Philippe Scholtès' Story

“My stint as a JPO . . . gave me an opportunity to create networks, share ideas, make my case and ultimately, paved my entry in the Secretariat.”

Managing Director, Programme Development and Technical Cooperation Division

Growing up in Africa as a child, I never envisaged a career other than in development cooperation. After obtaining an MSc degree in engineering followed by an MSc degree in economics, my first job brought me to New Delhi, India, where I worked for two years as Lecturer at the Indian Statistical Institute. I returned to my home country as Research Assistant at the Centre for Operations Research and Econometrics while going through the national selection process for JPO positions. Once selected by the Belgian Ministry of Development Cooperation, I turned to UNIDO as the one specialized agency of the UN system most likely to make use of my qualifications.

UNIDO was short of French-speaking JPOs at the time and offered me a position in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. My wife, our three-month old son and I reached Abidjan, in May 1988 and we quickly made it our new home. The local UN programmes and agencies counted several JPOs at the time and provided a stimulating and friendly working environment. Personal computers had just entered the office space and one of my early tasks was to organize training courses of word processor and spreadsheets to the UN personnel in Abidjan.

By the end of 1988, the UNIDO headquarters was looking for a junior professional with qualifications and language proficiency matching my profile. So I took the risk of resigning from my JPO position in Abidjan at the end of the first year, to join UNIDO on a short-term assignment pending a possible recruitment decision. In early 1991 I was recruited against a regular post at UNIDO’s Industrial Planning Branch and spent the next ten years as Project Manager in the areas of economic analysis and industrial policy design. In 2002 I volunteered for field service and was interviewed for the post of Representative in Hanoi, Vietnam. My wife and our two teenage sons then moved to Hanoi in January 2003 and from there to New Delhi, where I served as Regional Director for South Asia from September 2006 to February 2010.

In March 2010, I returned to the headquarters in Vienna, Austria, as Director of the Agribusiness Development Branch. In March 2013 I was made Officer-in-Charge of Programme Development and Technical Cooperation. Later after being interviewed for the position in early 2014, I was appointed Managing Director in May 2014.

After Abidjan, Hanoi and New Delhi, by now I have served in three field duty stations. These have been professionally fulfilling years of my career at UNIDO where the hard work of this Organization takes on its significance. My stint as a JPO, short though it had been, proved particularly rewarding as it gave me an opportunity to create networks, share ideas, make my case and ultimately, paved my entry in the Secretariat.