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Meet the team: Marketa

Markéta Šmitová

Project Manager

Our “meet the team” series captures the stories and experiences of some of our wonderful colleagues at GDI Hub. We will be covering what led them into the disability innovation sector, their expertise and current projects, and any tips they can share for others wanting to pursue a career in a similar field.

In this first edition we are shining a light on Marketa, GDI Hub’s Junior Project Manager who joined the team 6 months ago and has been working on England’s Country Capacity Assessment of Assistive Technology, a project commissioned by the cabinet office and due to be released next month.

A photograph of Marketa sat on a bench outside in the sunshine by the river. Marketa is wearing a beige coat and hat, and is smiling towards the camera
Marketa enjoying some free time, relaxing on a bench in the sun.

Tell us about what led you into your current role?

My degree was in International Development Studies at the University of Portsmouth and before that in 2012, I had an internship in Ghana where I was working as a Teaching Assistant in a school, this school was providing everything (including lunch) for free which was especially significant for those children living with disabilities who can face greater challenges and barriers to accessing education. Since this experience, I dreamt of working in the development field. I really wanted to be part of helping people to move out of poverty.

A few years later as part of my year abroad internship at University, I went to Peru, to work with women who wanted to learn skills like sewing, baking, and hydroponic gardening. This was an especially important project as women living in poverty in Peru often face many barriers to employment opportunities. Challenges to gaining employment can come from limited access to education and because women have responsibilities to look after the home and care of children. While in Peru working with women, I saw some of those women had a disabled child, and the environment was just not there to support them. I could see how difficult it is to have a disability in low- or middle-income countries so when I saw the vacancy for GDI Hub I could just so well connect it to my experiences and what I felt passionately about.

Personal experience

I am also dyslexic; I have experience of being disadvantaged as a child in education in the Czech Republic. I had no support in college. And now I love to see others advocating for the needs of disabled people. I never thought as an individual person how you can make a change. I didn’t know that by speaking up you could actually make a huge difference. Society is very easy to make you silent. That’s what I like about GDI Hub, it provides the platform, space and support for necessary research.

What have you enjoyed about GDI Hub so far?

There is a lot! I love everyone. Everyone is very collaborative but the most important thing for me is being so open about disability. And accepting that everyone works a bit differently. I think in the past, I felt that I needed to fit in. Especially in terms of how I was brought up, you know I was told “do not talk about dyslexia, find a way to fit in”. In GDI Hub it just feels like everyone knows, and that’s what I like - it’s just very open.

I have colleagues with dyslexia, and they are very open. Before I felt I was the only one with dyslexia in the room, but then you find someone in your team who experiences the same and you can learn a lot from working with them. In the past, I didn’t meet people with such a huge, amazing career and they were dyslexic. You feel like your colleagues know that your brain is just working differently.

Your current work

I have just finished project managing the England Country Capacity Assessment (CCA), commissioned by the cabinet office. I was very pleased that within the first month GDI Hub gave me this project, I felt honoured to work on it. It was amazing in the end because of the team, everyone brought something to each task, and I learnt loads.

Tell us about being a junior project manager

As a junior project manager, I oversee the delivery of the project. I think that’s my strength, I like knowing everything and connecting the dots. I do not need to be an expert in everything, I just get the opportunity to work with the expert in the field and connect the right people in the right moment. I will create a work plan that fits the deadlines to make sure the time aligns well and meets the individual deadlines of the client. When you manage the project, you need to follow the contract, communicate with partners, mitigate risks, deal with challenges, step in when necessary and problem solve to deliver the project. Outside of the CCA project I am working across various other activities within GDI Hub supporting the senior project manager and head of programmes on various aspects related to project delivery, focusing on outputs and reporting cycles.

Tips for others

Well, I think how did I end up being project manager? I see the big picture. I like working with a team but not focusing in on one item. I like to know everything but not in all the detail and enjoy helping the team to work through each project. I would really recommend the Bond project management course, which is run twice a year and aimed at people working in the development field. It was one of the best courses I have done so far. It opened the door to project management and then I thought okay this is what I really want. So, I would recommend this course to others.