Esther Waters-Crane graduated in 2007 with an MIA degree and a concentration in Human Rights. She is currently Chief of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation at UNICEF in Kenya.

Describe your background prior to attending SIPA.
I worked in private sector banking for five years in London. I found I wasn’t fulfilled by the private sector so, to supplement it, I did lots of volunteering – mainly with the British Red Cross refugee team.

What motivated you to choose SIPA?
I knew I wanted to study human rights and eventually work for the UN. I was compelled by the stories of the refugees I volunteered with in the UK and wanted to work on issues affecting people in flight, not just in the UK/Europe but more at a global policy level. I sought advice from the career service at my undergrad university (Cambridge, UK) and senior colleagues at the Red Cross – all avenues pointed towards SIPA. Then I visited the campus and SIPA faculty where I met Paul Martin and we discussed SIPA’s links with the UN. From that point onwards I knew SIPA was the right place for me.

What are you doing now?
I am currently Chief of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation at UNICEF Kenya, where I am responsible for ensuring that the millions of dollars UNICEF receives, are directed towards, and appropriately spent to address the needs of the most deprived children in Kenya. Prior to working for UNICEF in Kenya (and prior to having my own children), I spent 5 years working for UNICEF and UNDP Somalia where my work involved implementing public health programmes and designing and implementing interventions to engage, empower and protect conflict-affected communities. I also spent 3.5 years working for UNDP South Sudan and the DPKO Sudan, looking at issues affecting women and children in conflict.

How has your SIPA degree helped your career?
I wouldn’t be where I am today without SIPA. I use the skills and knowledge I acquired on an almost daily basis. The connections between SIPA faculty and the UN gave me the exposure I needed to get my foot in the door. It was the perfect segue for me and opened my eyes to the reality of working in the field I do.

What advice would you give a first-year SIPA student?
Network!!! Chat with all your professors about your career plans and ask them to keep their ears open for opportunities. Attend events at Columbia and the UN and talk to as many people as you can. Join professional networks on and off campus and attend conferences on countries of interest to you. The earlier you have an idea about what you want to do after SIPA, the smoother your transition to that reality will be – focus on what excites you and what you’re passionate about, and hone in on the international experts working on this. Adapt your papers and research to fit your future career interests. And, don’t get fixated on grades – they’re not as important in the whole scheme of things as you may think.