Currently viewing the tag: "MIB"

Commencement is coming up soon and three of our student bloggers — Tatsuo, McKenzie, and Adnan — will soon be moving on.  Today, let’s look at how McKenzie pieced together her MIB curriculum.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Senior Associate, PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP

Fields of Study
International Finance and Banking
International Political Economy

Capstone Topic
Managing Impact: How Impact Funds Can Go Beyond Measuring to Manage Impact Performance Throughout the Fund Lifecycle

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Help build the impact investing field and channel more capital to investments that provide both financial and positive social or environmental returns

Curriculum Overview

Semester One: 5 credits

Strategic Management (½ credit, Summer pre-session)
Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Financial Statement Management
Managerial Economics (½ credit)
Global Investment Management
Emerging Africa in the World Economy

Activities:

The first semester of the MIB program is dominated by core courses that really build the foundational finance, accounting, and strategy skills of a typical business program.  This also means that, as a cohort, we take nearly all our classes together, which is a key driver behind the really strong bonds among MIB students.  Of our core courses, I really enjoyed the economic theories underlying business decisions discussed in our Managerial Economics course.  My favorite course of the semester, however, was Global Investment Management.  I wasn’t sure it was a good decision to take it in my first year, given my business experience to date had focused on strategy, management, and operational efficiency — in short, nothing related to investing or portfolio management.  Perhaps as a result, it is probably the course in which I learned the most at Fletcher in such a short period of time, and it helped me build a strong relationship with Professor Patrick Schena, whose support and mentorship has been an invaluable part of my Fletcher experience.

Finally, I’m a strong believer that the Fletcher “curriculum” is incomplete without mention of the extracurricular activities that abound at this school.  The activities we pursue are more than likely the talking points we use in interviews for summer internships and jobs.  I knew early on that the Fletcher Social Investment Group (FSIG) was one student club that I wanted to be actively involved in, so I joined an FSIG advisory project while also competing in the CFA challenge.  Last, these activities wouldn’t be complete without mention of the periodic MIB “family dinners” and other social events like Culture Nights and Los Fletcheros concerts that make Fletcher the unique community that it is.

Semester Two: 4 credits

Marketing Management (½ credit)
Macroeconomics
International Financial Management
Global Private Equity: From Money In to Money Out (½ credit)
Political Economy of Development

Activities:

  • FSIG advisory project and transition onto FSIG management team for 2016-2017 school year
  • Two-week off-campus certificate program in impact investing and social enterprise management, through the Middlebury Institute for International Studies

In my second semester, I nearly completed my core MIB requirements, with the exception of International Business Transactions.  My favorite courses of the semester were Global Private Equity and International Financial Management.  The first, because much of the coursework involved practical applications of private equity concepts.  For example, we had to develop and pitch an investment thesis as though we were raising a fund.  And later in the semester, we conducted due diligence on real companies whose management we were able to interview to develop our investment recommendation.  International Financial Management surprised me in the extent to which our conversations went beyond finance to the strategic imperatives at the foundation of corporate financing decisions, which help companies manage many types of risk exposure.  I really got a lot out of the course.

On the student activities front, besides transitioning into the CEO position of FSIG, I also took two weeks “off” during the semester to attend a training in impact investing.  I’m not sure that I’d recommend swapping 10 hours in Fletcher classes for 40 hours a week of training — plus catch-up work for Fletcher in the evenings — but by strategically taking only four credits this semester and choosing project teams that were willing to work around my schedule, I was able to make it work.  Plus, the network I built through the certificate program helped me score an exciting summer internship with Edge Growth in South Africa.

Summer Internship
Edge Growth (Johannesburg, South Africa)

As I wrote in a prior post, my time with Edge Growth was a great learning experience.  My boss, Jason, really pushed my thinking about how companies need to evolve on multiple levels when transitioning from their startup phases to more targeted growth and scale phases.  As mentioned, I used my internship as an opportunity to confirm my interest in impact investing and in working with emerging market companies, which definitely colored how I think about the firms I targeted in my job search.

Semester Three: 5 credits

International Business Transactions
Leadership: Building Teams, Organizations, and Shaping Your Path
Econometrics
Market Approaches to Development
Independent study (capstone)

Activities:

  • FSIG management
  • MIINT team lead (part of FSIG)

By far one of my favorite courses at Fletcher, and one I recommend everyone take, is our new professor Alnoor Ebrahim’s course on leadership, teambuilding, and organizations.  I had managed small teams working as a consultant, and Professor Ebrahim’s course provided the perfect time and space for me to reflect on my own leadership style, while learning from the experiences of others in this 100% case-based course.  Professor Ebrahim has an uncanny knack for facilitating discussion and connecting insights from across cases to bring a classroom and content to life.  I also took Econometrics, which allowed me to hone my technical skills and prepare for a spring course on Econometric Impact Evaluation.

