Learn more about what it's like to be a Growth Lab Research Fellow with short presentations by Nikita Taniparti, Tim O'Brien, Semiray Kasoolu, and Frank Muci. They describe their experience in this role where they contribute to the core research agenda of the Lab while also collaborating with government leaders and development practitioners in the field to apply research to policy problems in countries like Jordan, Albania, Ethiopia, and Namibia.
Alicia Galinsky: Thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. My name is Alicia Galinsky. I am program coordinator here at the Growth Lab. Also joining us on the Zoom is Andrea Hayes, program manager of the Growth Lab, and we;re really excited to have you all here as sort of a behind the scenes look at what it's like to be a research fellow. I'll just start off with a brief introduction of kind of who we are and why we're here today. So as many of you know, the Growth Lab is an academic research program under the guidance of Professor Ricardo Hausmann. We are housed at Harvard's Center for International Development. We are made up of a dynamic, diverse team of researchers that studies economic growth and structural change in an effort to understand the challenges of economic development. So with this mission in mind, the Growth Lab engages actively in applying research to its policy engagements, which we will hear more about shortly. And to give you an idea of what our team looks like, I will just share my screen for a minute. You can see the different countries of origins of our research fellows, so where we have our citizenship, clearly spanning across the globe, and we also have where we work, so different countries. So, as I mentioned, we are currently hiring for the position of research fellow to continue to expand our great team. So in this session, you'll be able to learn more about what it's like to work at the Growth Lab in this role. And we have four incredible members of our team here today. And I think with all that said, I will kick it over to Nikita to start with the introductions.
Nikita Taniparti: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us. My name is Nikita. I am a research fellow at the Growth Lab. And I am, I graduated from the MPA-ID in 2018. I'm originally from India and I studied economics and before the MPA-ID I worked at JPAL in impact evaluation so the Growth Lab was a big pivot for me. And at the Growth Lab I worked--well, I did my SYPA on the Sri Lanka project and then I worked on the Jordan and Western Australia projects. And now I currently work on Ethiopia, mostly on macro, and I also co-manage the Namibia project that started this year. So if you have questions about any of that, let me know. And I'm really excited to see all of you guys on screen. I will pass the ball to Tim O'Brien.
Tim O'Brien: Hi, everyone, my name is Tim O'Brien, I'm a senior manager of Applied Research at the Growth Lab. I'm now in my sixth year at the Growth Lab. I'm also a proud graduate of the MPA-ID program. I think all four of us are, but shouldn't take that as an indication that we only hire from the MPA-ID program, just a bit of a coincidence. Before I was-- before I joined the MPA-ID, I studied mechanical engineering actually as an undergrad, and I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi. I worked a few years in environmental engineering and then joined the Kennedy School community and and never left, actually. So I joined the Growth Lab thinking that I still had a lot to learn after I finished the MPA-ID program, which turned out to be true. What I didn't realize when I joined was how, how much impact the work has here. So so that's more what kept me, although I am still learning, too. Right now I work on--I co-manage our project in Ethiopia and our project in Jordan and our recently completed project with the state of Western Australia. And I also work on our Albania project. And in the past I co-managed our Sri Lanka project. And then like all other fellows at the Growth Lab, I also work on a bunch of things that kind of cross all of our country engagements and academic research agenda. I guess we're passing it on, so I'll pass it to Semi next.
Semiray Kasoolu: Hi, everyone, I'm Semi, I've been at the Growth Lab for almost two and a half years now, I co-manage the Jordan project with Tim and also the Saudi Arabia project. And before that, I was working in asset management operations at Goldman Sachs, so talk about pivoting. That's me. And I think what drove me to the Growth Lab is essentially the same thing that drove me to the MPA-ID. And those are a deep interest in economic development, an interest in using data and evidence based methods to help policymakers achieve better development outcomes. And coming from, I'm originally from Bulgaria and from that region of the world, the only political system that I knew was a transitional one. So there's a deep seated cynicism about what governments can do in that part of the world. So I was very motivated to prove that wrong. And I think that... I attended an open day in 2014 and happened to visit Ricardo Hausmann's class and the things that he was talking about immediately clicked, which were the need for an evidence based policy methods and hypothesis driven way of doing development and using cool data science or just data analysis methods to arrive at good conclusions about what a country can do to develop faster and have a sustainable and inclusive growth. So since that day, I knew that I wanted to work at the Growth Lab and as Tim said, I think one of the things that kept me here is the impact. There are a lot of development jobs that have can have impact, but the scope--I don't want to be critical, but---in a more, to be objective. I think there are many, many ways you can be impactful in developmen, but those things, and especially if you are interested in certain areas where I was interested in SMEs before and I quickly realized that the impact that will have a limited scope, but at the Growth Lab we actually developed strategies for whole countries and that impact and the probability that even a fraction of the things that we arrive at as recommendations can be implemented is just very powerful and very humbling. So that's very motivating and that's why I'm still here.
