Erica Roggio, HR Officer, European Research Executive Agency
13 Febbraio 2023
In order to help current students and recent graduates to find their way in the working world, many of our alumni shared their career story. Here the story of Erica Roggio, HR Officer for the European Research Executive Agency (REA) in Bruxelles (B). USI Degree: Master in International Tourism, 2008.
How did you start your career?
When I was about to end my Master at USI, I successfully passed a competition at the European Commission and was recruited to work as a Communication Assistant for the Joint Research Centre’s Institute for Environment and Sustainability (JRC-IES) near Varese, Italy, for three years. Then I received an interesting offer from the French National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture – which was one of JRC’s partners - and moved to Paris, France, where I was appointed International Communication Officer. At the end of my contract, I passed another selection procedure at OECD - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and started
working there as Communications Coordinator for a joint EU-OECD Programme. I was no longer expecting to be contacted by the United Nations for an application to the Junior Professional Officer Programme (JPO) I had submitted one year before. This is how I arrived at Bioversity International in Rome, Italy. My position was sponsored by the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
Two years later, I was hired as work package leader of two EU funded projects on circular economy at ICLEI - Local Governments of Sustainability in Freiburg, Germany. Via another EU concurs, I got my position as a Project Manager and Country Coordinator for Morocco and Turkey at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR) in Brussels, where I dealt with agriculture, health, environment and climate change. Eventually, interview after interview, in January 2021 I started as a Project Officer, Environment at the European Research Executive Agency (REA). From October 2021 I'm HR Officer within the People and Workplace Unit | Selection and Recruitment, Staff Regulations, Planning and Reporting Sector.
Throughout the years, I never stopped learning, to satisfy my curiosity and improve my skills: I attended two additional Master’s programmes respectively on scientific communication and environmental conservation, as well as several training courses, including on EU funding.
Why did you choose a career in the European Research Executive Agency?
I chose to work for the European Research Executive Agency because I have always had a strong interest in environmental funding. Over the past years, I published my Master’s thesis on EU funding for the environment and wildlife, gave lectures on related topics at University of Insubria, Italy, and established a collaborative blog to support fund seekers and enable positive change: www.environmentalgrants.org .
REA is the funding body mandated by the European Commission to manage its research and innovation programme, which encompasses all research areas, and I wanted to work hands-on and exchange with more experienced colleagues, while assisting beneficiaries and putting my competencies at the service of something I believe in.
What is your current role/duties?
I am in charge of external personnel selection as well as internal and interagency mobility. Notably HR selection policy, strategic staffing and selection planning, selection procedures and processes, inter and intraagency mobility, and career guidance. This includes drafting Calls with Terms of Reference, assisting and guiding the selection panel, screening applications and conducting interviews for the establishment of reserve lists for different profiles and the appointment of Heads of Sector, among other tasks. I also have a coordination role for selection procedures which are jointly organised with the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA).
In your opinion, what are the qualities necessary for a successful career in the European Research Executive Agency?
For a career in an international organisation or institution, you need to be curious, determined, proactive, flexible, precise, pragmatic, a problem solver and open-minded. A thorough knowledge of at least two foreign languages and the availability to move to other locations are also essential. It is very challenging to start a new life in a new place almost once every two to three years, as it requires lot of energy and determination, especially in re-building friendships and getting the trust and appreciation of new colleagues. Even if you stay longer in a place, the environment around you continuously changes, as international civil servants often move around.
What positive aspects and qualities meant most to you during the study programme you attended?
Studying with students coming from all over the world has been a privilege. Also, USI offers good facilities and benefits like IT rooms, a library, a canteen, and scholarships to the best students as well as contacts with possible employers.
What competences and/or skills acquired in your USI Study Program have been useful/are useful to your professional career?
In my case, there is no direct link between what I studied (tourism) and my professional career; however what I learnt about economics, international relations and communications was useful to face more complex issues in my current work. Above all, through the many practical projects I had to deliver during my Masters, I acquired a methodology that can be applied to other fields, including managing multiple deadlines and team working within an international environment.
What is your advice to USI students entering the job market?
It is important to understand the value of lifelong learning: take the time to specialise further as an investment in your future. Successful careers always have ups and downs: do not be afraid to dare to take a chance, do your best to prepare for selection processes, identify the employer’s needs and propose solutions, learn from failures and try again. Work on personal branding, talk about something of your interest, stand out and let recruiters find you.