Outside of classes, most of my spare time was spent working with Fletcher’s MIINT team to source and screen potential impact investments.  I really enjoyed this portion of the MIINT competition in particular, as it exposed me to a multitude of innovative business models and entrepreneurs who are using market-based solutions to profitably improve the lives of people in emerging markets.

This semester was also the point at which all my activities, coursework, and summer internship experiences converged.  I reached out to connections I’d made in South Africa who turned into resources for the MIINT competition.  I found myself having business development calls for MIINT that led to partnership opportunities for FSIG advisory projects, or drawing on concepts from my International Business Transactions course to think through the risks associated with a potential MIINT investment.

Finally, at some point in this semester, I realized just how far I’d come since my first day in the August pre-session.  I had taken a leap of faith from a comfortable job and had bet on a non-traditional business program, and I felt it was all worth it.  All I had to do was land a job that fit my long-term career goals and enjoy the rest of my time in school, and I could consider grad school at Fletcher a complete success.

Semester Four: 4 credits (that felt like 8…)

Econometric Impact Evaluation
Global Financial Services
The Arts of Communication
Business at the Base of the Pyramid (Harvard Business School)

Activities:

  • Received funding for January capstone travel and research from the Dean’s Research Fund and the Institute for Business in the Global Context
  • FSIG management (transitioned to new leadership)
  • MIINT team lead (continued from fall)
  • TA, International Financial Management
  • Finished capstone!
  • Found a job!

In retrospect, my fourth semester at Fletcher is about twice as loaded as I had intended it to be.  Business at the Base of the Pyramid at HBS is my favorite class, but I would argue that responsibilities outside of class have dominated my time.  I’ve pretty much been running full speed ahead since January, when I received funding to conduct interviews in Nairobi, Kenya to support my capstone.  February flew by, and included a trip to California on a career trek offered by the organizers of the MIINT competition.  In March, I entered multiple rounds of interviews for a few dream jobs, juggling them with multiple Skype sessions and another trip to the west coast, along with my TA responsibilities, coursework, and futile attempts to create time to finish my capstone.  And then I traveled to Philadelphia with Fletcher’s MIINT team for the official competition.  While the hectic hustle has been well worth the chaos, I’m excited to have officially ended my job search (!), passed FSIG off to an amazing new leadership team after spring break, and wrapped up the MIINT.  This has left some down time to spend with the amazing friends I’ve made, before we graduate and move off to all corners of the globe.

I never quite knew what to expect from grad school, especially given the diversity of paths that Fletcher students take.  As I sit here, with only two weeks until I graduate, I cannot believe how quickly the time has flown by or how much I’ve managed to squeeze into just two short years.

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Why would anyone put off doing something really enjoyable?  Though that remains one of the great imponderables, the fact is that Kristen and I love hanging out in the Hall of Flags and chatting with the folks who pass by.  And you can be sure that someone will be there, nearly any time of day.  Nonetheless, the entire academic year passed before, on one of the pre-exams “study days,” we finally planted ourselves by the front “welcome desk” and snagged students and professors as they went from A to B.  We asked each of our conversation partners to tell us something great about their year.

On the particular day we were there, we happened to catch a disproportionate number of MIB students.  Also, it was the day when the recipient of the 2016-2017 Paddock Teaching Award had just been announced, and Professor Patrick Schena was on everyone’s mind.

Auyon and Coco, both second-year MIBs

Coco: The most amazing fact about Fletcher life is our access to faculty, for example Bhaskar Chakravorti and Professor Schena.  All the professors are so friendly and so nice and accessible, and I don’t think that’s a kind of experience that I could get elsewhere.

(Note that Coco will soon start a job that resulted from a project she completed in her consulting class.  Also, she has three papers due and Corporate Social Responsibility is the first on the list.)

Auyon: I would echo what Coco said.  For me, it’s also Professor Schena — I took a class with him, he’s the one who helped me get an internship, and he’s my capstone advisor.  I enjoyed Professor Jacque’s classes a lot, as well as Professor Schaffner’s Econometrics class.  I was dreading it at first, but I really appreciate her approach to the material.

Callie, first-year MALD

I live in Blakeley Hall and I’ve made a group of really really amazing friends, and a great community.  I even met my boyfriend, who also lives in Blakeley.

(Callie was taking a break, while writing a paper for her International Communication class.  Blakeley has been identified as a rich source of Fletcher couples.)

 

 


Anurag, mid-career MA student

(Anurag referred us to this page when we asked for a photograph.)

It’s different for us mid-career students because we come in with very substantial experience, in my case 14 to 15 years of experience.  There was a panel that MA students organized last fall, where we spoke about our careers and our collective experience.  The people who attended found it very useful.  Students like us are available and we offer our best advice.  With 15 years of experience in the field, you do learn about life.

I’ve been focused on general management and finance-related courses, both here and at HBS (Harvard Business School).  That’s a wonderful thing about Fletcher, being able to take HBS courses.  I already have an MBA degree, but still I learned a lot here.  At Fletcher, I took Islamic Banking and Finance, and with a world-renowned professor — that’s not something you’ll find in many places.

