Following the Career Trajectories of Department of Econ Graduates
Interviews conducted and written by Amy Varney, Career Services Coordinator
Class of 2016
Majors: Economics & Political Science
Staff Associate at International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Earth Institute, Columbia University New York, NY
Why did he choose to study economics?
Max started out in journalism and poly sci but found that to really understand the issues and the economics behind them, he needed to have economics training and the “framework for explaining historical and political issues in legible ways.”
What was the hardest part of his undergrad econ studies?
Max says that he didn’t have a background in advanced math when he started college, so he struggled, but by the time he was a senior, he felt competent in his quantitative skills.
Did Max participate in an internship?
Yes. Max was awarded a research grant at OSU which funded an unpaid internship in Ghana with Innovations for Poverty Action.
What was the hardest interview and work experience he has had since graduation?
After completing his degree, he applied for full-time work with the IPA. The 3-tired interview process was “intense,” and the technical exam took 4 hours to complete. He was given a job as a team member to evaluate assistance programs for ranchers in Namibia. The field work was grueling, frustrating, and isolating. He had to figure out ways to collect multiple streams of data for his research, including how to weigh herds of 20,000 cattle to show that they were thriving. This field experience gave him an opportunity to view the impact of economics on the lives of people and not just see it “in the abstract, separated from real world.”
How long has he been with his current employer and what does he do?
After receiving his MA in Public Affairs from Columbia, Max began working at the IRI 2 years ago and was recently promoted to Staff Associate. He works with governments and nonprofit organizations and their meteorological offices in the developing world to share climate-change research and how it can inform appropriate action and policy making. His goal is to promote evidence-based “actionable decisions” and “decision support” as these entities address how to assist their communities with the difficult results of worldwide climate variation. One particular focus of his work is to educate clients about climate insurance and forecast-based programs and products and to make recommendations that will prevent negative outcomes.
What are Max’s career goals?
Right now Max is at a “crossroads” because he wants to continue to develop professionally but isn’t sure if he wants to pursue a Ph.D. or move into the private sector. He would like to lead his own research. Max explains that university employment is stable and highly respected but that some private industries are waking up to their responsibility to positively affect climate change and may offer more avenues for exploration and advancement.
Be curious…Learn about the different ways people think and live so that you can understand them and communicate economic principles and concepts in ways that are relevant to their situations…Take classes outside of economic-related subjects to broaden your perspective…Do an undergraduate thesis!
ADVANTAGES IN HIS CAREER SEARCH:
*Completed an undergraduate thesis--showed he could design investigations, perform research, analyze data, and complete an entire project from start to finish
*Had an internship—acquired field experience
*Studied econometrics—uses these practical skills in his work
*Excellent teaching—gave him a practical, critical framework for solving problems. tedundergraduate the
*Classes with Ethan Doetsch and Trevon Logan