As someone who likes to wonder, Jocelyn has a list of what she wants to do in life. Naturally, working for ADB is one item she has confidently ticked off.
A head full of dreams
In the mind of Jocelyn Narciso, the Asian Development Bank was an impenetrable fortress. She didn’t think she could get in. She applied anyway.
In a year’s time she was inside, an operations assistant for the Southeast Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources Division. Today, after 12 years, Jocelyn is an associate project analyst for the same regional department under the Urban and Water Division (SEUW), supporting several ongoing projects across Cambodia, Myanmar, and Viet Nam.
“My awareness on poverty was widened... Poor meant drinking water that wasn't potable, water that’s so dirty that you wouldn’t want to use it to clean your dishes, and yet people who have nothing drink it anyway. ”
Associate Project Analyst
Why did you take up Elementary Education in college?
Jocelyn: To be honest, I didn’t want to get this degree. What I really wanted was accounting. However, my aunt supported my schooling, so in a way she was the one who selected that for me. And when I thought about shifting to another course, she suggested I still finish it and that I could always take another course after. Of course, this didn’t push through. When I graduated I thought I would eventually like it but I still didn’t. After teaching for three years, I realized that this is not what I want for the rest of my life.
There’s nothing wrong with teaching. The compensation is quite high, but I didn’t enjoy it. So I went looking for something I wanted, something that would challenge me.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Jocelyn: I didn’t have any idea… maybe a nurse because you see it on TV, and you have this clear image of a nurse, that they’re always in white and they have this special cap. I don’t think I wanted to be a doctor. Eventually, I wanted to do accounting. But when I was already studying in college, I realized I wouldn’t be able to survive accounting, so it’s a good thing I didn’t take that degree. Looking back now, I would want to study engineering. I want to build buildings and bridges. I’m fascinated with my supervisors – they just look at a plan and they can tell whether something will fall. I always wonder how they can immediately tell from one look, and how they can estimate what is needed to build something.
Also, what I really like now is writing. My dream is to write a story for a movie, or a novel. When I read, I feel like I could write something similar. But because I don’t have any formal training, I feel unsure. I am trying online writing lessons, though. But sometimes when you’re tired from work, your creative juices are already zapped out. All I know is I want to write stories, especially about families. What I want is to impact lives for the better. This is parked for now of course, since don’t know when I could do this.
Why did you join ADB?
Jocelyn: I was 32 years old and trying to fix my life, looking at milestones and wondering whether I should go abroad, get married… So I was listing things I wanted to do and one of the items I listed was to work for ADB. It was one of my dreams. I’d pass by here on the way to church and be reminded of that. My friends told me to apply, but I said I’m not cut out for that. I thought it was for international staff or those with international experience. Plus, I thought it would only be for technical people. Still they insisted and told me to go for it, and that if didn’t materialize at least I’d know to close that door.
When I saw the website, the work ADB does, I became more in awe. I submitted my application online, and everyday I was checking for updates. Days, weeks, months passed and there was nothing. I was becoming frustrated. Finally, by the fourth month, someone called. My excitement was through the roof! But all in all, it took one year before I got in, and ever since I’ve been with the Southeast Asia Regional Department.
Did ADB live up to your expectations?
Jocelyn: Actually, no [laughs]. Well in a way it’s a different world. For example, I started as an operations assistant here. But in Security Bank, even though I was an executive assistant, I only had one supervisor – a senior vice president – and I was making my own memos and sending it directly to BSP [the central bank of the Philippines]. I was part of meetings with the Board of Directors. I even organized the meeting of the management committee, preparing the agenda and such. So when I got here, I felt like I was demoted initially. There were so many layers and my responsibilities were different.
But at the same time, my awareness on poverty was widened. My notion of the poor before was people in the province, like mine. But compared to the poor that is serviced by ADB, I learned that we weren’t poor. Poor meant drinking water that wasn’t potable, water that’s so dirty that you wouldn’t want to use it to clean your dishes, and yet people who have nothing drink it anyway. I realized we have so many benefits here, such as being able to flush our toilets. My eyes were opened basically.
You joined Urban when the SEUW division was first started. What was that like?
Jocelyn: I didn’t really join Urban. It was the directors who selected us. Initially, I was even wondering why I was selected. I felt bad. Was I the weakest link? Then I learned that Amy Leung, who would be accepting the recruits, didn’t want to have an all-new staff. Every division had then already contributed staff from their pool, and so there were two of us who were more seasoned that was added. All of us made that new division work.
Back then projects would come only one at a time. Also since our director had an award under her belt, we were motivated to work, until by and by, our portfolio grew. Now, we even lack analysts to handle all the projects.
What project has left an impact on you?
Jocelyn: In 2015 I joined a two-week-long mission to a province in Cambodia. It was a difficult journey. We passed by this rough terrain, with bumps on the road that almost leave you bruised, and we also had to ride on boats to get to the project beneficiaries. This wasn’t a new project. We were there to check on the progress of the project. And my heart was touched, because for one of the subprojects, they had no bathrooms. They were doing open defecation. So one of the outputs of the project was to provide latrines, and then it was up to the people in the community to cover it. And you know what they did? Some used cement to cover the latrines. Others used cloth; while others borrowed money from relatives abroad to make it really nice. But if you look at their house, it’s as if it’s about to cave in. When they show the toilet, though, they’re so proud, and that it’s clean to the point you can sleep there. That’s how much they appreciated the project. They no longer need to do their business outside wherever.
Why do you like working for urban development?
Jocelyn: I think all operational departments are good, and have their own areas of importance. It’s just that with urban, most countries have a need for it, especially infrastructure. I also don’t necessarily like urban alone. I also want to explore other sectors such as agriculture, social development… Urban development, though, is close to my heart because I come from an urban area. I hope I’ll be given opportunities someday to use what I’ve been learning here in ADB to help the province where I’m from.
Working for ADB was a dream of hers. She was 32 years old then, still at the beginning of a new decade, assessing the direction her life was taking. Jocelyn, nearly eight years prior to this moment, had already made a decisive change. She quit being a teacher despite having spent seven years of her life studying it in university and teaching preschoolers. She knew it wasn’t her calling. So with the same gumption, she took a leap and left her stable job at Security Bank, a local banking corporation, for ADB.
Perseverance and a desire to improve, be authentic, and to help others are traits that drive Jocelyn. It was what motivated her to take a Masters in Business Administration at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business while in ADB. And it’s what keeps her thinking about people in remote provinces whose needs are simple but below the usual big investments made by development agencies. How can they be served, she asked. How can I use the experience I have gained to help those in need here in the Philippines?
Her inquiring mind, not surprisingly, has transitioned into another dream. She pores over book pages, guides, and online lessons in the hopes of becoming a writer one day. She wants to write stories about families, and maybe instill values and lessons that can impact others. But in the meantime, while she refines her characters and narrative, she is excited with her own developments at work. As of press time, Jocelyn has returned from a workshop in the Netherlands along with other Urban staff.