I have two finals and two papers pending.  One final is in economics.  I’m not an economist, so I’ll do a lot of studying for that.

Faith, first-year MALD

I think the best experience has been to meet and be roommates with people from all over the world, and to be able to go home after school and keep the conversation going.  Not even in terms of country perspective, but also what people study.  We all met a little randomly.  I have a roommate who studies gender and now I realize I don’t know gender, and I need to take a class to be able to understand it.  It’s being able to learn as much when we’re out of class as when we’re in class.

Today I’m preparing a presentation for the government of Estonia, for the consulting class.  I’m meeting with Ali to talk about the presentation for the Estonian government on Friday.

Ali, second-year MIB (here to meet with Faith)

What’s top of my list today is last night’s Fletcher Follies, which is an annual event where students show homemade videos about their experience at Fletcher.  We gather, we watch them together, and then they’re immediately erased from the record.  They were hilarious!

 

 

 

Professor Kimberly Wilson

I’m excited about FSIG (Fletcher Social Investment Group) and we’re discussing incorporating it into my class Market Approaches to Development.  So I’m looking forward to that, both using some of their methods and maybe we can integrate some of the clients in the class, too.

I’ll be working increasingly with refugee and migrant populations in terms of my research.  What we’re trying to do is what Eileen Babbitt calls “building a wider bench.”  We’re trying to be sort of a magnet, trying to create a positioning for Fletcher.

Before heading back to our desks, Kristen and I paused to chat with a group that had gathered and had an unusual number of markers on their table.  You’ll recognize student blogger McKenzie, I’m sure.

Michael (second-year MIB), McKenzie (second-year MIB), Alexandra (first-year MALD), and Ashray (first-year MIB), AKA the Fletcher MIINT Team!

We’re signing a photo from our MIINT win for Professor Schena.  We were talking about bringing him a souvenir from Philly, and our souvenir turned out to be the plaque for the win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And with that, our annual blog foray to the Hall of Flags was over.  We made our annual pledge to spend more time there next year, though it remains to be seen whether we’ll succeed in organizing ourselves to do so.

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Our next Five-Year Update comes from Vincent Fennell, whom I recall spent quite a bit of time around the Admissions Office during his two years in the MIB program.  I recently caught up with him at an event, and I was reminded why it was so delightful to see him regularly.

I admit there’s a certain irony in writing an update about “life since Fletcher” when I’m currently only 30 minutes away from the Fletcher campus.  However, it’s more a case of things coming full circle, rather than sitting still.  Let me explain.

Before Fletcher:

Before I joined the Fletcher MIB class of 2011, I worked at State Street Corporation in Boston.  I decided to pursue an MIB as a way of developing my passion for international business.  I had seen during my time at State Street that no business happens in a vacuum.  There are so many “non-business” variables to an internationally successful business that I felt these were best addressed in an International Affairs School.  I had already lived a pretty international life — albeit tame by Fletcher standards — but I wanted an education that could help me try to make sense of it all, help me become, in the words of the late Dean Bosworth, “culturally fluent.”

After Fletcher:

After I graduated from Fletcher in 2011, my wife, daughter, and I moved to England where I started a job at the Strategy Office for Hitachi Ltd. in their European Headquarters.  This job came as a direct result of the internship I had in Tokyo with Hitachi the summer before.  In what might be a Fletcher first, I was an Irishman who got a job in London while living in Boston after an internship in Tokyo.

Working for Hitachi was a dream post-Fletcher job for me.  Each and every week felt like an applied session of the courses I had taken at Fletcher.  Some weeks I was involved in Smart City discussions with the Japanese Ministry for Economy in Spain, while other times I was helping lay the foundations for a renewable hydrogen energy storage system at the Nissan test facility at their factory in Sunderland.  At Fletcher I had taken a course on Petroleum in the Global Economy.  This proved to be an invaluable foundation in energy discussions that I referred to constantly.

If I wasn’t focused on Smart Cities, I was helping negotiate the terms of a first of its kind Smart Energy Grid demonstration project in the UK or speaking with the Istanbul municipality about about municipal water network management systems.  This is where I gained a whole new appreciation for my negotiation course and the importance of frameworks and BATNAs (Best Alternatives to a Negotiated Agreement).

Toward the end of my tenure at Hitachi, I was asked to undertake a market analysis on the nascent “Industry 4.0” or Fourth Industrial Revolution.  Industry 4.0, simply put, is a catch-all for the automation of factories.  Through this research and by meeting with a wide variety of software companies and manufacturing companies, I found the catalyst for the next step in my career: digitization.

Digitization and Industry 4.0 were not topics I had really explored in great detail while at Fletcher.  I had taken courses in Innovation and even explored an internship with a few tech startups, but I always thought that I wasn’t “techie” enough.  I’m not a software engineer and didn’t know anything about coding.  What I experienced after Fletcher is the understanding of the critical need for both clear communication and lateral thinking in the technology arena.

