#ElliottProud: John Mackedon

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John Mackedon is an Online Communications Officer with the World Bank, working in the Europe and Central Asia region. John joined the World Bank in 2009 and has worked in gender, agriculture, climate change, and communications. Prior to going to the Elliott School to pursue a degree in European and Eurasian Studies, John lived and worked in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. From 2002 – 2004, John served as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English. Upon completion of his service, and in the wake of Georgia’s Rose Revolution, John moved to the capital, Tbilisi, to work as a journalist and development consultant. John was born and raised in northern Nevada and received his BA in English from the University of Oregon. When not exploring the nearby waters with his flyrod, John can be found sampling hoppy beers at a local brewery or brewing his own (hoppy) beer.    

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

At present I am an Online Communications Officer for the Europe and Central Asia region of the World Bank. I cover communication activities for 11 countries around Central Europe, the Western Balkans, and Turkey – meaning my team and I are responsible for all of the external communications coming out of these countries, from information on our country websites to media relations, to risk management, and everything in between. I wouldn’t say there is a typical day in my job. One day I could be writing a feature story on pepper farmers in Montenegro and the next day I could be working with a reporter covering the latest economic trends in Poland. I work closely with my counterparts in the country offices this is my favorite facet of the job. Working with my colleagues across the region keeps me connected – and traveling and working on the ground in these places is a big perk for me. My counterparts definitely have their fingers on the pulse – not just about development, but across the entire political and socio-economic landscapes of their respective countries. Having the opportunity to work and better understand this part of the world – from the Western Balkans to the newest members of the EU – makes my job both a challenge and a real pleasure.

 What do you wish other people knew about your organization?

The World Bank is an incredibly intricate and diverse organization. I think a lot of people assume that there are just a bunch of economists walking these halls, which is not entirely accurate. Don’t get me wrong – we have plenty of economists, but we also have a bunch of sociologists, and public health professionals, and journalists, and energy specialists and others. There is space for a wide variety of skills. We also have people from nearly every country on earth working here, which is amazing. I never grow tired of hearing Finnish or Georgian on any given elevator ride. This environment is very conducive to thinking differently and challenging assumptions, which is a key ingredient for doing development well. My approach to development, or even just my everyday work life, is positively influenced by the international nature of this organization. There aren’t very many Americans at the World Bank – and that can be very refreshing, actually. It’s also huge! We have more than 10,000 people in 120 offices around the globe. I hail from a small community in Nevada, so I am always humbled to remember that more people work in my building than living in my home town!

What Elliott School courses would you recommend for students interested in your field and why?

One class that always stands out in my memory was on international organizations, taught by Martha Finnemore. If you have the opportunity to take a course with here – any course – I highly recommend it. The one I took was one of the most interesting and well-taught classes I have ever been in. It forced the students to really learn about a number of international organizations (including the World Bank). I remember doing a paper on NATO and being so fascinated by the history of an organization that I had kind of taken for granted. Being forced to realize that these large, imposing institutions – like NATO or the UN – didn’t spontaneously spring from nowhere, that they were conceived by people who were trying to solve a very difficult problem, gave me a lot of inspiration. Grand ideas can come to fruition and new approaches to problems on a global scale are actually possible if the political will exists. More generally, I think that any class that interests a person is worth exploring. While the subject matter is clearly important, I think the less obvious elements of my course work at the Elliott School have served me even more in my professional life. Dealing with the dynamics of a study group, synthesizing massive amounts of information into a digestible product, building confidence to have an open and honest interaction with a professor – these are the skills I draw on every day at work.

What was your experience with the job search post-graduation? Can you provide any wisdom for students starting their job search?

