Hector Mejia Bueso joined the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2003 as an Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) Engineer. His work includes software analysis, design development, and implementation of systems and databases.

Hector holds a master’s degree in project management, with a specialization in international cooperation. In addition, he obtained certifications in cybersecurity from the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2) and ISO certification as a continuity manager.

In this spotlight interview Hector shares his UNSSC learning journey with Itziar Arispe, Evaluation Learning Portfolio Manager.

Itziar: What made you decide to pursue the UN Data Analytics Professional Certificate?

Hector: Over the years, I have observed the growing importance of data, moving beyond just collection or accumulation of information to its potential to provide insights for decision-making. While the concept of decision-making is often simplified, the work needed involves meticulous efforts in reviewing, refining, and processing information accurately and promptly.

At UNDP, principles like ‘do no harm’ and ‘leave no one behind’ are foundational, and practices like result-based management and evidence-based results are hard-wired into our way of working. I see a connection between these principles and the need to equip myself with expertise in data analytics which can be a valuable asset, supporting my contributions to the country office’s objectives and programmatic results.

Itziar: Could you please share with us one or two memorable parts of your learning experience with us?

Hector: The learning platform is very user-friendly. It helps one keep organized during the learning journey. This made a difference for me because I was on a detail assignment in another country office, most of the time, in a different time zone. There was a 12-hour difference, making it a bit complicated for me to keep up.

Fortunately, being able to participate in sessions where people with a lot of experience in the field shared their knowledge was invaluable. Having the opportunity to share doubts, receive feedback, and follow up on real-world examples is something that adds a lot of value to the learning experience.

I discovered so many resources that can be used, and plenty of tools to help me become more efficient.

Itziar: Regarding the case study or on-the-job practice, could you share more about your chosen specialization and the things you discovered during the webinar sessions?

Hector: I selected data visualization because I was a bit familiar with Power BI and as mentioned earlier my time constraints were a bit complicated. I learned that collecting data is not enough. It is only the beginning. You need to prepare yourself to investigate the situation you are about to analyse and to make sense of the data. Data cleaning is one of the most important parts of the whole process. Moreover, developing soft skills like data storytelling is a must. Knowing and understanding the audience helps you tailor your presentation and orient results for better impact.

I was surprised when they introduced BigML and its capacity to train models and analyse data from different angles. I had never seen such tools in action. I was impressed with the exercises that we managed to develop. The challenge I faced was with tools that I had never used before like Flourish. I was able to overcome these obstacles by going back to the video recordings of the classes, reviewing the materials, and obviously investigating more online.  I experimented with ChatGPT by using it to get suggestions on what type of graphes to use to present certain data. I was able to create a racing bar chart in Flourish because of this.

Itziar: Our course introduces various tool options that can be utilized to address a range of research questions. However, it is not heavily focused on tools. What are your thoughts on this approach, and how do you perceive the challenges associated with the tools we discussed?   

Hector: It is always good and more convenient to stick to using one or two tools confidently. However, in my opinion, it is best to consider something new and when one’s comprehension of the fundamental skills are sound, then there are more chances to do something that is meaningful.

I did not know that we had so many places to look for information or that different tools were available. Obviously, some are free, and some are paid, but having a different perspective from what we have in our office helps one experiment with some functionalities that one tool may handle better than another. Tableau and Flourish were new tools for me.   BigML is one tool that I want to keep diving into.

I did not know before that Tableau had a free version before taking this course. For example, I can now start digging into what options are best in Tableau and compare the results to the tools that I am used to working with.

These tools will help me better understand data and hopefully come up with well-tailored solutions that provide different scenarios for making evidence-based and well-informed decisions. The options that were provided in the course were truly an eye-opener for me.

Itziar: What new skills did you gain from the course and how do you intend to utilize them in your current tasks?

Hector: I live in Honduras, a country that is very prone to natural disasters. Our unit works in sustainable development and risk resiliency on projects that tackle floods, earthquakes, storms, and other disasters that cause destruction in the country. The last large catastrophe we had was Hurricane Eta and Lota. Data gathering, processing and visualization can really help the office with processing tangible results and evidence on the impact of our work.

I am prepared to continue my learning experience, mostly on geographical information systems, because I think it is the perfect complement to the data analysis and visualization skills I have developed with UNSSC. I have begun preparing some operational dashboards that we need to provide evidence.

The opportunity to apply the knowledge I gained is not only for the disaster context, but also for other information we need to provide to the Government. In my opinion, all the skills I have gained are useful.  I have reached out to my colleagues to encourage them to apply to this programme.