Frank Muci: Hi, everyone, my name is Frank Muci, I've been at the Growth Lab for five years, two of which were during the MPA-ID program when I was working sort of part time. This is my MPA-ID T-shirt. But as they said, there are non-MPA-IDs, so don't be scared. I joined the lab actually not in Cambridge, but in Tirana, the capital of Albania, where I lived and worked for a year. I had prior experience on Wall Street covering fixed income in emerging markets. So I had read all about government's fiscal policy, all of these big deficits and debt accumulation. And then I moved to the basically the office of the finance minister and saw it happen in real time, in an electoral year, the political pressures for spending. So before I was sort of like reading about policymaking, having these relationships with these governments, I was much closer to the action. That was a year in Albania, then I came to Cambridge. I was a research assistant for a year in Cambridge, then the MPA-ID program, and now I rejoined the lab as a fellow. And I've worked on the project of Loreto in Peru. So that's a state that's Amazon rainforest, it has big challenges to sustainable development. It's very isolated. It's disconnected from the rest of the country. And I've also done a lot of work on the Venezuela project, which is thinking about the policies that might help the country to move forward if and when it ever decides to rationalize economic policy. So that's my story, thrilled to be here. Happy to answer questions.
Katya Gonzalez-Willette: OK, so to kick us off, I will give the first question to Nikita and then I think we can go around the virtual table. The first question I have for you all is what is your favorite part about working at the Growth Lab? And then what would you say is the most challenging part about working at the Growth Lab?
Nikita Taniparti: That's a good question. I think my favorite part, apart from pre-COVID, having Semi as my office roommate, is... I think this also answers why I wanted to work at the Growth Lab. I didn't really know what I wanted to do after the MPA-ID, and I knew I enjoyed all of my MPA-ID classes and I wanted to do a little bit of everything in any given day. And I think what I really love about working on projects is in a single day you can do some data analysis, you can talk to policymakers and you can brainstorm ideas about macroeconomics, or you can just talk to other MPA-IDs. And it's a very holistic approach to development, on any project, whether you're working in Jordan or in Latin America or in India. And I think my favorite part is how dynamic the work feels at any given day. And there is no such thing as a boring day at the Growth Lab. I think that's also the most challenging part, because at any given time, you're wearing multiple hats, you're wearing the hat of an economist who is trying to make sense of scrappy data. You're also trying to put yourselves into the shoes of a policymaker who has to make very difficult decisions, that doesn't really care about the analytical approach you might have used that day. And you're also trying to balance competing... like the trinity in the MPA-ID is very relevant even in real life. And I think it's been a tool, but also something that is very humbling, as Semi was saying, to see how challenging this work actually is in real life. So it's both exciting and challenging. That's, that's what I think.
Tim O'Brien: So my response, I think, is going to be fairly similar to Nikita's, but also a lot of what she said also reflects on how our work is really all oriented around partnering with governments to solve problems, at least in our applied country projects. So there's a lot of variability in what I do day to day, which keeps things exciting. There's a lot of room for creativity in how we go about research and communicating research and building connections with people in government in order to be helpful, because it's all fundamentally about helping solve problems, helping understand and solve problems. I also really enjoy the kind of, the levels that we work on. So we work simultaneously with top officials in government and with kind of your--your lower level bureaucrats. So we simultaneously work at the high level trying to inform and think through economic strategy, but also with permanent staff and trying to help them learn new skills and apply skills around key problems. So I really like that-- that balance. I--it was an eye opener when I first joined a few weeks in about the kind of space where we work when Ricardo asked me to work on a memo to the prime minister of Albania. And I was like, wow, this is, this is not just me learning, but this is about actually helping informed decisions. And then since then, I've gotten to present to other prime ministers, the prime minister of Sri Lanka. I got to meet the king of Jordan. So so that space where your work is applied is is really fulfilling. But on the flip side, the challenge is, is that that kind of flexibility to be helpful in solving problems means that you never really have a roadmap to follow. You're always creating you're always trying to put yourselves in somebody else's shoes. You hit barriers in communicating some research, so you have to figure out a way to do it differently so that that kind of challenge of being flexible is the flip side of basically everything I like about working here.
