Since 2010, Jose Alpizar, has been working as the Senior Auditor at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in Washington, D.C, where he is responsible for delivering independent internal audits that are essential for the review of business processes and systems, financial controls, risk management, administrative and operational activities.

With over 35 years of experience in governance, accountability, enterprise risk management, and information technology, including positions as a government auditor at Costa Rica's Contraloría General de la República and as an international fellow auditor  at the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, Jose has a deep passion and commitment towards contributing to global progress  that makes a meaningful difference in the lives of people around the world.

In this spotlight interview Jose shares his learning experience with Itziar Arispe, UNSSC’s Evaluation Learning Specialist.

Itziar: Why was it important for you to pursue the UN data analytics Professional Certificate? What did you hope to gain from the training? 

Jose     : Pursuing the UN Data Analytics Professional Certificate was a strategic decision driven by my personal commitment to staying at the forefront of evolving trends and methodologies in the field of data analytics, particularly within the unique context of the UN system.

I wanted to gain a comprehensive understanding of cutting-edge practices and their application in specific domains while enhancing my skills in interpreting complex datasets, extracting meaningful insights, and presenting data-driven recommendations to support strategic initiatives.

Moreover, this programme offers insights into leveraging data for evidence-based decision-making, aligning perfectly with the UN’s emphasis on transparency, efficiency, and accountability.

Achieving this certification is a proactive step, on my part, to bridge the gap between traditional auditing and the collective data-driven future, aligning with the evolving needs of the field of governance, oversight, and accountability in the dynamic landscape of the UN.

Itziar: This course is a six-month, intense journey. Can you tell us some of the most memorable moments of your learning experience?

Jose: My learning experience with UNSSC has been transformative, with several memorable aspects. Firstly, the interactive and collaborative nature of the course. The inclusion of the real-world case studies and practical exercises was a major highlight. The hands-on activities allowed me to apply theoretical knowledge to concrete situations, enhancing my problem-solving skills and deepening my understanding of the subject matter.

Secondly, the engaging discussions and shared insights with professionals from diverse backgrounds enriched the learning environment. 

Thirdly the expertise of the instructors played a pivotal role in creating an impactful learning journey. Their wealth of knowledge, coupled with their practical experiences, added significant value to the course and fostered an environment conducive to robust discussion and critical thinking.

Overall, the combination of interactive learning, practical applications, expert guidance, and a commitment to staying at the forefront of knowledge made my experience in this course truly memorable, and invaluable for my professional growth.                 

I am impressed by UNSSC’s dedication to staying current with emerging trends and issues in their respective field ensured that this learning content remained relevant and forward-looking!

Itziar: An essential part of this learning offering is that you are able to use what you have learned practically. Can you share with us your two key takeaways from the ‘on-the-job practice’ of the course? (Did anything surprise you? How did you overcome any challenges you faced?) 

Jose: Certainly! The ‘on-the-job practice’ of the course provided invaluable experience. My two key takeaways are:

  • Real-world Complexity: This exercise exposed me to the intricacies of dealing with actual, complex datasets. The diversity of data sources, formats, and quality presented challenges that went beyond theoretical scenarios. This experience highlighted the importance of adaptability and creativity in addressing unexpected complexities, enhancing my problem-solving skills. 
  • Effective Data Cleaning Strategies: Dealing with messy data was a common challenge during the exercise. One key takeaway was the importance of employing effective data cleaning strategies. The course equipped me with various techniques and applying them in a practical setting allowed me to refine my skills. It was surprising to witness the impact that thorough data cleaning has on the accuracy and reliability of subsequent analysis. 

I saw the challenges I faced as opportunities for growth. My proactive collaboration with peers and instructors, and leveraging online resources proved invaluable. Access to forums and additional learning materials, facilitated a supportive environment by fostering a sense of community in addressing real-world data analytics issues together.

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

Jose: Firstly, I gained proficiency in advanced data analytics techniques, including data visualization, predictive modeling, and machine learning. These skills enhance my ability to extract meaningful insights from complex datasets, enabling more informed decision-making. 

Secondly, the course deepened my understanding of data governance and ethics. I learned how to navigate the ethical considerations surrounding data usage, ensuring responsible and transparent practices in my analytical work. This skill is particularly relevant in my profession, where maintaining the highest ethical standards is paramount. 

Lastly, the course provided hands-on experience with industry-standard tools and platforms. I increased my proficiency in using tools like Power BI and Tableau, enhancing my technical capabilities in data analysis and visualization. This proficiency not only streamlines my workflow but also aligns with industry best practices. 

The skills gained from the UN Data Analytics Professional Certificate course put me in a position to be a more proficient and ethically conscious data analyst in my current auditing role, contributing significantly to the success of data-driven audits within my organization.