January 3, 2024
By Shruti Nallappa, UNA-NCA Graduate Fellows Program Alumna 2021

My name is Shruti Nallappa, and I am currently a Programs Operations Coordinator for Pact. Pact is an international development organization that operates in over 40 countries and seeks to build solutions for human development that are evidence-based, data-driven, and owned by the communities we serve. At Pact, I provide broad operational and administrative support to the Strengthening Youth and Women’s Civic Participation Program in Sudan. For those who have found navigating the international development world challenging, I wanted to take this opportunity to share my journey. It did not begin at Pact – instead, it was a series of steps that have led me to be in a rewarding position today.

In 2021, I was part of the UNA-NCA Graduate Fellow cohort, where I met many like-minded individuals and peers with a wide breadth of knowledge and experience. I formed close relationships with staff who helped run the program and developed skills that have proven valuable throughout my professional and academic careers. The GFP helped open many doors for me, including my first job as a Land Use Aide with Fairfax County. Thanks to Ed Elmendorf and Soonhoon Ahn, my mentors from the GFP, I have learned to embrace every professional experience, even the not-so-enjoyable parts.

I worked as a Land Use Aide under the Hunter Mill District Board Supervisor’s office for a year and five months. While working in local government was not something I had in mind at the time, I knew that there would be elements to the job that I could later apply in other positions. The role taught me the importance of engaging with the communities I am serving, how to implement protocols and laws, why I need to understand all the steps of a land use application, and the need to be aware of the projects and contexts I am working with.

The transition from local government to a major international development NGO was not easy, but I always knew that I wanted to work in the NGO space at some point in my career. While working in local government, I had frequent conversations with my boss and ensured he understood my long-term career goals. I was also very transparent during my interview that my position in local government would serve primarily as a “steppingstone” for other opportunities more aligned with my interests and what I studied in school. Before working in local government, I was a student fellow for the nonprofit The Global Campaign for Education – United States for two years. I had a basic understanding of how a nonprofit operates, which made my transition a little easier.

I am still getting acclimated at Pact, but I look forward to being challenged as I help support the Sudan project. The project’s goals and timeline have changed drastically due to the conflict breaking out in Khartoum in April 2023. I am also grateful to be a part of an entity that not only provides support to communities but ensures that stakeholders are given the resources to stand on their own rather than depend on a third party. Thank you to UNA-NCA and the GFP for being a pivotal part of my journey. I am excited to be in the international development space and hope to one day be a critical part of worldwide humanitarian aid.

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