Semiray Kasoolu: For me, by far, is the people, whether it's the people that we have at the Growth Lab or the people that we have access to as experts or affiliates of the Growth Lab or as friends of the Growth Lab, as we like to call them, and also people in government and the counterparts that we have in the different countries that we work in. I think that it's very motivating and fulfilling to know that there's a lot of capacity and skills that are applied to something that that is the way in which people are trying to achieve something good for a broad for a broad population. And it's also a good opportunity to keep constantly learning. I think it's a rare job in which you do something that you deeply believe in. You can contribute to its mission in meaningful ways, but also at the same time, keep learning. One of the things that at my friends tell me is that it's great to be paid to learn. So that's another aspect of the job that that is really good, that keeps your development as well, along with you helping others.
Frank Muci: I want to echo the learning part, I was just and I want to show--show it with an example, I was just staffed on the Namibia project, which is this-- it's a country that's very large with very few people just north of South Africa. And there, mining plays a big role. It's a large share of exports, a large share of GDP, a large share of tax revenue. And so as the Growth Lab, if we're going to be thinking about that country, we need to have a clear understanding of the mining sector. So the mandate that I got just in this week is, Frank, tell us all about mining, read everything there is to read about it, the academic literature, what are the best policy frameworks? How much do they have in reserve? So--it's the learning is is like you really do just deep dive deeply into these random subjects that are super interesting. So I, I don't know. I find that to be to be super fun. And the challenge sometimes at least is is is telling the story, oftentimes for communicating with policymakers at the highest levels. They don't have time to see regression tables. They don't have time to read the axes of the graphs. They don't have time to read through 10 page reports. So you need to have a succinct narrative, something to convey your points and communicate them effectively. So I think that's that's a challenge. It's also super fun because you have to you have to get creative. How are you going to tell the story?
Katya Gonzalez-Willette: Thank you all so much for those answers, I'm going to call on Rigzon next, who's had her hand raised.
Rigzon: I thank you so much for hosting this, so I'm an MPA-ID one, along with a lot of my classmates here. So we're just-- I have two questions, actually. So we're just starting to get exposed to the whole growth diagnostic literature and stuff. So we're just starting out like taking baby steps. But I was just really curious about, like, you know what the life of a project or lifecycle of a project or a program looks like, one. And my second question is about like your work environment. Like what? How big are your teams, the kind of organizational support you get, the kind of mentoring? So I've been hearing a lot about how much you guys have been able to learn. But I would also want to understand how. Thank you.
Katya Gonzalez-Willette: I think we can start with Tim and then if anybody else wants to chime in, go ahead.
Tim O'Brien: OK, so let me tackle the first part on the project life cycles, and then somebody else can chime in on the teams and and how how we learn over time together. The projects all can take somewhat different forms. It all depends on how they materialize. Normally, there's a period before a project starts where we get approached. It's always we get approached these days because there's more demand for our projects then we can supply. So there's a, there's typically a pipeline of potential projects and we have early discussions with government leaders to try to explore how we can fit in, how we can be helpful to them and sketch out what the timeline is. And sometimes the projects are short, a few months, sometimes they're multiple years, sometimes the multi-year ones extend. So we've been working in Albania since 2013 nonstop. In Jordan, we had like one and a half year project. It ended. And then when COVID hit, we were asked to come back. So now we're in the midst of a second project. We like the longer ones because they give us a time to really learn, to work through a diagnostic, to build connections. And ideally we, we're working and we're solving problems so that a constraint is addressed. And then we have to identify the next constraint and try to work together with governments to solve that. And so the structures all vary too. We have different counterparts in governments, depending on the way the power structures kind of work in different governments and who approaches us and and who the best fit is for the methods of growth diagnostics and economic complexity that we always start by applying. So it's... it really varies. And sometimes--sometimes the projects are all about starting with a blank slate country level, understanding what the growth problem is and going from there. Sometimes they're more specific. They have a concept in mind where we think we can be helpful, like developing a diaspora strategy or something like that.
