Approaching a career in NGO sector – Alumni Story by Anna Ackermann

May 6, 2021

What are you currently doing?

I am an energy and climate policy content specialist at Ecoaction - Centre for Environmental Initiatives, one of Ukraine’s leading environmental NGOs. The organisation is very close to my heart because we founded it with my colleagues back in 2017, and since then it has been constantly developing and becoming more and more recognisable among Ukrainians. We advocate for ambitious climate policies, transition to renewable energy, clean air for all and sustainable development of transport and agriculture. 

What were you doing before?

MESPOM (2012-2014) became my second Masters degree, the first one was in Power Engineering from The National Technical University of Ukraine "Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute". MESPOM helped to combine the knowledge in the energy sector with a better understanding of environmental issues and solutions. The studies that I did in Ukraine were heavily focused on traditional energy production from thermal and nuclear power plants. In my free time I started learning more about renewables and realised that there was a huge gap between what I was learning and where the whole world was heading. MESPOM filled that gap greatly by giving answers to so many questions! 

How and when did your interest to work within the NGO sector arise?

It was by chance that the first interview I had when I started looking for a job after graduation was at an environmental NGO in Kyiv. I have to say that coming back to my home country after MESPOM was worrisome because I wasn’t sure I would be able to meet like-minded people easily. But that very first interview changed everything! The discussion went very smoothly, my interviewers (future colleagues) were very open-minded and one of them even appeared to have graduated from Lund University. Somehow, I had no doubts that it was a good place for me and it proved to be the case. 

I was lucky to come back to Ukraine at the time when civil society was gaining influence and a door for many positive changes was widely open. This allowed me to engage in energy and environmental sector reforms, participate in high-level expert discussions and be able to have a say in decision-making processes. 

How would you say MESPOM had a role in providing the teachings/opportunities/toolkit for your career development?  

Looking back at the two very rich years of MESPOM, I realise how precious the time was for my career. Here are top three things I am grateful for the most:

  • Personal development. MESPOM was a truly life-changing experience that split my life into “before” and “after”. I’ve learnt to be more independent, gained courage and better developed my integrity through multiple challenges that I had to overcome.
  • Analytical skills. Learning to take out the essence out of large and complicated texts was crucial during MESPOM studies and it is the skill number one I use on an everyday basis now.
  • Group work. I’d had very little practice of working in/with a team before MESPOM. Thanks to many group assignments during the studies, I was able to learn more about others and myself, exchange and coordinate, motivate others and be more patient. 

What’s the biggest advice you could give to MESPOM students interested in building a career in the environmental NGO sector?

If you have a chance, just go for it. You can learn so much when working in an NGO, and it’s never boring. Literally never! Let me mention just a few things you can learn: improve your analytical writing and prepare publications, enhance public speaking skills, engage with local communities and talk with decision-makers, write articles in media and talk on the TV, organise expert meetings and get to know how to present scientific information and data to the public. Working in an NGO gives a sense of fulfilment, when you know that you are a crucial link between the population and decision-makers, and that you fight for such a good cause as protection of the environment.

Any future plans?

I like working on sustainable energy solutions and climate policies, and keep optimism about the future. At the same time, I see how much there is still to learn, how many skills and competencies to master. In the coming years I am planning to keep improving my understanding and knowledge of technical and economic aspects of energy transition. The coming decade will be a decisive one in terms of climate action. So, I am looking forward to taking an active part in these complex but exciting transformations that are expecting us ahead.