DA alumnus Ansgar Fellendorf on his career since graduating from the ETIA 10 in 2018
DA: Following your studies at the DA, you became a Climate Change and Mountain Governance Expert at the UN Environment Programme. What exactly are your responsibilities on the job and how did your career path look like so far?
Ansgar Fellendorf: I have always had a passion for the outdoors and environmental issues! After graduating from ETIA10 I joined the Austrian Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism in the department dealing with alpine natural hazard management and protective forest policy as a trainee (Verwaltungspraktikant). I learnt a lot about functions of forests, the effect of climate change on mountain areas as well as regional cooperation in the framework of the Alpine Convention and EU Macroregional Strategy for the Alps. The experience prepared me well for my current job with the United Nations Environment Programme Vienna office, where I work on implementing the 4-year project about climate change adaptation in mountain regions "Adaptation at Altitude", in project development, as well as coordinating events and activities with partners within a small dynamic team. In the project Adaptation at Altitude I mostly work with government and civil society representatives from the South Caucasus and East Africa regions to foster adaptation action and regional governance in mountainous areas as well as on interregional exchange. Having started in August 2020 this has mostly taken place in the virtual space - it is great to see how everyone adapted to new working conditions and is driven by a common passion to enable sustainable mountain development.
Have you always been interested in this specific career, or has this interest developed over time?
I applied for ETIA because of my interest in multilateralism and working for an international organization, especially in the areas of environmental protection and climate change. Upon graduation I applied for several Junior Professional programs and entry level positions at relevant organizations such as the Green Climate Fund and others. In the end I found out that in many national positions, as well, an international environment is possible, e.g. for Austria within the Alpine Convention. I think it is important to have an open mind when starting a career and be willing to learn about different new issue areas and topics. For me this was for instance first forestry and currently topics of pollution and waste.
How has the DA helped you develop your career?
During my time at the DA, I got to know peers and fellow students from very different walks of life and was exposed to new experiences and opinions. This has greatly helped me to develop further in an intercultural environment, and appreciating diversity, one of the core UN values! I am still in touch with many of my cohort. In addition, I learnt with ETIA to think outside of silos and view an issue area from several angles, for instance environmental as well as economic. The different courses at the DA helped me to further define my professional interests and understanding of international relations.
Is there a specific skill set learned during the second ETIA year at the TU Wien that is particularly useful for your current job?
I am convinced that in our globalised world faced by the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis with mass extinction of species and the pollution crisis with plastics washing up virtually on all coasts around the world, it is urgently needed to combine studies of international relations and environmental science! In this sense, the courses at the TU Wien provided me with a solid foundation in chemistry and physics, as well as introduction to topics such as atmospheric processes and renewable energy, hence providing a comprehensive understanding of the Earth system. For my current job, it is essential for instance to better understand the natural science basis behind pressing issues such as climate change and air pollution as well as project management skills! The small groups allowed in-depth personal discussions with the professors.
Where do you think the future will take you?
Having in mind the turmoils of the past months and years I dare not predict anything about the future. I plan to continue working in motivated and passionate teams for a better and more sustainable planet in an international environment! Over the past four years I have come across many inspiring people and initiatives that may play a role in my future as well.