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As promised, today’s post comes from second-year MIB student, Adi, who provides the final summer update from our continuing Student Stories bloggers.  Adi’s internship gave him a chance to test a new field, as he continues the career shift process he started in his first Fletcher semester.

At one point during my first year at Fletcher, someone told me that, in the end, everything was going to be o.k.  Everyone will do something during the summer break, be it an internship, research, writing, or catching up with old friends and family for two or three months.  As much as I wanted to believe that, I couldn’t help but get a little nervous when it was a couple of weeks after the last final of the spring semester, summer had officially started, and there was still no official offer letter for a summer internship.  I even flew back home to Indonesia, not knowing whether I was going to intern at all during the next few months, or just plain relax (or maybe start writing my capstone).

Adi (in the red shirt) and the CCB team at Citi Indonesia

Then the moment I had been waiting for finally arrived.  I was offered a spot in the Global Consumer Summer Associate batch at Citigroup’s Jakarta office.  While extremely relieved, I also came to realize that now the hard work would start.  This would be my first exposure to working at a global corporation, first time at a financial institution, in an industry far away from my previous professional background.  I was put on the Commercial Lending team.  My role was to support the business analysis and marketing staff in the division.  My main deliverable was an official guide for new employees of Citi Commercial Bank (CCB).  This meant that I had to learn how CCB operates, understand the complete business process down to the individual roles of each person on the team, and package all this information into a guidebook that would be easily digestible to a newcomer.

Throughout my time at Citi, there were many new learnings for me.  What was very noticeable from the onset was the fast pace of the work.  Prior to Fletcher, my experience was in the non-profit and public sectors.  Life at a private corporation like Citi was definitely different, in that on any day you could suddenly receive a million (figuratively) new tasks to be completed within the next couple of days (if not by the end of that business day).  Second, people were not lying when they said that working at a bank means you have to get good at Excel fast.  I learned more spreadsheet shortcuts and functions in the first week at Citi than I did in one year at Fletcher (or even my three years of work prior to grad school, for that matter).  Finally, I realized how vast the finance world is.  The Commercial Lending work that I had been doing during the summer was just a minuscule percentage of the whole operation that Citi does as an organization.  I really enjoyed learning about other functions within the bank, including corporate development, investment banking, and risk management.

In the end, it was a fruitful summer.  The skills and knowledge I learned from all three of Professor Jacque’s classes that I took in my first year, Professor Schena’s investment class, and Professor Trachtman’s fiscal and financial law class all came in very handy at different points of my internship.  To anyone pivoting to finance, or simply needing a refresher on the topic, I found the Wall Street Prep workshop both in the fall and spring semesters to be very useful during my time at Citi, and I highly recommend it.  Now that I have entered my second year at Fletcher, I have more context on how things click in the financial services industry.  I still am very much interested in exploring career opportunities in other parts of the industry, specifically asset management.  Hopefully, I will be able to build on my experience this past summer, and successfully navigate this exciting industry.

Family picture in Bukittinggi, Indonesia

 

 

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I have two more posts to share from the Class of 2016 before I move on to last May’s graduating class.  Today, Nathalie Hudson tells us about her experience since completing the MIB program 15 months ago, much of her time apparently having been spent on an airplane.

My year since Fletcher can mostly be described as an international one — I’ve accumulated over 50,000 airmiles (yes, I realize my carbon footprint it terrible…) and visited 16 countries.  The year started with an MIB wedding in Japan, and my one-year milestone since moving to Addis Ababa with Dalberg Global Development Advisors is going to be marked with a training in Bangkok and a music festival in Uganda.  In between I’ve danced to Bollywood music at Dalberg’s global retreat in India, had tea with pineapple farmers in Guinea, hiked up mountains and celebrated a wedding with some Fletcher favorites in Argentina, and helped organize a 100-person Iftar dinner in Tanzania.  All this while adjusting to life in Ethiopia, and contributing to growing our Dalberg Addis office from three people to 10 people.  It’s been an exciting and challenging year, with a new city, a new job and a lot of new responsibilities.

