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Tetra Tech’s Michelle Kolb on how engineers can break into the global development sector. Via Youtube.

While there are many employment opportunities for engineers in global development, making that career transition can still be challenging for professionals who are not familiar with the sector. Building a network, developing relevant soft skills, and gaining hands-on experience are all important.

Switching careers and landing a job in the sector is not something that happens overnight, according to Michelle Kolb, deputy project manager for an initiative on water, sanitation, and hygiene with Tetra Tech. Keep working toward your long-term career goals and don’t give up, advised Kolb, who is an environmental engineer by training.

Originally lacking sufficient experience for international development roles herself, Kolb started working with Tetra Tech on its domestic sector projects. Building her network and developing her project management skills eventually helped her transition, after several years, to the organization’s international development arm.

Volunteering with Engineers Without Borders and attending conferences, including events for women in STEM, were also important parts of Kolb’s career development. “It’s all about who you know and it’s putting yourself in situations with other people in the development field to learn from them and to develop that network,” she said.

Kolb spoke to Devex about how engineers can break into the global development sector and apply their expertise to a range of projects.

Devex, with financial support from our partner 2U, is exploring the skills and education development sector professionals will need for the future. Visit the Focus on: DevPros 2030 page for more.

About the author

  • Emma Smith

    Emma Smith is a Reporter at Devex. She covers all things related to careers and hiring in the global development community as well as mental health within the sector — from tips on supporting humanitarian staff to designing mental health programs for refugees. Emma has reported from key development hubs in Europe and co-produced Devex’s DevProWomen2030 podcast series. She holds a degree in journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University and a master's in media and international conflict. In addition to writing for regional news publications, she has worked with organizations focused on child and women’s rights.