In a word: brutal. I started looking for work while I was still finishing my degree and it was literally the day Lehman Brothers collapsed – setting in motion the global financial crisis. The federal government was in the middle of a hiring freeze until after the 2008 Presidential election, so there were not many places to even look for work, let alone become a new hire! I got so desperate that I started working with a temp agency, which is how I actually landed at the World Bank. My first job was answering phones and my second assignment was just replying to emails for a conference. This wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for when I decided to pursue a Master’s degree. That second gig was key, though – I kept completing tasks and asking my manager for more complex ones. I tried to get myself involved in enough areas that I would become the institutional memory for this conference and they would be forced to keep me – at least until the conference ended – and maybe find a more interesting role for me. That was 10 years ago. So, I guess my advice would be, become desperate! Just kidding. My advice is that any job can be an opportunity. Employers value diverse skills and they don’t always know exactly what they are looking for or what they actually need. In my case, I proved to my boss that she needed someone with communication skills to overcome some of the challenges of her program and she eventually gave me a fulltime job. Take the job you get and parlay it into the job you want.

 If you could be any animal, what would you be?

I would by our dog, Leyla. With a fulltime position as a professional cheese taster and a side gig as a napping consultant, she has figured out the true meaning of existence!

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. The views expressed by alumni profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#WeAreElliott: Yagiz Sullu

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Yagiz Sullu is a first-year graduate student at the Elliott School of International Affairs majoring in international affairs with a focus on development and the region of Europe/Eurasia. He finished his undergraduate education at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies majoring in International Relations with a focus on Foreign Policy, Security Studies, and Europe. He is currently interning at the Washington Institute for the Near East Policy as a research assistant intern and conducting research and policy analysis on Turkish Foreign policy. His primary research interests are Turkish and Russian politics, NATO’s security issues and international business. He likes to meet people from different cultures and willing to visit all the countries in Europe one day.

When did you realize you wanted an international career?

As I started observing the political events in my country and how the government interacted with the international community I decided to pursue an international career to represent my country and interact with people from many nationalities to hear their diverse thoughts and ideas. As I started building my career, I had a chance to meet many people from different countries and their experiences made me realize an issue in one country has an effect on the vast majority of countries. This lead me to engage in global affairs to delve into these issues to make a contribution to the peace and prosperity of the international community.

 Where do you currently work, intern or volunteer, and how does it fit in with your career goals? 

 I currently intern at the Washington Institute for the Near East Policy as a research assistant intern in the Turkish Research Program. Working here is an excellent opportunity for me to represent Turkey and contribute to research and policy-making on Turkey’s relations with the U.S and the Middle East. As I conduct research about Turkish foreign policy, I’m gaining more experience in negotiation and diplomacy. I believe internship experience here would better prepare me for a career in an international organization representing my country. 

What tools/strategies have proved most helpful in making the most of your time at the Elliott School?

Getting involved is the most helpful strategy to make the most of your time at the Elliott School. Career Café networking events and professional panels are really useful to build strong networks and hear different perspectives about particular international issues. As all students are pursuing international relations based careers in here, getting involved in many events would prosper key communication skills and build a strong vision.

What advice do you have for students for staying motivated at work or in class?

Thinking of how the Elliott School is dedicated to building leaders for the world is what students should think of as they are getting a world-class education in such a reputable institution. They are getting ready for particular global challenges and preparing to tackle them successfully to make a difference.

 Favorite place to unwind on the weekend?

 Georgetown waterfront, watching the Potomac River and drinking coffee.

The #WeAreElliott series highlights current Elliott School graduate students and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#ElliottProud: Aditi Seth

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Aditi Seth works as an Energy Market Analyst at ICF Technologies. She holds an M.A in International Science and Technology Policy with a concentration in Energy and Environment Policy from the George Washington University. She also holds a B.S in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Economics from Shiv Nadar University in India. Prior to pursuing graduate school, she worked as a thermal engineer for a year and a half in India. During her time at the Elliott School, she worked as a research assistant at the Institute of International Science and Technology Policy focusing on climate and energy policy and as a consultant with the Climate Technology Program at the World Bank.

When did you realize you wanted an international career?

I was always interested in energy and environment (my area of interest/concentration) from a young age. Having pursued a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, I felt only having the technical skills was not enough. I needed to know where engineers like me fit in the world of policy, which led me to pick the Elliott School for my graduate studies. Energy and environment is one field that is highly dependent on international relations. Be it a decision to subsidize oil and petroleum or be it a decision to invest more in renewable technologies; it all stems from policy decisions taken by respective governments as well as international treaties.

