Read about Irene Chuma

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Irene Chuma
Assistant Finance and Budget Officer
Regional Office in Eastern Africa, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime


What brought you to a career in technology at the United Nations?

There is a need to have a centralized system that extracts the information from various sources (Umoja business intelligence, project management information systems, and manually maintained Excel sheets) that would help steer project implementation and enable adaptive management. This led me to pioneer the use of Microsoft Power BI (an Office 365 tool) in UNEP to manage the project lifecycle and financials. I further undertook a course on Data Science and Machine Learning: Making Data-Driven Decisions by MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) (using Python), which I completed with an Exceptional Grade and was ranked 2nd out of 91 in my cohort.


What has been your favorite technology project or initiative at the United Nations and why? What was your contribution?

I pioneered the development of a project portfolio management dashboard in the UNEP/Ecosystems division in 2018 using Microsoft Power BI, which I did through self-learning on YouTube and other online resources from Office 365. I identified the strategic data from Umoja business intelligence, UNEP's Project Information Management Systems (PIMS), manually maintained Excel sheets, and GEF databases, just to mention a few. Thereafter, I developed the Microsoft Power BI dashboard that entailed the use of data marts, creative visuals, DAX, etc. and was able to track the project(s) financial performance, compliance, and risks for adaptive management. I also set the dashboard to automatically refresh after 24 hours and send alerts when there is a failure to refresh. I pinned the dashboard in the Microsoft Teams channel, meaning that users can access it without having to go through the long process of logging in. As a result of this, there was a twofold staff time saved through the utility of the dashboard, which, with a click of a button, provides up-to-date project portfolio financial and lifecycle information. Under normal circumstances, managers at all levels (project, Admin Branch/Finance, Division senior leadership) would have to visit multiple data sources to get the complete picture of project performance. Also, a reduction in unspent funds to the donor was noted due to the day-to-day management of finances.


What advice would you give women interested in pursuing a field in technology?

Never stop learning. There are unlimited and unexplored opportunities in tech that women can take advantage of.