Veronique Lee '11
Veronique Lee graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in English and is now a Program Development Manager at TechnoServe, a non-profit that works to alleviate poverty. View her LinkedIn profile to learn more or to connect with her.
How did you get to where you are today? Is this where you thought you would be when you first became an English major?
I declared my English major as a freshman at UMass thinking I would become a high school English teacher. As I took more courses, I became much more invested in writing and in putting my writing skills to other uses. Along the way I also developed an interest in international relations and specifically international development issues, which led me to this line of work.
Can you talk about what exactly a program development manager does? What is a typical day for you?
I am a program development manager for a nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C. that works to build sustainable solutions to alleviate poverty in developing countries. I am responsible for business development and proposal writing, but this all begins with analyzing trends in donor priorities and funding. These donors run the gamut from grant-making organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to government donors like the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UK Department for International Development, to corporate foundations like the MasterCard Foundation.
What advice might you have for students who are interested in the job you have now?
My advice would be to be bold and explore the different pathways for doing international development work. In my short career, I have had exposure to international think tanks, interned with USAID in Uganda, and worked with large, for-profit organizations that partner almost exclusively with USAID to implement agriculture and governance projects in countries like Mali, DRC, and Haiti.
Is there anything you have taken with you from your English background that has helped you in your role now, in particular any courses or specializations you would recommend for someone interested in this career?
The ability to analyze, understand, and synthesize text is important. You get this from essentially every English course you take. Good writing skills are equally important, and English courses that focus on writing (language, composition, rhetoric) equip you with the writing skills to succeed in “the real world.” But technical writing isn’t just about the words on the page. To this day I remember—and use—the principles of visual hierarchy I learned in Professor Janine Solberg’s technical writing course.
Do you have any advice for people who aren’t sure about their career path or are still trying to figure it out? Do you have any general career advice?
Conventional wisdom leads us to believe that careers follow a straight path, but the truth is careers don’t always follow a linear trajectory. One job can open up doors to new possibilities. My advice is to be nimble, understand the versatility of your skills, and always keep your CV up to date.
Interview by Sierra Sumner, Digital Communications Intern '18-'19
Published October 2019