Having graduated from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in 2016, Patricia Weng now serves as an Associate Economic Affairs Officer under the United Nations Secretariat. Specifically, she works for the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which is one of several agencies and organizations that falls beneath the purview of the UN Secretariat. When we connected with Patricia this quarter, she shared a great deal about the technical aspects of her work and how she has adapted to life in Latin America, including learning Spanish. She also shared how she was able to secure her current position through the UN’s Young Professionals Programme (YPP), an initiative that she encourages any eligible RFG Fellows and Alumni to consider when applying for work with the UN.

In 2019, Patricia applied for an economic affairs position with the UN YPP. Looking back, she remembers that the application process was quite long. “I submitted my application in 2019 and arrived at my first assignment in 2022,” Patricia shares. “I even know a couple of people who took five years to place, so anyone going through the process needs to be patient.” She recounts how taking a position through the YPP also meant that she had to accept the first job offer that came her way. This offer ended up being in Santiago, Chile with the UN ECLAC. “I accepted it without knowing much about Latin America or the Caribbean,” Patricia admits. “However, I decided to accept the office’s confidence that I could and would still bring value to ECLAC.” When thinking about why she was chosen for this role, Patricia states that her previous experience as an Economist for the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a position she held for more than three years, made her competitive for the Economic Development Division. She also believes that her ability to learn multiple languages contributed to her selection for this role. As a result of her work with ECLAC, Patricia is now learning Spanish, but when she was hired, she already possessed fluency in Mandarin, Korean, English, and American Sign Language.

Since beginning her work with ECLAC in 2022, Patricia has engaged in a series of technical research projects, which require her to run numbers and proofread documents to support the countries of the region in reaching agreements, developing standards, and addressing international issues together. When asked what skills she uses in her day-to-day work, Patricia commented that she regularly employs her knowledge of Spanish, economic analysis, econometrics, machine learning, and coding. She also shared that perseverance, communication, the ability to make friends, and her fluency in English have been extremely helpful in accomplishing her work. Overall, she greatly enjoys her job, stating “it has been a good experience ever since I joined.” In particular, Patricia enjoys the skill development she has gained in this position. “I’ve been able to learn a bit more about machine learning and Python coding,” she shares. “I’ve also poured myself into studying Spanish and have worked on various publications.” 

Throughout her career, Patricia has served in various public service roles, including with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and now the UN. When asked about why she chose a career in public service, Patricia responded, “I have received benefits and opportunities from several public, private, and nonprofit institutions, including RFG, who believed in my right to a decent life and in my potential to give back, so it was clear to me early on that I wanted to join public service to help others in the same way that I was helped.” Looking forward, Patricia aims to reach full professional proficiency in Spanish by the end of 2025 and begin learning a new language once she has accomplished that goal. She also plans to continue her career with the UN, stating that she expects to be assigned to a new location with the UN YPP in the near future and that she would enjoy having the opportunity to work on new topics or regions.

When considering her career with the UN thus far, Patricia is nothing but encouraging to others who are interested in working for the United Nations, advertising the YPP as a potential pathway. “If anyone is interested in working for the UN, is under the age of 32, fluent in English (or French), and is a national of an underrepresented or unrepresented country, they should definitely consider applying for the YPP,” Patricia underscores. “It is a gateway to a rewarding career focused on reinforcing economic and political ties among countries with other nations of the world.”