From MAIS to international organisations to ETIA

DA alumna Suman Lederer on her career since graduating from MAIS 10 in 2007


DA: Following your MAIS studies at the DA, you became an independent evaluation expert at various international organisations. Now you are back at TU Wien for the ETIA programme. Can you tell us a little bit about what your career path looked like so far and about your decision to come back for the ETIA study programme?
Suman Lederer: After completing MAIS and an internship at UNIDO, I worked in the private sector for a while, thereafter beginning my professional life of a consultant at UN organisations, starting at UNIDO in research, then project management and finally in evaluation, where I stayed. In the meantime, I have evaluated projects and programmes for other organisations as well - UNEP, OSCE, UNODC and UNESCO, in the thematic areas of environment, renewable energy, private sector development, funds, organisational, gender and human rights and culture and heritage.
I came back to the DA for the ETIA programme because the subject combination sounded exciting, starting with math, chemistry and physics, and then going on to inter alia, air, water, soil, waste management, meteorology, energy systems and transition, renewable and nuclear energy, climate change and pollution. It was a very good opportunity to learn, strengthen and expand knowledge in these subjects, which are very important when working in the thematic area of environment and climate change.

Have you always been interested in this specific career or has this interest developed over time?
I have always been interested in working in the above thematic areas, but the interest for evaluation developed over time in the initial years at the UN, after having worked in research and project management, as it combines the skills and expertise from both research and project management. It has been highly interesting to be able to engage with projects and programmes dealing with crucial topics at different organisations.

How has the DA helped you develop your career?
Receiving the Ernst Sucharipa Scholarship enabled me to complete my MAIS degree 17 years ago. The MAIS programme at the DA was extremely helpful, as I had the first glimpse of environmental law, international trade and development and political science, amongst others, during MAIS, which brought us students closer to international environmental agreements, such as the Stockholm Convention and Montreal Protocol, the former being very relevant in my work.

Is there a specific skill set taught at the DA that is particularly useful for your current job?
For my work, I have been to 16 different countries in South and East Africa, East, South and Southeast Asia and Oceania, Central Asia, South Caucasus, Southeast Europe and South Pacific, and had interactions with stakeholders at different types of institutions and different levels, including key ministries. The variety of skills taught at the DA, which include subjects such as political science, economics and international relations, and practical skills such as negotiations, as well as the contact with diplomats, both Austrian and international, prepared me very well for these interactions later on during my work. Moreover, skills learned with other extra-curricular activities at the DA, namely, bar management, organising and moderating events, and working for the newsletter or for the alumni association, all of which I actively participated in, also contributed greatly to gaining invaluable skills and experience.

Is there a specific skill set taught at TU Wien that is particularly useful for your current job?
The mix of topics taught in the MSc ETIA programme at TU Wien is extremely useful to learn and gain an understanding of the topics, and definitely very useful for my work. In addition to teaching us about the topics, the professors made sure that we learn from their experience and also ask critical questions which is becoming increasingly important in today’s world. They made us familiar with theory as well as with current and upcoming topics in the respective subjects.

Where do you think the future will take you?
Believing in lifelong learning, I am happy to have participated in the ETIA programme, which I find to be very valuable in terms of knowledge and experience, and look forward with great curiosity, interest, openness and enthusiasm to where the future will take me. As the late Steve Jobs said: "You cannot connect the dots looking forwards, you can only connect the dots looking backwards!"

[April 2024]