EVENT REPORT: World Bank Briefing, 2/28/19

This morning (2/28/19) I participated in a briefing that the World Bank Group (WBG) held for the National Capital Area Chapter (NCAC) of the Fulbright Association. It was attended by at least 50 mostly young and international Fulbrighters. (About 30 countries were represented including New Zealand, Argentina, Nepal, Pakistan, Armenia, Ukraine, and Algeria). Many are currently in the U.S. studying at area institutions including American University, George Washington University, and Johns Hopkins University. NCAC serves the Washington, DC area and is one of the more active chapters of the Fulbright Association, which considering the number of students and faculty that serve their Fulbrights in DC, would be expected. Links are provided in text.

It was organized by Anne Joncheray who is on the NCAC board. Anne works as a risk analyst for the WBG. Joining the group was the NCAC current chapter president Derek Crider. The primary briefer was Angelica Silvero, who heads the WBG’s speakers bureau. She provided us with an extensive overview of the WBG.

WBG’s primary focus, as it has been since its inception in 1944, is eliminating poverty. Today WBG also works on a range of other global challenges including climate change and preventing violence. Today about 10% of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty or 736 million people out of 7.5 billion on the planet. The WBG would like to reduce this to 3% by 2030. Some areas around the world have seen a rise in poverty including Africa (especially Nigeria) and the Middle East. At least half of those living in extreme poverty are children.

She shared about the origins of the WBG with the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1944 which created both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A basic distinction between the two is that the IMF is the “fireman” of money, that is, funding in crisis situations. The World Bank is focused on long term reconstruction and development. It was originally established to rebuild Europe after World War II.

The objective of the WBG is to finance through loans, often with no interest, and give grants to initiatives in mostly “low income” countries. WBG provides funding, provided by its own lenders and countries that are contributors. Once funding is given, it is up to the donee country to run the program. Today, the WBG works to prevent corruption not only in countries generally, but also in terms of its own in country programming. Besides poverty, WBG is promoting “human capital.” 70% of WBG projects look in some way at climate issues. WBG only supports renewable energy projects. Another major focus is gender with some 150 million girls getting married under the age of 15. As such, 80% of all projects focus in some way on gender. A new recent effort is giving loans to countries that are hosting displaced people.

The career part of the briefing was hosted by Anna Frick who is a senior HR specialist and Natalia Moustafina who works in youth programs. Anna recommended using LinkedIn, which is used extensively at the WBG. Also when applying, make sure to tailor your CV and letter to the job you are applying for. They both shared with us opportunities in three primary programs: Young Professionals, Analyst Program, and Internships. The following photos of slides gives you the basics of each program. The Young Professionals Program or YPP is the oldest program started 55 years ago and is the most frequent pathway to a career at the WBG. The Analyst Program is relatively new and the Internship is designed for graduate students.

The final portion of the event was a panel of eight Fulbrighters working at the WBG. It was hosted by Aleksandra Liaplina who is founder and president of the Fulbright Network at the WBG and IMF. She urged Fulbrighters to look carefully at the WBG for the best match and envision themselves at the WBG: what does that look like. This helps in career exploring. Each of panelists was asked to offer some advice.

Patrizia Cocca came to the WBG through a Fulbright from Italy. She is a senior IT business solutions officer. She urged Fulbrighters to choose a career and position that you are really interested in. Your first job often impacts your second job.

Bernadette Poaty is from Gabon and is in the translation and interpretation unit. She emphasized networking and being patient. It takes time. She shared a story about a colleague who spent years as a cab driver before getting a job at the WBG.

Richard Colback is from South Africa. He is a senior operations officer and emphasized diversity at the WBG. Being both confident and humble are important, as are knowing languages and cultures.

Sarah Kouhlani is from Spain. She strongly urged learning languages and standing out. She is an analyst and VP.

Leah Hakim, from Lebanon, felt that keeping your skill sets current was important, and keep trying. Be determined.

Sumithra Rajendra is from Malaysia and is a knowledge management officer. She felt starting as a WBG consultant (there are about 10,000) was a good way of working into a permanent position (there are about 15,000 employees).

Kelly Sullivan is from the U.S. and a native of Wyoming. She is a consultant in communications, and urged applicants to be careful in the language they used to identify WBG and other entities. It is “World Bank Group” and not “World Bank” she indicated.

Finally, Madalina Papahagi is from Romania and urge Fulbrighters to network and not be afraid to deviate from their plan at times. She is a program coordinator.

Besides jobs in DC, there are about 100 country offices in the WBG. For internationals, it might be easier to find work in their own countries. If you do apply for a DC job, WBG will fly you in for the final interview.

Early in the session, we were divided into groups and asked to consider development issues. I worked with four Fulbrighters, all at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins: Edward from Indonesia, Emma from Armenia, Muhammed from Pakistan, and Max from Germany. They are study public health in their own counties. We identified issues such as poverty, violence, climate change, and capacity building as important. In the larger debrief other development issues raised included accessing health, threats by technology, serving refugees, and dealing with conflict and violence.

Finally, I met Safeena from Pakistan who is studying pubic health at George Washington University. She was enjoying her time in DC, but was prepared when she is done her Fulbright to go back to Pakistan and serve her country.

We were reminded about the spring World Bank meetings in April, which are open to the public. WBG also has free data that can be accessed. Free courses are also available.

If you are interested in other recent career events in DC, check out my blogs on the recent Society for International Career Development Fair at George Washington University and the Peacebuilding Career Fair at Johns Hopkins University.

David J. Smith is a career coach, speaker and consultant based in Rockville, Maryland, USA. He is the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace(IAP 2016). He is an official member of Forbes Coaches Council and member of the PCDN Career Advisory Board.  David is also the president of the Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education, Inc. and teaches at School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University and the School of Education at Drexel University. He can be reached at davidjsmith@davidjsmithconsulting.com.  He was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar  teaching at the University of Tartu (Estonia) in 2003-2004.

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