Midway through 2015 I was offered a chance to move back to the U.S. and work with my former team at State Street, where I currently lead various internal digitization initiatives.  My role is to help make State Street a market leader in the financial services industry.  Digitization is rapidly changing the realm of possibilities within the financial services sector and the business is significantly different than when I left in 2011.  It’s really exciting to be at the frontier of a changing global industry.

The last thing I want to say is about the Fletcher community.  When I was at Fletcher everyone always talked about the Fletcher family as an invaluable resource.  While I was at Tufts, this was always tangible in the form of people to reach out to with career-related questions.  It wasn’t until I left Fletcher that I realized the true value of this global community.  I feel inspired, fortunate, and proud to be a member of this unique and wonderful tribe.

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In a week when much of my time has been dedicated to newly admitted students, I’d like to turn to one of our 2011 graduates.  Imad Ahmed arrived at Fletcher with a varied set of experiences behind him during the five years after he had completed his undergraduate degree.  While in the MIB program at Fletcher, Imad pursued an exchange semester in Paris, and five years out, he’s continuing his education.

My Fletcher MIB taught me International Finance and International Business and Economic and Law.  Though I had read economics for my undergrad degree at University of California, Berkeley, my five years prior to Fletcher had nothing to do with either of these fields.  I co-ran a successful fundraising office for an unsuccessful U.S. presidential campaign in 2004, documented national and provincial campaigns to encourage women to run for office in Pakistan in 2005, worked as a journalist, and finally worked as an entrepreneur in London, seeking to create jobs in Pakistan.

After Fletcher and my semester at HEC Paris, I returned to London to work in frontier market private equity.  I was excited about the jobs we would and did create.  I was less excited about extracting value from negotiating hard against an African parastatal.  The Rwandan government then recruited me to assist them in negotiating infrastructure with private developers, which I did for four years, as well as serve as a Special Policy Advisor to their Secretary to the Treasury.  I served competently, in large thanks to my Fletcher education and subsequent investment associate training.  Also in large part due to Fletcher, I was never short of friends in Kigali, where I proudly held our flag and congregated our community.  I met 100 Fletcher classmates (sometimes while out dancing after midnight!), student interns and alumni (sometimes on the opposite side of the negotiating table!).

With Fletcher friends Sophia Dawkins and Bart Smit Duijzentkunst for the weekend. All smiles after a self-rescue mission when their kayak disastrously started sinking into Lake Kivu, Rwanda. Bart is an Associate Legal Officer at the UN and Sophia is now pursuing a PhD in political science at Yale.

Besides providing me with new skills and networks, Fletcher reoriented my mindset.  The uber-travelled student body motivated me to double the countries I’d lived in, and to add a fourth continent to match the class average. (With six countries to my name now that I’m five years out, I might have fallen behind!)

The mature students at Fletcher doing their second master’s degrees brought rich tales and richer philosophies.  One of them started work life as a chef, before becoming an international banker.  His words about periodically returning to school to sharpen one’s toolkit and to reflect remained with me, and allowed me to think of my own return later.  (He himself is now a research director and PhD student at Fletcher.)

The consistent theme to my career has been that I’ve operated as a critical idealist, finding gaps in the value of my work.  Following on from my work in Rwanda, I am now pursuing a PhD at University College London.  I am assessing how governments can prioritize infrastructure projects for the purpose of most effectively reducing rural poverty.

Remarking at the Financial Times Africa Infrastructure Summit on how infrastructure provides one of the more concrete paths to development.

Today I’m happy to share a post from Taji, a first-year MIB student who wanted to contribute to the blog.  I enthusiastically agreed!  I always like to add an extra student voice, and Taji is writing about a special aspect of his experience — that students from Japan in the Boston area are in good company.

Hi everyone!  My name is Daiki Tajima (although most of my friends call me “Taji”) and I am a first-year Master of International Business (MIB) student from Japan.  I would like to share my experience as a Japanese student at Fletcher and in the Boston area.  Being a Japanese student at Fletcher has been very fruitful for me and I would like more Japanese students to come to Fletcher for their graduate studies.

Visiting the orphanage in Mongolia.

Let me tell you about my journey to Fletcher.  As an undergraduate, I participated in a study tour to Mongolia, which included visits to some orphanages.  During a tour, I met an orphan called Bayaraa.  He lost his mother to disease and his father couldn’t care for him.  None of his relatives took him in and he finally came to the orphanage.  I felt angry about this unfairness, but it inspired me to choose international development as my future career.  I initially pursued work in the non-profit sector, but then concluded that business can make a bigger impact.

