When you think about the traditional career path of an MBA graduate what comes to mind for many is a high-level position in a bank or consulting firm. However, in recent years there has been an active shift away from these traditional careers and into fields like technology and entrepreneurship.
One area that is gaining particular attention is the public sector. From NGOs and foundations to international organizations and think tanks, the public sector is becoming increasingly popular with graduates who have become interested in using their MBA expertise and skills towards social causes and progress.
Three recent graduates, Anne Reine Lapeyre (2011), Emily Groffman (2014) and Robert Johnson (2011) have all responded to the calling and are located in Haiti and beyond working on issues ranging from social enterprise development to global health.
Below, we ask each of them a series of questions about what they are doing now and how they see their post-MBA careers in the public sector.
Anne Reine Lapeyre (2011) – Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership
Can you talk to us about the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership and your current role?
President Clinton established the William J. Clinton Foundation in 2002 with the mission to strengthen the capacity of people throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence. The Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (“CGEP” previously known as the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative) was established by President Clinton and the Canadian philanthropist Frank Giustra in 2007. It is one of 11 initiatives of the Clinton Foundation and develops social enterprises in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa.
The mission of CGEP is poverty alleviation at scale and they accomplish this by creating for-profit impact enterprises that address gaps in value chains that have the potential of connecting vulnerable communities with markets, offering sustainable opportunities for income generation and job creation. With a market driven approach, CGEP provides capacity building to poor communities to allow them to effectively participate in markets.
My current role is Head of Distribution Enterprises Pilots – and to make it short- I rollout in several countries our distribution social enterprises. After setting up the Haiti last-mile social enterprise, I handed it over to a local General Manager in July 2015 and have been since in Nigeria, Colombia, and El Salvador to replicate the last-mile enterprise model. I ensure we recruit the best local team — with both entrepreneurial spirit and impact goals in mind.
How would you describe a typical day?
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a typical day. And this is what I love about my mission. I live in my suitcase most of the time and can either spend a lot of time analyzing data, working with local teams, or meeting up with local entrepreneurs from our last-mile distribution networks and local partners (NGO or suppliers) while still discussing progress with other countries in different time zones.
You have worked in many different sectors, including hospitality, cosmetics and banking. What led you to your interest in development?
For the past 4 years I’ve mostly been an entrepreneur and the MBA has helped me greatly in finding my way in that direction. To do the work I do, you need to be an entrepreneur at the core and have keen business skills, as the countries I work in are very dynamic and there are many unforeseen issues in emerging markets that I have to adapt to quickly. We aim to replicate, scale, and have a large social impact. And in that, I found what I have been looking for, that last piece of the puzzle that had been missing in my past missions. I can apply my skills, on a daily basis, knowing that it creates value for the ones that need it the most.
What advice would you give to current MBA students interested in careers outside of the private sector?
This world is fairly new to me but absolutely fascinating and just as vast and complex to navigate as the private sector. There is something for everyone and for everyone to show their best. And mostly, private sector or not, we are all looking at creating sustainable solutions. And market driven solutions are often the answer to that sustainability issue. Therefore, all the skills we work on during the MBA will always be useful and definitely marketable when looking at positions and careers outside of the private sector as well. That is my experience at least.
Robert Johnson (2011) – Acceso Peanut Enterprise Corporation
You moved to Haiti following your MBA and have been there since. What made you initially decide to relocate to Haiti?
I was a joint MBA/Masters in Sustainable Development at the Grande Ecole and was targeting a career move to where business meets development. Additionally, during my time at HEC Paris Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake and there was a lot of investment going into building the country back better and growing the private sector. I figured there was no better place than Haiti to learn the development business and test my new post-MBA skillset. After a summer as an intern with a business-focused NGO called TechnoServe I decided to stay on as a full time employee working on value chain analysis, program design and program management. Weeks became months, months became years, and I’ve been here ever since.
Can you talk about your current role with Acceso Peanut Enterprise Corporation?
