Learning with InsideNGO: Wendy Uhiren
Learning with InsideNGO: Wendy Uhiren
"Learning with InsideNGO" profiles professionals who have taken advantage of our many learning opportunities. In this post, we meet Finance Manager Wendy Uhiren of Heifer. Wendy recently earned the InsideNGO Certificate in USAID Assistance Management, which demonstrates her expertise in navigating, interpreting, and applying USAID regulations.
Heifer International Finance Manager Wendy Uhiren
Q: How many years have you been working in development?
A: I have worked at Heifer International since 2008. I’ve been in my current position for almost three years. I had worked in the nonprofit sector doing fundraising for three years prior, so I was already familiar with grant research and donor resiliency.
Tell us a little bit about your current job responsibilities.
I am the first point of contact at our headquarters for the finance staff working in the country offices designated to me. Currently that involves countries in both Asia and Africa. As finance manager, I am responsible for project proposal budget development and review, project financial management at the headquarters level, and donor reporting and compliance. In addition, my responsibilities include coordinating annual audits in the country offices, visiting those offices when needed, and providing capacity building, as well as implementing and institutionalizing our organization’s new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
How did you learn about InsideNGO’s Certificate in USAID Assistance Management?
Several members of the management team had been looking into certificate programs for USAID management. Many of our programs staff have taken InsideNGO trainings and attended workshops. When my supervisor discovered InsideNGO was offering a certificate, she approached me to consider pursuing the program.
What was your motivation for pursuing the certificate?
Heifer International has an ambitious goal of helping four million families in communities where we work to achieve living incomes by 2020, and securing and stewarding diverse funding sources is vitally important for us to achieve this goal. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to work on several of the opportunities we have had in United States federal grants. I have found a passion in managing these grants because I can see the direct impact these funds have in the communities in which we work. I have taken several InsideNGO classes and webinars, so I was very excited to see the certificate program offered, knowing it would allow me to expand on the knowledge and experience I already had and to share with my colleagues who have not had as much experience as I have.
Tell us a little bit about your experience with the program.
I began the program in May of 2015. I took the Rules and Regulations workshop in beautiful Miami. It was perfect timing because I needed to get up-to-date on the new CFRs that came out in December of 2014. I then traveled to Washington, DC, for the Financial Management workshop held in October 2016. After attending that workshop, I encouraged my programs colleagues to attend the same workshop to gain a better understanding of what the finance team looks at on a daily basis. I really loved the workshops. The instructors had first-hand experience in the work I am currently doing. Attending the workshops also enabled me to network with other NGOs and share experiences and best practices. I took the final workshop, Procurement Planning and Execution, online. It provided a unique experience of not only working with others from other NGOs, but allowing me to read the materials at my own pace. It also let me focus on the topic for a six-week period, so I was afforded the time to understand what I was learning and see it in the work I do every day.
Did you implement any new processes or procedures at your workplace or in your job as a result of a specific workshop?
I keep all of my manuals and workshop materials nearby at all times. Anytime someone has questions about how to handle federal funds, I pull them out and quote the source. I have been afforded the opportunity to present many trainings to my colleagues, as well as to assist in creating global procedures and best practices in the organization because of the knowledge I’ve gained. Other colleagues have seen the benefit of my training and have since taken several courses themselves.
What would you tell a colleague who is considering starting to pursue this opportunity?
I highly encourage anyone who has the opportunity to attend the workshops. I think learning USAID regulations not only prepares you for federal grant management, but also helps in all financial management. Following the regulations prepares our organization for better management of all funds and allows for both programs and finance to understand each other’s roles in the organization.