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From working in a shoe shop to United Nations Headquarters

From working in a shoe shop to United Nations Headquarters
Sanjev Lal at New York.
September 19
12:26 2017

From working in a shoe shop to working for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Headquarters in New York City, Sanjev Lal said his journey wasn’t an easy one.

Being the only Fijian staff member working for UNDP in New York is something that Mr Lal is proud of.

“Dedication, self-disciple, perseverance, and respect for people are the key factors that I attribute to my motivation and success from working part-time at the age of 16 after school in a shoe shop in Suva to working for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Headquarters in New York City, USA as an international/expatriate staff member,” said Mr Lal.

$40 a week working in a shoe shop

He said that working in a shoe shop during school holidays and getting paid $40 a week and $16 for working on Friday and Saturday’s, and then being paid a dollar an hour working in a supermarket enabled him to appreciate the value of a dollar and  importance of a customer.

At an early stage he also realised that he would have to work hard and smart to afford a decent life after leaving school.

“During school days, I used to also help my mum and dad in the afternoons with cleaning and selling kava from home – pounding kava by the road side was a norm.”

Mr Lal has always been thankful to his parents for affording his studies at the Fiji National University (FNU), despite financial challenges and coming from a family of four brothers, with his dad being the sole bread winner.

His dad has been his greatest inspiration in seeing that he always valued people and always had a good sense of humour and a smile.

“The principle life lesson that I learnt from my dad were being simple, honest, having respect for people and a good sense of humour.

“He was the one who always told me that everyone has a brain and it all depends on how you use it.

“These simple human values that guided me in difficult and challenging situations and helped me progress and succeed in life.

No matter under what kind of pressure I was under, I always managed a smile, which kept my spirits positive and high.

Looking back to his University days he said: “I remember going to FNU and seeing young people wasting time in the car park or cafeteria, while I was struggling between study and part-time work at the then Courts Fiji Limited in Samabula.

“This is where I said to myself that one day I will do better and establish my own identity through my own hard work.

Fiji National University days

“I still remember the day at FNU that despite getting good marks and not being able to attend USP due to financial constraints.

“I was not even given enrollment at FNU, whereas some students’ names appeared in two to three programmes.

“I remember waiting till the last minute that day when a student did not turn up to take his place of enrollment, which was then offered to me.   

“This further provoked me to work harder and in 2002 I graduated from FNU with a Diploma in Business Computing and was also awarded a Gold Medal for Excellency in the School of Commerce.”

Joining UNDP headquaters

Mr Lal joined UNDP headquarters in September 2015, as their finance and administrative specialist in the Bureau for External Relations and Advocacy, which manages UNDP’s global communications, partnerships and resource mobilisation.

He said working there has given him a wider understanding of issues affecting people.

“I am satisfied that I get to work every day for an organisation that is committed to improving the lives of people around the world.

“I have also come to better understand the work of UNDP (operating in over 170 countries and territories) in the areas of operations and programme policy development.

“Working for UNDP has also taken me to many places and going to places like Timor-Leste and some Pacific Island Countries and seeing the challenges and hardships faced by the people made me value the opportunities and life back in Fiji.”

Prior to joining UNDP, Mr Lal worked for the then Courts Fiji Limited now Courts as their finance supervisor after which he moved to the Fiji National Fire Authority as their Accountant and acted as their Board Secretary.

He joined the UNDP Fiji Office as their Finance (Treasury) Associate and then moved into the UNDP Pacific Office as their Programme Support Unit Team Leader.

In 2011, Mr Lal moved up to be the Deputy Project Manager for a UNDP/UNCDF project on financial inclusion before moving to UNDP headquaters in New York City.

Mr Lal currently lives and works in Manhattan, New York City, along with my wife and two boys, Armaan and Shariyaan.

“I am blessed to have a wife who has been a true guide and inspiration to keep me going, no matter how difficult life and issues can be at times,” he said.


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