The mobility of this year has not just been linked to my location, it’s also in the nature of the work, with no two weeks ever being the same.  My first project was in Conakry, Guinea, establishing the strategy for the Prime Minister’s new Delivery Unit, specifically its agriculture project.  We were tasked with choosing which sector to work in, and then developing a plan for how to grow the sector in the coming two years.  Our interviews with the Ministry of Agriculture and data analysis of agricultural production led us to discover the once large but now dwindling pineapple industry of Guinea.  We then went out to the fields of Kindia to speak with pineapple farmers, and even visited the Prime Minister’s office to discuss our project.  Having spoken to distinguished guests and officials at Fletcher certainly helped in my preparation, but nothing quite prepares you for having to answer a Prime Minister’s questions directly!

After six weeks in Guinea I went back to Addis, moving from agriculture supply chain strategies to developing a business plan for an infant nutrition and women’s empowerment program in Ethiopia.  As this project ended, I packed my bag again to go to Denmark, creating an emerging market strategy for a large corporate client.  My most recent project was based in Kenya, working with a large pan-African bank to review some of its strategies and partnerships through expert interviews with new and innovate start-ups, and data analysis to understand the biggest opportunities.  In between projects I’ve attended conferences, organized a private-sector business development week in Tanzania, relaunched Dalberg’s inclusive business practice area, and helped set up our Ethiopian office.  The learning curve starts over again after every project, so the pace of change is challenging, but it’s certainly never boring.

These different projects and experiences are informed by either the classes I took or the people I met at Fletcher.  When I first arrived in Guinea I was reading a paper on Guinean agriculture that I realized had been written by a classmate.  When I kicked off our work on emerging market strategy for the Danish company and looked through their annual report, I pulled out my accounting class notes.  And as I do all of these projects while reading through the news coming out of Europe and the U.S. on a daily basis, I go back to my Historian’s Art class memories to ensure my reactions are informed and measured.

My past year has not only been informed by Fletcher, but was also made possible by Fletcher.  My path into Dalberg, after applying four times previously, was through a Fletcher alum who generously gave me his time for an informational interview 18 months ago, and has now become my boss.  My adjustment to Dalberg was made, and continues to be made, much easier with two Fletcher alums becoming buddies/advisors and answering all of my questions and concerns.

And while packing a suitcase and traveling constantly may sound glamorous, life on a plane (especially when traveling through African airports) is not always fun.  My travels around the world have been made all the more enjoyable because I often have a Fletcher person to have coffee with or host me.  And of course, Fletcher weddings have been a great excuse for adventures and reunions.  Being located next to a hub airport in Addis has also meant I’ve had a few Fletcher visitors myself.

My faith in humanity also continues thanks to ongoing conversations with my classmates, over coffee or on social media.  With the world going a bit mad these days, the presence of Fletcher folks in my Twitter feed continues to give me hope that we’re not doomed just yet.  Professor Khan also gave his time this year, in between writing his latest book, to help me and other alums organize a Historian’s Art Alumni Discussion where we discussed The Trump Presidency as Contemporary History.  It was an incredible way to reconnect with former classmates, and feel the Fletcher vibe again, albeit this time via WebEx while sitting on the shores of Lake Kivu with a dodgy internet connection!

Fletcher prepared me for my new career as a consultant by encouraging me to think critically and with empathy.  It equipped me with lessons in corporate finance, business strategy, financial inclusion, and history, that I use daily (although I still wish I’d paid more attention in Corporate Finance).  It has also given me a network of friends and classmates around the world who are generous with their time and inspiring with their stories.  Last week I made Gold Status on Ethiopian Airlines, a fitting one-year milestone that shows how far I’ve traveled both literally and figuratively in my year since Fletcher.

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This week I’m going to wrap up the end-of-year updates from our Student Stories writers.  We’ve already heard from Mariya and Pulkit’s report will appear later this week.  Today we’ll hear from Adi, who is back in Indonesia for the summer.

