Staff Stories: National Mentoring Month

Nation Mentoring Month graphic with illustration of woman walking alongside girl.

Every now and then, we all need a little help from someone we trust to push us to become the best versions of ourselves.

This National Mentoring Month, our staff have been reflecting on some of the amazing people who helped shape their career and get them where they are today. Read their stories below.

Graphic of Fatima Abdullayeva for National Mentoring Month

“I started working with DevTech in October of 2022, having moved to the Washington DC area from Baku, Azerbaijan. I’m not sure starting this job would have been possible without the experience I gained in my country working with USAID and the support I received from my USAID mentors. One boss in particular comes to mind; he was a young man who came to Azerbaijan with lots of energy and innovative ideas. At first, working with him was somewhat challenging as he regularly pushed me outside of my comfort zone. However, eventually, this enabled me to think outside the box and become more comfortable with change. I also appreciated how this boss really made an effort to empower me and other colleagues to take a leadership role on certain tasks. Because of this, I felt like I really made a difference in driving the Baku Mission’s administrative work forward”

Our USAID Economic Growth Support Activity (EGSA) Chief of Party, Renata Simatupang imparted the following about her mentor, Dr. Jameson Boex.

Graphic of Renata Simatupang for National Mentoring Month

“My mentor is Dr. Jameson (Jamie) Boex. I worked as his research assistant when I was doing my PhD at Georgia State University. At that time, his research focused on fiscal decentralization in developing countries, which motivated me to pursue the same path. He taught me that we don’t always need to use sophisticated research methodology to solve a problem, because in some cases common sense and tools such as Excel could work just as well. This advice continues to be practical today with my work in the development sector, which requires me to make rapid assessments of problems at hand and identify potential solutions.

After I graduated and returned to Indonesia, I worked with Dr. Boex for several research projects on decentralization and urban development. He also recommended me to his colleagues, and I expanded my network of international development practitioners thanks to his introductions. Dr. Boex cheered me on during my ups and downs in the development sector, and I am forever grateful for his support and friendship.” 

Graphic of Carla Paredes for National Mentoring Month

Our Education, Gender, and Youth Senior Program Manager, Carla Paredes, had the following to say about her experience with mentoring.

“One of the mentors that has made a difference in my career is Dr. Matilde Maddaleno. I met Mati during my time at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), first as a Research Assistant and then, after I completed my master of arts, as her Technical Officer. Mati was the Regional Advisor for all of PAHO’s work in the Americas related to Youth and Adolescent Health. Through her mentorship, I learned to think strategically and see the big picture; to understand that life at work does not happen in a vacuum; to always ask ‘what will it take for someone to agree?’; and to speak up and with confidence in order to own any room. I knew Mati was a true mentor when I told her I had to leave PAHO to pursue the next step in my career and her response was, ‘then I have done my job right.’ I am forever grateful that we crossed paths as colleagues and friends.”

Akbar Dachlan, who works as Economic Researcher on DevTech's USAID Economic Growth Support Activity team, shared a mentorship story with us that highlights the impact his friend has had on his journey in the field of international development:

Graphic of Akbar Dachlan for National Mentoring Month

“Rather than a teacher or a manager, my mentor in the international development field is actually a close friend of mine. We studied together as undergrads before pursuing different paths after graduation. He ended up working at an international development agency while I went into academia. Despite being in different fields, we maintained our close connection. He often talked to me about his work aimed at improving social and economic conditions in Indonesia.

It always sounded really interesting to me, especially when I realized that
international development agencies could support the Indonesian government in taking concrete action. I saw that the work my friend was doing was having an impact in strengthening government programs. It became clear to me that the resources made available through international development intuitions could make a difference in Indonesia’s future. These insights made possible by my friend and other acquaintances working in the development field inspired me to try my hand at it myself. So, in 2018, I sought my friend’s advice about how best to go about the transition…and long story short, I have been working (and loving my work) in the international development field ever since.” 


Graphic of Katie Brown for National Mentoring

Here is what Katie Brown, a Data Analyst/Economist on our USAID Data Services team had to say about her mentor experience:

“My mentor is Dr. Sophia Aguirre, the founder of the Integral Economic Development programs at The Catholic University of America.

