Moritz Meyer – Economist and Former Intern (International Labour Organisation and Asian Development Bank)

Networking can increase chances to progress in the sector. …Still, networking should always rely on credible achievements and credentials which support interest and skills relevant for the work in an international development organization.

Name:  Moritz Meyer

Main country of residence: United States of America

Current Position: EconomistOrganisation: The World Bank
Qualifications: PhD economics
Years of experience (development/overall): 4/6  
LinkedIn Profile/Website Address:
Languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Latin  

What is the nature of the organisation you currently work for?

The World Bank is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. We are not a bank in the ordinary sense but a unique partnership to reduce poverty and support development.

(1)    Financial assistance: The World Bank Group provides low-interest loans, interest-free credits, and grants to developing countries. These support a wide array of investments in such areas as education, health, public administration, infrastructure, financial and private sector development, agriculture, and environmental and natural resource management. Some of our projects are co-financed with governments, other multilateral institutions, commercial banks, export credit agencies, and private sector investors. We also provide or facilitate financing through trust fund partnerships with bilateral and multilateral donors. Many partners have asked the Bank to help manage initiatives that address needs across a wide range of sectors and developing regions.

(2)    Innovative Knowledge Sharing: We offer support to developing countries through policy advice, research and analysis, and technical assistance. Our analytical work often underpins World Bank financing and helps inform developing countries’ own investments. In addition, we support capacity development in the countries we serve. We also sponsor, host, or participate in many conferences and forums on issues of development, often in collaboration with partners. To ensure that countries can access the best global expertise and help generate cutting-edge knowledge, the Bank is constantly seeking to improve the way it shares its knowledge and engages with clients and the public at large.

When did you first start working in international development?

I started working in the area of international development in the year 2010. During my PhD studies I took a four month break to take up a research opportunity with the International Labor Organization in Geneva.

What was your first international development role?

I joint the International Labor Organization doing a research consultant. In this role I supported my unit in standard tasks but also had the opportunity to follow my own research agenda.

How did you obtain your first development role? Did you apply for it, and if so how many applications did it take to get the first role? Was the role paid or unpaid?

For this position I sent an informal message to the head of the research department shortly expressing my interest in their work and highlighting my potential contribution to the team. Some days they contacted me for an interview. The research opportunity was relatively well paid and turned up to be the best possible starting point for a career in international development.

If you had previously pursued a non-development career, describe how you made the transition and the extent to which your existing skills were transferable?

My undergraduate studies were in economics and business administration. I also had done some internships in research institutions and the financial sector. As an economist, I had always focused on mastering transferable skills and econometric methods instead of getting too deep into one particular topic.

This way I could easily transfer my knowledge from one topic to the next. Still, it has often been helpful to be up to date with respect to politics in developing countries and express a strong interest in other countries and cultures.

What was the nature of the first organisation you worked for?

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is devoted to promoting social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights, pursuing its founding mission that labour peace is essential to prosperity.

Today, the ILO helps advance the creation of decent work and the improvement of economic and working conditions that give working people and business people a stake in lasting peace, prosperity and progress. Its main aims are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues.

Did you have experience in the field before obtaining your first paid development role?

Except for a course at university which focused on development economics and my personal interest I did not have much experience in the development sector. What helped a lot during my interview and my assignments was the ability to link economic theory and models to development challenges. Here my previous work in research institutions with an applied focus to advise policy makers was a true asset.

Do you consider field experience important in obtaining your first development role?

In general, I agree that field experience is valuable. Yet, it is possible to substitute field experience for a genuine interest in foreign countries and cultures. Also spending some time abroad is not the only requirement to increase chances in the development sector; for instance it is important to express a sincere interest in the challenges these countries face.

 How important do you consider networking to being successful in your field?

Networking can increase chances to progress in the sector. The exchange between different international organizations, also between the private and the public sector, is very close and people tend to know each other because it is part of the business to facilitate the cooperation between partners.

Still, networking should always rely on credible achievements and credentials which support interest and skills relevant for the work in an international development organization. This way one gains access to opportunities by building mutually beneficial relationships in the sector through sharing opportunities and knowledge with others.

In brief what other roles have you had throughout your career and if you did not start your career in development what was your previous profession?

As an economist, my employer often asks me to quickly analyse complex relationships and prepare detailed briefings which offer solutions to development challenges. This analysis builds on the most recent research methods and requires me to discuss every single detail of the problem. This is exactly what I learnt during my time as a PhD student.

It is also crucial to discuss these findings with colleagues from other disciplines and experts form the countries. Here, it is extremely useful to keep the broad picture, show willingness to incorporate ideas and comments from other disciplines and lead the discussion towards a results oriented output.

Finally, I very much on the communication and implementation with policy makers and peers on the ground. In this respect, analytical results need to be translated into specific policy recommendations which are easily accessible to colleagues who do not necessarily have a background in economic research. For this step, communication skills, the ability to structure discussions and organize workshops for dissemination becomes very important.

What do you see as the main advantages and disadvantages of the work you’re engaged in?

  • Main advantage: Make a difference. I do have the impression that evidence based policy recommendations have the potential to improve development outcomes in the field.
  • Main Disadvantage: there is a high social cost involved into a career in international development. Frequent traveling around the globe and new positions in different countries (often in difficult environments) do not necessarily increase possibilities to build close relationships with people who do not have an understanding of your work.

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