People Champion Spotlight: Taye Amssalu
People for 2030 is fortunate enough to have some incredibly talented People Champions who embody and inspire change in their respective Country Offices. The Spotlight series aims to highlight them and their efforts. With each Bulletin, we will be featuring an interview with the hope that reading their story motivates you as much as collaborating with them energizes us.
For this People Champion Spotlight, we spoke to Taye Amssalu, Deputy Resident Representative (Operations) at the Kenya Country Office. He is also People for 2030 Champion and focal person for the CO. He is currently handing over the People for 2030 champion to his colleague, John Gathuya.
Taye radiates passion, positivity, and optimism. The innovative initiatives that he and his colleagues have launched under the leadership of the Resident Representative over the last three years is an indication of his dedication to his vocation in the Kenya Country Office. With these five questions, we highlight Taye’s efforts.
Q1. How has UNDP impacted your career so far?
My career in UNDP dates over 15 years. I started off as a National United Nations Volunteer (UNV) in Ethiopia where I worked as an Academic Programme Office and Capacity Building Specialist with Regional Management Institute. Later in August 2007, I joined the UNDP Ethiopia Country Office as a National Officer (Capacity Development Specialist) and Team Leader for Capacity Outreach.
In 2011, I was laterally moved as Operations Manager for the CO. When the Regional Service Centre in Africa (RSCA) moved to Addis Ababa, I continued serving both the CO and the RSCA and also served as Deputy Country Director for a while for the same CO.
From there I got a chance to go for the Deputy Resident Representative (DRR) candidate Pool assessment and was posted to Kenya where I am currently working as the DRR (Operations).
Moving from a UNV to a Deputy Resident Representative role is a testament to the upward mobility opportunities within UNDP. UNDP is definitely a place where you can broaden your experience and learn a lot if you are committed to developing yourself. For instance, over the years, I have been able to develop skills in various fields such as development studies, transformational leadership, supply chain management, basic finance and accounting thanks to the numerous resources available on the Talent Development Hub. The various roles over the years and support from my supervisors, mentors and colleagues have been extremely helpful throughout my journey
Q2. What has been your favourite project in UNDP and why?
The best thing about most UNDP projects is that we deal with life changing activities that have a human centered development approach. My favourite project is one where I worked as a Team leader for a local development project in Ethiopia. We supported unemployed youth in some cities of the country by bringing them together in a project aimed at local economic development and youth empowerment. We provided them with entrepreneurial training and linked them with initial capital, and in the end, it was touching to see how life-changing this project was. Some of the interventions were linked to public works creating communal property and environmental conservation. It was inspiring to see people who came from very humble beginnings go from not knowing how to write a business plan to being business owners in various fields.
Q3. What motivated you to become a People Champion?
I used to teach a management course and there’s one sentiment from Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, that has stuck with me. To put it simply, Drucker says human beings are a critical asset and their management is important for every leadership.
I share these sentiments, especially in relation to my work at UNDP. The most important asset we have is not the strategic plan, the resources we mobilize or the internal contract frameworks. It is the people. What motivates me to be a People Champion is the way we manage our people, and when People for 2030 was introduced to transform our ways of working, it was an honour for me to accept the role.
Q4. As a People Champion, what is one initiative that you have implemented in the Kenya Country Office to transform the work culture?
Oh, there are so many great initiatives that I have had the privilege to be a part of in these last three years. At the top of my list must be the ‘CO-RESET’ which aimed at transforming our work, improving performance, increasing recognition, and creating a flexible working environment, all of which lined up with People for 2030 strategy focus areas.
Earlier in 2018 our Global Staff Survey average score was 47% of personnel being satisfied but in 2020, the percentage rose to 80%, which is one of the largest changes in any average score by any UNDP Country Office and industry standard during this period. I was delighted when we were also recognized as winners of the People Awards in 2020 for our efforts and highly recommended in 2021.
Q5. What advice would you give someone looking to have a long-lasting career in UNDP?
First, you must always stay positive and believe that the future is bright despite any challenges. In life you have ups and downs, but your outlook is key. Second, always aim to develop and invest in continuous learning through the courses available to you at UNDP. And finally, keep an eye on all vacancies and networking opportunities. That is it. It does not hurt to love, be committed to and respect your current job too!