antonella abategiovanni | international development

{entering international development} via chevrons & éclairs

from desk to field

I met Antonella whilst backpacking through south of Spain and we easily connected on subjects
of international relations and development. At the time, she was grappling with falling in love with
her career in finance and was so inspired by the field of international development. She was,
at that time, looking for a way to connect her day job with development. Fast forward from 2009 to
today, she moved to London and we re-connected! It has been wonderful to have a friend back, and in
so close proximity! I’m honored to feature a friend who is making strides in the international development
field. So today, I decided to ask Antonella a few questions about how she took that leap of faith
from finance to development.

{PS} read a bit about international development here.

{entering international development} via chevrons & éclairs
{entering international development} via chevrons & éclairs

Give us a bit of background on your development education and career.

My background is pure financial, a Bachelor of Arts in Management of Financial Institutions and an MSc in Economics major in Banking and Finance. Like every Finance young graduate, my goal was to start my brilliant career in some of the major Banks worldwide. Well, I graduated in 2009 while the Economic crisis was hitting Europe (Yes! Very good timing) and, obviously I didn’t become a banker.

I started in a small fiduciary fund. I was progressing very fast, too fast for the age I was, so, during summer, I took the chance to go volunteer in Benin, Africa and that’s where my journey started.

Today, I hold an additional Master degree in Microfinance from the Universite LIbre de Bruxelles and I’m redirecting my career in development having worked for a microfinance institution in the Dominican Republic.

What peaked your interest in international development?

I wasn’t fully satisfied with my life. My inner was not happy. My parents, in the early 80s also went to Africa as volunteers. I grew up with pictures of the “other side” of the world, with a strong sense of give, do good, help. I’ve always been involved in caring initiatives but at some point it was not enough for me. I wanted to do more; I wanted to embrace the “doing good” philosophy getting up every morning and go to work. I wanted to work for this.

I always thought to get back and study international development but I was sorry for the years spent in Finance, I needed to combine both and that’s how I end up in Microfinance to be in line with my theory of ”gets also social returns from the good job you’ve done!”


{entering international development} via chevrons & éclairs

Do you have a specific region of interest or specialism?

A specific region…hmmm….The world. Jokes aside, there is so much to do that you can’t have a specific region of interest. Even here in Europe there’s a lot of work to be done. Sometimes your language skills decide for you, being proficient in Spanish I can comfortably work in Latin America. Africa captured my heart and I didn’t have the chance to go to Asia yet (really looking forward to!).

I meant to use ‘comfortably’ because we don’t have only think to our wishes but when we go abroad, same value for visiting, knowing the language opens a direct door to the hosting culture. When you work in development it gives you a key to understand better the real needs and also locals recognize you as less “stranger”.

Development is a massive field. I would say my area of interest is financial inclusion and everything turns around women and youth empowerment.


{entering international development} via chevrons & éclairs
{entering international development} via chevrons & éclairs

What made you decide to leave your day job to go to the Dominican Republic?
-Sun, white beaches, fruit, micro-finance…

What are some key tips about getting involved in international development?

If you plan to redirect your career or if you just approaching to get involved in international development you might like to:
– Networking with some credited professionals in the sector to get insights, learn from their experience.
– Read a lot about what’s going on in the market, everything is so vibrant and interesting and getting informed will give you an idea on what you pay more interest in, that’s what you’re passionate about.
– Be aware you share the same value of the institution you’d like to work for.
– Think out of the box and be ready to face challenges from limited budgets to poor internet connections and everything in the middle.

Follow you heart in this case is not only a cheese advice. Intuition combined with effort and dedication always repay back.

What kind of skills were you able to apply to your development career from your previous career in finance?

I was expecting the “what I’ve learned” question and the answer is to be patient. Back to the question I’ve actually been able to use all the expertise I learned from the past: credit risk analysis, basic accounting, marketing and strategy. Even some basics of Excel.


{entering international development} via chevrons & éclairs

Don’t be afraid. Listen. Commit. Make sure you easily adapt…
Rewarding opportunities are just outside our own comfort zone.

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  • T. Cole

    your friend is beautiful, supal! So special the reunion probably was. Thank you for sharing her story because I am studying international development and relations.

  • sarah

    Some great tips that can also be applied to any job change. I think it’s important about applying your previous job skills to the new one. well done!! xxx

  • Jenessa Sheffield

    Great tips, thanks for sharing!