In 2014 I left TechnoServe to launch Acceso – a Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP) investment targeting the peanut value chain in Haiti. In my role as general manager, I oversee all business operations to make sure we hit our financial and social targets as we grow and scale our model. Depending on the day and the time of year, this means I get to wear a lot of hats and do a bit of everything, from developing new farmer training and credit packages to modelling the return on additional crop lines to negotiating contracts with large buyers.
How does this fit into the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership?
CGEP is an independently financed and managed initiative in the Clinton Foundation focusing exclusively on the creation and replication of social enterprises. CGEP currently oversees a portfolio of seven enterprises in Latin America and South Asia and has three enterprise models: (1) Supply Chain Enterprises provide training, inputs, and working capital to smallholder farmers, procure their produce, and sell to quality buyers, (2) Distribution Enterprises empower women as entrepreneurs in remote communities and provide a source of affordable consumer and pro-poor goods for resale in their communities, (3) Training Center Enterprises train and place youth in quality jobs.
Acceso, a supply chain enterprise focusing on the Haitian peanut value chain, is one of these seven enterprises.
What skills from the MBA program do you see yourself using every day?
I get to use a nice mix of the skills that I obtained from the MBA program on a daily basis – from accounting and finance to supply chain to organizational behaviour and leadership.
What are your upcoming plans for Acceso Peanut Enterprise Corporation?
Most agricultural value chains in Haiti suffer from the same issues facing the peanut sector – fragmented and declining production and inefficient and highly volatile trading. With this in mind, we saw an opportunity to build off our existing farmer base and expand Acceso’s operations into other crops with strong local and international demand, but facing similar supply-side issues. Currently, Acceso is in the process of expanding into five additional crop lines – lime, sorghum, mango, sisal and castor seed. This expansion will result in dramatic increases in farmer income, as well as help large buyers such as Firmenich and Whole Foods access larger volumes of high quality, cost-competitive smallholder production from Haiti.
Emily Groffman (2014) – Clinton Health Access Initiative
Can you tell to us about what your current role?
I work for the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) as a Senior Malaria Country Associate in Haiti. As part of a consortium to eliminate malaria in Haiti by 2020, I provide technical advice to the Haitian government on management and technical strategies. I am one of two people based in Haiti for CHAI, so my role changes from day-to-day depending on the needs of the national malaria program.
What is a typically day like?
There is no such thing as a typical day for me. Some days I am out in the field, asking questions to learn about how remote health facilities diagnose, treat, and track malaria cases. Other days I am in meetings with the government and representatives from other organizations, discussing which protocols should be in place and how to implement them as we shift mindsets into eliminating malaria rather than controlling it. And still other days I am in my office analyzing the health surveillance process, identifying bottlenecks and trying to figure out the best solutions.
What motivated you to switch from the private sector to non-profits?
I always knew I wanted to work for a non-profit organization. To me, it just never made sense to have a job where the main goal is to maximize financial profits for the company, when there are so many people suffering around the world. I feel it’s my responsibility to do whatever I can, however minute, to help alleviate that.
How would you describe life in Haiti?
Life in Haiti is challenging, but I’m fortunate to live a privileged life in Petionville. It has been amazing to meet so many like-minded expats working for NGOs. There is a surprising amount of good restaurants in Petionville and some nice beaches within a couple hours’ drive. Although safety is always a concern, especially during this election year, I try to not let it restrict my life too much.
Most people in your sector do not possess an MBA. Why did you decide to pursue an MBA instead of a different Master’s degree?
When you’re working on projects as big as eliminating malaria in an entire country, you can’t do that with just one set of skills. Many people are epidemiologists or biostatisticians in the public health sector. Their knowledge is essential and helps me know which interventions to advocate to the Haitian government. Strategic implementation of these interventions is where business skills come in handy. The MBA gives me a different perspective, one that I hope will help us get the job done faster and with fewer resources.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years I hope to be celebrating the successful elimination of malaria from Haiti! I see myself in a program management role at the HQ level of an international organization.