Internship and Memoire reports 15th Issue

Andrés Villareal, INRA

Capture d_écran 2017-06-06 à 15.09.32

  • What was your role during the internship?

The French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) is the leading such institution in Europe, and the second worldwide. INRA focuses on a broad range of subjects that are often beyond traditional research issues in the field of agriculture. At INRA, I worked with a team of researchers on the implicit and explicit weight discrimination in the European labour market. My main tasks included collecting data on the European labour market. Moreover, I analysed information gathered from different experiments and surveys from Spain, France, Italy and Germany. I also developed an empirical model tackling the research issue, which allowed me to use my knowledge of econometrics. I had the pleasure to work with a great team of researchers: Francis Lagos and Juan Locomba from the University of Granada in Spain, and Catarina Goulao from Portugal (also a TSE student), who generously shared their experience with me.

  • How did your experience at TSE help you on the job?

Research skills such as how to properly write an academic document and handling vast databases, acquired from different projects in Applied Econometrics and Databases courses, were definitively a plus. My experience at TSE allowed me to be productive very quickly, even though I arrived at INRA in the middle of the project. Statistical and econometric tools, both on IT and in theory, were key elements to achieve a good performance. Furthermore, various elements I could learn during my experience at the INRA were very good supplements to the skills I acquired at TSE, especially in R programming, empirical industrial organization and econometrics.

  • How did you get the internship?

I found the internship through the TSE Alumni website, which I highly recommend to the students. It is really useful to find interesting job and internship offers in France and worldwide, thanks to the vast TSE Alumni Network. After sending my resume and my covering letter, I had an interview. We talked about my skills and my coursework at TSE. I had a positive answer fairly fast. I know that several former INRA interns come from TSE.

My first advice would be to apply to internships that best fit your interests. Also, do not be afraid of the duties – you are hired as an intern to put into practice what you have been taught at school. So, always be full of good energy and willingness to learn!


Greg Beaumont, UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa

Capture d_écran 2017-06-06 à 15.09.38

  • What was your role during your internship?

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Service Centre for Africa is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It services 45 Sub-Saharan African UNDP Country Offices, drafts high level policy and knowledge products, and acts as the institutions focal point of interaction with continental and regional bodies including the Regional Economic Communities and African Union. It is also in charge of the UNDP’s Regional Program for Africa’s implementation.

My responsibilities as an economist within the Private Sector Unit, which was part of the Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development Cluster, largely focused on supporting the publication of knowledge products in eight key areas (such as impact investing, the informal economy, private sector development, business innovation, and value and supply chain bottleneck identification to name only a few)  to accelerate the diffusion of information, as well as engaging in senior level policy dialogue to work with governments. In addition, the role included helping to facilitate the development of private sector partnerships with institutions such as the African Development Bank, European Union and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Due to the lack of data, which in many cases ruled out the use econometric techniques, I learnt the importance to be flexible and to quickly adapt to new challenges by drawing on a wider range of skills and techniques, but also to research and find new ones to meet the task in hand. Moreover, working within an interdisciplinary environment I also learnt the importance of being able to undertake and read technical reports and then being able to explain them to colleagues in a straight-forward manner.

However, the most fundamental lesson I learnt was one of cultural sensitivity. Working with individuals from all over the world, it was important to understand how different cultures influence their behaviours. This regularly meant being patient when meetings got delayed due to individuals being late, and being able to continue working on other daily tasks whilst waiting, as not to lose time. The inability to do so could tarnish relationships, and make our ultimate goal of fighting poverty harder to reach. By understanding our personal differences, it allowed us to work together to effectively meet common goals.

The role also included engaging with a wide range of stakeholders from the African Development Bank, to the World Bank and European Union to partner on projects but also to participate in workshops. I would regularly review reports and best practice guides produced by my team, as well as undertake analysis to formulate new strategies. These would include undertaking stakeholder mappings to survey what has already been done, and where we can add value and overcome current constraints hindering development.

  • How did your experience at TSE help you on your job?

Being, living, and working in an international community was extremely helpful, as the United Nations is a very diverse and multicultural organization, and moving to a new country can sometimes be a shock. Having experience in this type of environment and of adapting to different cultures definitely helps.

Academically, the M1 in economics gave me a wealth of tools, credibility and the confidence to be able to start working and to add value from day one, as well as to think analytically and explain my viewpoint with a strong economic rational. More specifically, however, and with regards to working in the field of policy, I would have to credit both of Jean-Paul Azam’s courses for providing an invaluable insight into development. These courses taught me to understand theories and to be able to apply them to real life cases, as well as to be able to explain complex economic concepts in language accessible to those without any training in economics.