Nikita Taniparti: I will chime in a little bit on the structure of our teams, because I think that's a very relevant question. We're not a consulting firm where you're just kind of told what project you're going to be staffed on. And you also might have noticed that a lot of us work in more than one specific area of expertise. And so on the one hand, I think each team has people who can work around the table of macroeconomics, diversification, labor markets. But on the other hand, because we all did the MPA-ID program and even those who didn't are very familiar with methods across different topics. One person can be wearing many hats. And so I think that makes our teams very unique in being dynamic and flexible, just like any government official is as well. But the other hand, I'm always learning from these experts and more senior researchers-- I think Semi brought up before where we bring in professors or other consultants or people with sector specific focus areas like public procurement or investment promotion or minerals and natural resource management. And so that's a very staple feature of some of our projects. And so you have different levels of experience, kind of all working together. We also interact a lot. And so even in the era of COVID, we are all constantly working together, whether that's brainstorming together or working on an analysis together or presenting together. And so it's I think there isn't often a time that I'm not learning from one of my team members. And I think also a related question, maybe one that gets to a question in the chat is our projects are sometimes very short where it's just six months and it's very specific and geared at one kind of report or outcome or a diversification opportunity for the space. But many of our projects are often two to three years long. And the first year is a really heads down deep analysis into a lot of the analytical understanding and frameworks of what makes the economy tick. And how do you think about transformation? And then after that, you really get your hands dirty with what does this look like in practice, what's feasible, what's supportable, what further analysis do we need to do to dig even deeper? So even on that spectrum of learning, it's a lot of general learning in the beginning and then a lot of really deeper learning as you go.
Tim O'Brien: I should just clarify, too, that not all of our applied products are with countries, they tend to be place specific so we can understand a specific context and solve problems in a specific context. But they can be country, state, city, region. And our current projects, I think, run, run across all of those.
Semiray Kasoolu: I can add some some color about the second question, which was about mentoring and how do we structure learning? I think that's that's a really important question, especially for us, which we are an organization that started out small and is rapidly growing. And that's a question that we constantly keep thinking about, because the reality is that we have access to a lot of resources to learn, but it's usually on us to reach out and find those resources and structure them for ourselves. But having said that, that is also rapidly changing because we can't sustain that as we grow bigger, and that requires more structured ways and programs within the Growth Lab to facilitate that. And I think a good example of how we try to do that was with our research assistants. One day when we had two new research assistant starting a couple of years ago, we were very good at pairing them with fellows so that they have the support and the mentorship as they grow in their role and as they learn how to navigate and perform their role well. And currently we're thinking about how to do that for fellows, whether that is a stocktaking exercise of the talent that exists here so that we facilitate reaching out and learning better or constantly thinking about how do we help new fellows integrate well and onboard them well as well. But the short answer is that there are a lot of resources and you can use them well and all doors are open to you. We're still a very much flat organization where everyone is very much keen on helping others.
Frank Muci: Yeah, I just want to echo that I would say that there's a big opportunity in the knowledge that's inside everyone's brain and it's up to you to take advantage of it in some sense. So, like, if you want to know more about labor markets and labor market analysis, household surveys, how to do Mincer regressions, talk to Semi or talk to Ljubica Nedelkoska. If you want to know more about trade data and exports and complexity, talk to Sebastian Bustos or Ricardo himself. If you want to know about macro, talk to your Latin Americans that have had their macro, you know, be destroyed and so they'll know a lot about the balance of payments and fiscal impulse of all different kinds of fiscal policies. And so, like within the Growth Lab, we sort of know who knows what and who's good at what. And so it's up to the fellows to seek out those people and ask for their advice and guidance. And those people are super open to helping out, giving some input, here's a do file of how I did this labor market analysis, or here's an Excel file where I looked at the balance of payments. And so so there are experts within the organizations, so people who have specialized that you can reach out to and learn more from it. So that's there's a big opportunity there.
Katya Gonzalez-Willette: Thank you, everybody, Clement, you've had your hand raised for a while, if you'd like to voice your questions, please feel free, OK?
