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Norbi Penilla

Current role:

HR and Admin Manager, Jordan

Joined Oxfam in 1999:

1999 Admin Assistant, Philippines

2005 Programme Support Officer, Philippines

2006 Programme Services Manager, Indonesia

2008 HR Capacity Builder, Tajikistan

2008 HR and Admin Manager, Myanmar

2009 HR and Admin Manager, Philippines

2010 HR and Admin Manager, Pakistan

2011 Roving HR Advisor in HECA RC

2012 HR Manager in DRC

2014 HR and Admin Manager, Jordan

2015 RHRM in MECIS (Secondment)

2016 HR and Admin Manager, Jordan

Key learning opportunities taken

  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Building relationships with colleagues

What was your first role? What were your aims and ambitions when you first started?

I worked in a corporate for 7 years before I got the job in Oxfam GB way back in 1999 as Admin Assistant for 2 years in the Philippines Programme. Again, I moved to a local NGO as Executive Assistant to the Secretary-General which was funded by Oxfam GB, Oxfam HK, Novib and other international donors. I loved those roles as I was learning to set up a new system and procedures. I have been a Humanitarian since I was a student activist.

How long have you been with Oxfam for, and what sorts of roles have you been in?

I have been on and off in between of deployments with Oxfam, and was deployed in 3 countries during 2008.

  • 1999-2000 Philippines Programme as Admin Assistant
  • 2005-2006 Philippines Programme as Programme Support Officer
  • 2006-2008 Programme Services Manager in Aceh, Indonesia for Tsunami Response
  • 2008 July-Oct HR Capacity Builder to Anvar Begmatov in Tajikistan
  • 2008-2009 Country HR and Admin Manager in Myanmar for Cyclone Nargis
  • 2009-2010 Emergency HR and Admin Manager for Typhoon Ketsana in the Philippines
  • 2010-2011 Field HR and Admin Manager for Pakistan Flooding
  • 2011 Nov-Dec Roving HR Advisor in HECA RC
  • 2012 Country HR Manager in Democratic Republic in Congo (DRC)
  • 2013 de-stressing after DRC
  • 2014 Country HR and Admin Manager for the Syria Crisis Response in Jordan
  • 2015 March-October on secondment opportunity as RHRM in MECIS
  • 2016 up to present back to substantive role in Jordan

What motivated you to join Oxfam, and move to your current role?

I believe in Oxfam's mandate. I was mainstreamed in Aceh, Indonesia into an HR role from managing Administration, Finance, Logistics, IT and HR.

What kinds of skills, experiences and knowledge, would you say, are crucial for you to deliver in your current role?

My main experience is supporting Emergency Response so it is about the drive of achieving results in a fast-phase approach. It is also about being adaptable, flexible, openness to learn, trouble shooting, making decisions quickly as needed, being proactive and taking initiatives.

What helped you get there over your career?

I would say my career growth is based on my actual experience - the best teacher. It is also helpful to have a good team working relationship of achieving results.

What is the most useful thing a manager or colleague or mentor has done to help you with your learning and your career?

I would say having a good business partnering relationship with the line manager is the key of achieving results. The line manager should have an awareness to give a learning opportunity to their staff. I have been working with Oxfam for long time. I just have a chance to get a formal course while I was seconded in MECIS. In this role, it would also be useful to have a mentor or coach that I can share in confidence the challenges and to be coached on how to deal with it.

Has there been a particular learning experience, or several, which contributed significantly to bringing you to where you are today? If so, could you please tell me about it a little?

I think the biggest learning was the evacuation of 50 global staff in DRC during the civil war in 2012. The national staff heard gun shots and bombs and panicked, and started running to get to the gate. I shouted to the guard to lock the gate and not to allow anyone out of the office compound. I informed the staff of the emergency procedures and reassured them that we had emergency provisions so we ended up sleeping in the office for 2 nights. I was concerned that the team would get hurt if they were to leave the compound. I needed to stay calm during that.

What do you think are great ways to learn and progress which people don't always think about?

I always believe in the statement of 'slowly but surely' in order to build a good foundation in our career. It's important that staff have enough experience before rushing into promotion. However, Oxfam needs to ensure we recruit the right people into the right position .

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