Alumna interview: Beatrice Noun
"Not knowing what career you want at the undergraduate level or even the master’s level should not be seen as an issue at all.”
Beatrice Noun, (Class of 2019) currently lives in Paris and works for the World Bank as a consultant while doing a master’s degree at Sciences Po in International Development. We caught up with her and asked her a bunch of questions like which steps lead her to this career path? And what advice does she have for current students?
How did you find your job at the World Bank organisation, and can you tell us a bit about what your job entails?
Last summer I did an internship at the World Bank’s Global Indicators Group which is part of the research arm of the organisation. This helped me better integrate in the World Bank and meet colleagues in different teams. It also allowed me to reconnect with a former professor of mine at Sciences Po who works there, who then offered me the position. I am now combining my master’s with this position which I am doing part-time, it requires time management but it is feasible.
At my internship I was collecting data on trade logistics for different World Bank indicators in Middle Eastern and African countries. I then continued to work with the same team as an external consultant. It was an interesting experience, but I wanted to move on to something more stimulating than pure, technical data collection. Since last January, I have joined the Governance Unit as an external consultant, where I contribute to the Political Economy Assessments of small island states.
What are the most interesting aspects about your job?
I mainly work in research but what is interesting is that we work in parallel with the project management/implementation team. That means that our research directly feeds the project design phase, so there is a direct link between theory and practice. I also enjoy learning about new countries and regions, and I truly appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of the work itself. The work at the World Bank is very interesting because it is very diverse. There are opportunities both in research and project management from different angles. There are also different organizations within the World Bank Group (the International Finance Corporation or the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency for instance).
What skills you learned in your time at International Studies do you still apply in your job now?
International Studies has given me essential research and analytical skills that I use every day in my job. But it has also taught us how to be critical of the field we operate in, which I think is truly essential and lacking in big institutions like the World Bank or others.
What I enjoyed most about my time in The Hague was meeting different people from around the world which is a great learning experience. I would recommend taking advantage of the degree’s multidisciplinary aspect and to talk to professors about personal interests, participate in events/conferences and to the active student life. But most importantly, to trust the process and to appreciate the knowledge that the degree provides because it will be useful in later career stages.
What would you like to say to students who would like to work at the World Bank? What do you need to do to work here?
Internships are usually the best way to get involved in the organization and meet people who then hire for consultancies. However, it is very difficult to get an internal position at the World Bank (as staff and not as consultant). These positions usually require a specific expertise and a PhD. One way to also get in is to get professional experience elsewhere and then to apply to the Young Professional Program (YPP) or some of the other traineeship programs. One might also consider non-HQ WB positions (such as country offices for instance). But overall, networking is key.
Finally: What advice (or lessons learned) do you have for current students which can be helpful in their careers?
Not knowing what career you want at the undergraduate level or even the master’s level should not be seen as an issue at all. This takes time, and we never stop learning, even at the most senior level. I would say that it is important to focus on the next few steps instead of the bigger picture to know what we are truly interested in and to constantly feed our curiosity by reading, enquiring, and talking to different people. I think the latter is our biggest asset especially in such a broad field.
For myself it is also difficult to say how I would like to see my career develop in the long term. But what I know is that my professional experience is mostly research based which is why I would eventually like to learn more about project management in the next few years, whether in NGOs or international organisations. I would also like to travel more to do field research.