Chloé Desjonquères: MDP and beyond

By Chloé Desjonquères

June 25, 2020

Chloé Desjonquères (right) at a temple in Tuyên Quang, Vietnam

Hi everyone! My name is Chloé Desjonquères, and I work as a Junior Professional Officer – Economist at the World Bank’s Washington DC headquarters. I have joined the Human Development Chief Economist Office this past November, and work on the Service Delivery Indicators, which are a set of measures used to assess the quality of health and education systems in developing countries. My job on that team consists in providing survey collection and data cleaning support to World Bank country teams that use SDI modules as part of their projects. I also conduct data analysis and research for the Human Capital Index team, using STATA to extract insights from the data and my writing skills to draft analytical notes as required; and I lead the organization of monthly knowledge sharing events, which featured Nobel Prize Laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer amongst other distinguished economists this year.

Passionate about the Earth and its climate, I obtained a high school diploma with a major in science in France, where I grew up. Soon after, to gain a better understanding of the underlying causes and possible solutions to development challenges, I spent several months volunteering in Cambodia. There, I worked as a School Continuation Program instructor at “Pour un Sourire d’Enfant”, an education NGO that works on lifting street children out of extreme poverty through a holistic approach that combines quality schooling and vocational training with healthcare, nutrition, housing, and protection. This experience exposed me to some of the realities of poverty and vulnerability, driving me to focus my studies and professional orientation on development issues. I then joined Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland, where I graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Economics and Political Science, as I returned to Cambodia once more with new, better-educated eyes. 

Eager to learn more about all aspects of development while maximizing field experiences, I chose the 2-year Masters of Science in Development Practice, which was joint between Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin at the time, for the quality of its multidimensional program and the numerous opportunities to take part in practical apprenticeships: an NGO research internship, a fieldwork module, and an international organization placement. The quality of the classes, the breadth of the practical placements, and my volunteering experience all proved invaluable as I started my career as a young development professional. 

I loved the MDP for the variety of classes and opportunities offered. In class, I chose to focus as much of my assignments as possible on climate change, while my internships covered all kinds of issues. For the research internship, I worked with Concern Worldwide, exploring the determinants of humanitarian finance disbursements; I completed the fieldwork module with IFAD in Vietnam, where I looked into the climate adaptation and resilience of tea farmers; and I undertook a 6-months traineeship at the Development Centre of the OECD as the final placement. There, I worked on the structural transformation of developing economies, including industrial upgrading, digitalization and innovation. Using data I had collected in Vietnam, my Master’s thesis focused on value chain financing and food security. Upon graduation from the MDP in 2017, at the end of my traineeship, I was hired as a Consultant – Junior Policy Analyst and continued to work on that team for a year, drafting two reports and organizing high-level events. I then transferred to the Climate Change, Biodiversity and Water division of the OECD Environment Directorate, where I focused on climate change adaptation, water, and sanitation. Fast forward another year and I found myself having to choose between a staff position at the OECD, working on climate change, and an offer to work on health and education at the World Bank. And despite climate change being my passion, I chose the latter. 

Throughout this albeit short journey, I have learned a couple of lessons that helped me explore a broad range of topics in a rather siloed world. In no particular order, here are three:

Never stop learning. Inspiring university professors said it, and so did the successful development professionals I had a chat with to talk about professional directions. It’s a helpful tip to keep in mind, especially when starting a career. The MDP is a generalist program, which means a graduate is not an expert on an issue until she has accumulated enough experience to be considered one. Showing a willingness to learn new topics and master new skills can open many doors, especially early on in one’s career. The OECD offered my favorite topic, but the World Bank offered to hone my data skills. Despite my lack of experience handling data, my determination to learn was positively perceived. I have not forgotten my alma mater and am still working on getting back to it.

Value your experience. To me, one of the MDP’s greatest strengths is the practical training opportunities offered alongside class-based learning. In part, because some entry positions in large organizations require 2 years of professional experience. Yet these experiences teach much more than how to draft a short report: dealing with intercultural challenges in a team, solving unexpected issues in the middle of nowhere, sorting-out logistics without speaking the language, delivering to tight deadlines, etc… All MDP graduates overcome challenges prior to entering the professional world, learning unique, invaluable lessons to apply in the professional environment. 

Network wisely. Identifying individuals that could be of useful advice and talking to them briefly to understand who they are, what they have done, and what it takes to go where one wants to go can help with personal growth and yield professional opportunities. Speaking to colleagues and people you look up to can get you some valuable advice, for example on how to navigate the sector. These people may also forward job descriptions and connect you to key individuals for further advice. The broad LinkedIn network of the MDP is a good place to start. All it takes is understanding where you want to go and figuring out the path to get there.