Clement: Sorry. Thanks. I'm I'm an MPA-ID two. And actually I had two questions, but they're both super quick. The first is about the, you talked to about the projects you've been involved in. So we have now an idea about what's what's been running, what's still running now and what's been running in the past. But you have an idea about what's coming up. You have any exciting stuff in the pipeline? That would be my first question. And the second question is more super basic, stupid question about more like H.R. related. MPA-ID twos, a bunch of us, we actually graduate in December '21 because we're dealing with a flex model at HKS. I was wondering if there would be opportunities to basically, for instance, start part time and then switch to full time when we graduate. How would that work if anybody's thought of that already? Thank you.
Tim O'Brien: Sure. I actually see that Ricardo is here, but on you, I want to give him an option to answer the first question about potential new projects.
Ricardo Hausmann: Good. Well, I've been listening here very, very excited to see so many people connected. We are working, so right now we have projects in Namibia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Jordan, Albania, we are kicking off, I mean we've been working on Honduras, we have projects in Colombia, couple of interesting projects in Colombia. One is about, you know, mapping out the Colombian diaspora because as you know, Clement, and we think that diasporas are a channel through which things might happen, know-how might move and, and so on. We're working on projects on Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and a couple of projects on, on Latin America. We'll be in countries in Latin America with the Inter-American Development Bank that I'm, I'm waiting to see how they evolve before... Yeah. So that's what's in the pipeline. I may have forgotten some.
Katya Gonzalez-Willette: And I will throw the H.R. admin question to Alicia to see if she has any insights on this. I did receive a few questions privately as well.
Ricardo Hausmann: Let me answer that. I mean, I did not--I mean, we usually have hired you know in the around the month of May when people graduate and so on, but I didn't know about I hadn't stopped to think about this flex thing, but I think we could. We could. I mean, it's an important piece of information. I think we will be flexible on that. It sounds interesting. That means that you will be part time in your last semester. How does it work, Clement?
Clement: I mean, again, it's only it's only a part of us. But there's a bunch amongst the MPA-ID twos. Yeah. The last the last semester is is half load plus there's no SYPA. So I guess it's really half-load. So I guess, you know, 50 50 would probably be doable depending on, you know, everybody's preferences.
Katya Gonzalez-Willette: Great. So we will move along to some more questions. So Ziggy had two questions in the chat for us. The first is if you can talk about some of the professional development opportunities and career trajectory within the Growth Lab for research fellows. And the second I will give to Alicia, maybe we can start with this one if she can tell us a bit more about the hiring process and what that looks like.
Alicia Galinsky: Yeah, so I can walk you through roughly what our hiring process looks like. So the application is live now. We are accepting applications through December 4th and will be evaluating them on a rolling basis. I would encourage you to mention in your application somewhere, if you are graduating early so we can consider that. From their qualified applicants will move into several rounds of interviews. And we are hoping to wrap that process up around late January, early February. Let me know the answer to the question.
Katya Gonzalez-Willette: Then, if maybe, Nikita, you want to get started and we can go through and maybe everybody can give a little bit of background just in terms of professional development at the Growth Lab and then career trajectories. Once you've been at the Growth Lab for a little bit of time, what that might look like.
Nikita Taniparti: Sure, I'll try my best so I might answer it a little differently than the question originally intended. But I think for me, because I didn't really have much experience with the methods or the scope of our work at the Growth Lab, the first year or so was a really steep learning curve and a lot of new areas of development, economics in general and just actually just economics. And so I originally was working on the Jordan project and then I left the Jordan project, only in practice, not from my heart. And I joined two different country projects. And so for me, it was really important to be able to work on different work streams in different projects. So I didn't just want to be kind of a sector specific, focused person up front, and that was the trajectory that I kind of chosen fell into. But I think if you speak to other fellows, they have very clear goals. A lot of research fellows end up going on to pursue pursuing the PhD after the Growth Lab. And so they have a lot more of a niche focus. And so I think the question for me is, how do you focus on professional development at the Growth lab and then what happens after the Growth Lab.
