The journey so far: Two years on in international development

On September 9th, 2021, I clocked two years at the World Bank, and also the end of my journey as a Young Professional (YP). I am now officially a former YP, I have the business title of Economist and have “graduated”. It can be surreal to realize you have already been at a place for a certain period, however, I am someone who does not like life to just “pass by” without reflecting and taking stock, hence this post. More so in my case, for 1.5 of those 2 years, I have been working whilst the COVID-19 has been ongoing and spent most of it working from home.

A lot has happened in the two years; a lot of it exciting; a lot of it challenging. I joined the Bank on September 9th, 2019 as a YP. I am extremely grateful to have gotten in despite that it was 1. on my first attempt at the program and 2. without prior experience working for the Bank and 3. without any networks or having someone I knew on the inside. Let that encourage you if you are applying. These are important things that can help but do not necessarily derail your chances.

Me leaving the house on to my first day at the World bank. Husband taking the photo and walking me there. 9 September 2021

Leaving home for my day 1 as a YP

When I got the offer and was introduced to by then-hiring manager I was told that I would be working in the East Asia and Pacific region, specifically on Indonesia, and that it was likely I would move there for several months to a year. I was asked about my family situation and if I was okay with this arrangement. I said a resounding yes!!! You see I was in Japan at the time, having just completed my Ph.D. in Economics and living with my husband, having just married in May of that year. He would have to stay in Japan for one more year due to his job and then join me. being in Jakarta, Indonesia was a much better situation for us than being in Washington D.C since I would be 1. in the region and 2. much closer in both distance and time difference.

From a professional perspective, I did not have much visibility whether this was good or bad for me, but I was certainly excited at the opportunity to have field experience early on on the job. Also working on East Asia from D.C means you are awake when your colleagues and clients are asleep so I was glad. I still had to go report to DC first though and do all the YP orientation procedures, meet my fellow cohort (very important!!!) then I left in mid-November 2019 to Jakarta with my fluffy friend!

I have been working mainly on Indonesia ever since, with some work on the Philippines and Fiji. I count myself blessed to be able to say I genuinely enjoy my work. It’s not just a job for me, it’s more than that. I give myself to the task at hand and sometimes it doesn’t always go well. Sometimes others may not always see or appreciate and sometimes I mess up. But all the time I learn, I grow,

En route to Indonesia with fluffy from hubby 🙂

A couple of things have made this fulfilling. First, I have had the opportunity to see two sets of work I directly contributed to presented to not 1, not 2 but 3 ministers! For two of those, I was in the meeting when the presentation was being made )by someone more senior to me, obviously) but it meant so much to me just being there and seeing that all the very hard work (fine I can be a bit of a workaholic sometimes) led to some meaningful policy recommendations. That’s really all I could ask for. That’s why I enjoy working in the policy space. That’s why I enjoy research. I have also maintained very good rapport with technical level staff of ministries we work closely with and I continue to enjoy learning from them and whenever I can, contribute through these relationships.

Internally, I have also had “face-to-face” small group chats with the then-regional vice president (VP) of the East Asia and Pacific (EAP)region and the WBG managing director (MD) for operations! Yes, this was probably nothing to do with me per se, i.e it’s not because I was special or a performer or anything like that. The VP meeting was with all YPs working in the EAP region and the MD chat was an interview with me and another YP about our experience at the Bank so far and this was shared within the Bank. In the MD meeting, I essentially tried to share all the things in this blog in a couple of minutes 🙂 but it was one of the reasons i decided to share this post because there was so much energy in me and so much I wanted to say that I could not, so here we are. Normally meetings with people at that position can be a little superficial I like to keep it real. to my pleasant surprise, it was both incredibly inspiring and I was quite humbled, to say the least. Most importantly, I spoke my mind as I believe such opportunities should be utilized. And, I am grateful.

It’s not all big names and titles, however. I have met really great people, smart and hardworking, friends and mentors. Most of the time, colleagues are willing to help and share knowledge and there are very useful mentoring programs to take advantage of as a mentor and mentee. I am currently very much a mentee 🙂

Although 75 percent of my time at the bank has been virtual, two things happened that helped that transition less challenging. First, I got to be in Washington DC before moving to Jakarta. I, therefore, met with fellow YPs, and much like a class from you, it be a connection we have made with each other for what I hope will be a long time. We also benefit from those who have worked in the Bank before who were able to have insights for the complete newbies and always willing to help each other and share.

Second, prior to moving to Jakarta, I went on a mission trip in October 2019. This allowed me to meet and connect with my colleagues internally and with counterparts externally. Added to moving there in November, by the time work from home started in late March 2020 due to Covid, these connections were somewhat established and could be built upon. when the office had to close.

From the apartment in Jakarta, wearing traditional Indonesian wear of Batik

In Jakarta, wearing a Batik

I also really enjoyed working on Fiji. Due to the pandemic, I was not able to travel to meet the WBG team and the government officials. However, I met them virtually and sincerely enjoyed speaking with them and learning about Fiji while working on this report. I look forward to visiting someday soon.

Finally, I have done other things that are not directly related to my formal training and experience but social issues on such as racism and gender. I also made use of my rapping skills and a voice-over for a video promo for a report launch and I have moderator /mc for a few events. I am happy that the institution is such an environment to enable this kind of versatility and to contribute in more ways than the traditional job.

The Bank has been a place where I have even able to both leverage my technical and analytical expertise in international trade but also stretch myself to broader topics that are not necessarily my forte. I have learned to write other types of reports, short blogs and publish one of my papers from y Ph.D as a working paper as well. I enjoy research, but I also enjoy face-time with policymakers. I appreciate the opportunity I have to listen to what matters to them, and as naïve as it sounds, to be able to make a difference, even if in a small way. Although some of the work can be seen in the form of blogs, reports, and boxes within bigger reports, most of the work is really behind the scenes and can’t always be easily measured, As they say “not everything that counts can be counted” (Albert Einstein).

If you have read this far, then I guess this was interesting enough for you. I am glad. My title is the only thing that has changed. The work has not. I will continue to work with passion to contribute given the opportunities that I have and to ensure that I stake stock and account, every now and then because we always ought to examine ourselves (2 Cor 13:5).

I am now back in Jakarta. We just landed on 2nd December 2021, 1 year and 8 months later, and I look forward to the future. So far, the view is great!!!

View of Jakarta from our quarantine hotel

View of Jakarta from our quarantine hotel

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