in the minefield you have to wear mine protective armour. We operate to very high standards but there is always an element of risk”