Tag Archives: Finance

Vahid Khatami Does Data Analysis at Microfinance Opportunities

Vahid Khatami is a recent graduate of the joint MPA/MAIR program. He is going on to work in an international financial institution in New York City.

Vahid Khatami at MFO

Lack of access to financial services is still an economic barrier for many households and small businesses around the world. Based on the global Findex database in 2014, only 34% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to a financial account and less than 16% use formal savings and borrowings. Similar data for other developing regions has emerged leading to the use of microfinance tools to expand financial inclusion globally. But, promoting the best financial tools for low-income households is very complicated, since one must consider the variety of outflow and inflow categories in their financial diaries. It raises the demand for in-depth research on these micro economies.

Microfinance opportunities (MFO) is a research organization, based in Washington, D.C., committed to understanding the financial realities of low-income households.  They work with other organizations in the microfinance industry to conduct research on behavioral economics of beneficiaries.

During my internship in MFO, I worked on three major projects. First, I was doing statistical analysis on household survey responses in four African countries including Zambia, Senegal, Uganda, and Burkina Faso. I did statistical analysis and data visualization on poverty likelihood scores by controlling demographic characteristics and types of packages provided for beneficiaries. For my second project, I designed an Android application for on-line uploading of financial diaries. The idea was raised after talking with the executive manager where I let him know about my skills in computer programming. The final product, which is going to prepare for alpha testing, makes beneficiaries enable to insert their daily financial diaries without interventions of any third party or interviewer. That data is stored in a cloud-based storage for further auto-analysis. For my third internship project, I helped MFO’s team to provide a comprehensive report on all transactions data in previous and current projects, including more than one million transaction records. Reformatting all data to a uniform structure and applying statistical measurements such as clustering methods was the focal point in that project.

Over all those assignments, I was in almost daily communication with the executive manager to present my progress in work and get guidance on the next steps. I had realized that there were no straightforward answers for problems, which motivated me to do research and ask about possible solutions regularly. I also got a valuable insight into the microfinance industry and its technical aspects, which will help me to take the next steps in my career track with more confidence.

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Public Diplomacy Program Allows Alex Jorgensen to Stand Out

Alex Jorgensen was a Public Diplomacy (PD) Student who completed a joint MAIR/MSPR. He finished his degree in the spring of 2016. PD students combine an MA in International Relations from the Maxwell School with a MS in Public Relations from the Newhouse School.

PD Alumni Alex Jorgensen

PD Alumni Alex Jorgensen

This semester I had the privilege of working as an Account Executive at JM Strategic Communications Group in Manhattan. JMSC’s mission is to supply a high-level strategic consultancy to public and private companies in their investor relations and public relations practices. Our mission is to combine business objectives with strategy to communicate effectively to shareholders and stakeholders a company’s story and performance.

JMSC logo

My daily activities consist of:

  • Drafting press/earnings releases
  • Media monitoring clients and peers
  • Developing investor presentations for clients
  • Fully develop & launched our company’s new website (jmscgroup.com, launched in February 2016)
  • Listen to and analyze quarterly earnings calls
  • Assist in running earnings conference call
  • Learn the fundamentals surrounding investor communication and initial public offerings
  • Gain knowledge of capital markets, the buy and sell side of wall street, and communicating a company’s story effectively both qualitatively and quantitatively

As I developed the basic skills to establish myself in the firm I felt that the Public Diplomacy program puts practitioners in a unique position to differentiate themselves. Students from the Public Diplomacy program have the skills to differentiate themselves through traditional public relations experience from practical PR curriculum, digital marketing, social media strategy, and an understanding of working with government officials while being a non-state actor. Through developing public relations strategies for particular clients, developing a network of Search Engine Optimization colleagues who bolster my digital media knowledge, and delivering on social media operations for in-house accounts and client accounts; I saw firsthand how lessons from the PD program applied directly to my daily routine.

Some key lessons from my practicum were that I learned the foundations of building marketing strategies for communicating the value of a start-up to new business and the general public, through the research and development of our company’s website. Possibly the most impactful lesson was in the balance between quality and timeliness. To become an expert in any field one must learn how to prioritize which tasks need to be treated with extensive detail, and which need to be turned at a speed that combines quality with timeliness. I do not think I have mastered this skill, but think that I am further than I imagined I could be in one semester’s time.

Another key application from Maxwell was knowledge about how the government functions, specifically with non-state actors. The government plays an important role in our operations. The sweeping regulations that came with Sarbanes-Oaxley, and the 2009 financial crisis have produced an environment in which public companies need to constantly be vigilant of the information they disclose in ensuring an equal playing field for all investors. Whether or not that playing field has been established is not up to the practitioners themselves, but taking accountability of their own day-to-day operations should produce a synergistic effect that ensures that playing field is intact. This experience was an incredible way to apply lessons from Maxwell and Newhouse to the beginning of my professional career in investor relations.