Lifelong Learner Series: Francesca Gottschalk - Blog
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Lifelong Learner Series: Francesca Gottschalk

Ever wonder how some people find their calling? Or at what age? Here, Francesca tells us about her journey to building an impactful career at one of the world’s most respected organizations, the OECD.



Tell us about your career path and how you ended up where you are?

I’ve always known that making a difference would be an important facet of my career. Looking back, I think my parents had a lot to do with how I thought about the world. They came to Canada from South Africa and worked hard to get to where they were. My dad is a doctor and taking care of people and thinking about how we are making a positive impact was instilled in us from an early age.

In terms of my education, I gained a bachelors in human biology and psychology . I saw policy as a great vehicle for driving impact so focused my Masters on public policy and international affairs. I knew I wanted to work at the OECD as it’s one of the best places to learn, understand and build policies. In 2015, I was hired as an intern and started my OECD career.

What do you most enjoy about your work?

I work in a small research unit in the Directorate for Education and Skills. I like that we take an evidence-based approach to our work. I’m constantly learning, and a big part of my work involves doing research into trends and data from other organizations and in the scientific literature. I also learn a lot from other colleagues, stakeholders and especially the international experts we work with. I love working in such an international setting, because it gives constant opportunities for learning about different cultures, languages and traditions.

What is the best advice you ever got?

During my masters I learned about the strengths of weak ties. It’s the theory that in order to advance and find job opportunities, you need to have a network. When looking back, my network and ties to the community have guided me in my career, but also my personal life.

Do you have daily rituals, mantras or affirmations?

Exercising is a bit of a non-negotiable, even if it’s just a long walk. I need to move every day and this has a huge impact on not only my health, but my mental health.

What was the last book you read?

Washington Black - it’s about slavery in Barbados. It’s a difficult topic but it’s important to me to read books and learn about different events and periods in history and in different countries.

What are your favorite podcasts?

Modern love podcast by the NYT with uplifting, non-traditional (love) stories about people and their unique relationships.

I also loved Caliphate by the NYT about Islamic State I listen to an intermediate French podcast which is helping me learn French.

How do you incorporate learning into your life?

I learn a lot on the job and through the books I read and the podcasts I listen to. I read a lot of different genres by authors from various backgrounds and geographic locations. I like understanding different viewpoints, regardless of whether they are fiction or not.

What do you hope for in the next few months of 2021?

To be vaccinated :)

To take the lessons of what worked in 2020 and apply them. Remote work and value in seeing colleagues. Social media and zoom are great tools but they don’t replace human interaction. However, we have seen how the digital environment can open up learning opportunities and collaboration with people from around the world, so I hope we can use this also going forward while still finding ways to learn from each other in person.


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