2017 Internship Report - Xie Xiaorou
Name: XIE Xiaorou
Master of Professional Accounting
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Position: Finance Intern at UNDP (China)
Duration: 21 August 2017 – 4 January 2018 (4.5 months)
Sponsorship: United Nations Peace and Development Foundation
I felt really grateful to be given the opportunity to take an internship in UNDP, the four months of which were filled with joy and growth. I was assigned to the finance department of UNDP. My duties encompassed the complete payment cycle of the UN system. Besides, I also participated in quite a few meaningful and entertaining activities organized by UN or my intern fellows. I would like to share my work and life in this report, also taking it as a summary for my development and a starting point for my future career path. This report will be divided into three parts, which are Work at UNDP, Miscellaneous Activities and Personal Insights.
Work At UNDP
UNDP is the largest agency of China UN system and thus its finance department takes charge of the financial business of both UNDP and other UN agencies such as UNFPA and UNV. Generally, life at UNDP was busy but educational. My main responsibilities included establishing vouchers, running pay cycle and helping with financial documentation.
Before Asia Global Shared Services Unit (GSSU) located in Malaysia was established, the whole payment cycle had been handled by country offices themselves. So when receiving payment requests submitted by UN staff, I would first help to classify the requests and pass them on to the colleagues in charge. Sometimes I also helped to deal with regular cases submitted by other organizations. What I should do was to establish vouchers with Atlas, a financial system tailored-made for the United Nations. Establishing vouchers was the inception of the payment cycle so it was of great importance that the relevant information was precisely transferred to the vouchers. It took me some time to grasp the core of the task and handle it accurately on my own, which also showed me the essentiality of patience and carefulness in an accounting career.
The drafted vouchers would then be reviewed by my supervisor before being confirmed and sent to the operation manager for approval. After all these procedures, it came to the final phase of the payment cycle, running pay cycle. There were several sub-tasks when running pay cycle. Firstly, I should check all the pending payments with reference to payees, amounts, currency, debit accounts and payment method which was by cheques or by electronic fund transfer. Only when it was sure that the payment instructions were correct, could I process with the second process, printing the cheques and uploading the payment instructions to the e-banking system. Subsequently, I would generate the e-banking payment report and print the processed vouchers. The final stage of this task was to attach the supporting documents to the corresponding vouchers. I should check whether the supporting documents were complete and extract the VAT invoices for quarterly tax refund.
Another important daily routine was documents filing. Proper filing was for both internal reference and audit purpose. I would compile the financial documents into books according to their reference numbers. Very often, our staff requested to look up to certain vouchers to ensure that the operating matters were coped with stringently in line with UN policies.
During the four months, I also participated in a series of wonderful activities held by the UN organizations and some after-work gatherings held by our interns, among which the brown-bag event surrounding LGBTI equality and the lunch with PDF-sponsored interns left me deepest impression.
Brown-bags are seminars or training sessions held during lunch time. The topics or themes of brown-bags were not bound within any limit. But normally, they are quite relaxing and interesting to discuss. It's a UNDP tradition that colleagues get together, sharing simple lunches while feeling free to chat as well as to present our ideas. The LGBTI equality-themed brown bag attracted around 80 colleagues from UNDP and other UN agencies. The facilitator, who was also a member of the group and had been striving for the rights of the group for the past decade, led us through some important concepts and terms of the topic with stimulating games at the beginning. And throughout the session, we were guided to think deeper and encouraged to express our opinions. Even though working in UNDP provided us the opportunity to get close to the special groups of our society and endeavor to their welfare, when it came down to the reality of their situations, our knowledge and insight were still within the scope of an outsider. That was the first time that I truly admired the variety and openness of the UN system and grasped the core of working in UNDP, and that was, to feel the feelings, to understand different stances and to really do something, since our positions gave us the space to make a difference to the society. Beside this seminar, I also participated in several other sessions, such as Upa Yoga, Anti-disaster Construction Education, training on expense claim given by administration colleagues and so on.
Besides, I was also honored to join the annual dinner held by UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Nicholas Rosellini and his wife. All the UNDP staff reunited at Mr. Rosellini's home before Christmas to celebrate for our accomplishments during 2017 and started to look ahead in 2018 under the expectation of our leader. It was also fun to drink and chat with colleagues from all over the world, who came to China with their passion to the country and the career of public welfare.
In addition to the job-related activities, my internship life was also enriched by quite a few activities held by intern fellows and UNPDF. In late September, Madam Josie treated UNPDF- sponsored interns to a lunch at a quaint restaurant in Wangfujin. It was really fancy and unforgettable for us young people from Hong Kong as a real-life experience to traditional Chinese culture. Josie also shared her experience in working in the UN headquarter in New York and insights into the development of Hong Kong as well as Mainland and gave us some hints of our future career tracks. Many thanks to Madam Josie for her full support to our internships.
I also participated in the video shooting for World AIDS Day in which interns from China UN system wore red T- shirts and called for public attention to the issue of AIDS. Actually, both the planning and execution of this event were done by our intern fellows, which reflected that UN interns were really outstanding and dedicated to the NGO career just like formal staff and that was why the United Nations had been exerting great impact on the world.
Four months occupy only a tiny part of one’s lifetime, but for me, this is a life-changing period during which I made significant progress in professionalism, diffuse skills and horizons. Through working on repetitive but subtle accounting tasks, I got to apply what I had learned into practice, gradually understanding the importance of integrity to a CPA. What challenged me most of the internship was that I had been required to stand out confidently and communicate with people. Before I took this internship, I had been like a shy small potato always hiding myself in public occasions. But now I know how to present myself to precious opportunities. The experience has led me to an offer from one of the big four accounting firms. Last but not least, I would like to thank my colleagues, intern fellows and PDF officers for bringing new ideas and refreshing my mind. My internship would not have been this perfect but for the participation of anyone of you!