MBA Internship Insight - United Nations

Contributing towards a better world at the United Nations

After nearly a year of MBA coursework and intense challenges at CEIBS, I approached my internship search with two clear goals in mind. I wanted to explore a new functional area, but also apply the broad scope of technical, management and organizational skills that I have been honing through my studies to-date. I found the perfect opportunity as a Summer Research Associate at the United Nations Department for South-South Cooperation in New York.

As I packed my bags in Shanghai before starting my internship, two thoughts crossed my mind. First, the United Nations organization, along with its development agencies and aid programmes, is renowned for its unique role in international affairs. However, as is often the case in such large organizations, its sheer scope leaves the individual and operational focus of its branches shrouded in mystery.  Another question mark for me was the impact an MBA intern could have at the UN, as placements in NGOs and affiliated governmental organizations represent a rather rare choice among graduates; private-sector oriented careers in consulting, finance or otherwise are usually a bigger draw.

Looking back now at my experience, I found that the internship was not only more demanding than corporate life, but also provided an added sense of meaningfulness and purpose to my daily work. Our department was focused on the bilateral and trilateral cooperation among nations and technology exchange between developed and developing nations, with the overarching goals of climate change mitigation and sustainability of the planets’ resources.  Despite my previous skills and organizational experience in the fast-paced tech private sector, I felt this opportunity was very challenging, not only because I was required to draw upon the combined knowledge of technical and finance skills previously acquired in my career and the MBA programme, but also because it exposed me to an entirely new dimension of diplomacy and inter-personal relations. It has given me an unprecedented level of insight into the diligence of staff engaged in producing complex proposals, exposed me to the inherent tensions and divergence in multi-stakeholder negotiations, and most importantly has given me a glimpse of how dialogue and cooperation among nations make the impossible a reality.

During my time in New York, I had the pleasure of learning about the UN’s scope of operations, delegations and procedures. On a daily basis I was involved in helping to draft proposals for multi-lateral cooperation, climate change focused funding programmes, technology exchange research documents, as well as supporting the Director and senior staff to prepare budgets, operations, meetings and focal contact points in the search of new partnerships. One of the highlights for me was the opportunity to sit in Plenary, General Assembly and working sessions, engaging with diplomats, ambassadors, policy makers, and representatives from global financial and trade organizations as they negotiated together on the international stage. My CEIBS MBA grounding in ‘China Depth and Global Breadth’ also helped me when facing the pressing dual agenda deadlines of the 71st UN General Assembly and the 2016 G20 Summit in Hangzhou.  This was the first time a G20 Summit was held in China, and it culminated in the 2020 Climate Change Agenda Goals commitment which was formally re-affirmed by a number member-states.

Looking towards the future, I want to contribute my knowledge and experience to make the world a better place amidst the sea of uncertainty in markets and society. It is my hope and desire to contribute to the United Nations and the welfare, security and stability of the world, if such an opportunity arises.

As a final note, I want to take this opportunity to once again thank all my colleagues at the UN for their continuous support, and express my congratulations to His Excellency Dr. António Guterres, former Prime Minister of Portugal in his new UN Secretary-General role which begins in 2017.

For any further details or questions regarding my experience and internship journey, please feel free to contact me at: filipe.castro@undp.org

Filipe Castro