So often when we think of the United Nations, we think of the international peacekeeping organization as being organized and run by politicians, researchers, or scientists. We assume that to deal with economic and social justice issues such as human rights, justice, international law, refugees, famines, wars, and other disasters, you have to be in these fields. Luckily, this assumption is way off base. There are many unsung heroes in accounting who do incredible work - and yes - many of them work at the UN. So, what’s it like working as an accountant in the UN? In this episode, I had the honor to talk about this topic with Lily Luna.
1. YOU DON’T NEED TO ALREADY HAVE THE KEY TO THE UN. JUST KNOCK.
When Lily applied as a first-generation college student to work as an accountant at the UN, she didn’t know anyone on the inside. Rather, she applied because she wanted to go abroad, had personal trust in being able to do the work, and was confident that she could serve the position well. Lily advocates that all young professionals look at their careers and futures with wide eyes and big dreams, rather than from a space of scarcity. She explains that building trust with yourself and envisioning your goals is key.
2. BALANCE, PASSION, AND BOUNDARIES
Lily knew she wanted to live abroad, and liked numbers; she decided to go into accountancy to work in an international setting because it combined these skills and passions. Being passionate about your work, Lily explains, helps with enjoying what you do at work; because you spend most of the day there, if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’ll likely go the extra mile, and always feel as though you are adding value. Your passion for work, however, should always be balanced with the passion for your life - seeing your family, spending time with yourself, and prioritizing self-care; Lily advocates that setting boundaries can be helpful in finding this balance.
3. IDENTITY CAN BE BLURRY
Lily identifies as a Mexican-American and is proud of internalizing both of these identities in her approach to her career and lifestyle. Lily celebrates this mix, referencing centuries of foreign culture and history alongside her interest in thanksgiving and football. An original passion for learning about different identities, cultures, and languages brought her into the UN in the first place. Instead of a quinceanera, she asked her mother to save the money so that she could go to France. Now, she celebrates her hybrid version of an identity card; in our globalized world, she explains, identities are less and less nationalized.
🎧 To learn more about accounting with the United Nations, the world of accounting abroad, and for more mentorship advice from Cece Leung, listen to the Dear Accountant podcast here.
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💬 About our guest, Lily Luna: Lily Luna is a Certified public accountant and a Certified Fraud Examiner - I’d describe her as a superwoman and her career definitely is a rollercoaster ride - exciting and exhilarating to say the least - she was able to combine her love for numbers, languages, and travel to work and live in so many places over the 2 decades of her international career. Her career began at PwC where she escalated the corporate ladder in the areas of Audit, Mergers and Acquisitions, Due Diligence, and IPOs working in the US, France, and Italy. She eventually landed her dream job working for the United Nations as a Finance Officer where she spent 15 years in various locations such as Hungary, Chile, and Italy. Her work focuses on working with donor funding and taxpayer’s money, in which she takes pride in making sure she exercises her fiduciary responsibilities to ensure funds are used for the intended purpose and in the most efficient way. One of the things she finds most satisfying is to be able to use her skills to provide support and guidance to resolve complex issues arising from a wide range of financial and accounting matters in 3 UN official languages, as she is fluent in English, Spanish, and French. Aside from that, she’s also passionate about assembling high-performance teams, coaching, and inspiring cross-functional, multicultural teams to perform at high standards and with high levels of productivity.
📖 Get amazing advice from the 20 mentors in “Dear Accountant” Book: The book offers a unique immersion into the lives and careers of 20 inspiring leaders in finance from different disciplines - their backstories, pivotal moments, career trajectories, and hiccups along the way.
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