Furthermore, here I was able to gain access to his condensed wealth of experience in two short courses, which allowed me to have the knowledge and skills of someone more experienced in the field of development than myself. This helped me to stand out in conferences and meetings, but also to show a rich and intricate knowledge of development issues and case studies when networking. His teaching style also forced me to comprehensively understand the technical economic models and the intuition behind them, instead of just reciting mathematical proofs. Whilst knowing the proof is always essential, this ability to be able to explain complicated ideas in simple terms was essential when consulting with high level policy officials and diplomats, and especially key to working in a multi-disciplinary environment.

  • How did you get the internship? Do you have any advice for students looking for a job in a similar field?

It sounds very cliché, however, the key to getting an internship is to find something that you are passionate and feel strongly about, and then to not give up until you achieve your dream job. Whether your passion is matrix algebra or being in the field in a developing country, it is instantly noticeable to interviewers. Furthermore, two to six months is a long time, so make sure you put some extra effort in to find something you really enjoy, as life is too short to waste time doing something you do not feel passionate about! To this end, they say, when you want something as much as you want to breathe, you will probably get it.

In regards to the process itself, you will need to go on the UN, or the UNDP careers website. Then, find an internship, a consultancy position, or a UN Volunteer role that you are extremely interested in and that suit your skill set. Then apply, apply, apply! Personally, I submitted applications for numerous positions, and only received offers for roles where my skills, experience and interests were a good fit, such as in finance and private sector development.   Some jobs can be posted online for only two weeks, so it pays to keep looking. It is also never too late to apply, as sometimes they want people to start right away, and other times for the next year.

Lastly, a lesson which is as important in internship searching as it is in life in general is to believe in yourself, and find others who also believe in you. My parents, friends, and loving partner questioned my decision to go to Ethiopia at first, but they knew it was what I had set my mind on, what was important to me, and what I wanted to achieve. After they had recovered from the initial shock of me telling them about my planned adventure, they lovingly supported me. Following my arrival in Ethiopia, I then found it to be far safer and friendlier than any city, or country, I have previously lived in! From walking around Addis Ababa (the capital) at night, to visiting the amazing (and cheap!) restaurants and nightlife with fellow expats, to traveling every weekend around Africa, I hope I proved to my friends and family how misleading stereotypes can be!

Students who are interested can contact Greg Beaumont for a sample cover letter.


Amelie Abadie, Thailand Development Research Institute, Bangkok


  • What was your role during your internship?


The Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) is the oldest think tank of Thailand. Researchers at the TDRI deal with a broad range of social issues, such as Sectoral Economics, International Relations, Macroeconomics, Resource and Environmental Economics. I worked as a research assistant in the Industrial and Rural Economics department, as well as in the International Organization of Migration. In particular, I studied a program aiming to upskill migrant workers from neighbour countries. I also contributed to two publication projects. The first one was about studying the impact of macroeconomic characteristics on migrant labour market in Thailand.  The second project was about characterizing the influence of seasonal agriculture on occupational choices.


  • How did your experience at TSE help you on the job?


First, I was happily surprised to discover how useful economic modelling and econometrics are on a daily basis. For example, we often had to develop econometric strategies such as finding the best instrumental variable or choosing between logit or probit models. Also, theoretical courses in game theory or competition helped me model interactions, and formulate relevant hypothesis. I learnt a lot during the internship. For instance, I improved my communication skills by adapting my writings to the audience: NGOs may rather read action-based works than academic papers, in which great emphasis is placed on methodology description. Most of all, I learnt that no matter how strong the theory is, economics are based on field experience and subtle observations.


  • How did you get the internship? Do you have any advice for students looking for a job in a similar field?


I found out about the TDRI on the internet. I directly contacted some of the researchers who work for the think tank. In my opinion, finding internships or jobs is easier through direct contacts with the recruiters. Looking for email addresses and trying to communicate with the key people (RH or the manager of the department you are interested in), in addition to applying online, is always profitable. I found that the TSE BND and the TSE Alumni website are great tools to get contact information.

While I encountered some problems to get official papers to live in Thailand, the TSE Careers Office, other TSE pupils and teachers truly helped me. So, do not hesitate to ask for help!

Memoire report, Agne Pupienyte, PPD

  • How would you describe your experience writing your memoire?

At TSE, a M1 thesis can take various forms, from an empirical project to a very theoretical one. Mine can be seen as a literature review on the topic of discount rate in environmental projects. The main difference between environmental projects and regular projects is the fact that the former involves in general a lot more uncertainties and an extremely long time horizon. Some can extend to several hundred years and as a result, there exists no markets from which we can take the return for use as discount rate in evaluating those environmental projects. Instead, researchers have to come up with theoretical models to solve this question. Two prolific authors on this topic are Martin Weitzman from Harvard University and Christian Gollier, who is a professor at TSE. Both advocate the use of a decreasing discount rate even though they offer different benchmark values for various policy maturities.

Given my lack of background in math and economics, the topic was challenging but at the same time, an exciting learning experience.  It helped intensify my existing interest in environmental economics.

