Keep the passion

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Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

After spending 27 years at the World Bank, I retired at the end of January. I ended my career as Senior Director for the Finance and Markets Global Practice. My career at the Bank spanned diverse roles – from country and financial economist to equity portfolio manager in the World Bank treasury, senior advisor in the Italian executive director’s office, manager and then director leading IBRD's financial products innovation work, advisor for the first CFO and then for a managing director, to country director.

In this post, I reflect on my career and argue why it continues to be important for young people to be passionate about international development.


Why international development?
From a very early age whenever I was asked what I wanted to do as a grown up, I knew I wanted to do something with development, even if at first I didn’t know that term – international development.

I grew up between Rome, Italy, and Tegucigalpa, Honduras, which still remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Spending part of my childhood in Honduras with my grandmother had a huge impact on me -- on understanding poverty and inequality at a very personal level, and on dedicating my professional life to figuring out how to bridge those two societies.
 
In college, I first studied political science and then economics, culminating with a Ph.D. in international economics. I was a summer intern at the Bank while undertaking my Master’s degree and I loved it. Then I started in 1990 as a Young Professional and have never regretted my choice.

The world has made great strides over the last 30 years to reduce extreme poverty –  the number of people living below the poverty line fell from 35% in 1990 to 10% in 2013 – but international development needs remain great as the Sustainable Development Goals outline. Globally, we now also need to tackle unprecedented challenges – climate change, disaster risk management, settling displaced people and refugees, to name a few.

And we need young passionate people with expertise in different fields, not just economics, to devote their careers to international development.

The most rewarding experience

The work with countries – staying close to the clients, working with government counterparts, with the private sector, and learning from project beneficiaries – is extremely rewarding. To think that every morning when you come to work, you are truly supporting people throughout the world to have a better life, is an amazing feeling. 

At times, it would have been easy to get down bogged by bureaucracy, but that’s just part of being in a large international organization.
But even big organizations, like the World Bank, change and innovate to better respond to most pressing and evolving development needs.
In the end, behind bureaucracies are just individual people, so being able to innovate and be passionate is key.

I spent the past two and a half years setting up the Finance and Markets Global Practice, a new joint World Bank-IFC department with 500 global staff dedicated to helping countries and the global community develop stable, efficient, resilient and inclusive financial sectors.

I’m also proud of the work I’ve done these past 15-20 years on financial innovation, especially leading the team in World Bank Treasury. We expanded the Bank’s financial products from just plain vanilla loans and guarantees to a full and flexible menu of innovative financial solutions, which now allow countries to better manage financial risks. Particularly, we developed the tools to help countries address catastrophic disaster risks.

I'm also proud to have been part of a small team which, at the 2006 Annual Meetings in Singapore, positioned the World Bank as the foremost partner delivering global development solutions, such as integrating flexible and innovative financial products, and providing knowledge, advisory and convening services tailored to country circumstances. As an institution, we have come a long way from just giving out loans and writing reports.
 
However, none of these innovations would have happened without the colleagues with whom I worked over the years.  And without those younger colleagues whom I’ve, hopefully, effectively mentored throughout my career.
 
For those considering a career in international development

Follow your passion. There are many paths to career growth. A non-linear career path – not always thinking about and focusing on the next promotion – but taking advantage of opportunities that come your way can be a plus.  Having diverse experience at the country and global level really builds the comprehensive vision of development that will help make you most effective.

In the end having that broad vision and passion is what’s most important to work in international development.
 
This blog post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank
 

Authors

Gloria M. Grandolini

Former Senior Director for Finance and Markets Global Practice, Finance & Markets, and Chair of the Global Remittances Working Group

Join the Conversation

Roger Williams
February 18, 2017

I was drawn to this article for some odd reasons ... and read it through twice, slowly, to share the writer's review of an extended career in a single organization.
What worries me is ... its sweeping Splenda-sugary blandness ... and the missed opportunity that an involved discussion of what was actually done would have meant for the following paragraph:
"... We expanded the Bank’s financial products from just plain vanilla loans and guarantees to a full and flexible menu of innovative financial solutions, which now allow countries to better manage financial risks. Particularly, we developed the tools to help countries address catastrophic disaster risks...."
Gloria's truth (that she may still have to learn) is that a plea for "passion" is best communicated with ... passion!
And detail ...

Faith Weyombo
February 20, 2017

Great read. I too I'm happy with my career choice (Economics) as I still seek means to further my knowledge and my impacts in whichever communities I work in. It doesn't even feel like work , more like a lifestyle.

YassinSabha
February 25, 2017

Really inspirational, especially for us young Italian professionals who just started our careers in international development at the Bank.

Roger Williams
February 18, 2017

I was drawn to this article for some odd reasons ... and read it through twice, slowly, to share the writer's review of an extended career in a single organization.
What worries me is ... its sweeping Splenda-sugary blandness ... and the missed opportunity that an involved discussion of what was actually done would have meant for the following paragraph:
"... We expanded the Bank’s financial products from just plain vanilla loans and guarantees to a full and flexible menu of innovative financial solutions, which now allow countries to better manage financial risks. Particularly, we developed the tools to help countries address catastrophic disaster risks...."
Gloria's truth (that she may still have to learn) is that a plea for "passion" is best communicated with ... passion!
And detail ...