For two years after my graduation from the University of Tokyo, I worked in Tokyo for Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd.  Then I moved to an Indian consulting firm called Corporate Catalyst India, where I liaised between Japanese clients and Indian staff inside the company.  During my three-year stay in India, I was selected as an official coordinator for a Japanese government-related organization, Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), where I promoted business matching between Indian SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and Japanese SMEs.  Based on those experiences, I decided to study international development through business, and that brought me to the Fletcher MIB program, which is designed like a dual MBA and international affairs degree, a perfect fit for my academic interests.

With more than a semester already passed since I enrolled at Fletcher, I would strongly say that studying here has been even better than I expected.  There are several reasons for this, but I will mention three that especially affect Japanese students.

First of all, there are many Japanese students at Fletcher, and they support me in various ways.  In 2016, 22 Japanese students entered the Fletcher School with many different backgrounds, including coming from the Japanese government, military, and private companies.  During a summer course that helped some new students gain academic skills in English, I had a study group with Japanese students where everyone created presentations to share their backgrounds before coming to Fletcher.  It was eye-opening for me to hear the stories of government and military work, since I am from the private sector.  During the first semester, I also joined study groups with Japanese students to help us keep up with fast-paced courses.  The Japanese students at Fletcher have been so cooperative and hardworking, and we encourage each other to succeed.

Second, there are plenty of opportunities for extracurricular activities specifically focusing on Japan.  At Fletcher, there is a Japan Club, which hosts events related to Japan, U.S.-Japan relations, and East Asia.  The club also hosts weekly Japanese Tables at Mugar Café, where students gather to speak/learn Japanese or to discuss topics related to Japan.

In addition, for Fletcher’s Asia Night event, many Japanese students, along with Korean, Taiwanese, American, and Palestinian students, performed “Soranbushi,” a Japanese traditional dance.  “Soranbushi” is originally a dance for fishermen in the northern part of Japan, and Japanese students not only taught the dance but also the backgrounds of each movement (for example pulling the fish net) of the dance.  Further, before the actual performance, there was a video showing the lives of Japanese fishermen, in order to promote cultural understanding.  Performing a Japanese traditional dance with different countries’ students was quite an exciting moment and we got a big round of applause after the performance, which made me feel very emotional.

Finally, in the Boston area, there are lots of Japanese restaurants and some grocery stores that offer foods imported from Japan so I don’t miss my home country’s foods.  One of my favorite Japanese restaurants is “Yume Wo Katare” at Porter Square, not far from campus, which serves ramen noodles with pork broth soup.  “Yume Wo Katare” is a unique restaurant, whose name means “Share Your Dreams.”  Customers have the option to stand up and share their dreams with everyone after eating their ramen noodles.  I was surprised to see that so many of the restaurant’s customers are American, and many people shared dreams when I went there.  I also shared my dream and said, “I would like to contribute to poverty reduction!!”  I hope to achieve my dream through classes, student clubs, networking, and other activities at Fletcher.

Being a Japanese student at Fletcher and in the Boston area has been very valuable for me.  I am now writing about my experiences at Fletcher in a blog in Japanese.  In addition to my own story, I am sharing personal interviews with international students from Russia, Ukraine, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, India and other countries in order to show the diversity of Fletcher’s student body.

Since English is not my mother tongue, writing a blog post in English is quite difficult for me.  However, I would like to keep sharing my experiences at Fletcher with English language readers.  At the same time, I will also keep providing updates on my Fletcher days in my blog for Japanese readers.

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With a semester in their rear-view mirrors, the first-year Student Stories writers are ready to reflect on fall 2016 at Fletcher.  Today, Adi wraps up his first months of graduate study and tells us about the rapid evolution of his career objectives.

Adi, panel2As the clock in Mugar 200 hit 11:30 and I submitted my final exam for Accounting, a realization hit my mind as well: I did it!  My first semester of graduate school was done.  I thought it was special that I began the semester in that exact same classroom.  I reflected back to that first day of my pre-session course in August, a wide-eyed new graduate student attempting to readjust to student life.  I had introduced myself to my classmates as an Indonesian, three years out of undergraduate, looking to identify new ways that the private sector can be involved in development beyond the typical corporate social responsibility programs.  Thinking back to that August day, I also saw how my professional dreams have changed and evolved throughout those five months.

Within the first week of my pre-session, I remember attending two discussion talks by two different faculty members at Fletcher, Professor Kim Wilson and Professor Patrick Schena.  Professor Wilson talked about financial inclusion through the lens of her research into how underserved communities in Jordan were enabled by money-transfer technologies, allowing them to take part in the market economy cycle.  Listening to this talk, I was intrigued by the idea and started thinking about the possibility of bringing the financial inclusion model back to Indonesia after I finish my Fletcher education (or, if the model already exists, to find ways to further develop it).  Here, my interest had already evolved beyond my first-day introduction.  I thought about how I was not attached to the idea of the private sector being involved in development.  I was more interested in looking at a private-sector model being utilized in the development setting.  This is where my interest in Professor Wilson’s talk originated.  Financial inclusion as an way to provide a platform for the targeted community to obtain capital resources, as opposed to simply giving them development aid, is a much more sustainable model.

