The University of Southampton
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Reiner Schmitz

BA (Hons) German 1989

What was your first job after graduation?

I joined the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and was responsible for the coordination of medical evacuation programmes of war-wounded civilians from Afghanistan, Lebanon and Sri Lanka to Europe. I assume I got the post, because I also have a medical background.

What is your current job?

I am still working for IOM and over the years held many different posts: HR management, migration management, programme development, budgeting and financial management, humanitarian aid operations and logistics, lastly management of human rights and democratic rights projects. Since 2007 I am the Head of the Electoral Support Unit in IOM, which - by the way - is the third largest specialized agency in the world. I also enjoyed a secondment to the post of Chief of Mission (Ambassador) in Ireland from 10/2010 until 8/2011.

What are your main responsibilities and duties in your current job?

Major responsibilities have been programme development and implementation worldwide. Managing programmes in the field of humanitarian aid, electoral observation and electoral support, always involves security risks and logistical constraints and most of all staff and people. Management skills and good judgement in weighing up risks for staff versus needs of beneficiaries is probably the most difficult aspect.

What has been your favourite job since graduation?

All humanitarian and medevac programmes have been rewarding yet challenging - also personally. I have seen the most horrible atrocities in Rwanda, Pakistan, Sudan, Sri Lanka and I have seen much kindness. I have buried people and I helped to save lives, and the responsibility makes you grow.

What have been some of the key moments in your career?

I will always remember a small boy from Kabul, who had lost his family in a bomb attack. He himself had shrapnel in his eyes. Unfortunately, we could not get him out fast enough and the shrapnel started to oxidize destroying his optical nerve. When we had to tell him that he would stay blind, he just said: 'In S'Allah'. The world wasn't fair! But I also realized that I couldn't change the big picture but do whatever I could do within my realm.

How did your education at Southampton prepare you for your career?

I recognised that I am not stupid and can get my teeth into subject matters fast. That helps immensely.

What advice would you give to current and prospective students who desire a similar career to yours?

Southampton University has become one of the top universities in the UK and has everything to offer.

What advice would you give to prospective students looking to study your course at the University?

University teaches you that you can learn, grasp, analyse subject matters fast and that you have been taught the basics of doing a good job. With that under your belt go out into the world and broaden your horizons.

What achievement are you most proud of since graduating?

I prefer to remain humble.

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