Kate Baragona – 10 candid career questions with infrastructure & PPP professionals

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Editor's Note: Join us April 22nd at 10AM ET for the 2017 Global Infrastructure Forum when the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), the United Nations, the G-20, and development partners from around the world meet to discuss opportunities to harness public and private resources to improve infrastructure worldwide, and to ensure that investments are environmentally, social and economically sustainable. Check out the event site to view the livestream on April 22.


Welcome to the “10 Candid Career Questions” series, introducing you to the infrastructure and PPP professionals who do the deals, analyze the data, and strategize on the next big thing. Each of them followed a different path into infra and/or PPP practice, and this series offers an inside look at their backgrounds, motivations, and choices. Each blogger receives the same 10 questions that tell their career story candidly and without jargon. We hope you will be surprised and inspired.

1. What was your first job?
“Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us….” When I was 17 years old I wanted to go to Italy for my university’s summer program. My parents were not in favor, and used the excuse: "We didn’t budget for that.” Instead of being discouraged, I got a job and earned the money. That’s how I became a counter girl at Burger King for seven months in 1976—wearing an orange and yellow uniform, and calling out ‘Whopper’ orders.
2. What was your best job?
Professionally, my best job is the one I have now as a senior infrastructure finance specialist at the World Bank. Despite the long hours and unpredictable demands, it’s been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. I really enjoy it, and I think I’m really good at it! I have also practiced law in London and Brussels and worked as an investment banker in New York and London. Personally, the best job I have had is being a mother and raising two beautiful, smart, independently-minded daughters.
3. What do your family members think you do all day at work?

When my youngest daughter was about 3 years old, she came to my office in Brussels and said: “Show me where it is, I wanna get some too!” She had heard me say: I go to work to get money for our family, so she wanted to see where it was kept, and wanted to bring some home with her. It was then that I realized I needed to talk more about what I actually did at work, and share why it was fulfilling and important to me.
Now, after years of listening to conference calls, going with me to foreign countries, and meeting colleagues, my daughters have a realistic and practical understanding of my work. Interestingly, one went into acting, and the other equestrian sports—not law, or finance. My extended family has no understanding of what I do, but they really enjoy the interesting presents and the stories I bring home.
4. What do you really do all day at work?  
I’m changing the world, one megawatt at a time, and having a ball while doing it.
5. What do you wish you did all day at work?
EXACTLY what I’m doing.
6. What is your go-to industry website?  
The Public-Private Partnership in Infrastructure Resource Center (PPPIRC) and Bloomberg.
7. What did the book that made the biggest impact on you professionally teach you?
It was while reading the book, Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales From the World of Wall Street by John Brooks, in the 1990’s, that I first came to realize: I am the captain of my own course; it is up to me to find the joy in my chosen field, and to make the decision to show up fully, each and every day, like my life depended on it – because, in fact, my life and my mental happiness do depend on it. I only have so much time on this planet, and I don’t want to waste it trudging along in a field that does not stimulate me, challenge me, or give me a sense of satisfaction. I am incredibly blessed to have found my life’s work, and I am grateful every day that I have.
8. What are you shocked to hear yourself say when you give advice to young professionals?  
“When I was your age….” I’m surprised I have been working in energy and infrastructure for over 35 years; the time has disappeared in a flash. I’ve been involved with more transactions and projects than I can count, yet it’s not the technical details that mark my progress, it’s the human experiences I remember: working together to accomplish impossible goals, and learning to trust and rely on one another. What we learn in school is important, but what we learn in life is priceless.
9. What is the most rewarding thing you have experienced in the course of your Infrastructure and PPP practice?
The people. I work hard to structure viable, bankable, sustainable financing for infrastructure, but the real joy is with the people we interact with. Being given the opportunity to share their struggles, glimpse their lives, and understand their goals, and dreams for a better life, and a better country, is a privilege. That we can be a small part of their country’s transformation is a gift.
10. In what ways do you think the Infrastructure and PPP area you work in will look different in 10 years?
The sources of energy will become more refined, less taxing on our environment and natural resources, and cleaner. Good infrastructure will still need to be financed and built, and governments will continue to need capital, and attract private finance. Money for emerging markets may become more readily available, under different structures, and using different types of investment vehicles. As markets and economies mature the geographic focus may be somewhat different than now. Project risks will still need to be allocated amongst stakeholders, and parties will continue to have to work together to achieve their joint goals.
The biggest difference is there will be new professionals and new government officials, working together to try to improve the world one megawatt at a time, and me… I will be retired, cheering them on from the sidelines.

We look forward to hear from you: Flagging a new World Bank Group consultation on the Guidelines for the Development of a Policy for Managing Unsolicited Proposals in Infrastructure Projects. Submit your feedback here - Now open through May 7, 2017.


Kate Baragona

Senior Infrastructure Finance Specialist

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