A couple of days later I attended Professor Schena’s talk on the sovereign wealth fund (SWF) model.  Using the example of the Norwegian SWF, Professor Schena discussed how the Norwegian government’s annual budget for national spending was significantly affected by the return the SWF generated that year.  During this discussion, he introduced the idea of impact investing.  A relatively new idea, impact investing has been gaining traction within the investment management sphere.  More and more investment managers are pressured by their investors to allocate a significant portion of their portfolio to securities that have social impact.  Prior to Fletcher, I had no exposure to or understanding of the investment management space, let alone impact investing.  Nonetheless, I found the idea to be fascinating.  Thus, after this talk, I thought about how to incorporate impact investing into my career aspirations.  Understanding that I would first need to be familiar with investment management before jumping into impact investing, I ended up enrolling in Professor Schena’s Global Investment Management class.

Adi, batikOrientation came and went, and the fall semester began.  I met my new classmates, both first years and second years, exchanging information on what we did before Fletcher as well as what we wanted to do after graduation.  Despite the wide range of interests and backgrounds, I noticed that most Fletcher students wanted to have an impact, be it through non-profits, diplomacy, government, international organizations, entrepreneurship, or the private sector.  It was thus fascinating to hear about different ways that impact can be created.  Personally, I collected these ideas to continue to clarify my personal goals, as well as to see which ideas I could bring back and implement in Indonesia.  Nonetheless, for a while during the semester, my career planning continued to focus on finding ways to implement financial inclusion (through financial technology) and impact investing in the development context.  Then I talked to Professor Alnoor Ebrahim.

Professor Ebrahim introduced me to the idea of social impact bonds.  As a professor of social change, Professor Ebrahim was very familiar with the idea of a market approach to development, as well as the evolution of public-private partnership models.  At that point in the semester, I was pretty deep into my Corporate Finance, Accounting, and Investment Management classes, and I was familiar with bonds.  Nonetheless, I had never heard of the social impact bond model.  As it turns out, it was a model that brought together non-profits, government, and corporations (in the form of investors).  The idea was that non-profits would run a program to answer a particular social need in the society.  This program would be attached to a bond with a set of metrics defining what constitutes success.  An investor would purchase this bond, and should the program reach its success metric, the investor would be paid interest by the government.  Prior to Fletcher, my work was building partnerships between non-profits, governments agencies, and corporations in the health sector in Indonesia.  Thus, this social impact bond model was thoroughly fascinating to me.  The way I thought about my career developed again.  This model was how I would combine my developing interest in financial inclusion with impact investing.  This was the model that I was going to research further to see if it could be implemented in Indonesia.

Looking back, my first five months at Fletcher have been amazing.  The courses, the student organizations, the activities, and the discussions have provided me with incredible insights into what is possible out there.  I came into Fletcher thinking I had a solid grasp of what I wanted to do after graduation.  Yet, as I conclude the winter break at the end of my first semester, I have realized how much my goals have been evolving.  With every new discussion with a professor, lunch talk with a classmate, or simply another session for a required course such as Corporate Finance, I have learned new specific ways my goals can be adjusted.  I am extremely happy that I had this much needed winter break, following the enormous effort it took to complete the first semester.  Nonetheless, seeing how much my aspirations have evolved in these first five months, I personally cannot wait to see what the next three semesters at Fletcher will have to offer.

Adi, class

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Today, let’s meet Adi, a first-year student in the MIB program who will be writing for the Student Stories feature during his two years at Fletcher.  Adi has roots in both the U.S. and Indonesia and has spent long stretches of time in each.

Adi, 2To be honest, I had never considered Fletcher as my destination for graduate school.  I had barely heard of Fletcher in the social circles I normally operate around.  And yet, here I am, three months into my academic journey as a Master of International Business (MIB) candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and it could not have been any better.

I left my previous job in Indonesia looking for new ways I could bridge the private sector’s involvement in development efforts, beyond the usual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) donations.  Thus, in choosing my graduate school program, I looked into either a Master of Public Policy, where I could design the regulatory environment for business involvement, or a Master of Business Administration, diving right into the innovation system within corporate organizations.  I was even considering a joint MBA-MPP degree.  In the MIB at Fletcher, I found the ability to do both, and so much more.  My daily classes are filled with learning as much about corporate financing and risk of investments as about the political risk of being in a foreign environment.  I haven’t even gotten to the full range of courses that Fletcher has to offer.

MIB pool

The 2018 MIB class

I have attempted to immerse myself in the Fletcher spirit by joining the Fletcher Social Impact Group, advising a start-up team with their market entry strategy into Boston.  I am organizing two separate conferences scheduled for the beginning of 2017, with themes from innovations in international affairs to populism as a political risk.  And, by attending lectures and events, I have interacted with senior managers from Boeing, Deloitte, GAP, and BCG, as well start-up founders.  Sometimes, there are so many events happening that I simply cannot decide which I wish to attend.  The relatively small but tight-knit community, the flexibility of the curriculum, and the wealth of event options have made the past three months very exciting, stressful, and colorful, all at the same time.