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

 I am currently working as an Energy Market Analyst at ICF Technologies. In my day to day work, I perform quantitative and economic analyses of energy markets in the United States to assess and forecast electric power and fuel prices; including individual power plant performance, operation, valuation, and fuel consumption given the federal and national energy policies and other regulatory effects.

What part of your experience at the Elliott School best prepared you for your current position? (Specific classes, student orgs, career development office, etc.)

The ISTP program gave me the freedom to choose my concentration and tailor my own education. This included being able to take classes offered by other schools at GWU!! I not only focused on energy and environment policy classes but also on quantitative skills I needed to pursue a career in this field. I did some subject matter classes from the Elliott School along with quantitative skills classes that ranged from advanced econometrics using R and STATA to environmental economics offered by other schools. This really helped me specialize in and acquire the skillset I needed to prepare for my current position.

What advice do you have for prospective students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in international relations?

My advice would be to do your research know what you want out of this degree. Given the wide range of classes offered at GWU, it is easy to get confused when picking your electives! Be focused and choose the classes that will add the most value to you in terms of knowledge and skills.

How do you feel about pineapple on pizza?

Eeewww!!

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. The views expressed by alumni profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#IncomingElliott: Mohammed Abu Dalhoum

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Mohammed Abu Dalhoum is a Researcher and Analyst at NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions. He is interested in conflict resolution and explored a number of approaches to conflict resolution including the developmental pathway, reconciliation, diplomacy, and peace. Previously, Mohammed worked with a team of 3 Middle Eastern researchers on developing a synthesis report of the review of national youth strategies of Jordan, Palestine, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Morocco tacking various topics such as unemployment, education, health, social cohesion, and gender mainstreaming as well as providing recommendations as to how to mitigate such issues. He holds a bachelor’s in International Studies from Washington College and currently is pursuing his master’s degree in Middle East Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs.

What’s on your bucket list when you get to DC?

I want to use this great opportunity to expand my connections and enhance my experience by working at one of the leading research centers in the capital. 

Is there anything about moving to DC/starting grad school that you’re nervous about?

I think working full time and studying full time might be challenging for me, but I always like challenges because they test us to the limit and make the outcomes more rewarding. 

What are you looking forward to about starting your MA program?

When I graduated from college, I set a goal for myself that I wanted to work for two years then come back to pursue a master’s degree at one of the world’s top universities. I think my plan is on the right track now. I look forward to learning more and more every day at Elliott. I am looking forward to every lecture more than I ever had in the past. The moment I took my first class here, I know this was the perfect place for me. I do not think I have ever been happier about a decision in my life the way I feel about studying at ESIA.

How do you feel about pineapple on pizza?

I would not personally eat it. I do love pineapple but prefer it cold. Either way, my undergraduate university once served pizza with M&Ms on it, so I think pineapple is somewhat normal compared to that!

“The #InocmingElliott series highlights incoming Elliott School graduate students and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective and current students. The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.”

 

#IncomingElliott: George Leaua

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George Vladimir Leaua is a first-year graduate student pursuing an M.A. in International Science and Technology Policy. George is a recent graduate of International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs. As a Romanian international student, his main areas of focus during his undergraduate studies have been European and Eurasian international politics and security, political philosophy, and during his senior year space policy and astronomy. He volunteered for the Romanian Embassy in Washington DC and took on a position of advisor at the Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations, focusing on disarmament, security, global politics and space affairs. Currently, his research interests include the ethics of space exploration and space commerce, space law, and international cooperation between European states and the United States on new emerging technologies.

What made you interested in your undergrad field of study and how, if at all, did that contribute to your decision to go to grad school?