During my time in undergraduate and graduate school, Dr. Aguirre was my
professor and advisor. As a professor, Dr. Aguirre empowers students to think
critically—particularly as a collaborative effort with classmates. As an
advisor, Dr. Aguirre sees each student as an individual, supporting their
journeys with guidance and compassion. A particular moment in this journey
comes to mind: I had the opportunity to work in the field in Guatemala
alongside Dr. Aguirre. During that time, I was responsible for identifying
control groups for an impact evaluation. However, I was questioning my ability
to communicate in Spanish. But, in one quick interaction, Dr. Aguirre instilled
in me the confidence I needed to successfully carry out the task.

My student-professor and student-advisor relationship with Dr. Aguirre
motivated me to pursue a career in international development. One quote by Dr. Aguirre has been especially inspiring in guiding me during my career, ‘At the center of the economic process is the human person…persons deserve relevant research, carried out with intellectual and technical rigor, and relevant
policy because it has real impact in helping them improve their lives.’”

DevTech’s Director of Education, Gender, and Youth, Dr. Jose Pineda has these thoughts to share about his mentor:

Graphic of Jose Pineda for National Mentoring Month

“Emeterio Gomez was my mentor during my undergraduate studies in economics in Venezuela. He was a professor of macroeconomics at the Universidad Central de Venezuela and was known for his expertise in macroeconomic policy. He was also a respected philosopher, who passionately debated the role of ethics in a market economy. I was fortunate to have him as a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. His passion for macroeconomics and his dedication to teaching made his classes both engaging and informative. I am grateful for the knowledge and experience I gained under his tutelage and will always remember him as a mentor who shaped my professional development and my passion for economics.”

Graphic of Tuti Soepardjo for National Mentoring Month

For Deputy Chief of Party of DevTech’s USAID Economic Growth Support Activity, Tuti Soepardjo, a strong mentor provided the guidance she needed to feel confident when she started a new position at USAID.

“I consider myself to be quite fortunate having had many mentors throughout my 30-year career in international development. As often is the case, the first of these mentors is the one who stands out most, and whose teachings have remained ever present. This mentor is Malcolm J. Purvis. He was the Director of USAID Indonesia’s Economic Policy Support Office (EPSO) back in 1992 and my first supervisor as I began my career at USAID. 

Starting on my first day working at EPSO, he requested that we meet every day for 15 minutes, during which time he would share all sorts of stories with me. Though I was initially confused at the purpose of these stories, after a short while, I realized that they were a way of teaching me about everything happening at the office and how to effectively undertake our work without making it feel like a lecture. It was an exceptional way to learn about how to work within the context of USAID and within the context of a host country. At the end of our short meetings, he would always remind me that he would support me no matter what because we were in this work together. This was just another way of telling me that he trusted me, but that this trust was something that had been earned by my doing a good job at work, and that I should keep it up. This trust helped me feel confident as I facilitated an audit for a multimillion dollar project I was responsible for in my third month at EPSO.

Unfortunately, I lost contact with Malcom after he left Indonesia in 1995 and this is something I regret. I would love to track him down to tell him that I am forever grateful for his time and mentorship…with any luck, he will see this short blurb about him!”


We were excited—though not surprised—to see DevTech Director of Education, Gender, and Youth Jose Pineda’s name come up as our staff

Graphic of Nemanja Jovanovic for National Mentoring Month

 have been reflecting on some of the amazing people who helped shape their international development career for National Mentoring Month. Here’s what DevTech Economist Nemanja Jovanovic had to say about him:

“I first met Dr. Jose Pineda when I started working at Devtech Systems two years ago. He has been a dedicated mentor who imparts valuable life skills and knowledge in the field of economics. He understands people’s strengths and weaknesses and works with them in a subtle and gentle way to improve upon both. For me, that has meant placing special importance on patience as I approach problems and tasks in order to avoid rushing to conclusions. Dr. Pineda’s emphasis on critical thinking has helped me evaluate information and arguments in a logical and systematic manner, rather than accepting ideas or claims at face value. He has also supported me in sharpening my communication skills, which is a valuable skill to have in this field, particularly when communicating with clients. He empowers me to take ownership of my work, which adds to my sense of pride and accountability in my accomplishments. All in all, his guidance and mentorship have helped shape both my hard skills and soft skills, helping me to become a well-rounded economist.”

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