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My Long Trek to International Development

Lily Hua Qin's picture

It all started with a visit to the UN Office in Geneva during my vacation in 2006. Like any other tourist, I squeezed a silly smile in front of the camera at the entrance to get a visitor pass, which I am still keeping to this day as a travel souvenir. And then I followed a guided tour. Of course I had always known about UN – in textbooks and on TV. But there’s apparently something magic about actually sitting in the rooms where international conflicts were played out and listening to the stories that had made history. Having not completely emerged from my quarter-life crisis even after I got my MBA in the US and set on a seemingly promising career path at a big American financial institution, I had been searching for a mission. Working to promote social progress and better living standards in the developing world, the world where I come from, started becoming a tangible possibility for me at that moment.  

 Looking at a huge UN organizational chart on the wall, I pointed to my friend the name of the World Bank Group, “There! That’s where I want to work!” Little did I know that it would take me almost five years to finally get my feet into the field of international development.

 So I started applying for jobs at the World Bank Group after my vacation. The prospect looked pretty gloomy. I could hardly meet the minimum requirements of my desired jobs, let alone to compete with an international pool of candidates. Most of my applications went into a black hole.

 Despite repeated failed attempts, my drive to move into international development grew stronger as I was observing what’s happening in my home country. Along with the high-speed growth year after year, the environmental degradation in China has been so visibly hurting the living conditions as well as the human soul. In the passionate pursuit of economic achievements, under the surface of glaringly sleek infrastructure that could dwarf much of that in the developed countries, are increasingly sharp social and economic inequality and distorted values.  I could not help but wonder, “Are we paying too big a price for development? Is there a better way forward?”

 In late 2009, I came across the MIGA Professional Program (MPP) that had just launched. I applied and was invited to my first ever onsite interview at the World Bank Group. Unfortunately I didn’t make it in the end. But being selected for interview gave me a glimpse of hope that I might still have a chance to meet the bar after all. While I was also reaching out to other development organizations, I somehow kept MPP in my mind. In late 2010, I clicked “apply” again. And to my big surprise I was invited back for the first round interview in early 2011. A month later when I was visiting my families in China, I completed the second and third round of test and interview via email and webcam, and eventually got the offer! I was thrilled! Mission accomplished, finally!

I’ll mention as a small aside and plug that MIGA launched the new MPP round this week. If you are interested in the program or know someone who is, please visit MIGA’s website, here.

 Now it’s been four months since I started working at the Finance & Risk Management department of MIGA. The work environment is extremely multicultural, which I enjoy immensely. There are always new things I can learn from my colleagues, be it other languages, customs, history, geography, or the political landscape of any country. In addition, the World Bank Group offers a wealth of knowledge and an open learning platform to satisfy any inquisitive mind that’s interested in development economics.

 Even though Financial Officers don’t typically travel to regions to initiate transactions and see the development impact first-hand, our department is critical to maintaining MIGA’s financial integrity, income sustainability, and balance sheet strength under a sound risk management framework and solid control environment. It is gratifying to know that every project we support has to comply with MIGA’s environmental and social safeguard performance standards to ensure positive and sustainable development outcomes – benefiting affected communities and preserving the environment. 

As a mother, nothing motivates me more to go to work every morning than knowing that I am contributing to a mission that is to make the world a better place for my child and millions of other children, because I have since learned that poverty reduction and responsible development is not just about the world’s poor, it is indeed about the future of the whole world. 

My journey has just begun…


Submitted by Eve on
A great mother of a normal family and a great daughter of China! Wish you good luck in the your journey!

Lily, Congratulations on achieving your objective! The recruiting process sounds intimidating - you are to be commended on your tenacity and focus. I suppose after all that, changing the world starts to look pretty easy! :)

Submitted by Roger XIA QING on
It is always great to understand what you really want in the life and career, and even better to achieve it through your perseverance. I saw this from your long trek, congratulations! Indeed, we can't control the length of our life, but we can expand their breadth and depth, which you are doing now. Be proud of you, my old friend! In Chinese web slang, let me say 羡慕嫉妒恨!:-)

Submitted by Grace on
Dear Lily, I have also been wanting to work for the World Bank. I applied for some positions but have not yet succeeded. Your posting really inspires me, thank you so much. I feel that I have received an answer for my prayer :) May you keep the spirit up in doing good and please, wish me luck!

Submitted by Angela on
Great writing, Lily. It is indeed a good feeling going to work and knowing your work is making a good impact to this world. You've always inspired me, from the film making to your passion to international development career... Follow your dreams, girl!

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