Experiences from professionals registered at HumanSurge
Written by Anouk Hulspas.
It’s exciting to see that HumanSurge is now going into a second year. Over 5.000 professionals, in 122 countries, have registered and 20 organisations use our site to look for people to fill their vacancies. As a result, we want to start with more blog posts. Which hopefully will help you as a humanitarian/developmental professional get more out HumanSurge and will support organisations affiliated with us find the people they are looking for quicker.
To start of the new series, we want to showcase some of the professionals already in our global emergency roster. Since, despite what some might think, it is not just a roster of specialised/technical humanitarian experts, like WASH experts, camp managers, and logisticians. It is our aim to have the roster be as diverse as possible so that it can help in a variety of disasters, crises and post-emergency situations.
Moreover, it is also a chance for us to hear some honest feedback about HumanSurge. Which will help us learn, grow and evolve. So that we can best achieve our mission of improving humanitarian deployment.
Siobhan Talty was recently deployed, through HumanSurge, to Tripoli in Libya. There she is managing a Monitoring & Evaluation team of six, at a medical INGO with a great record for being quick at the scene of crisis and conflict. Siobhan joined the humanitarian sector over two years ago, after being caught in Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and then working in the cyclone response. Since then, she’s deployed primarily in M&E, grants and partnerships roles. Prior to joining the sector, she worked as a project and policy officer for government institutions.
Her varied background and experience with contract work made us ask her how she rated her HumanSurge deployment process, compared to previous experiences.
Siobhan: I was really impressed with the ease of getting hired through HumanSurge: Between the first contact with the organisation and signing the contract, there were only about 10 days! Compared to my experiences with standard application procedures, which for various reasons can take longer, I found this very efficient.
Also, I had already seen the posting for this position elsewhere online but didn’t think it was for me. What changed my mind was the personal message from the organisation and the little bit of extra information given to me through the HS contact. It made me realise the position was a better fit than I had imagined and that I wanted to apply.
Anouk: How did you find the site and did you have other communications through HumanSurge?
Siobhan: I’m currently also enrolled in a two-year Humanitarian Assistance master programme, at Deakin University. A year ago, a lecturer recommended that I check out HumanSurge to see if it could help me find my next assignment. This was the first time I was contacted through the HS site and it resulted in my current deployment.
Anouk: So now that you are deployed, is the HumanSurge site still helpful for you, or will you only revisit it again when your assignment is over?
Siobhan: I keep my profile up-to-date and really like the reminder emails that prompt you to update your availability. If you’re in the field or traveling a lot, you often forget to keep your profile current. In the beginning, I found some of the sections in the profile to be a bit unclear in terms of what information I was expected to provide. Much I could copy from my most recent CV, other things from the HumanSurge profile I found useful when updating my CV. For example, after seeing how the HumanSurge profile highlighted donor, consortium, and budget management separately from the position description, I realised this was something recruiters might search for, so I made sure this was equally clearly presented in my CV.
An area where I feel HS profiles could improve is supporting generalists showcase the contexts and programs we have experience in. Moreover, my job interviews often focus on software skills and I would love to display these skills better on the site. Overall, I think HumanSurge is an interesting HR method and it would be great to see it become more common. Especially for professionals like me, who do short assignments and are always looking to transition to the next project as easily and smoothly as possible.
Sara Vaca is specialised in Evaluation and has assessed programmes of UN agencies like UN Women and UNFPA, as well as projects implemented by the German Red Cross, British Red Cross, Danish Red Cross, IFRC, ICRC, and smaller NGOs. Currently, she is deployed in Indonesia for a four-month assignment, where she is developing UNICEF’s Country Program Theories of Change. While she comes from a developmental background and therefore doesn’t see herself as the typical HumanSurge professional which, according to her, is more emergency-oriented, she does seem to get noticed by organisations quite a lot.
Sara: I don’t exactly know why I’ve been contacted on eight occasions. Maybe it’s because when I’m home and not travelling I put down that I’m available for deployment within 48 hours. Also, I think my expertise in cash transfers is often relevant. Or perhaps it is due to the fact that I can speak English, French, and Spanish. Yet, there are many commonalities between doing evaluations in development contexts and doing assessments in emergencies, so I guess my skillset still interests organizations despite my limited experience in humanitarian interventions.
Anouk: Considering that you don’t really see yourself as the typical target audience, do you still think registering has been valuable for you?
Sara: Yes, because I think it is only due to bad timing that I haven’t been able to accept any of the offers I’ve received. Especially since some of the offers have been in countries I’m really interested in working in, like Haiti. And, even though they didn’t work out in the end, these contacts have helped me open communications between me and the organisations. As a result, I now have gone through some of those organisation’s screening processes and have already been pre-approved (registered in the NGO’s roster) for future opportunities.
Moreover, what I really like about HumanSurge is that it’s the organisation that contacts you, instead of it being the other way around. It’s very refreshing and makes you feel valued. Especially since these organisations don’t even know you yet.
Anouk: Apart from the fact that HumanSurge has helped you increase your possibilities and it is nice to get an offer, how happy are you with the actual communications and our site?
Sara: Honestly, I haven’t spent much time working on my profile, so I don’t know a lot about that. But, concerning the actual communications: what can be confusing is that some of the conversations in my profile still appear as open, even though they have already ended.
Also, there is quite some variation
in the amount of information offers provide in the first message: Sometimes it just says for which organisation and for how long, and at that point, you already need to “decide” if you are interested or not. Other times the offer includes the ToR with full disclosure. Ideally, I would like every offer to include, at least: country, the area inside the country, duration, main tasks and realistic estimated date of deployment.
And, something that might help HS better monitor its role and impact is; if you could also track follow-up communications with the organisation outside the site – by for example asking the involved parties how the process finally ended (final deployment, or not, and reasons). Otherwise, some contracts may be signed via emails, with no trace of that on the HS platform.
Still, I would definitely recommend HumanSurge to other humanitarian professionals, since it is certainly a way to improve your chances of getting interesting contracts. That is why in a couple of weeks I will update my availability back to 48 hours again.
Anouk: As you can see, our site is not perfect yet, but it is only through feedback like this that we can improve. For example, as a result of comments, like those made by Sara, we will launch an improved and more intuitive version of our communications function.
So, if you also have comments or want to tell us about your experience with HumanSurge, or getting deployed, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org