Pamela Nkonge | Investigator, Office of Internal Oversight Services, United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON)

Welcome to the United Nations Career Journey Podcast, brought to you by the Office of Human Resources in New York. In our conversations, we talk to colleagues from around the world about their career paths and choices. We explore what career satisfaction means to them, what keeps them inspired and motivated in their daily work. My name is Kate Doyle. And today I will interview Pamela N’konge, an Investigator with the Office of Internal Oversight Services at the United Nations Office in Nairobi.

Welcome, Pamela. And thank you so much for joining us today.

Thank you, Kate. Thank you for this initiative.

So to start, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Alright, so like you already introduced me, I’m an Investigator with the Office of Internal Oversight Services. I am based in Nairobi. I have worked to the UN for the last 14 years in previous roles. My background is Business Administration, and I’m currently pursuing a Master’s degree in law in the United Kingdom. I’m a Kenyan national and a mother of three.

Thank you. And how did you begin your career in the United Nations?

It’s actually very interesting. I started my career with the UN as an intern. And then after my graduation — from my university education I then moved into the private sector for a while until I joined the United Nations as an Administrative Assistant. I went through progressive roles…started at the G4 level. Then I went to UNEP as a G5 Programme Assistant, and then moved to move to OIOS and as an Investigations Assistant at the G6 level. I was later promoted to the Field Service position at the Regional Service Center in Entebbe, Uganda, still as an Investigations Assistant. In 2017, I then passed the G to P examination. And then I was appointed to an Associate Investigator P2 position here in Nairobi. And I’m currently serving in an acting capacity as an Investigator at the P3 position.

I see. So you’ve had various roles before arriving to where you are now, you’ve been an intern, General Service staff, Field Service staff, and you’ve served at a duty station outside Nairobi. Thank you for sharing all that. I’m wondering how the transition has been to the Professional level?

The transition to the Professional level has been nothing but exciting. I had mentally prepared for this transition while working on various roles within the G and Field Service levels…and also while taking the YPP examination. Also the guidance of very experienced professionals that I worked with, since I joined the United Nations to the time I transitioned to this position…they led me to a very good progression that helped me to quickly adapt to my new roles in this position.

I see. Congratulations on passing the exam. That’s quite an accomplishment. What would you say to other General Service staff who are interested in moving up to the professional level?

I would encourage them to trust the process. Take particular dedication and interest in work in all the work you get, no matter how routine some tasks could appear. It builds your experience. Endeavor to execute each task diligently and meticulously so as to deliver the highest standard of work all the time. Finally, if you’re convoked for this examination then you must read widely all the relevant materials, consult widely also….practice for oral interviews and practice the writing part of it. And just know that success is basically a culmination of a series of small, good decisions every day, and small wins.

Thank you. Was it the first time you took the exam?

It wasn’t, actually. The first time I took the exam, I passed the written test and didn’t make it through the oral one. So I had to redo the exam again in 2017, two years later. And this time I consulted really, really widely and did a lot of practice and oral interviews. And that’s how I got through.

Congratulations again on that. And let’s turn now to your current role. What skills would you say are essential for your position as an Investigator in internal oversight?

Okay, so I’m currently I’m dealing with reports of prohibited conduct, or possible prohibited conduct including reports of sexual harassment, in line with the Organization’s zero tolerance of workplace harassment, sexual harassment and abuse of authority. My current role requires excellent listening and interviewing skills. I also investigate cases involving sexual exploitation and abuse. And this also includes very advanced key interviewing skills, including forensic interviewing of minors, which I’m well trained for and experienced at. My accounting background has also been very instrumental in previous investigative assignments, including reports involving fraud and financial improprieties. In this position, you need very good analytical and reporting skills which are very key requirements because every investigation requires an analysis of collected evidence. And also drafting very concise final reports on the facts established.

Thank you, that’s very interesting to hear about — how your mix of skills have come into play in your Investigator position. I’m curious how you deal emotionally with some of the cases that you investigate involving sexual harassment and sexual abuse.

Okay, so given the importance that the Organization has put in prioritizing these kind of matters, to address this behavior, and also to create a harmonious working environment within the Organization…and given the need for anyone who is affected by this behavior to speak out — emotionally, it doesn’t….it makes me happy to be part of. So emotionally I deal with it by being very proficient in the way I handle these matters. And to make sure that I remain objective, as I deal with the reports, and as I listen to the affected individuals as well as the indicated personnel such as a witnesses to be able to give a very objective report that will give the Organization a fair opportunity to address any problems.

It sounds like you derive satisfaction from working on these types of cases. And like you mentioned, giving people a voice who may not have a voice without such an investigation. Could you tell us a little more about that?

Absolutely. Speaking and listening to these people who are affected by this kind of behavior….and sometimes persons from very vulnerable and disadvantaged communities who have experienced unwelcome behavior from staff members and other personnel within the Organization…it gives me satisfaction to work you in a position which encourages a harmonious working environment, free from intimidation and hostility, and also to ensure accountability by UN personnel. It gives me the assurance that my work serves as a greater part of the Organization’s objective to ensure that its mandate is fulfilled. And that the Organization’s beneficiaries are provided the necessary assistance that they direly need. So it gives me a lot of satisfaction — I feel very proud to serve in an Organization that discourages, and hopefully in the long run eliminates sexual exploitation, abuse, sexual harassment, harassment, and abuse of authority. And the thing that I find very satisfying about my job is that….I always, it was like, my childhood dream to work with the UN. When I started as an intern, without getting any pay, it didn’t really matter. Because I was really learning a lot from very, very experienced professionals…throughout my career I have gained a lot from my supervisors, my colleagues. I feel that I just cannot explain the pride and fulfillment I feel every day that I wake up to serve in this Organization.

Where would you like to be career wise and say, five years from now?

I intend to continue growing my knowledge and experience while you know, endeavoring to add value to the Organization, I plan to remain true, accountable and committed to my work in the interest of the Organization and the people we serve. I look forward to a successive progression in rank and skill within the Organization in the next five years, a part of my longer goal of a distinguished career within the Organization.

Well, thank you so much, Pamela, for sharing about your career journey today.

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