All of this excitement has made me wonder, as I reflect back to how I managed to get here: how had I never heard about Fletcher before I actually started applying?  At first, I thought it was a lack of outreach from the School in Indonesia.  Then, I looked at the profile of Indonesian alumni, and I saw former ministers of foreign affairs, heads of national planning, and directors from multi-national banks.  I realized, there must be a Fletcher presence in Indonesia, and a pretty strong one at that.  The alumni network in Indonesia, though small, actually holds key positions and are very influential.  And the best part is that they, too, are proudly part of the Fletcher community.

The strength of the alumni network amazes me.  I have heard about how most universities take pride in the diversity and success of their alumni, but I had never before heard, let alone experienced, how strong this alumni connection can be.  Email any Fletcher graduate whose background you might be interested in, and you will very likely get a quick reply asking how they can help.  In the three months I have been here, I probably have reached out to more than 50 alumni, and they all have responded, even if we needed to work around their schedules.  And the more I am embedded in this community, the more I realize that this culture is not exclusive to alumni, but also current students, staff, and the faculty.

Indonesian students

With Indonesian friends, including one other Fletcher student.

Quite simply, I feel that coming to Fletcher is one of the best decisions I have made.  I cannot wait to see how the rest of my Fletcher journey will turn out.  I can’t claim that I have gotten the full insight into what Fletcher has to offer, but I am definitely excited to see what else is out there.

I know that many Indonesians back home would be interested in joining this community, and will have a lot to add.  And I know that many will benefit from the Fletcher experience, with the flexibility, the events, and the resources, to graduate ready to contribute back to the country.  So here I am, hoping to ensure that people hear more about Fletcher.  Here I am, to ensure that more Indonesians will make Fletcher their next stop.

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In the first of the Student Stories posts for 2016-2017, McKenzie reports on her internship in Johannesburg, South Africa this past summer.

Howzit future Fletchies!  It was great to return to town after three months in South Africa this summer (or winter, as it happened to be in the southern hemisphere).

Living in Johannesburg, I worked at Edge Growth to expand the 10X-entrepreneur (10X-e) program for scale-up or growth-stage startups across South Africa.  Through my job, I helped develop materials for 10X-e bootcamps and facilitated one-on-one growth strategy and execution workshops for portfolio companies of Edge’s flagship impact fund, the Vumela Fund.  I also got to support the Vumela Fund directly, helping strategize pipeline development and deal sourcing efforts and contributing to the due diligence of a prospective investment.

Fletcher students use their internship to accomplish a number of different goals.  Some use it to “test out” a new career field or to gain practical skills in a specific area, others to explore a new region of the world, and still others to conduct research for capstones.  Through my internship, I reaffirmed my interest in pursuing a career in impact investing and gained experience working alongside a fund investing in growth-stage companies in an emerging market setting.

McKenzieBut summer internships aren’t only for professional growth — I took the opportunity to travel and see as much as possible of South Africa over weekends and public holidays.  I attended braais (like barbeques), where I feasted with friends on grilled meats and braaibroodjes (pretty much a grilled cheese sandwich with onions and tomato), while discussing local politics and the municipal elections that were to take place in August.  I attended my first-ever rugby match to watch South Africa’s beloved Springboks take on the Irish (and win!).  I explored food markets in the reviving central business district of Jo’burg.  I visited the sobering apartheid museum to steep myself in the rich yet horrifying past, and did yoga on Constitution Hill (a former prison and now the site of South Africa’s Constitutional Court), in honor of Mandela Day.

I was also able to travel to both Cape Town and Durban in the course of my work, and spent time hiking Table Mountain and Lion’s Head or dipping my toes in the Indian Ocean after facilitating workshops for some of Vumela Fund’s portfolio companies.  Finally, while in Tanzania for a separate project with an Omidyar Network portfolio company, I met up with a classmate working in Arusha to take a short safari in Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed my summer and was able to find the perfect mix of professional experience and personal growth.  While I was sad to leave a country I was only just beginning to know, I’m excited to be back at Fletcher and kicking off my second year.  At the same time, I know that each semester goes by in the blink of an eye and I am trying to savor every day.  For those of you looking to begin grad school this time next year, remember to enjoy the next eight-to-ten months, in between drafting your personal statements and updating your résumé.  The time will be gone before you know it!

The photo is from my favorite hike in South Africa (so far — I hope I’ll get back for more one day…).  It shows me halfway up the India Venster trail on Table Mountain, with a view of Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean in the background among the mist and clouds.