Semiray Kasoolu: I can also say that that that development, personal development is an optimization problem right? From our end, we try to be very good at using the technical capabilities that you have and putting them into good use once you're here. But at the same time, we want to be very mindful of your goals and what subject areas that you want to learn about so that you get a mix of both. Whether probably if you have a macro experience that would be staffed on a micro project in the beginning. And at the same time, if you want to learn about labor markets or complexity, we will try to have that very much in mind. But I also realize that this answering the question about career trajectory is above my pay grade. So maybe I could ask Tim O'Brien or one of the Andreas to chime in as we try to think about this at the Growth Lab as we grow.
Tim O'Brien: Well, I hate to give the MPA-ID answer of it depends, but it all depends. So people take a number of different paths when they come to the Growth Lab. I think in my particular case, I I came to trying to to learn and be useful in projects. So I ended up developing a lot of different types of skills. And maybe I could consider myself like a generalist, although I got a lot of practice in growth diagnostics for sure. And then as I worked in a number of projects, I started more managing them and working more closely with Ricardo to kind of structure them and strategize about how we should use our teams in the projects. But other people come and they develop like an area of expertise- labor markets, macro. Sometimes people work on applied projects, but also on core academic research and work towards publishing papers. Sometimes people will switch between the two of them. So it really varies. And we're trying to build structures as we grow that help people figure out what path they're on and and support them as best as possible along that path. A lot of people come to the Growth Lab as a fellow and then move on to a PhD program. Other people come from a PhD program and try to work in the real world. So it really varies. And and as we grow and see different ways that people learn and grow as they they work through our projects where we're trying to make our processes support people on all sorts of different career professional development paths.
Katya Gonzalez-Willette: Thanks so much, Tim, appreciate your insights on that. I'm going to shift the conversation just a bit to go more into the actual application process. So we had one question come in from someone who's an MPP one and is wondering what are the best ways to prepare sort of in advance. And with that, I'd like to add a couple of questions there just on what you think stands out in resumes or applications for people who are interested in the position, as you all are part of the recruiting process. And just some tips you would give people who are going to start to put their applications together.
Nikita Taniparti: OK, I'll go first because I have given this some thought before. But I think for me, when we review applications and talk to people, it's very easy to see who has done their homework before and who has taken the time to get to know a little bit more about the Growth Lab and the work we do, which doesn't mean you need to know how to do what we do. But to be genuinely interested, because you've read a little bit more about a country project or a specific analysis or you attended a lecture or something that we talked about today you wanted to learn more about. And I think that is it's a very low bar, but it's easy to stand out for us to pick out people who've done a little bit of homework before. I also think people tend to assume that you need to already be really good at what the Growth Lab does. But we really value people with unique skill sets who are interested in learning new ones. And so I think whether in your application or during the interviews, leveraging just the strengths that you bring to the table and not trying to compensate for ones you think you need but don't have. So just talking about accomplishments and challenges that you faced in your previous professional and educational background and how you find them to be relevant for your interest in the Growth Lab. And I think just not to be very cliche and cheesy, but that that stands out as being very authentic and genuine compared to people who try to find the right answer.
Tim O'Brien: Something that that I think is important and it's important in choosing, if you think that the Growth Lab is a good place for you and then it's important to reflect as you apply, is the importance of being flexible in the work that we do. Being guided by what's needed. Being curious to learn about new things and build new skills at the same time as if if there's something that you have expertize in or you want to develop, expertize in. And you've identified a country where we work or past piece of work that we've done that aligns with that, that's great. But we're always looking for people who are flexible to the challenges that that we encounter in projects. And often I don't know about other fellows, but myself, I think others as well. You might come here with one idea that I'm really interested in X, but then you see the fundamental problems that a country is facing and you start to become really interested in that as well. And then somewhere down the line, actually, you circle back to X, but you see it in a different way, because if you've gotten there by being super focused on a diagnostic perspective and and letting the process lead you to care about the issues that you identify from from doing a diagnostic.
Katya Gonzalez-Willette: All right. Thank you. We had one question come in about summer internships, which we do offer for a lot of our projects. So that one I will throw first to Nikita.
Nikita Taniparti: Yes, very important question, because we love having summer interns. They are a very important part of our projects and at least before this summer, they would be all based in the country that we have them paired with. And so, I don't know, maybe one of the other fellows can talk about the outlook for internships for next year. But if you're a first year student, we typically have interns working in most of our country projects on the ground there. And I'm trying to see what the question and the opportunities are. So I work on the Ethiopia project and more summers. We have three to four or even more interns working mostly on macroeconomic topics because that's very pertinent to the binding constraint challenge there. I know that we also have interns on our Jordan project as well as potentially in Namibia next summer. But those are the current projects that I can think of off the top of my head. And we also don't just hire employees. And so even if you're in an MPP program or another part of HKS, we.... We're not just an MPA-ID internship.