Just like that, I finished my first year of graduate school.  In a typical two-year graduate program, the most common question at the end of the spring semester is, “What’s your plan for the summer?”, which is really saying “Do you have an internship or not?”  Of course, there are people who are not doing an internship this summer.  They might be using the time to do research, work on their Capstone Project, travel, or relax before the start of another intense academic year.  But my sense is that when my classmates asked me the question, what they really wanted to know was what internship offers I had or hadn’t received.

I know I found myself asking that same question to others with the same intention in mind.  As I carried out my search, there were many reasons why I asked.  Getting inspiration on where else I could apply or tips on how my classmates successfully secured those internship offers, or simply to calm my nerves that someone else out there also hadn’t yet solidified their summer plans.

Indonesian Fletcher family: Adi and his wife with Angga, after Angga received the Presidential Award in May.

I remember that, at the beginning of the year, many of the second-year students assured the first years that we should not worry — by the end of the spring semester, everyone would have solidified their summer plans.  They told us that some students will receive an offer earlier than others, but this is not due to their qualifications.  It is simply a reflection of the different timelines of hiring companies, and the wide variety of interests of Fletcher students.  Investment banks and management consulting companies finish their hiring in the fall or early spring.  Many multinationals and international agencies do not start accepting applications until midway through the spring semester.  Other companies simply accept internship applications throughout the year until they hit their quota.

Nonetheless, we first years couldn’t help but stress out a little about getting an internship, so we tried to start as early as possible.  Right from the beginning of the fall semester, I approached quite possibly every single resource that I thought could connect me with an internship opportunity, starting with the obvious, the Office of Career Services (OCS).  I met with Elana Givens, the OCS director, to talk about my interests and start planning out my internship search strategy.  I attended many coaching sessions led by OCS staff throughout my first year.  I approached Dorothy Orszulak, Director of Corporate Relations for the Institute for Business in the Global Context, to ask what exactly hiring managers in the private sector are looking for in internship candidates.  I met with Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti and Kristen Zecchi to find out how previous MIB students leveraged their degree to identify internship opportunities.  Professors were also fantastic resources.  It is through my discussions with Professor Jacque and Professor Schena that I found many ideas on organizations and people to reach out to.  And then, of course, there was the structured Professional Development Program curriculum to help me with my résumé and cover letter, making informational interview requests, and acing interviews.

The winner’s prize for the annual MIB first-years vs. second-years kickball game.

After laying the groundwork with these resources, I started expanding my network.  My first thought was the second-year students.  Through casual conversations, I managed to figure out who interned where in the previous summer.  Then, I followed up on the conversations with an email asking if they would be willing to chat over coffee about their experience, both the internship search and the responsibilities of the position.  It was fascinating to hear their stories.  One student interned at a venture capital start-up in Seattle that did not have an official internship pipeline.  He simply cold-emailed the company, explaining his background and his interest in working for them over the summer, and luckily that is where he ended up.  Another student leveraged multiple contacts to reach a very busy director of a tech start-up in Kenya, who then replied “I just received two separate emails referring you to my company.  Let’s talk.”  These are only two of the many interesting stories I heard by talking to second-year students.

I had started the fall semester looking to pursue an internship at a management consulting company.  From the onset, I had heard warnings that even getting an interview would be extremely hard for non-MBA candidates.  I reached out to every single person I could who was even remotely connected to the consulting industry.  I worked together with my classmates to practice case interviews.  I attended workshops and webinars about the consulting industry.  During winter break, I received invitations for first-round interviews with Bain and BCG.  In the end, I didn’t make it over the final hurdle at either organization, but I am thankful to have gone through the experience.  I definitely think that I wouldn’t have had that opportunity had I not reached beyond the companies’ online application portals.

In the end, it all worked out.  The advice from second-year students at the beginning of the fall semester turned out to be true.  We all ended up with a satisfying summer plan and my first-year MIB cohort has embarked on our respective summer journeys.  It may not have been what we thought we would be doing when we started planning, but some of us ended up with something better.  As for me personally, I ended up joining Citibank’s Commercial Banking team for the summer and I’m definitely enjoying the challenge.

What a journey it has been!  I’m already looking forward to regrouping with my classmates for our second year.

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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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