This interview is an excerpt of a longer conversation with Kylie.
How did you know this was the field you wanted to be involved in, and has your job satisfied your career expectations so far?
I have always had a passion for international development and knew that was the sector I wanted to work in but I didn’t know what it actually meant in terms of job specifics. I applied to a variety of internships for my summer between 3rd and 4th year, and ended up working for a small USAID contractor, the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) on their business development team. When applying to jobs, I was able to speak most to my understanding of business development processes and show a year of experience working in that area of the larger business of global development. Chemonics has hiring in their new Global Supply Chain Division which was a great fit with my other major from UVa, Global Public Health.
I currently work for Chemonics, focusing on proposal development for contract opportunities with USAID and other donors. I’ve grown to love this job, especially the diversity of people and projects I work on.
How does an economics major help in your work?
Studying econ lets you take a “systems” approach to a problem. This has been applicable in the project management aspects of my job and comes in handy when trying to learn about specific topics because it gives me a framework and a baseline level of understanding from which I can work. Occasionally, topics learned in classes such as Econometrics and Economics of the Public Sector will arise, but it’s not super common.
Can you talk about some of the skills you have that could help students to be competitive for this type of work?
The vast majority of what I do on a day-to-day basis are things I’ve learned on the job. It is a lot of writing, research/analysis, budgeting and people management. Two elements I see as critical to success and that are low hanging fruit to boost the competitiveness of an applicant are writing (we ask most of our candidates to provide a writing sample) and basic excel skills (you can take online classes to learn!). General enthusiasm about what you’re doing also goes a long way; people-skills will feature heavily when you work with teams or participate in meetings.
What’s your workday like?
Every day looks different, which I love. Right now, I’m working on a long-term preparation or “capture effort,” for a large global health supply chain program USAID is designing which will support the availability of health products in developing countries. Right now, every morning, I attend a “capture” team meeting, where we review stuff from yesterday, talk about what is ahead for the day, and clarify our priorities. This sets the stage for the day which involves many meetings, brainstorming sessions and some independent research. I’m also involved in a lot of “partnering conversations” with representatives from companies who work with us.