Q&A: Reflecting on Our Internships

With the recruiting season for Dalberg’s internship programs well underway, we talk to Dalberg team members about their internship experiences, and learn about what they have been doing since joining Dalberg full time.

Applications for our Graduate School Consultants Program are open until Jan 8, 2017. D.Capital are also recruiting for their Summer Investment Associate Program – applications are open until Jan 8, 2017.

Introducing our interviewees:

John Kidenda is a Senior Consultant in Nairobi. He joined the internship program in 2014, while pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration in International Development at the Harvard Kennedy School. Before attending Grad School, John had been working in Healthcare Tech in Austin, US. He became a permanent member of the Nairobi team in 2015.

Ellen Kendall is an Associate Consultant in Paris. Ellen started at Dalberg in London, completing her internship there in 2015 and joining as full time member of the team, before moving to Paris in Spring 2016. Prior to the internship, she had been studying a Master’s in Development Studies at the University of Cambridge, and had been working with an NGO in Thailand for two years.

Amanda Dawes Ibanez is a Senior Consultant in San Francisco. Amanda completed an internship in 2015 with Dalberg’s New York office. She joined the team in San Francisco in 2016, after completing a Master’s in Public Administration in International Development at the Harvard Kennedy School. Before attending Graduate School, Amanda worked conducting impact evaluations using randomized control trials to test the effectiveness of policies aimed at reducing poverty in Latin America.

Scott Hosking is an Analyst in our Johannesburg office. He started his internship in 2015, straight after completing a Master’s in Economics and a BSc in Economics and Law at the University of Cape Town. While studying, Scott had worked with NGOs in and around Cape Town, mainly focused on supporting small entrepreneurs in townships to increase their effectiveness.

Sikai Chen is an Associate Consultant in Dalberg’s Singapore office. He joined the internship program in 2015, after just completing a BSc in Economics from Singapore Management University. As a student, he’d volunteered with Southeast Asia’s first social change consultancy, and had also completed internships in the healthcare and automotive industry. Sikai joined the Singapore office permanently in 2015 as an Analyst, and was promoted to Associate Consultant in 2016.

And now for the questions:

What did you work on during your internship?

John: I worked on a World Bank project to devise a unified metric for measuring pharmaceutical supply chains across Africa. The topic resonated with me given my professional background in healthcare, and it was an interesting experience to approach this topic from the perspective of a strategy consultant. I was on the project from start to finish, so I gained real insight into what a project lifecycle, and the day-to-day, is like at Dalberg.

Sikai: During my internship, I focused on identifying the gaps in India’s education sector that the Tata Group could invest in as part of their sustainability efforts. I was part of a team that carried out a landscape study of the sector, and identified issues of quality and access across the education lifecycle of an individual from kindergarten to tertiary standards.

Ellen: I had a great time on my internship. I worked on a project analyzing the renovation and rehabilitation of some specific crops – such as tea, palm oil, and coffee. Essentially what the client wanted to know is how much land globally do smallholders use to cultivate these specific crops, which isn’t performing as well as it could. It was such an interesting consulting task as we had to think about wide-ranging questions, like how to go about estimating this figure? What would it take to optimize production of these crops? What amount of investment is needed to increase productivity? Our analysis was used at an international conference to raise financing for this field, and I got the opportunity to present our thinking at another event in Washington DC the following year. The emphasis on real action was different to the projects you do in university, and it was really refreshing.

Scott: Although I was based in Johannesburg for my internship, I was lucky enough to spend three weeks in Dar es Salaam. The project there focused on facilitating investment in agriculture in Tanzania. Specifically, we looked at how the Government should prioritize their support for a range of private sector investments, based on the potential impact and ease of facilitation of the investments. From the project, I learnt the importance of structuring your work up front – as a consultant articulating early on why you’re doing something and how you’re going to do it for each work stream is vital.

Amanda: During my internship, I worked supporting the Global Development Lab within USAID to develop a strategy that leverages its distinct assets, talents, programs, and positioning to make an impact in advancing Global Entrepreneurship. The project begun as soon as I joined and was completed just before the end of my internship, allowing me to experience a full project cycle. The great thing about the internships at Dalberg is that you are staffed on a project and expected to perform like a full-time consultant, allowing you to get a real experience of what working at Dalberg is like.

How did you know Dalberg was the right place for you to join after graduation? 

Ellen: The main reason I knew Dalberg was the place I wanted to be, and why I’m still here, is the calibre of my colleagues. Everyday I’m surrounded by a group of brilliant, smart people, who are passionate about the same issues that I am. That’s something I haven’t found in a workplace before.

Sikai: I thought Dalberg was the right place for me because it served as a great intersection between social impact and professional development. I saw how professional and personal development were heavily emphasized upon, and brought to life in our day-to-day work. Also, Dalberg’s mission resonated strongly with my personal values. In a world that is seems to be increasingly characterized by hatred and discrimination, I am heartened to know that Dalberg is somewhere which truly respects your identity, and is constantly celebrating the diversity it has within itself.