Faith Weyombo
February 20, 2017

Great read. I too I'm happy with my career choice (Economics) as I still seek means to further my knowledge and my impacts in whichever communities I work in. It doesn't even feel like work , more like a lifestyle.

YassinSabha
February 25, 2017

Really inspirational, especially for us young Italian professionals who just started our careers in international development at the Bank.

Jenny Izquier
February 27, 2017

Buen día me encanta lo que leí y lo expresado en tu artículo no soy joven en edad pues tengo 50 años soy docente en el área de educación especial y orientación soy venezolana y con casi 30 años trabajando en áreas de desarrollo humano tengo un proyecto de reciclaje de basura que es una de las grandes necesidades en nuestro país pero es un proyecto integral porque además de dar respuesta a un gran problema crearía empleo educación y atención de infancia en sectores muy deprivados y de riesgo. Aquí es difícil encontrar apoyo y financiación me gustaría si está en tus manos me pongas en contacto con quienes puedan encargarse en el banco mundial. Disculpa la osadía pero capte un corazón interesado en ayudar.

Raquel Quintero
February 27, 2017

mantengo mi entusiasmo a pesar de mi edad, me gustaría ayudar.

Jessica
May 14, 2019

Me gusta

Moisés Montes Lujan
May 14, 2019

Me gustaría colaborar por la problemática socio económica que se presenta en países del tercer mundo

Karen salgado
February 27, 2017

Me gustaría mucho ayudar no se que requisitos se nesecitan o más información. Pero me encantaría ayudar.

Luis Edu Edu NCHAMA
February 27, 2017

Soy de Guinea Ecuatorial, tengo 28 años y estoy interesado en Ayudar, tengo experiencia al Respecto porque viví 3 años en REMAR CENTROS CRISTIANOS BENEFICOS donde ayudaba a los jóvenes y me ayudan también ahí. Sé mucho sobre la simpatía y la empatía. soy docente de Servicio al cliente en hosteleria en un centro de FPO de Malabo Guinea Ecuatorial, y también soy oficial de justicia. Me gustaría colaborar para un mundo mejor. mis contactos son: 00240 222 596 990 y el 00240 222 727 670 correo electrónico: [email protected]

Dalmacia
February 27, 2017

Soy venezolana. Pediatra Especialista en nutrición Pediátrica. Con magíster en bioética. Estoy interesada

Leonardo Osorio
February 27, 2017

Me gustaría ayudar,soy docente de educación especial con un diplomado en psicología infantil y cursando el último semestre de una maestría en gerencia educativa y con experiencia de 10 años en el área y 32 años de edad..

Lilianny Govea
February 27, 2017

Hola! Soy de Venezuela, Estado Zulia. Me desempeño en el área del derecho mercantil y civil como abogada. Amo el voluntariado en cuando a desarrollo y ayuda social se refiere y me gustaría formar parte de este proyecto.

Oscar Gustavo Molina Ascarrunz
February 27, 2017

Soy de Bolivia el corazón de Sudamerica, me interesa de sobremanera trabajar por el «Buen Vivir», inicialmente de los sudamericanos y luego por el resto del planeta, presenté ante la Cumbre Mundial Para El Cambio Climático y Derechos de la Madre Tierra (CMPCCDMT), un gran proyecto mundial referente al Cambio Climático, basado en los 18 puntos tratados en dicho evento, proyecto que en mi consideración es la base de un desarrollo sostenible mundial, que incluso de ser aplicado en todas sus caracteristicas puede llegarse a «Revertir el Cambio Climático en los próximos 20 años». Quisiera ser participe de las Políticas Públicas Internacionales. Espero respuesta pronto.

Jose Alejandro Herrera
February 28, 2017

Soy Joven me encanta luchar por el posicionamiento juvenil. El liderazgo desde la juventud, me gustaria formar parte y colaborar con un programa que permita el desarrollo de las comumidades y sobre todo de los y las jovenes en el mundo.

Mor Talla
March 07, 2017

Éradiquer la pauvreté est la seul moyen d éradiquer la violence donc conquérir la paix qui la préoccupation des gens de bonnes volontés de Dieu comme vous.Vous ne savez même pas ce que vous avez fait que Dieu vous accompagne

DOSSO messeve
May 14, 2019

La paix dépend l'instrumentalisation des confits.lorsque nous réussirons à freiner les marchands d'armes et de guerre,la paix viendra et le développement suivra

Marcel HOUNNOUGBO
March 09, 2017

Votre Experience du Developpement international est tres enrichissant. C'est tres passionnant de travailler a ameliorer les conditions de vie precaires des populations. Jen said quelque chose pour avoir travaille dans les communautes a la base ces 5 dernieres annees. Je voudrais comme vous nourrir mes ambitions et passion professionnelle en participant au Developpement international. Paisible retraite a vous.