Captivating Journey of a GWP CEE Intern – Interview with Bence Bíró

When Bence Bíró started his internship, he did not know it would lead to changing his career plans.

Bence Biro is a young water professional and trainee at Global Water Partnership Central and Eastern Europe (GWP CEE). Bence did his bachelor's degree in business and management and his master's degree in international economics and business. Through the Erasmus+ program, Bence conducted an exchange semester at the NOVA Business School in Lisbon.

Eager to jumpstart his professional career, Bence joined the team organizing the Budapest Water Summit 2019, and interned at a Dutch company, focusing on circular economy and sustainability. As one of his biggest achievements so far, Bence co-founded a software-as-a-service startup in the HoReCa sector, called TrEat.

Bence Joined GWP CEE internship program via Blue Planet Foundation in July 2022. As his internship is almost at its end, we asked him to share his experience with us.


How did you discover the GWP CEE internship?

I learned about this opportunity from the Blue Planet Foundation website. They’ve had it listed in their opportunities section for three years, but COVID-19 happened, and they postponed the process. On the other hand, I was also lucky for this particular reason, since you could only apply if you finished your master’s degree. And I did so just as the opportunity came back. At that time, I’ve just very freshly graduated from my master’s, so the timing was perfect.


What made this opportunity stand out among others?

Usually, large or even global organizations like GWP don’t really offer these kinds of internships. At least I wasn’t able to find any. Also, another unique thing about GWP CEE is that it is just one of the few such organizations dealing with water in this region. So, this was certainly a selling point for me.


What skillset and experience do you think secured you this position?

My previous work experience surely helped. Three years ago, I was part of the organizing team of the Budapest Water Summit. I also worked for a Dutch NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) in Amsterdam as an intern, and attended an Erasmus program in Lisbon, Portugal. The other reason I think got me this internship was my water-related research for my master’s thesis on the topic of water financing.

Last but not least was certainly my startup experience, which ultimately rewarded me with a different mindset. At that time, I was co-founding a table booking application for restaurants with special functions, focused on customer and speed.


What did you plan to achieve with this internship?

At the beginning, I didn't have a very solid plan. I was mostly interested in gaining more experience in project management and youth engagement. I also wanted to experience how a water-governance and network-oriented organization works from inside.


And how does it differ from what you actually achieved?

I definitely gained more than I originally expected. One of the examples I can name is my work in a team tasked with a Youth Fundraising Panel project proposal called Water Reality.

After participating on a special GWP CEE Summer School, focused on fundraising, the participants, together with specialists from GWP CEE, GWP Romania, and GWP Hungary, worked on an application for an Erasmus+ master partnership. The project’s primary idea is to use virtual reality (VR) to help promote water professions for youth and help them with choosing their career path. Additionally, the project intends to make field trips more accessible for a wide range of young people as well as making them more sustainable. The project was submitted, and we are now waiting for the results.

So, that was undoubtedly a big achievement for me. At the beginning, I surely didn't think that I could be part of a team with such scope and capabilities. It also made me realize that my previous research experience was not as deep as I thought.


How about the organizational structure and style of work? Was it a good fit for you?

I think yes. It was certainly unusual. I managed to gain some new skills thanks to the style of work at GWP CEE. We’re mostly talking about time management, self-reliance and coordination as there’s a great emphasis on these at GWP CEE. I haven't worked like this before, but I really enjoyed this kind of freedom, and the fact that I could work independently most of the time. At the beginning, I had a perception that the regional team would be bigger. However, I soon learned that even a small team can work very effectively.


Speaking about work and roles, what was the primary focus of your position?

My primary focus was youth engagement, mostly split into three major projects. These were the already mentioned Erasmus+ application, Regional Water Community for Young Professionals (a planned community for GWP CEE alumni), and another project which I worked on is the Youth Activities Mapping. The latest is aiming to map all the youth activities within the CEE region that were organized in the past couple of years.


How influential / key was your participation in the assigned tasks?

I am positive that for the Water Reality project submission, I was surely essential. The project’s core team consisted of only three people, including myself. It was obvious that even if one of us was excluded, we wouldn’t be able to submit. Albeit my first project proposal, I felt that I actually added value to this.

For the other two, my role essentially consisted of research, coordinated by my supervisor, Dr. Anna Smetanova, GWP CEE project manager. I needed to collect a considerable amount of data from Country Water Partnerships, necessary for the research and consequently, effective results. All in all, yes. The importance of my work was apparent, and I hope my research will be useful for future youth activities.


How much did the experience gained in GWP CEE help you to reshape your future plans?

Before I started at GWP CEE, my way of thinking was not as broad. For example, prior to this internship I was already considering my future in the private sector. But a lot has changed since then. I realized that there are a lot of opportunities in the field of youth engagement, and not many NGOs are looking that way. So now, I plan to establish an NGO with some of my like-minded friends. This idea was definitely boosted by my work experience here.


Do you plan to continue cooperating with GWP CEE in any form or shape?

I definitely want to stay in touch. In the future, when we get more experience with the NGO, some sort of cooperation is likely to happen. But I need to think first about what will be the best to do.