You're a COP. What's next?

A project manager at a media event for area development. Photo by: Justin Ward / USACE Europe District Public Affairs / CC BY

Chiefs of party seem to agree that the right fit for them — helping alleviate suffering and lift people out of poverty —  is worth more than the possibility of earning more elsewhere. In fact, it’s their own personal drive to do good that they believe opened up the opportunities for senior positions in the first place, and they’ll continue to look for the right opportunity to put their skills to best use.

For many, becoming a chief of party and managing a large project is considered the pinnacle of a development career. But what happens once someone has reached that goal?

Being a COP became part of Robin Wheeler’s career plan as he moved forward in the development sector. Wheeler, now a chief of party with more than 25 years of experience in development management, situation assessment and capacity building in Africa, was a country representative for a centrally-funded USAID project, a regional United Nations official, a regional representative for a contractor and a senior director at a nongovernmental organization’s headquarters before positioning himself to become a COP on a new project.

Kirk Ramer, on the other hand — a chief of party with more than 16 years of experience leading projects focused on agriculture as well as the assistance of small- and medium-sized enterprises — said he “stumbled upon” the career. Ramer attended business school with the goal of landing an overseas job with a multinational company. He eventually received an offer from a small private consulting company to work on a USAID-funded economic development project in Croatia. Over the course of five years and many moves, he went from regional office manager to a deputy chief of party, then got his first COP position in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  

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About the author

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    Kelli Rogers

    Kelli Rogers is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in Bangkok, she covers disaster and crisis response, innovation, women’s rights, and development trends throughout Asia. Prior to her current post, she covered leadership, careers, and the USAID implementer community from Washington, D.C. Previously, she reported on social and environmental issues from Nairobi, Kenya. Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and has since reported from more than 20 countries.