From Entry-Level to Executive at Chemonics

I’ve had the honor of hiring a lot of people during my career at Chemonics. In the last few years while serving as senior vice president for our West and Central Africa and Haiti business unit, and now as senior vice president for Human Resources, I’ve made it a practice to have the final interview with every entry-level staffer my team hires. I do this not only because I think it’s important to meet potential colleagues, but also because I have an important message that I want to communicate to them.

By the time candidates meet with me, they’ve typically gone through a phone screen and two panel interviews. The purpose of my meeting with them is not to interview them, per se, but to get to know them and then really to set some expectations. I tell them that all the great things they have heard about Chemonics in the previous discussions and while researching the company are true. If they end up working here, they are going to get the opportunity to work on a daily basis with highly intelligent, capable, and competent staff. They’ll have a chance to learn and develop, and to travel to the many places we work. They’ll be given the tools and training to become amazing development professionals. And they’ll have an opportunity to make this not just a job, but a career, and to join the company at the ground floor and work their way up to the executive team.

I know this because I started at Chemonics in essentially an entry-level position 14 years ago and am now a member of the executive management team. I was able to start in what we then called our Africa business unit, and then moved into our Europe and Eurasia unit. Following three years in Chemonics’ home office in Washington, D.C., I then spent six years living in Kazakhstan, Albania, and the Republic of Georgia supporting Chemonics’ projects there. Those were without a doubt the most rewarding years of my career, and provided me with invaluable professional and personal growth. After then spending a year leading Chemonics’ global corporate ethics office, I have since had the pleasure of serving as senior vice president for both a regional business unit and a support division. And the great thing about this story is that it is not unique. My experience is indicative of Chemonics’ commitment to professional development and growth, and the fact that a company as large and diverse as Chemonics provides immeasurable opportunities for advancement. Several of my peers on the executive team have had a similar track at Chemonics.

But despite all this positivity, I also want to give candidates a bit of a reality check. If they end up working here, they are going to work really hard. We pride ourselves on our work ethic and take our work seriously. We set a high standard for ourselves and are not satisfied unless we exceed it. We do whatever it takes to deliver exceptional development services and sustainable results for our clients and beneficiaries. We also expect people to live our values every day: caring, excellence, innovation, integrity, and opportunity. We do complex work in incredibly challenging environments and need staff we can count on to do the right thing.

The work, particularly at the entry level, is not always glamorous and is often challenging and stressful. If you’re working in one of our nine regional business units, it means backstopping our more than 80 field programs, supporting business development efforts, and getting involved in our technical practices. If you’re in one of the five support divisions, it means mastering your craft and providing the support our global workforce needs, while also having the same opportunities to support business development and contribute to our technical practices. But despite the volume of work and the fact that we push ourselves hard, you’re going to learn the development business inside and out and become a versatile development professional. And we also know how to balance hard work with having fun — we have a strong esprit de corps here and look out for each other.

So if that sounds good to you, then welcome to the team.

Patrick Lohmeyer is the senior vice president of Chemonics’ Human Resources Division.

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