Ten years after graduating, Mac Pherson Mdalla (MPP 2010) reflects on his time at the Hertie School and shares his favourite memories.
Mac Pherson Mdalla has more than a decade of experience providing leadership for policy development and regulation, project management, communication and public relations, advocacy and capacity building. Since August 2017, he coordinates IM Swedish Development Partner Programme regional work in Malawi, Zambia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe in civil society development and social and economic inclusion. Before getting an offer to pursue postgraduate MPP studies at Hertie, Mac Pherson worked for the Office of the Director of Public Procurement in his native Malawi, where he headed a UNDP-funded programme to popularise the then newly developed Public Procurement Act.
It has been 10 years since you graduated from the Hertie School. What have you been up to over the last decade?
After graduating from Hertie School, I immediately returned to work in the INGO sector and joined Save the Children International as programme manager of one of the organisation’s flagship HIV and AIDS mitigation programmes, and as communication and advocacy specialist. I worked there for three years.
Afterwards, I moved to Christian Aid to head a Family Planning project and the organisation’s Global Fund HIV Programme until August 2017, when I joined the Southern Africa Regional Office of IM Swedish Development Partner as programme manager. I manage two regional programs on influencing SADC and the AU to take action to end child marriage; and another one that deals with shrinking civic space.
I am also a focal person for our in-country interventions in Swaziland (now Eswatini), Zambia and Zimbabwe. Outside employment, I have been working towards the establishment of two family businesses – nursery and primary school, and landed property. Building on my passion for radio and communication, I commit four hours of my weekend every fortnight to work as a volunteer presenter for a local Christian Radio.
How has the Hertie School – and its network and community – helped you in the career path you have chosen?
I have been given the platform to rise and take up challenging positions besides being trusted to initiate and drive innovative multi-country governance interventions.
The School unlocked my abilities, passion and interest in management and (good) governance work and consequently helped me to have some doors opened so that I can contribute in various forums in our region as an expert voice.
It also prepared me to become a community resource and contributor, as I have been able to serve on various institutional boards where I have made significant policy, strategic and governance contributions.
Looking back at your time at the Hertie School, what are some of your fondest memories?
Being one of the two Hertie Foundation scholarship recipients from Africa in our cohort, I had the opportunity to be part of the sponsored students that had an audience with former German President Horst Köhler at his official residence. That was my first time being at any presidential palace, let alone having a meeting with a sitting president! I had never had this opportunity in my country, and the honour came in Germany!
The long road trip from Berlin to Frankfurt for a Hertie Fellows and Friends welcome meeting upon joining Hertie School was another memorable event that allowed me to have the Rhine River cruise as a bonus!
What was your favourite class and its key takeaway that stuck?
My favourite class was the public management class. Having joined the School straight from the public sector, I found it interesting and relevant to dissect organisations in terms of how they were designed and how they operated or failed to. I enjoyed this, as I could relate and contextualise. Critical thinking sessions around organisational performance and governance, designs and implementation of policies captured more of my interest as this became the bedrock of my vision and my post-Hertie School life.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self on your first day at the Hertie School?
Settle down and acclimatise as quickly as possible. Be fully open to explore and learn new things. Invest time in networking, embrace diversity and create as many professional connections as possible. Work hard and work smart.
Is there any piece of advice you would like to share with current students and fresh graduates?
Make the most of career services and student societies, and stay positive at all times. Don’t worry if some academic moments feel tough and challenging. There is bound to be an adjustment period.