Careers: SOAS helped develop my worldview towards life and people
Dr Feroza Sanjana's vision is to create an enabling environment for women in the world of work and challenge the societal norms that stop women from achieving their full potential. Her MA in International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS helped deepen her knowledge of the institutions, politics and processes that underlie many of the global challenges her work now seeks to change.
Dr. Feroza Sanjana is a consultant at the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, focusing on women’s economic empowerment and responsible business conduct. She has been a Visiting Professor at the Freie University Berlin and Adjunct Lecturer at the Hertie School of Governance and Public Policy, teaching courses in international political economy, feminist foreign policy and social science research methodology. She has been an expert to the European Union, providing foreign policy analysis on the Asia Pacific region as part of a consortium formed by leading think tanks Chatham House (UK), Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Germany) and Clingendael Institute (the Netherlands). She also has a PhD in Political Science as a Thyssen Fellow at Freie University Berlin and has been a 2018 Visiting Doctoral Fellow at Stanford University as well as a Dahlem Research School Fellow at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. She has authored various published policy papers and articles.
Could you give us a brief overview of your current role and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
In my current role at the Women's Economic Empowerment Unit at the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, I'm responsible for Monitoring, Evaluation and Research. With the vision to create an enabling environment for women in the world of work, my Unit works with governments, private sector and women entrepreneurs to advocate for and push forward changes in policies and practices. As well as this, we offer women entrepreneurs training and support to help them access finance, markets and networks. Currently, I am supporting project in Thailand, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh for developing women Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and for addressing unpaid care work done by women.
On a day-to-day basis, my role requires me to focus on the results of the actions taken. Put simply, to ask, did we reach and truly benefit the lives of the women we promised to help? I also support with:
- tracking whether projects run to schedule
- monitor progress and assess whether course correction is required
- liaise with partners on the ground
- measure the impact of our activities
- create and roll out measurement tools
- interact with women
- research and write reports on the way forward.
These reports serve as a resource for a variety of audiences such as donors, development practitioners, governments and businesses.
What motivates you in your role?
I'm motivated by the projects I work on. I think they're important as women's lives can be transformed by having access to opportunities and skills and challenging the societal norms that might restrict them from achieving their full potential. To be able to help improve someone's life in a small way is deeply energising for me.
Why did you choose to study International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS?
I chose to study International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS to deepen my knowledge of institutions, politics and processes that underlie many of the global challenges we seek to solve as a collective. I had trained to be a journalist and wanted to make the transition towards policy-related work, so taking this course seemed like a natural next step.
How do you feel your studies at SOAS helped to prepare you for this role?
The programme at SOAS was extremely helpful in that the lecturers and academics were always open to discuss and explain topics and were very supportive. Our classes were a good mix of practical insights combined with theoretical depth. I truly appreciated the Global South perspective brought in by our lecturers. I specialised in South Asian government and politics and as a result, I carry with me a deep understanding for the unique political, historical and cultural circumstances of the region. I also studied courses in political economy and on the role of multinationals in developing countries which was a turning point for my academic work. It directly informed my PhD thesis, the focus of the courses I went onto teach as a Visiting Professor at Freie University Berlin and informed my work as a foreign policy consultant to the European Union. It also helps me in my current role where I work at the intersection of business and women's rights.
What did you enjoy the most about studying at SOAS? Do you have a particular favourite memory?
I enjoyed the diversity and the fact that SOAS has always been a space that welcomes different viewpoints. I also met some of my closest friends at SOAS. Universities to me, are spaces where any topic can be critically discussed, and SOAS was truly a special place for developing my worldview towards life and people.
What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to get in your field of work?
Specialise! International Studies and Politics can be a vast field. Make sure you choose a good mix of foundational modules with some more specialised ones. Try to think ahead in terms of the kinds of jobs that interest you within this broad field and think of the skills you might need for each role and then look again at the modules you've picked. But also, don't restrict yourself and be sure to stay creative, for example, I took modules in philosophy which continue to help me think critically and creatively in my current role.
One other thing I wish I'd known during my time at university is how institutions like international organisations work from the inside, specifically, the different processes and tasks that can often be bureaucratic. If you can, pursue internships during or after your studies and actively reach out to people who are doing jobs that you find interesting.
What one piece of careers advice do you wish you'd had when you were at university?
That being rejected is simply a part of the process of finding a job. Many of the jobs in international organisations are highly competitive and require multiple applications. It helps to develop a thick skin for persisting with applying even when you've been rejected several times. Make sure you tailor your application to the job requirements, try to get feedback from others and do read up, not just about the organisation you're applying to, but also about the specific unit, department and team where you might land your next role.
Did you access of any of the careers' services at SOAS whilst you were a student?
I found the SOAS Careers job page to be very helpful - I found many part-time jobs which helped me bridge the gap when I'd just graduated.