CV Convos (CV Conversations) is an Instagram Live (IG Live) series on navigating careers created by Circumspecte and the New Career Platform. Every week, career coach Jemila Abdulai chats with an African young professional about their career path and the lessons learned along the way. For the second episode of CV Convos, we talked to food engineer and Inclusive Agribusiness Manager Josephine Ecklu. Josephine stands out with her unique background and took an unconventional path while crafting an international career. We shared many laughs during this CV Convos episode while getting to know more about Josephine’s career and how she navigates it.

Josephine Ecklu: Student for life

Josephine’s career is guided by an eagerness to learn and this clearly shows in her four-page CV which captures not just her many interests, but also her countless achievements. At the beginning of her academic career, Josephine partook in internships to learn on the job. She also volunteered to gain experience and craft a unique background and set of skills: “When you finish school and graduate, everyone has a degree, so what makes you stand out?,” she asked. Josephine also sees volunteering as an avenue for creating impact in people’s lives, one which has been useful to her career journey: “I don’t think I did any magic. I just made myself available and anytime I found an opportunity to volunteer, I went all out.”

When it comes to experimenting, Josephine has done more than her fair share. Her zest for learning found her assisting with chocolate-making as an intern at the Cocoa Processing Company in 2007, as a project coordinator on international higher education at the British Council in 2016, among others. Her curiosity also spurred her to start a second Masters while working full time at the  Dutch Embassy in Accra as an agribusiness policy officer. All because her work focus at the time was access to finance, a novel field and something she wanted to understand. While it wasn’t easy combining work and school, Josephine’s employer was supportive and she got increasingly excited about finance. She managed to get her Masters in Development Finance after a year of hard work: “It was an investment in myself and I was lucky that the educational budget was available at my workplace”. 

Study Abroad

After securing her undergraduate degree in Food Process Engineering, Josephine worked as a teaching assistant at the University of Ghana; a career opportunity many recent graduates often overlook. Working at the university afforded her significant time and access to the internet to plan for the next stage of her academic career: graduate study abroad. “We had a lot of time and internet at the university so depending on how you use the time and the internet, you will be able to get the results,” she advised. She started her research online on the best school in the food processing field and stumbled upon Wageningen University in the Netherlands. An odd choice, but by the time she was done, Josephine was sure of her decision to study food technology in the Netherlands. CV Convos host Jemila Abdulai shared her own experience studying abroad for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She explained that study abroad requires preparation, especially since the financial elements of studying abroad may be overlooked. That said, choosing a different field of study or location can enable one to create a niche for themselves while gaining unique perspectives, experiences and international networks.

Dealing with Career Transitions

Josephine went through multiple career transitions, both academically and professionally. She believes “it’s very important to stay true to yourself in [career] transitions”. At a point in her previous job, she realised that many things had become routine. She was also involved in a lot of high level project management while she wanted to be closer to the farmers in the field.  She decided to explore a possible job transition by applying for a few field-based jobs. Jemila noted that coming up with a ‘pros and cons’ list and asking oneself sincere questions  during career transitions is very important. “Can I learn something new?” is one guiding question for Jemila during career transitions. She believes the path of learning always pays back in experience and value, even if it may not seem so at the time. 

“Truth be told I was not ready to change jobs; I was just seeing whether I was still valuable on the market. I also gained a lot of experience on the job, so I wanted to see whether this added value for the market I wanted to be in.” the agribusiness enthusiast explained.

– Josephine Ecklu, Food Engineer

Work Travel & People Skills

Being the Inclusive Agribusiness Manager at Rikolto, Josephine’s people skills have come into play. As the team lead steering numerous partnerships between the public and private sectors, her job requires her to be strategic, especially since she interacts with many groups of people; from high level dialogues to being in the field. Travel is also a big part of Josephine’s work as she covers projects on four continents, including Africa. Most often, it means traveling for long hours to the hinterlands, doing field research and community engagement in rural areas, and enduring hours on bumpy roads. “Travelling can be exciting, especially in the beginning because you are not sure what is awaiting you. But it can also be stressful. I really had to learn how to take care of myself while travelling this much,” Josephine admitted. Drawing on her own experience working in the international sector across Africa, Jemila pointed out that travel is not as glamorous or the ‘free trip’ some people may think. Besides the fact that regular office work obligations continue with an ever-growing inbox, there is often little time to actually explore  one’s destination. Nevertheless, both Jemila and Josephine agreed that being passionate about one’s work helps balance out the stress of traveling. 

CV Tips For High Achievers

If you are a high achiever like Josephine with numerous relevant experiences to showcase on your CV, it can be challenging to present yourself in just a few pages. To make it easier, Josephine recommends focusing on results in your CV. Highlight what you have been able to achieve in your respective roles as well as the impact you made. This will prove your added value as a professional and help you stand out from other job candidates. Besides showcasing results, formatting one’s CV can be useful in presenting a lot of information logically and in a visually appealing way. When asked which career achievement she is most proud of,  Josephine laughed and responded like the true life student she is:

“There is nothing yet to be proud of.  Everyday I look for opportunities to learn again.”

– Josephine Ecklu, Inclusive Agribusiness Manager

Excited to hear more from our guest? Watch a replay of Josephine’s CV Convos below for all the useful insights and the many laughs shared. You can also connect with Josephine on LinkedIn and learn about her work with Rikolto. Join us for the next CV Convos live on Circumspecte’s Instagram page on Wednesday July 22 at 6pm GMT as we explore careers in technology.

This event summary was written by Ileen Wilke and Jemila Abdulai. CV Convos is an IGLive series on navigating careers by Circumspecte and the New Career Platform

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