Lots of hip hip hoorays as participants in the NIRAS Young Professionals Academy gather virtually to celebrate graduation

NIRAS Young Professional Academy

After two years of demanding but rewarding consultancy work in multiple offices around the globe, NYPA graduates take up positions in the organisation with a renewed spirit of collaboration.

May 29, 2020

The 29th of May is a special day for the NIRAS Young Professional Academy (NYPA). This year’s graduation of the third NYPA cohort serendipitously falls a few days short of the fifth anniversary of the launch of programme in 2015. Although there was a celebration and lots of congratulatory hugs when they last met in Belgrade in February, today graduates gathered digitally to mark the occasion officially with a speech from Tor Lundström, VP of NIRAS International Consulting. 

“I want to welcome you all to the NIRAS family as full members even though you have been with us for some time already.” Tor announced. “NIRAS is like an armada with multiple ships joining from different ports and sailing in parallel. How we work together is so important. We should feel like we are sitting in one building with rooms in different parts of the world. That’s the thinking behind the NYPA programme. It aims to create a common language and way of working. It builds professionalism and keeps us young by bringing innovative people in to develop the matrix organisation. I look forward to working with all of you as drivers of the ‘NIRAS spirit’!”

The programme has sharpened my general skills on, for example, various donor priorities and tendering procedures, while at the same time allowing me to further my thematical expertise and engage in specific areas of interest. This holistic model has been a great boost for my professional development but equally for my passion for global development and the issues that matter most to me.

Amanda Hammarlund, gender equality, gender-based violence, and human rights specialist, posted at our offices in Serbia, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Kenya.

Creating a common NIRAS way of working

The third and current NYPA cohort started in June 2018 drawing young professionals (YPs)―who become junior consultants (JCs) in their second year―applicants from outside the organisation as well as those from within NIRAS, so called NIRAS-Across participants or NAPs who participate to sharpen their skills and get broader exposure to the wider NIRAS community.

The aim of the two-year intensive programme is to foster a common culture across the organisation by systematising our approach to tendering, project management, and consultancy, broadening networks, and creating more vertical and horizontal integration across technical areas and offices.

As Tor explains, “NYPA offers a unique experience as participants can work on anything in the organisation without thinking about who they are working for. It is more about what they manage to achieve within the matrix, which can sometimes be complex but creates a lot of value. They have opportunities to grow and develop, and we hope they keep this one-NIC spirit of collaborative work wherever they go in the company.”

Training occurs in-person at five 3-week sessions in Belgrade and in between at offices around the world, where participants get hands-on experience in tender writing, business development, and seeing how projects are implemented on the ground.

Elina Voipio, who specialises in entrepreneurship and private sector development, has worked in our offices in Finland, Germany, Denmark and Zambia and conducted field work in Namibia where she supported the Southern African Innovation Support Programme (SAIS 2). She felt NYPA gave her a holistic understanding of the development consulting industry, particularly from the business development perspective: “It’s certainly a valuable programme, particularly for those who are in the early stages of their development consulting career. NYPA gives you an extended network within the organisation and provides a chance to learn best practices from various NIRAS offices and projects. This is a unique opportunity, as most NIRAS employees unfortunately do not get to meet face-to-face and work with colleagues globally to this extent.”

Contributing to growth

The NYPA programmes also gives JCs and NAPs a chance to explore new business avenues by working on internal projects with significant value to the organisation. For these assignments, teams are paired with a NIC “client” and NYPA participants must then act as consultants by being proactive and solution-oriented, coordinating internally and learning how to handle sometimes demanding clients. For example, Jessica Olsson and Pi Arnth Petersen became well-versed in using NIRAS’s SDG tool―SDG Capture―as their consultancy task was to develop a guide on how to apply the tool to non-revenue water (NRW) projects and thereby possibly enter a dialogue with the client on further integrating SDGs in the project. Inspired by the project, the SDG Capture tool was mentioned in a water programme tender in Ukraine, which was later won. The client specifically mentioned SDG Capture as one of the selling points in the tender. 

Working with many offices and colleagues, it feels like I have tried out many different workplaces although they were all part of NIC. I have been exposed to new and diverse working cultures, which has really amplified my most important learnings of cooperation, the importance of efficient processes and flexibility. I feel NYPA is really valuable as its structure really prompts both personal and professional development.

Frida Ericsson, inclusive value chain development, women’s economic empowerment and food security specialist, posted to our offices in Serbia, Sweden, Denmark and Malawi.

Welcome to the NIRAS family

This third cohort was particularly successful as all the graduating participants will remain at NIRAS in various positions, a testament to their hard work and significant outputs.

Later on, we will conduct an evaluation of the programme to assess what has been achieved in the last five years and whether the objective―to build one NIRAS―was achieved. Learnings from this evaluation will go into the design of the next NYPA, which we hope to launch in the beginning of 2021. 

Speaking on behalf of the NYPA participants, Laura Wahlandt thanked everyone who made the programme possible, especially the Serbian colleagues who made Belgrade feel like home. “It has been a really rewarding experience. Of course it has been tough at times, it’s a very full on programme, but we’ve grown so much both personally and professionally. We are all looking forward to settling into our new offices and roles. It has been great to get to know so many inspiring colleagues around the world. Thank you for giving us this opportunity.”

Congratulations to all the NYPA graduates on their well-deserved diplomas!

If you are interested to learn more about the NYPA programme, click here.

After the programme

After going through the programme, Dorica Andrew, a qualitative researcher from our Tanzania office, feels more integrated in the organisation as she understands NIRAS and its values better. She and fellow NYPA participant, Magdalena Nicolai, a German education and migration specialist, worked side-by-side in Tanzania on a project that provided practical hands-on experience. As Dorica explains, “I learned to work as part of a team from the tender to project implementation stage. This was really timely for me as I was supposed to assist in managing a certain project and thereafter take over the role of project manager.”


Junior Consultants


NIRAS-Across participants