A day in the life of a development consultant

MPhil graduate Caitlin Smit describes what her role with Genesis Analytics entails

Name: Caitlin Smit

Degree course: Development

College: Downing

Graduation: 2010



When I completed my MPhil in Development Studies, I was excited and hopeful I would be able to able to find a job at an international NGO or donor organisation. I realised pretty quickly that getting a job in international development can be extremely tough, especially with hardly any work experience. I also wasn’t able to support myself as an intern or volunteer for an extended period of time. So I took a job at a boutique consulting firm, and after over a year of searching the internet and seeking advice from different people, I was offered a position at Genesis Analytics, an economics-based consulting firm based in my home country, South Africa.

Genesis has a dedicated development workstream, with specialisations that include Health, Agriculture and Infrastructure. My team specialises in Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL). MEL has two main functions: 1) gathering data (qualitative and quantitative), analysing it and providing decision-makers with insights that will improve a development intervention or programme, and 2) accountability (in other words, making sure public and donor money is being spent effectively and achieving impact at a reasonable cost).

‘I’ve worked on over 45 projects and travelled to 19 new countries!’

Being a consultant appealed to me because of the variety of projects I would be able to work on, using different technical skills, with different clients in different sectors and in different countries. The reality hasn’t disappointed. Since joining Genesis 6.5 years ago, I’ve worked on over 45 projects and travelled to 19 new countries! My clients have ranged from governments to donors to private companies and foundations in sectors that include agriculture, financial inclusion, infrastructure, youth livelihoods, anti-corruption, trade and digital development.

The whole firm outside the Genesis Analytics Johannesburg office

Because there is a lot of variety in my projects, a normal day for me can depend entirely on where I am or on what stage of the project we’re at. I could be facilitating a focus group discussion with farmers in rural Kenya, brainstorming ideas with my project team, drafting a final report or building a budget for a new proposal.

Genesis recently opened an office in Nairobi, and I moved back to the UK this year to help set up our London office with 3 other colleagues. Now my days also include operational tasks associated with establishing a local office, as well as recruitment and new business development. I also help manage our team of 20 people across South Africa, Kenya and the UK. As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time on Skype or Zoom checking in with my colleagues and clients. Striking a good work-life balance can be difficult, especially when I am traveling a lot, but is completely possible if I’m intentional about carving out time for myself.

If working in international development is something you’d like to do, but you haven’t quite figured out exactly where you’d like to specialise, consulting can give you broad exposure to different geographies and sectors, and help you make that decision. And it’s perfect for those of you that are looking for a fast-paced work environment with like-minded people.

Caitlin will be speaking on our development panel on 31 January 2019 and Genesis will be attending our Work to Change the World event on 19 February 2019 (more details about both sessions will be posted on our online diary within the next few weeks).

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