ALUMNI SECTION EDITOR
Laura Moens is a graduate of SAIS Europe ’11 and SAIS DC ’12 and is a consultant for the World Bank Group in Washington, D.C. Prior to SAIS, she worked in policy and outreach at the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union and journalism for TV Brussels. She sat down with The SAIS Observer to discuss her reasons for attending SAIS, her present work and advice for SAIS students. The following is an abridged transcript of our interview.
Where are you now?
So I am a consultant at the World Bank Group working for the Development Economics Research Group (DECRG) at Trade and International Integration (DECTI). I have done a couple of different consultancies within the World Bank in different departments. Before, I was working on innovation projects at infoDev, a grant program managed by the World Bank Group.
I have also worked for the Independent Evaluation Group (IEGPE) on an investment climate evaluation. It gave me a good overview of the World Bank as a whole, which is definitely an advantage when you are just starting working for the World Bank Group.
They recruit several SAIS alumni, and it is a good place to be at after graduation. [It is] definitely a plus as SAIS maintains a lot of connections at the World Bank Group.
Why did you come to SAIS?
I was doing lobbying for international firms before SAIS, so I was really interested in international relations, [and] doing work for the World Bank Group and international organizations in general (I worked previously for UNICEF Belgium). So when I applied for master’s programs, I was definitely interested in SAIS the most because they were located in Washington, D.C. with the option of doing one year in Europe as well.
SAIS had the concentration in international finance, and I wanted to do something that was finance and policy, and I was World Bank-orientated. And I figured a background in economics and finance would help me in that way. I did not really apply anywhere else. While at SAIS, I tried to stay focused on the World Bank Group and was approaching different units.
Can you expand on the day-to-day of the consultancy projects you have done while at the World Bank?
So for my manager, he asks me to prepare briefs and talking points and to keep up with the news and current events around trade facilitation issues. It is a lot like summarizing other papers for when they go present papers at conferences. They just always want to know what is going on. I also do research for my manager, who is a lead economist, before he goes into meetings and market their papers when they go to a conference. Finally, I also research what happens within World Bank operations.
For the Independent Evaluation Group, I worked on an evaluation that will come out around June that was on the investment climate at the World Bank Group. It covers investment climate issues, regulation and policies of the World Bank as a whole. It is very interesting and studies different countries from a World Bank perspective. It tries to answer ‘What is the investment climate in a specific country, and how does the client work with the World Bank Group as a whole on regulatory issues?’
You mentioned you had worked on innovation projects? Could you expand?
I was working for infoDev, a grant program part of the World Bank Group, and helped organize a forum for entrepreneurship and innovation. It was basically a big event in South Africa to address how entrepreneurs can raise capital for their ideas. There was also a competition for entrepreneurs for a grant offered by infoDev to fund the start of a project. It was more micro-level type work. In the end, we created a platform to share their knowledge between them. It was a lot of work between the South African government (especially the Department of Science and Technology) and entrepreneurs to see how they can include innovation into their policy.
Has your journalism experience benefitted you in any way in your professional life?
Journalism was good because at the World Bank Group you always have to explain what you do in a succinct way, write cover stories or summarize a project in a country. So my journalism experience was important. You are also required to do some sort of knowledge management as well as update blogs both internally and externally for the World Bank.
What comes next for you in your career?
I would like to remain at the World Bank. I think it has been a good experience especially as I have gotten to change from one department to another. Going forward, it would be nice to focus on one subject or region specifically. I would like to continue to work on private sector development issues and innovation policies.
Any final advice for SAIS students?
Be very specific even if you are not always sure of what they want to do after. When reaching out to alumni, know exactly what people do. Research well the area of expertise of the people you want to talk to. Try to show interest, and if [you are] really interested, continue and maintain a relationship and be persistent. A lot of people contact you and never follow up, but people do remember and want to help.