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Fletcher couples are just the best.  I can’t keep up with all of them, but I love when I’m lucky enough to hear about their weddings.  Recently, Liz told me about a newly married MIB couple.  Fumi, F16, and Ryota, F15, met during her first year and his second year in the program.  Ryota came to Fletcher from the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, to which he has since returned.  After graduating just last May, Fumi has joined the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.  Both Ryota and Fumi were very active members of the Fletcher community, as you might guess from their Fletcher flag cake.

Naturally, Kristen (who, among the Admissions staff, works most closely with MIB applicants and students) takes full credit for bringing them together and their subsequent love story.  The rest of the Admissions Staff simply wishes them all the best in their life together!

Fumi and Ryota

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Yes, it’s July, but we’re still catching up with the students who are sharing their stories on the blog.  Today, let’s read McKenzie’s summary of the first half of her experience in the MIB program.

Wow – what a year!  I can’t believe that this time last year I was telling my former company that I’d be leaving to pursue graduate studies.  I had no idea of the types of adventures I was embarking upon when I accepted my offer here.  As it is for most of us transitioning out of the work world and back into an academic setting, the fall semester was a bit of an adjustment period for me.  I had to calibrate how I would prioritize my time between academics, Fletcher friends, my “pre-Fletcher life,” and family.

Fletcher prom

McKenzie (second from left) and friends before the Diplomat’s Ball.

It seems Fletcher students are up at all hours pursuing all manner of endeavors — from starting businesses to competing in case competitions; from working one, two, and sometimes three jobs or internships in between classes, to traveling abroad to conduct research as part of a capstone project; or from organizing Fletcher’s famed Culture Nights to planning and participating in many other school traditions.  It is tempting to jump in and sign up for all of these things at once.  I didn’t go quite that far, but I did spend the fall semester enrolled in five courses, leading an advisory project for the Fletcher Social Investment Group (FSIG), competing as a member of a team in a public equity research challenge, working part-time, researching target firms for my summer internship, and attending the numerous great events that happen at Fletcher.  I did this while traveling on weekends for a friend’s bachelorette party and wedding, visiting friends and family back home, attending a career trip in New York, and building new friendships with some of my classmates here at Fletcher.  Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time winter break rolled around.

At some point after submitting my last final exam on a cold, December morning, I realized that I was running through grad school without fully and completely appreciating the opportunities around me.  Over the subsequent weeks, I spent time prioritizing the activities and experiences I wanted to be sure to savor in my two years here and returned to campus in January with a plan to pare down certain commitments to fully value the benefits of others.

As I reflect back on the spring semester, I’m happy to report that I was really satisfied with the new balance I found.  Ironically, I was able to feel as though I was doing more by doing less.  In January, I took a break from all things academic to go north on the Fletcher ski trip.  In February, I went to DC for a two-week intensive training on impact investment and social enterprise management.  In March, I began transitioning into my now current role as CEO of FSIG and traveled to India with five close friends from school.  In April, I spent more time on the weekends exploring the sights and opportunities offered by Boston.  And in May, I survived yet another round of finals, attended the Diplomat’s Ball, and played bubble soccer during “Dis-Orientation” week, which is a collection of activities and events between the end of finals and commencement weekend dedicated to celebrating the end of school for second years.

Bubbles, 2016-05-16 at 5.01.38 PMThis leads me to an important aspect of this school that makes it so great, yet can also make it challenging: there is a tremendous diversity of opportunity at Fletcher.  The hardest (and most rewarding) task for students is to identify the two to three opportunities that best fit with their career and personal goals.  I’ve managed to pare down and focus on those that are most important to me, and it’s been interesting to see my classmates go through a similar process.  The most exciting aspect, however, is that even as I have defined the activities I would benefit from or enjoy the most, I have friends at Fletcher whose interests led them to entirely different opportunities.  While we’re each invested in our own “flavor” of Fletcher activities, it’s always interesting to learn about the events and happenings of friends studying completely different areas.

With that, my concluding piece of advice for incoming and prospective students is two-fold.  First, in addition to the myriad courses that you are undoubtedly considering, know that beyond the classroom are tremendous opportunities to build practical skills and experience in the area of your choice through student activities and clubs.  The second is perhaps lost on every generation of ambitious, enthusiastic incoming first years, but to the extent possible, you should prioritize the opportunities most important to you.  This is tremendously difficult at Fletcher, but the rewards from focusing on the most essential elements across your classes, activities, jobs, family, and social obligations will make your time at Fletcher that much more special.

I’ll leave you with these thoughts for now.  Over the summer, I’m heading to South Africa to work with the portfolio companies of a small firm in Johannesburg, helping them to scale up proven business models and transition from small, unstructured startup teams to more developed, growth-oriented companies.  I’ve never been to South Africa, but I am excited to dive in and learn as much as possible about the people and history of one of Africa’s largest economies.  For those of you joining us next year, enjoy the summer and we’ll see you in the fall.  For the rest of you, thanks for sharing in my experiences here at Fletcher — I look forward to checking back in September!

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