Standby Partners Stories: Selin Ustaoglu

Selin Ustaoglu is a Turkish Data Analyst from iMMAP's Surge Roster, seconded to the Global Food Security Cluster at WFP Headquarters, in Rome.

Women in Action: Interview with Selin Ustaoglu, Information Management Officer (IMO) with WFP Global Food Security Cluster

Selin Ustaoglu is a Turkish Data Analyst from iMMAP's Surge Roster, seconded to the Global Food Security Cluster at WFP Headquarters, in Rome. She has kindly accepted to have a brief interview to discuss her ongoing Standby Partners experience with WFP.

1. Could you please tell us about yourself and your current role as an SBP deployee for the WFP Global Food Security Cluster?

My name is Selin Ustaoglu, I am a Turkish citizen and 28 years old. Currently, I am working as a data analyst at WFP’s Global Food Security Cluster Information Management team where we conduct analyses of the Ukrainian crisis’s primary and secondary impact on food security in some of the countries in Africa, South America and Ukraine itself. I am here for 3 months as an iMMAP expert on mission to WFP through the Standby Partnership Programme. I have over 5 years of experience in the area of data analysis in the humanitarian sector. Before joining this assignment, I was working as a senior data verification and analysis officer at IFRC ESSN programme in Turkey which is the world’s largest humanitarian cash programme.

2. How did you end up in the field of Information Management within the humanitarian sector? 

I have obtained my Bachelor's and Master’s Degree in International Relations in Ankara, Turkey with the dream of working in the humanitarian sector. After my graduation, I noticed that the competition in this sector was high, and I decided I wanted to add a technical expertise to my profile. I was always good at mathematics and statistics in school with very good grades and considering my interest as well in data analysis, I joined various data analysis online courses and bootcamps to learn a coding language. I started with Phyton and moving forward, I took classes on an online platform to improve my skills and knowledge in data science. After I completed the online courses, I joined the data analysis team of an NGO, and from there my career started taking shape as a data scientist and analyst in the humanitarian sector.

3. According to you what are the challenges of being a woman IMO? 

I actually did not come across any challenges yet. When I was a hiring manager, however, I can say that female applicants were very few compared to male applicants in the information management field. I do believe that the tech and data related sectors are still male dominated fields of work, but I do as well see a positive trend of more females engaged in these sectors which is very refreshing and positive. There are of course some challenges such as being far from your loved ones when assigned to duty stations away from home. These could include challenging and hardship duty stations which has exposure to quite a lot of high-level stress, including travelling a lot. However, these are not only challenging to women, I believe everybody in the humanitarian sector is impacted by these factors.

4. What kind of suggestions and tips would you give to women who aspire to have a career in information management? 

Like any other field, women can succeed in the information management field in a very passionate way. There is absolutely no reason to hesitate to join the sector and enjoy it. I would love to see more women active in this field if they do not mind spending lots of times in front of their computer. There are many courses online for those motivated in self-learning and more universities that have formal degrees in IM nowadays. There might be so many other ways to become a data analyst of course, but I can tell what I did when I started pursuing a career in this field.

The first thing I'd recommend to anyone who’d like to pursue a career as a data professional is learning a programming language. I use Phyton and frankly love it for so many reasons: it’s open source, commonly used and helps you use it without boundaries and tools of proprietary software. It is like learning a language, once you get comfortable with it, you can do everything with data. It also depends on people’s choice surely: if they would like to become a data scientist, they definitely should have a passion for mathematics or statistics because that’s what you deal with every day. For pursuing a career as a data analyst, math is still important of course but not as crucial.

One of the vital components is to improve your skills in Excel. Another one is to know data visualization, which has become more and more important these days for story-telling purposes. However, the key tip and piece of advice I would give to others out there, is to have a humble approach, willing to learn and discover on a daily basis new ways of working and thinking, especially given the nature of the multi-cultural environments we end up working in. As well, it is important to want to be able to travel and often to go to hardship locations, which is not always easy and where often your hard technical skills will not be required but what will be essential is your team spirit, your willingness to be flexible and adapt to various circumstances that were not planned. But all in all, it is really worth it, and I am grateful to be part of the iMMAP surge roster and to be deployed with iMMAP.