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Larissa Setaro – Operations Assistant, Positive Planet International, Johannesburg, South Africa

I graduated from the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development in 2014 and I am now working for a French Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) which aims to develop the economic resilience of fragile populations.

To achieve its goal, Positive Planet is activating three essential levers: learning to create and develop an activity, financing an activity, and protecting revenues and accessing markets. With about 40 active projects, the organisation intervenes in more than 35 countries.

As an Operations Assistant, I am responsible for the supervision of the global project portfolio, making sure that all internal procedures are followed during each stage of project implementation.

I also collect and report on global performance indicators for PPI operations for our network of projects. Finally, I am responsible for specific M&E projects in which I have previous experience. As part of this, I support the development of internal knowledge management products.

I really enjoy working within a multicultural environment and getting to know a variety of contexts and projects. I also enjoy spending time making sure that all projects respect internal quality requirements and procedures, as rigour in project management is essential.

Throughout my time at the University of Reading I knew I wanted to work in the field on project management. My module in Agricultural Project Management, taught by Professor Srinivasan provided me a good understanding of the sector, which I applied after graduation as I spent two years working as a Field Project Manager. I really enjoyed the role, particularly as it gave me the opportunity to gain hands on experience

I also learnt the potential flaws of project implementation, and developed an understanding that project management procedures are essential to the success of a project. My current role allows me to experience a different angle of project management.

I chose to study at Reading as it is ranked as one of the world's best universities in the Agricultural sector. My Master's degree taught me the complexity of the development sector, as well as critical thinking skills that have enabled me to fight for ideas with solid arguments to back up my thinking. Studying at Reading opened a door, introducing me to a vast world in which I am now working, but still learning.

My Programme was very well organised with the core modules on agriculture providing a general overview of the main issues, which was a huge help in providing me with knowledge on the subject without an agricultural background. The modern learning environment, and the variety of teaching methods made for an engaging learning experience. Being able to choose modules which suited my interests, allowed me to really tailor my degree.

These were some of the best years of my life, as I had the chance to not only learn new topics which paved my professional career, but also have the chance of studying in a multicultural environment. This environment allowed me to develop a huge number of interpersonal skills such as diplomacy, leadership and team work, which are key in my current job.

I felt that the Reading experience unlocked my potential and kick-started my future. I would strongly recommend studying in the Graduate Institute of International Development, Agriculture, and Economics (GIIDAE) to my friends and colleagues, some of which have followed my advice and still thank me for it.