  • Why did you choose to do a research memoire?

I came to TSE with the objective of do a PhD in economics afterwards in mind and hence, doing a thesis for M1 was a natural option for me. It was an opportunity to gain first experience in academic research. To be honest, it was not yet an actual research project but it was totally different from what I did for my bachelor’s thesis and it was fun. In addition, I intended to use the thesis as a writing sample in case I have to apply for a PhD at other schools. It could add to the application package.


  • How did you find your supervisor? Do you have any advice for students interested in doing a memoire?

My supervisor was Professor Takuro Yamashita, my professor in microeconomics during the second semester.  Right after I found the topic to work on, I came to talk to him after the lecture and he was willing to be my supervisor even though it was not really his specialization. He was very supportive, and provided all technical support I needed to understand and prove the results in the papers that I had chosen to cover.

My advice for those who want to do a thesis is that even though you do not have a detailed topic in mind yet, you can still go talk to professor(s) to discuss the general theme or field you want to work on. Of course, if you already have research experience and you have come up with a specific research question that would be perfect. In all cases, their advice and guidance from the beginning would save you a lot of time and effort. Furthermore, choose a professor who is available and is willing to spend some time, maybe 30 minutes per week for your questions. For this, I think you can consult people who did the M1 thesis in the past.


Alumni testimony, Agne Pupienyte, PPD

Capture d_écran 2017-06-06 à 15.09.47

  • What is your position today?

I am a research associate at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) Uganda.

  1. What was your path from your Master’s graduation to this current post, and what are the key elements, which helped making your choice?

Almost immediately after my final PPD exams I left for my internship at IPA. Upon finishing my contract there, I hunted for new project openings across the entire IPA network. Then I drafted an application, which caught the eye of the research staff at the Kampala office, and thus, combined with good timing, I got my current position.

The thing that largely helped to me get my post was that I applied knowing exactly what I was signing for. The internship was the key to understand the realms and challenges of being a research assistant at IPA, and allowed me to strongly defend my case during the interviews. Besides a STATA test, one goes through two rounds of interview: first is usually with the Research Manager, and the second with the principle investigator of the study (usually professors or researchers). This, in most cases, even applies for the internal hiring process (when transferring offices or projects).

  • According to your professional experience, what are the most useful skills you obtained during your degree?

I can’t stress enough how useful technical knowledge of RCTs has been to my work. In fact, econometrics, data analysis, and statistics are too. All courses I have taken on these subjects at TSE have been at the core of my work.

  • What advice would you like to give to the TSE students, or to the school?

Many apply for jobs and internships at IPA, but so many of them do not have the technical skills for it. I think TSE stands out as an institution with a high level of technical training and a very research-oriented teaching approach. My advice would be not to try to get away without exposing yourselves to those tougher courses. In the long run, this knowledge will make you stand out from the crowd and leave a good impression. They will also help you to have a nice recommendation letter for future jobs or a PhD.


Alternance report, Jeff Binivigat, Airbus


  • What is an alternance and how does it worked ?

Alternance is a program in which students spend around half of their time at school, and the other part in     a company. From Monday to Wednesday, I am at TSE, and the rest of the week at Airbus Helicopters near Marseille. When school will be over, around the end of March, I will work full time in the company until the end of September.

That sounds busy. How do you find the time to do it ?

Students in the alternance program have a lighter planning. We have three semesters (versus two in the classic program), and some classes are followed online on our free time (courses in the field of computer science for instance can easily be learnt  alone).

However, travels are time consuming. To manage correctly my weeks I have to be well organized, and do everything I can do in advance (projects, etc).

Can you tell us a bit about your role at the job ?


My role is to produce some forecasts of the volume of fleets (numbers of helicopters for a country, at a time t + h for instance). This is interesting to have this information at short term (5 years), to have an idea of how many helicopters Airbus has to build since it takes time and locks a huge amount of capital. At long term (20 years), it helps to identify the need for innovation.

How is your experience from TSE useful to you ?

My job is not really demanding in terms of economics knowledge, but I think that TSE gave me a good view of how markets, incentive, and behaviour work. In my job, I do modelling using econometrics and data science. I think that TSE taught me to be rigorous in my work and to think out of the box when it is needed. Finally, I would say that TSE teaches us how to learn : data science is a deep field, and I often have to to find out  new methods by myself.

How did you get the alternance ?

I met people from Airbus Helicopters at the 2015 BND (one of them was a TSE-graduate). At that time I already had an internship in a Parisian start-up. I told them that I was looking for an alternance, and a few weeks later, they sent me an e-mail saying that they were willing to open an alternance position. Meanwhile, I lost my internship (betting on start-ups can be risky…) so I asked Airbus Helicopters for one.

During this one, I followed the recruitment process for the alternant position.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s