I guess that helps but definitely not the crux, otherwise I would have pursued a career in investment banking. Is it the prestige? I recall in the early days telling people I work for FMO and most will look at me blankly, never having even heard of our name. So if it’s not the money or the prestige, what is it? It may sound cliché but only few would disagree with me when I say it is the development mandate we carry. The feeling that we are contributing to something meaningful and purposeful through our work, helping others, even if in small measure, in creating positive incremental and/or transformational changes around the world. It is seeing the clients we support and help start off and grow, taking their rightful place in society and reaching out to millions of other entrepreneurs that we as FMO would otherwise not have been able to access directly. This is certainly what gets me out of bed every day even on very cold and grey winter days (truth be told, this time of the year is when Africa feels like paradise).
So what makes FMO a great place to work? How often do you see in other organizations where members of the Management Board eat with you in the same restaurant almost on a daily basis? I remember a colleague once telling me she almost dropped her plate in shock the first time she saw Nanno, our CEO at that time, queuing up in the restaurant to take his food and seating with other colleagues to eat. And if you haven’t already, you also need to witness the passion with which deal teams often defend their deals at various levels of the investment process, fully convinced in the reasoning why FMO should invest. You may argue, well, we have annual targets to reach but I have stayed long enough in the front office to realize that it takes real conviction to care deeply and fight for a deal.
In the last five years I have seen amazing career shifts. You can create opportunities and chart your career (within reasonable boundaries of course) in FMO: Environmental & Social (E&S) specialists, capacity development (CD) officers, legal counsels - you name it - all becoming investment officers. Directors becoming Managers and investment officers or even E&S specialists, HR officers becoming E&S specialists, Investment officers becoming CD officers, project officers and so forth. The list is endless. I recognize that making these shifts demands a lot of effort and self-sacrifice, but the fact that they are possible at all is fascinating and true to character of what FMO is.
Though we are still predominantly Dutch, the increasing number of international colleagues joining us is already making for an interesting mix of cultural diversity. I reckon we will see more fun stuff emerging, all spicing up our work life in the coming years. I do hope though that in this growth era that FMO is experiencing, we will not lose what has successfully bound us together all these years – the passion for making a difference.