Tim O'Brien: So typically in early January, we'll put together a list of our expected opportunities for the summer. I think we might even come up with different scenarios for the spring semester, given that this year is a little bit different, but typically in January we come up with a list of what we expect. But then since we're always adapting to try to meet our government counterparts where they need help, they often evolve between January and April. So we kind of update that list as we go and we start accepting applications and and talking with everybody who applies in like February typically. But we also we love a chance to get to know you even before then. If you see something in our projects and our work that stands out to you, you can even get in touch with us before. And we might be able to think about a potential internship rules in advance. And that might be a match between what you're interested in and needs that one or more of our country projects has. So, like, everything is very fluid and adaptable, but the typical process is we kind of start at the beginning of the new year.
Semiray Kasoolu: An unrelated note, the internships, but related to SYPA, it may be too late for the second year students, but something to keep in mind for the first year is that over the past year, organically, we have ended up working or giving data or showing ideas on different projects for students who are interested in a country and a different and a certain topic. So something to keep in mind as you scroll through our project list on the website. If there's anything a country or an issue of interest to you, we are very open to discuss the type of topics and collaboration that.
Katya Gonzalez-Willette: Wonderful. Thank you all so much for those answers. I want to, of course, address the current situation that we are all in with the COVID-19 pandemic. So here at the Growth Lab, we have all been working from home since about mid-March. And I wanted to ask our panel, starting with Frank, what has that experience been like for you now that we are all working remotely? Can you give us a sense of what your kind of new normal looks like in this role, but remote?
Frank Muci: Honestly, I would say it's not that different. The work continues as normal. We still my country projects me every week, if not more often. There's Slacks all the time, every day. Zoom has worked out great. I've been positively surprised. I have two monitors here at home, so I'm super comfortable. I think everyone's got the chance to get extra monitors and stuff. So I don't know. It's been... my expectation was that there would be a big decline in productivity, but that hasn't panned out. I think we've been as productive as ever in this time. So I don't know. I kind of like it.
Tim O'Brien: It's also important that there's been kind of correlated events. We started working from home and all of our partners started needing help a lot more at the same time. So there was an initial huge need for us to help them understand the potential ways that COVID would affect each place where we work. And so everybody was very willing to meet with us on Zoom and we kind of developed norms, I think, where we're able to do a lot of the work that we used to need to travel for, at least for now, we accomplish a lot of it through Zoom. And it's been amazing that you maybe used to have to schedule a trip halfway around the world to schedule a meeting with a minister to communicate something. But now it's much easier to just schedule a Zoom call in the next few days. So a lot of things have worked incredibly smoothly that way. That worked out well for us because it was allowed us to respond very quickly to the new needs that we were finding.
Semiray Kasoolu: It's also a testament to the fact that we work very well together, which I didn't realize before. Working remotely, showed me that we actually have a lot of rapport and a good dynamic within the team itself at the Growth Lab. And we can keep all of the initiatives and things that would come up organically are still happening because we put their efforts into staying in touch. But we also have this good understanding and many WhatsApp groups across different channel with Growth Lab people. The funny thing is that at the previous place where I worked and we had many business continuity trainings, so you would go work on a different side, you would wake up and work at a different hour just to be prepared for a situation like that. And to me, it's funny and nice to see that we actually didn't need all the planning and bureaucracy and we can still make it work.
Katya Gonzalez-Willette: Thank you, so I will ask my final question and put out the call to everyone who is still here. Do you have any other questions for our panelists? Feel free to put them in the chat or raise your hand. But my closing question is, if there is one thing that you wish you knew before applying or starting to work at the growth lab now that you're in the role that you're in. Looking back, what's one thing that you wish you knew? And I will give that to Nikita first.
