Dr. Aziz Atamanov graduated September 2011 from the PhD programme in Public Policy and Policy Analysis here at the School of Governance. He soon joined the World Bank, first as a consultant on the Central Asian region and, since 2012, on data management, poverty and shared prosperity analysis on the MENA region. Dr. Mindel van de Laar spoke with Aziz at World Bank HQ, Washington DC, in early April. She asked him how his PhD launched his career, how he has grown ‘on the job’, and what may come next.
What do you like most about working for the World Bank?
In the World Bank, you are surrounded by a highly educated international group of people. It is fair to say, all of them are smarter than you, which offers a great impetus to grow. But in addition to the personal development and the steep learning curve I’ve had over the last few years, there is also the realisation that I am working here on issues that are always globally relevant and important. In my case, I am working on poverty issues, which in my view makes the work by default useful.
Can you be more specific on this learning curve? What exactly have you learned since your PhD graduation?
After graduation, I learned a lot in the ‘real world’ applications. In my PhD I managed to master research methods and skills, but this range of methods and skills is continuously expanded since working here. The World Bank pushes you to expand your comfort zone, and keep learning. But maybe even more important are the softer skills that I’ve learned. A good example is how to build relationships with clients in poor and fragile countries; how to make relationships work and how to work and cooperate with them well to get the best out of our mutual relations.
When looking back at the past three years, what can you say was the value of your PhD for your current work?
There is a very direct link between obtaining my PhD and being employed for the World Bank. The World Bank was looking for an expert on the Kyrgyz Republic, and the case study I based my dissertation on was the Kyrgyz case. But equally important, I think that without the PhD I would not have had the skills needed for this job. During my PhD, I learned how to work with data, how to analyse data, how to write an analytical analysis. I also published some of my dissertation work, which was valued by the World Bank.
What are the next steps in your career?
Most important, I want to keep learning and expand my skills set. The coming two years I will continue to work for the World Bank for sure, but my wish would be to stay working for the World Bank also after those two years as well. I currently have a great, exciting job. The MENA region is a very challenging region, with a fast evolving context. For example, last month I was writing a paper on subsidy reform in one of the countries in the region. Yet, the next day, the government steps down, and the situation might change completely again. This creates a very dynamic work atmosphere. Another benefit I feel is that by working for the World Bank, you see the results of your work directly. Working here means I am able to make a change, and that is certainly the most rewarding part of my job.