Learning with Humentum profiles professionals who have taken advantage of our many learning opportunities. In this post, we talk with Afrin Khan of Counterpart International. Afrin, in photo below at right, holds the Humentum Certificate in USAID Assistance Management. Here she talks about her career path and shares her motivation for undertaking the certificate program.
Q: How did you get started on this career path? And how many years have you been working in international development?
A: Like many others, I aspired to travel the world, work in humanitarian development, and wanted to “save the world.” Growing up, I was influenced by my father, who worked for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as an agricultural statistician. I received firsthand experience traveling with my family to live in places like St. Kitts, Fiji, and Vanuatu. Thirty years ago, those places were not your ideal travel spots—they were underdeveloped countries in need of foreign assistance, hence why my father was there. That experience led me to be interested in the field of international development; I wanted to be like my father. In my mind, he was having the time of his life, traveling with his family and saving the world by one statistical analysis at a time! Little did I know that he had to work very hard supporting his family of four and pursuing a higher education; he holds degrees in economics, mathematics, and statistics.
Following in his footsteps, I began to pursue my higher education in hopes of an exciting career. Upon graduating with my Master’s in Public Policy, I realized that I could fulfill my dreams on a much smaller scale by working with international development implementers that provide foreign aid to the countries that I desired to travel to! I became more interested in how government decisions and policies influenced other nations. This led me to a career in working in compliance and international development for about nine years now, where I analyze government rules and regulations and implement them in terms of foreign aid and grant giving.
Tell us a little bit about your current job responsibilities.
A little less than a year ago, I joined Counterpart International as a senior agreement administrator. Counterpart International currently works in 28 countries around the world, building stronger relationships between citizens and their governments. We strengthen the capacity of individuals, civil society organizations, and governments to deliver inclusive solutions that advance food security, climate resiliency, peace and security, and government accountability. Simply put, Counterpart helps empower and prepare communities to solve locally identified problems with locally driven solutions.
In my current role, I work with in a department called Grants, Contracts, and Compliance where I serve as the lead advisor on compliance to HQ and field-based staff in my portfolio. I analyze, interpret, and apply donor regulations, award terms and conditions, and Counterpart policies in the day-to-day management of programs. In addition, I review proposal and budget packages prior to submission; negotiate terms and conditions of awards and modifications; review and provide guidance on various types of subawards and procurements; and provide ongoing guidance to HQ and field staff on donor regulations, internal procedures, and overall daily troubleshooting.
How did you learn about Humentum’s Certificate in USAID Assistance Management?
I learned about Humentum’s Certificate in USAID Assistance Management program when Humentum was Humentum. For my own professional development, I decided to take a class called Financial Management for US Government Funding; then the following year, Humentum introduced the certificate program so I decided to pursue it. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to demonstrate that I have the knowledge, skills, and judgement to deal with complex issues in managing awards.
What was your motivation for pursuing the certificate?
Since my job has always been very heavy on reviewing legal documents, interpretation of the regulations, and advising on various compliance issues, I decided to pursue Humentum’s certificate. I wanted to advance my subject matter expertise in such areas as procurement, subrecipient management, U.S. Government donor requirements and regulations, and contribute to the development/refinement of related policies, procedures, and training within my organization.
Tell us a little bit about your experience with the program.
The program was very easy to follow once I was enrolled. I took the one of the two paths in obtaining my certificate, which was to take three in-depth workshops and then take an integrated certificate assessment exam to demonstrate my knowledge and expertise in those topics. The workshops were on USAID Rules and Regulations, Procurement Planning and Execution, and Financial Management of USG Funding. The instructors were engaging and used real life examples which was very helpful to relate to my day-to-day job.
Did the skills/learning you gained from any of the individual workshops change the way you do your job?
The individual workshops did change the way I did my job. Not only were they a great way to refresh my knowledge on various regulations but they also allowed me to think outside of the box and to find creative solutions on implementing the programs. The workshops taught me to know where to look for certain regulation, how to interpret them, and how to relay the guidance in laymen’s terms to my HQ/field colleagues or grantees.
What would you tell a colleague who is considering starting to pursue this opportunity?
I would tell any colleague who is considering starting to pursue this opportunity: “DO IT!! You won’t regret it!” The program is a great way to get a refresher on the regulations such as 2CFR200, the ADS, or other various USAID mandates. It is also valuable to meet and learn from our peers who are also in the field of international development. The workshops are interactive and hands-on and I guarantee you will take something valuable that you’ve learned back with you.