What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The World Bank

So I had the interview with the World Bank today. Took the bus down to DC from NYC in the morning, met an old friend for lunch and then hit the interview.  Headed back now on the bus.  Bottom line is that I don't know that I could pass up this opportunity, but that I don't really want to go, nor do I know that I am actually the right person for this job.  But I suppose I should start at the beginning of the interview. 

It was myself and two other guys. We hit it off right off the bat. Immediately developing a report. It turns out that I was pretty much hand picked out of the stack of resumes. This project in Kenya has apparently been having a problem in relation to the government. Apparently they usually take people for these positions that are phd students in economics that can just come in and do the research. This position in Kenya is apparently different though, and they want someone a little older with management experience and the capacity to either demand or garner respect more readily both through demeanor and experience. They seemed to think I was an ideal fit for this on paper, and expressed mid-way through the interview that I seemed just right for it.... then... they started asking the technical research based quantitative questions.

Basically, the job itself would be to oversee a huge operation. I would be overseeing the entire field assessment project for to educational programs in this region of Kenya and all of the data collection. Over 50 schools for just one of the two programs and a research company with a team of some 50 plus people, and several local personnel directly working with me on the local environment and cultural aspects of the study. Then additional, I would be working directly with the Kenyan government, the World Bank, their implementation team, local universities, researchers in the US, and who knows whatever else.

This project has also been going on for 4 years and has yet to have an impact assessment due to these issues they seem to be facing with the Kenyan Government. My roll would be to be able to come in and "play hardball” and get this thing done.  I actually kind of think this may be a great thing for me managerially and in terms of my interpersonal skills and ability to softly be assertive, but it also begs the question "why?"  Why do you need to play hardball with the Kenyan government?  This needs a lot more research and assessment.  Also, while I am managing all of these people, I would still have to be setting up and running a data collection operation using quantitative skills that I have not used in a number of years. I have spent most of my time working with qualitative methods and more culturally sensitive approaches. Listening to people rather than giving them questionnaires and codes. My job here would be to set up the questionnaires and finalize them. I would have local assets to help bring cultural relevance to the project. Most importantly though, I will be working on generating the sample sizes and and orchestrating their adherence, helping implement and design the entire research project. This is something that I have not done on this type of level.

I suppose I need more information as to what type of support structure I would have there to get this done before I could say that I felt comfortable that I could definitely succeed in this job. I of course believe that I can do anything. I can learn/refresh these research skills quickly and easily. I also think that they would be tremendously benefited by the other skills that I bring in research terms and my ability to think against the grain and outside the box. But ultimately, they need the data sets to be flawless. Can I guarantee this will happen? Can they be certain of this? This is the crux of it all and I'm not sure what they will think. But if they chose me, it is because they think that I am the best person for the job. I would have to take that as confidence in my capacity to make this research project happen. I know I could manage it. And I know I could be a part of designing and implementing the research design. However, if I am responsible for doing this on my own, then I would have to think about whether its the best thing for me.

There is of course another factor with this: the compensation. I was thinking that the World Bank would send you abroad with a solid support structure behind you. An expat type structure with housing, stipend, etc. Nope. They fly you there and put you in a hotel for a week or two while you find your own accommodation and get things set up there by yourself. Really? The World Bank?!?! And then they pay exactly the same as the admin assistant job I just interviewed for in NYC? $40-45?!!? Really?!? That project described above and the same pay to shuffle documents and flight itineraries for three executives? Yeah the cost of living is obviously different, but still, it's a temporary position that I don't even think now comes with benefits, insurance, a computer, whatever. I have a lot more questions about this. Is there an office? How do I set up a life, internet, communications, etc. You just want me to be able to drop myself down in Kenya and make shit happen at the high level that the World Bank requires? This can't be right. Any company I've ever known of any salt helps you get set up, or at least outsources it for you. Some assistance.  If is that's ll you get though, it truly must take one hell of a special breed of person to be able to do this in random and different countries in the world. I just don't think it can be right and goes against what I've heard about them in the industry.   There must at lest be someone there to help.

But that is to be seen I guess. When I am offered a job, I can start discussing that. But it is a discussion I will definitely be having if offered. Because if I have to set up my whole life there on my own from day one, jet lagged, unfamiliar, and with no support, their project is going to suffer. It is one thing to show up in Prague and figure it out, China, Sierra Leone, etc, when you don't have anything you have to get done that day. But there..... I step off the plane and its go time. Get the project up and running, while you look for a place to live and a life all with no help. Would be amazing. If I could do that, I could do anything.

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