To the moon and back

To the moon and back
October 5, 2017

Laura Madeleine Sie


I wanted to be an astronaut. It was my lifelong career ambition. I had a 15-year plan worked out to attain that goal.  I was going to do all of my degrees in space engineering, learn a couple of languages, live and work in a couple of different countries to build up my professional experience as well as intercultural skills and basically make sure I was physically, mentally and emotionally fit to become the next Julie Payette.

During year 7 of my 15 year plan I completed my master's degree in space robotics and realized that I wasn’t going to be happy working as an engineer. I was and still am a linguistic and cultural studies person at heart, as well as obsessed with languages and travelling.  So I went abroad on a Canadian-government funded internship through the now defunct NetCorps Canada International program.

The experience changed my life and significantly altered my career path.

After a couple of weeks into my volunteer job I knew that a career change was required and that I wanted to work in international development. (I'd still love to go into space, but I'll just buy a ticket on the Virgin Galactic from my pension money before I kick the bucket).

Back in Canada I began applying to various international development organizations in the Ottawa region. I knew I needed to be in Ottawa if I wanted to pursue a career in international development.

I saw an ad for a Program Assistant position for the Young Professionals Placement Program at CSIH and applied. I was not just delighted when CSIH informed me that I had the job, but I was also surprised since I had a completely non-related educational background.

So I moved to Ottawa and started my job as Program Assistant for the Young Professionals Placement Program.  The impact it had on my life at the time was twofold: a) I started a new life in Ottawa and b) I started a new career in international development. I am extremely grateful to CSIH for that and had an amazing time with the YPPP to boot. There are many wonderful memories I have from that time and I know that my CSIH experience completely kick-started my career in international development and gave me the experience required to get into international development project management, despite my unconventional educational background.

My experience at CSIH allowed me to get hired on as a consultant with the former Canadian International Development Agency in 2006 and then later on as a permanent employee, in various functions including international development project management for which I am currently responsible.  It's been a great opportunity to manage development projects in Sub-Saharan Africa in the areas of economic growth, education, health and governance and I look forward to many more years of improving people's lives and effecting positive change through our work.