Nikita Taniparti I was hoping I had more time to think. One thing I wish I knew that once you... OK So I think in general. I wish I knew that once you finish a piece of work in your little Stata window and your computer, it can still outlive that analysis for a year. And I say that because, for example, on the Ethiopia Project, one, I never thought I would work in macroeconomics before the Growth Lab. Then I fell in love with macroeconomics because of Ethiopia. And I've learned a lot. But we often work on a small piece of analysis for a couple of months. But it can take a much longer time for the internalization of the key message of that output by policymakers, by other people on the team. And we've spent a lot of time today talking about the Growth Lab and our country counterparts. But we're often also engaging with external people like the IMF or the World Bank or other think tanks around the world. And I think I really value that because we don't answer to a third party priority of a... we don't answer to someone else's priorities. We answer to the research and the questions that matter. And I think that has an impact on the way we're able to focus on our work, where I might spend, like I was saying, a couple of months doing some analysis and spend a much longer time talking and socializing those results to people in the government. And before the Growth Lab, I had worked with the Ministry of Planning in Brazil for my summer internship with the MPA-ID. And that was a very different experience because when you're in person, fully embedded in the government, that's all you're doing. And sometimes you forget how to do the more analytical, quantitative aspects. But this job, I think blends the two so well that I wish I knew beforehand, not in a way that would have changed anything. But it's been a pleasant surprise that I've learned.
Semiray Kasoolu The other thing, the two things that I wish I knew were that, first, you don't need a causal inference to present something and make a difference in the way a government sees policy. So I have been I have my bias have been changed that I should not have internal barriers about the work that I do. And they don't need to be very technical or very complex sometimes. Just having a look at their big data, having this practice around, it helps policymakers a lot because they don't have the time. And sometimes the capacity to do that is low within these ministries. So that's one. I don't have any internal barriers about your work or high standards about what kind of causal inference mechanisms and things like that. The second part is related to what I said before, and I say to every new joiner, don't have any internal barriers to reaching out to people and connecting with an external expert. You could you could use this opportunity to the fullest. And if you are more of an introvert, that person like me is the extra way to do that because everyone is very open to connect and share their learnings.
Frank Muci I would just echo exactly what Semi just said at the end. I don't know, a lot of people that are at Harvard and at the Growth Lab, we're A-types, we think that we can solve problems on our own, that we just have to try hard enough. But really, that is a counterproductive impulse. There are a lot of people that know a lot of things and a lot more than you do. So it's super important to reach out to people, ask them questions. The development economics world is a small world. So you want to meet those people and talk to those people anyways because you're going to meet them in Washington in 10 years or whatever. So really, really, really reaching out to people is super important, asking them what they're working on, what they're doing, what you can learn from them. So for them to share their work, their code, their their everything, it's super, super valuable in many different ways. So I would just I wish I had done that more in my earlier year and that tomeone had told me how important it is.
Tim O'Brien My my reflections are very similar. I think that I wish I knew before I started that you don't have to be an expert in a lot of things. And I wouldn't have been so intimidated when I started at the Growth Lab. Wwhen I started, there would be an issue that comes up in in Albania and the team would say, we need somebody to to figure this out. And I would say, whoa, I have no idea how to go about that. I have no expertise in that. I've never no experience in that. But over the years, I've learned that that's just typically how you go about solving problems. You you get the problem in front of you and then you figure out how people have understood this before. And there are probably gaps in how people have understood it before these in comparison to the context that you're working in and you try to to make a difference in figuring it out. So that was that took me a while to learn. I wish I learned it sooner to not be afraid of the things that we encounter in our projects. And they're all learning opportunities. And it's more important to just know what you don't know and and work across the great people we have at the Growth Lab to try to triangulate an approach to try to learn what you don't know. So that was a bit of a revelation to me and I wish I knew it sooner.
Nikita Taniparti: Katya, can kind of add one more thing here? OK. I also think irrespective of looking at the Growth Lab or whatever you do, when you leave the MPA-ID, you'll always for the most part, be the Harvard person in the room. And being the Harvard person in the room comes with a lot of responsibility and everyone wants to hear what you have to say. And I wish I knew how that also meant that you could also say, well, why don't you tell me what you think? And for the most part, people need someone smart and who cares to listen. And so I think your journey of learning and listening does not end after the MPA-ID, In fact, it becomes even more of a responsibility because people will look to you for answers and you have the chance to say, well, let's ask even more questions.
Alicia Galinsky: Great, thank you, Nikita, and thank you to all of our panelists and all of you for joining.