By Shobhna Decloitre
Five months ago, Nogaye Niang started an eight-month development assignment in the Morocco country office in Rabat, leaving her role as a program assistant in IFC’s Dakar office. Development assignments are short-term stretch assignments, usually to fill a business need, that enable staff to move across units and locations to learn and apply new skills, expand knowledge, build networks, and possibly advance one’s career.
Six months into the assignment, Nogaye fills us in on how she’s adapting to a new country, culture, and position, and how ‘fate’ led her to the World Bank Group.
You joined the Rabat Country Office on a development assignment in November. Why did you apply for the role?
I’ve been employed as staff at IFC’s Dakar office since 2017, after 10 years on short-term contracts with the World Bank Group. Over that time, I’ve supported many operations teams there. The development assignment offered me a chance to transfer my skills and knowledge to a different context.
Nogaye at her desk in Rabat. Photo courtesy: Shobhna Decloitre/IFC
What was it like to adapt to a new country office?
I had never been to Morocco before. When I arrived in Rabat, I was struck by how green, calm, and traffic-free the city was. I was warmly welcomed by the country team and the staff in the office, who helped me settle in and find a flat. On my first Wednesday at the Rabat office, I was invited to a weekly cake event where staff gather to enjoy it with Moroccan tea. I found it amazing because it's a way to interact with staff members you don't usually work with. This is one practice I am taking back to Dakar: I'm going to start a weekly cake event!
Six months into this role and I feel at home now. Working from the office — especially now that more staff are starting to return after Covid — has been a good way to connect with team members. I can finally put a face to the names I’ve been seeing in e-mails!
What have you learned from this assignment?
I’m supporting the Creating Markets Advisory, Corporate Governance, and Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Services teams in Rabat, but I also get called in to support the Country Office team. I have learned that I can find solutions to new challenges I had never faced before. I am doing a lot more procurement than I used to, and I can say that I now know all the procedures. I am also surprised at my ease of adaptation to a new setting, and that I can perform well outside my comfort zone.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
I left behind two sons, aged 10 and 9, and my husband in Dakar, and I had never spent more than two weeks away from my family before. When I left, I promised my children they would come during the Christmas holidays, but then Morocco closed its borders from November to February. The prolonged separation was a bit of a challenge, but I have virtual breakfast with them, and video calls in the evenings. During Ramadan, we connected virtually to break the fast together.
On the work front, one of the challenges I face is that in Dakar, I had established connections with vendors and suppliers so I could pick up the phone and get things arranged very quickly. Here, I am connecting with new people and businesses and gaining their trust, which takes time.
During Ramadan, Nogaye breaks the fast by connecting virtually with family in Dakar. Photo courtesy: Shobhna Decloitre/IFC
You’ve said you were fated to join the World Bank Group. How did that come about?
I was 17 when I first dreamed about working for the World Bank. My teacher told me that I needed a degree from a prestigious university to get in. I was a bit taken aback, but I continued to dream.
One day, I was making a round of other banks when I found myself in the World Bank Group building. I pressed the wrong elevator button and ended up at the World Bank! The receptionist said they didn’t accept CVs, but I insisted and left my CV there. Ten months later, I was called for an interview and joined the World Bank in a temporary role in 2007.
How did you get this development assignment and what advice would you offer people considering assignments outside their comfort zone?
I applied and got selected for the assignment after one of the program assistants forwarded an e-mail from the HR team announcing the opportunity. I would encourage everyone to apply for new assignments. You always learn from an opportunity like this. When you learn more, you grow more, and you meet new people and build your networks. I hope my experience can inspire others, especially administrative staff, to go on such assignments and explore new horizons.
Do you feel administrative staff's work is appreciated?
I feel that my work is appreciated by many. For example, I was recently nominated for a Spot Award* by a manager I have been supporting in Rabat, which was really motivating!
I take pride in the work I do. When a project comes to fruition, I am satisfied that the small role I played led to its success. My motto is “whatever you do, no matter how small or a big a task, do your best.”
*IFC Spot Awards recognize extraordinary efforts and special contributions made by administrative staff for a specific project or program over a relatively short time period. These are generally awarded on a quarterly basis.
Published in May 2022