Tetra Tech’s Sabrina Daley, International Development Services intern, is writing a series of blog posts about learning from women at Tetra Tech who are leading significant international development projects. In this post, she introduces our Jeannelle Blanchard, Chief of Party for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Powering Agriculture Support Task Order project. All opinions expressed in this post are the author’s own.
Jeannelle Blanchard’s journey in the international development world began with a part-time job when she was a student and brought her to her current role leading a major USAID project. In 1993 Jeannelle moved from the island of St. Lucia to the United States to complete her bachelor’s degree in communications and Spanish. While studying in Washington, DC, she worked at the university’s then Institute of Public Policy. That experience, along with her uncle’s work at the World Bank, inspired her to pursue a career in international development.
Over the years, Jeannelle’s role in international development has evolved, from her early work in environmental management and sustainable tourism to working most recently in the energy sector. She spent five years working on two long-term overseas assignments in the Caribbean contributing to the development of multiple Caribbean nations, including her childhood home of St. Lucia. She also spent four months in Afghanistan and three and a half years in Kosovo, where she was the only woman on the Tetra Tech project team.
When asked if she has ever experienced gender-related issues in the international development industry, Jeannelle noted that the main issue has been the undervaluing of her experience and contribution by male colleagues. She said that the best way to handle those situations is to establish a strong support system and to tenaciously maintain a sense of self. Jeannelle has found her core skills, such as project management, are transferable regardless of the subject area. As a woman of color familiar with being in the minority, she has found that letting her work speak for itself has had the greatest positive impact on her career.
One of the biggest achievements of her career was beginning her role as Chief of Party for USAID’s Powering Agriculture Support Task Order in 2015. Jeannelle leads the team supporting USAID with the implementation of its Powering Agriculture Grand Challenge, which funds 24 organizations deploying clean energy solutions for the agriculture sector in 23 developing countries around the world.
The project provides on-demand and tailored technical assistance that helps the Powering Agriculture Partners deploy clean energy solutions that will provide energy access to smallholder farmers in developing countries and increase their agricultural productivity and associated income. One project focal area is assisting clean energy solutions innovators with reducing the gender disparities in access to energy by developing a series of six how-to guides on integrating gender into the development and deployment of clean energy solutions.
Jeannelle is able to bring experience she gained working in multiple sectors around world to assist USAID and its innovators in making the topic of clean energy more accessible to the communities where they work.
As an intern, I think that Jeannelle’s 19 years at Tetra Tech exemplify the character and caliber of Tetra Tech’s employees and the projects they implement. If you would like to learn more about Jeannelle’s work, check out her recent blog “Getting Off-Grid Energy to Work for Agriculture.”
About the Author
Sabrina Daley is an intern with Tetra Tech International Development Services in Arlington, Virginia. She is studying environmental science at Cornell University with an intended concentration in marine management. Her coursework has focused on a holistic approach to environmental science, giving her a background in biology, physics, natural resource management, and environmental history. She hopes to pursue a career in marine management and ecology.