Interview with Matilda Setutsi Frimpong: 2022 World Trade Organization Young Professional
Matilda is a Communications Specialist with over 5 years experience working in international and developing country contexts. She has worked in the fields of diplomacy, trade and investment, having worked with the Ghanaian government and two international organizations. Academically, she holds a Master’s in Public Relations and Communications from the Ghana Institute of Journalism, an executive certificate in Communicating for Influence and Impact from the University of Cambridge in the UK, and a certificate in financial journalism from Bloomberg Media. Matilda is the first Ghanaian to have been selected for the Young Professionals Programme (YPP) at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The YPP is a technical assistance program overseen by the WTO's Institute for Training and Technical Co-operation (ITTC). It is part of the WTO Secretariat's efforts to train young professionals in multilateral trade, as well as increase diversity and broaden representation within the WTO secretariat.
Who is Matilda?
Lol (laugh out loud), no one has actually asked me that before, but I’d say Matilda is very passionate and driven. I am very self-aware, and more of an introvert than you’d realize. Some people assume I’m very extroverted because of how I carry myself and my line of work.
Provide us with a general overview of your professional background.
I’m currently working as a Communications Specialist at the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), where my focus is on story sourcing, content creation, and dynamic social media outreach for two major sectors. Before joining WIPO, I worked as a Young Professional at the World Trade Organization, and as an Assistant Investment Promotion Officer at the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre. I also did a few stints in journalism in Ghana.
How did you hear about the WTO YPP?
Well, the YPP is particularly renowned as one of the major ways young professionals from developing countries can get to work with international organizations. I’d heard of the UN’s YPP, and through my work at the GIPC, because I was dealing with trade-related topics and foreign investment promotion missions, I had learned about the work of the WTO and then read about the YPP application online. What further pushed me to apply was that one of my bosses at GIPC shared the application link with me so I decided to give it a shot.
In your own words, what is the WTO YPP about?
The WTO Young Professionals Programme provides an opportunity for young professionals from under-represented countries to learn about multilateral trade and observe at close quarters how trade negotiations are conducted globally. It is also considered a training program that equips you to be internationally competitive for recruitment by the WTO and/or other regional and international organizations.
How long is the WTO YPP?
Who is eligible to apply for the WTO YPP?
A candidate must have an advanced degree and at least 2 years of professional experience relevant to the work of the WTO. For more information on the eligibility criteria, please visit this page.
What was the timeline of your WTO YPP application.
I think it took approximately 5 months from when I applied to when a final decision was made regarding my selection. I took a timed exam as part of advancing to the next stage of the application, after which I interviewed with a panel.
What does the work of a YP entail at the WTO?
A YP basically works in the division they’ve been assigned to as a ‘trainee staff member’ for the entire year. You’re given a Work Plan which you review in tandem with your supervisor, and this serves as a guideline for the entire work year. Expectations of work are discussed and set at the beginning of the year, with mid-year evaluations conducted to assess performance. A mentor is also assigned to a YP and this person serves sort of as an informal career coach to guide you and mentor you throughout your time in the secretariat.
What did you love most about your job?
I loved that I was given the push to take initiative on certain projects. I found it nice to work on implementation with super supportive teammates, whilst also being surrounded by a wealth of expertise in senior colleagues and experts I could learn from.
What expectations did you have prior to arriving in Geneva?
I wouldn’t say I had sky-high expectations, but I knew it was definitely going to be different in a good way. Switzerland is a beautiful place to live and work.
How did it feel to be in the same space of WTO’S Director General?
After reading and hearing so much about Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, it was a surreal moment seeing her in person and having the privilege of working and being in the same room as her. She’s a phenomenal woman who is also a very keen advocate of youth development, this was evidenced by how she took time off her busy schedule to meet and interact with young professionals.
Has this opportunity changed you in a way?
One word I’d describe it as, is enlightening. The opportunity really pushed me out of my comfort zone in every way possible, as you’re meeting and interacting with people from all walks of life. Intercultural communication with colleagues made me more open-minded. I realized that I held certain self-limiting beliefs that I now no longer hold on to. A key part for me was establishing lifelong friendships with people I never previously thought I could relate to. I’ve also learned to be more assertive and play to my strengths as a young educated black woman.
What self–limiting beliefs did you have?
Coming from a developing country, there’s this tendency to feel that your qualifications are not at par with other colleagues from more developed spaces. Holding on to this notion can sometimes limit your capabilities as you may have already placed a mental block before taking action. I had to remind myself that there was so much I could offer. The real work starts internally, removing the invisible barriers in your mind and becoming more open to the idea that your work matters and you belong.
What advice will you give to someone applying for this opportunity?
My piece of advice is to be well-educated and know your stuff. You don’t need to be an expert, but you need to be informed about the work of the organization. Your application should tell a story about you, relate all your academic and professional experiences to the role. I am a strong believer that you can make the most out of wherever you find yourself, so maximize your time spent working and put your best foot forward by submitting a strong cover letter and curriculum vitae.
Launched in 2016, the Young Professionals Programme is a technical assistance programme overseen by the WTO's Institute for Training and Technical Co-operation and funded by the Global Trust Fund. YPP alumni have gone on to hold positions in international organizations (including the WTO), national governments and the private sector, working in the field of multilateral diplomacy and global trade. The WTO is looking for talented, highly qualified and dynamic individuals to join the 2024 Young Professionals Programme (YPP). The deadline to apply for the 2024 YPP is April 13, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. (based on Geneva, Switzerland Time Zone).