Interview Sadiq Zafrullah

Last changed: 12 July 2021
Sadiq Zafrullah

How do you start your international career? Get experience as an intern in a global organisation is Sadiqs best advise. Follow his way from Bangladesh via Sweden and SLU to UNHCR in Geneva, Switzerland.

What are you working with today?
Currently, I am working as an intern at the UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency within its Energy and Environment team at the headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Some of my ongoing assignments are to support the analysis of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of UNHCR to achieve carbon neutrality; and contribute to the Clean Energy Challenge that aims to provide clean/renewable energy solutions to all the refugee camps in the world by 2030. I am heavily engaged in data management and analysis, project proposal development and communications.

Tell us a little about your background.
I am a proud Bangladeshi national. I have lived in 3 different countries other than my home country to pursue my education and professional experiences while travelled another 10+ countries for academic and recreational purposes. I obtained a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh and a master’s degree in Rural Development and Natural Resource Management from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Sweden. So far, I have worked at the International Labour Organization (ILO), Global Water Partnership (GWP) and UNHCR. My area of work has been ranged in different development issues but mostly in the field of environment and climate change.

How did your interest in international issues arise?
There are actually several factors that influenced my interest in the international issues. During my Bachelor’s programme, I was volunteering with the Active Citizens of British Council in Bangladesh beside my regular studies. My work involved raising awareness against pollution and hygiene. The work grabbed my attention towards other development issues, and grown an interest in me to work in this field. On the other hand, my internship at the ILO introduced me to the field of green jobs and sustainable development. As I worked on analysing green jobs potential in the countries of Asia and the Pacific, my interest in international policy and development mainfolded substantially.

How did you get a job/internship at UNHCR?
Just after my Master’s graduation from SLU, I started to apply for internship opportunities in the fields of environment and climate change in different international organisations. As a primary interest, I kept on checking for vacancy positions in almost all the UN agencies. Luckily, I got a call from the UNHCR for a written test and an interview subsequently. I believe, my previous work experiences in the related field helped me getting shortlisted while my communication skills helped me ace at the interview.

What is it like to work in international development?
It is very interesting and immensely satisfying to work at the international development. Since most of the work in the development sector are directly linked to the social and economic development, it is a fulfilling experience to see some of the positive changes happening on the ground. Besides, there are lots of diplomacy, policy and strategy development, negotiations take place in the area of international affairs. To experience those at an early stage of the career is very exciting. However, it is equivalently challenging to build and shine in such a career where the competition is intense. Good performance, high-end technical skills, networking capability and dedication may lead to a desired position.

Do you have any advice for students who are looking for an international career?
I am still in a very early stage in my career, so with my limited knowledge, it is difficult for me to advice other students for an international career. However, I would like to share my learned experiences.

Although there are fierce competitions in this field, someone with good profile and motivation can seize an opportunity in a desired position with right strategy. For example, at an entry level, doing an internship gives an access and entry to an organisation which may eventually lead to a career. On the other hand, the opportunities such as, UN Volunteer, JPO programme, Young Professional programme, and other traineeships give a solid entry to the organisation and the system. Depending on the level of experiences, the students may look for such opportunities and avail them.


When I ask my senior colleagues for career advices, one of the most common suggestion I get is to go to the field and remote locations to obtain hands-on-experience which is highly regarded in this sector. These remote work locations are challenging but rewarding as well. My last suggestion would be gain high level of communication skills and invest time in networking with people regardless of their position and place. If you know how to sell yourself, you can achieve a rewarding price!


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