Amanda: I like that Dalberg is focused on exploring, and hopefully solving, complex and difficult questions – and for me, the approach we take to tackling these questions is interesting and intellectually challenging. While a lot of the work we do is at a strategic, high-level, there is always a strong focus on how this will translate to impact on the ground. I knew I wanted to move into a career that was more action-orientated, so I’m finding the projects here really rewarding. Also, everyone at Dalberg is so passionate, smart and dedicated, that you can’t help but be excited to collaborate with them.

John: One of my motivations for going to Grad School was to find a way to move from the US back to Kenya. I was closing in on 10 years in the US and felt a need to apply the skills I had acquired while in the US to solving problems that I cared about at home. When I read about the kind of work that Dalberg did across Africa, I felt a resonance with my motivation for returning to the continent. I joined the Nairobi office for my internship, and loved the office culture and the collaborative nature of the team there. I’ve learnt so much since starting at Dalberg, and that’s a huge credit to the willingness of everyone here to share their knowledge and skills.

Scott: The professionalism and sense of purpose everyone has at Dalberg makes the firm stand out within the development sector. I’ve been consistently impressed with the competency of the people here – their dedication to producing excellent insights, and determination to create positive impact makes it a dynamic environment to be a part of. I also believe the skills I’m developing here will be equally transferable to roles in the public sphere, development, or the private sector.

What have you been proud of achieving at Dalberg?

Sikai: Most recently, I was part of a team that supported an international energy corporate in identifying investment opportunities in a country in Southeast Asia. We had to adopt both a business and social lens to our recommendations, and it was fulfilling to see how our work influenced a corporate to think about social needs as a form of opportunity.

Ellen: In the aftermath of the Ebola crisis, I worked on a project to improve the World Health Organization (WHO) AFRO’s capabilities to respond to future health epidemics. Dalberg was first engaged by WHO Afro to outline the capabilities their headquarters needed to more effectively deal with a health crisis, and then I was part of a team that ensured these capabilities were present and consistent across each of their country offices. It felt like we progressed WHO Afro’s thinking on ensuring that they have the right resources in the right places, to realize their responsibilities, which led them to truly commit to investing in reform.

John: Since joining Dalberg full time, I’ve spent a lot of my time working on agriculture and energy projects in Africa. I’ve built up a real depth of expertise in these two sectors across many different African countries. I have worked on a variety of projects over the past year, including helping deploy a learning agenda to the MasterCard Foundations agricultural initiative, developing a set of growth models for a Tanzanian veterinary vaccine supplier and planning a renewable energy conference for Barclays Bank Kenya and the UK foreign office. Dalberg provides the flexibility to dive deep into a subject area, but then pivot and explore a totally different industry.

Amanda: I came to Dalberg from quite an academic background, and so I have loved applying theoretical concepts and rigorous analysis toward problem solving. Currently, I’m helping a large NGO to navigate the big questions they’re facing – like what should the organization look like in 5 years? How can they best overcome organizational challenges? How can they scale efficiently? – with the aim of creating their strategy for the next five years. The NGO’s potential for impact on agriculture globally is huge so ensuring their strategy is feasible and effective will have real benefits for farming communities.

Is there a piece of advice you’d give to someone applying or doing an internship at Dalberg? 

Ellen: Generally, I believe it’s important to take some time after completing your studies to reflect on what you’ve achieved, and think deeply about your future career aims. Then my advice to anyone pursuing an internship at Dalberg would be to use the people and resources around you. Building relationships with your colleagues at Dalberg is critical to your professional development, and also to your enjoyment of the internship. Deliverables can be a little intimidating when you don’t come from a consulting background, but everyone at Dalberg is open to helping you, especially your peers, so make the most of that.

Amanda: During the interview process, and the internship, don’t be worried about asking questions even if they seem obvious. Definitely ask questions about the areas you’re interested in, or what people are working on and how they’re enjoying it. There are a lot of fascinating people at Dalberg to get to know, and those conversations are the best way to get insight into what the reality of the work is.

John: When applying for an internship at Dalberg, you need to make sure you can articulate why you want to join Dalberg over another strategy consulting firm. Saying that you’re interested in their focus on development issues isn’t enough to show how you would fit with Dalberg’s mission. Be ready to explain what motivates you to pursue a career in development, and why it matters to you. It’s always worthwhile to mention specific areas or issues within development that you’re interested in tackling.

Scott: During your internship, don’t be scared to reach out to other junior team members for advice and support. Everyone is focused and busy in their roles, but they’re also aware of how hard it is coming in, and the steep learning curve you go through. If you’re proactive and ask for help, people will always take 5 or 10 minutes to show you some excel tips and tricks, and just generally be a resource for you.


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