Growing up in Romania during its Nord-Atlantic and European integrations has made me interested in the field of international affairs. Furthermore, the concept of globalization was instrumental to my formative years. When developing an understanding of the world, I did not focus just on my neighborhood, city, or country, but rather sought to encompass other countries, with their own histories, languages, and politics into the equation. During my undergrad years, I understood that the field of international affairs is very broad, and I knew I should look for a niche on which to focus. After finishing most of my requirements, I took every space-oriented course offered by the university. Those classes (astronomy, space policy etc.) convinced me to focus my future studies on the international relations of outer space, a rapidly evolving environment as more and more countries pursue different developments in outer space.

What are you looking forward to about starting your MA program?

I am excited to be studying more thoroughly the space-related issues of today and the challenges of tomorrow. However, I am most looking forward to connecting with my fellow students, many of whom are already accomplished professionals working for important institutions and companies of the space industry. It is exciting to be part of a group of students interested in studying space, and who will most likely become future space leaders all around the world.

 Is there anything about moving to DC/starting grad school that you’re nervous about?

As a continuing student of GW, I am lucky to not have to experience a difficult transition into the environment of DC. When first moving here for college, I had a somewhat difficult time adapting to the local culture, especially the food. Now that I am starting graduate school, I am nervous but at the same time excited about the academic challenges, including more extensive and deeper research of highly complex topics (such as space economy and law), and the capstone program. However, I know from my undergraduate experience that my professors and peers will be of great help through these challenges I’m about to face.

The #InocmingElliott series highlights incoming Elliott School graduate students and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective and current students. The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#IncomingElliott: Zac Hamlin

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Zac Hamlin has a BA in Global Affairs & Spanish from George Mason University. After graduation, he went to Brazil to do volunteer work for six months but soon fell in love with the country and made it his home for the last eight years. As an advocate for social change, he founded a volunteer agency, JIVE, that took care of and placed foreign volunteers from around the world in skill-specific projects that matched their abilities and interests. He worked closely with around 15 NGOs operating in marginalized neighborhoods in the city of Rio de Janeiro, in areas such as health promotion, construction of houses, sports, English lessons, and childcare. He is excited to return to the United States to pursue his MA in Latin American and Hemispheric Studies and deepen his knowledge of the region.

What’s on your bucket list when you get to DC?

It’s been a while since I’ve lived in the US, so I want to enjoy reconnecting with old friends and family that are in the area.

Is there anything about moving to DC/starting grad school that you’re nervous about?

I have been out of school for a while, so I was nervous about going back. I was worried that the workload would be too much and it would be hard to get into the routine of studying and working simultaneously.

What are you looking forward to about starting your MA program?

I’m excited to meet the faculty and other students in my program. I hope to learn more about Latin America through their own experiences in the region.

What 3 words would your friends use to describe you?

Attentive, inquisitive and driven

The #IncomingElliott series highlights incoming Elliott School graduate students and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective and current students. The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#ElliottProud: Jordan G. Heiber

Blog_ #EP HeiberJordan Heiber joined MUFG Bank, Ltd. as Deputy Representative of the Washington, DC office in 2014. A self-described “Asia hand,” he previously spent almost 10 years working on Asia policy in the U.S. government, first with the Department of State and subsequently in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Jordan has also worked as an English teacher in rural Japan and aboard the “Peace Boat,” an NGO/cruise ship that operates out of Japan and embarks on three-month global voyages. Jordan received his master’s degree in Asian Studies from the Elliott School in 2006. While at the Elliott School, he was a recipient of Blakemore Freeman Fellowship and the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship and served as co-chair of the Graduate Student Forum. Jordan and his wife recently became the ‘parents’ of a cat named Tom.

When did you realize you wanted an international career?

Immediately after undergrad, I moved to rural Japan to teach English. I’d previously traveled overseas but it was my first time living abroad on my own. It was a transformative experience for me, and I returned to the U.S. a couple years later convinced that I wanted to work in international relations, building bridges between the U.S. and Asia.

 Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am the Deputy Representative in Washington, DC for Japan’s largest bank, MUFG Bank Ltd. I manage a team of analysts who examine trends in U.S. domestic and foreign policy. We’re sort of like a small internal think tank for the bank. It doesn’t matter where in the world you work, what happens in Washington reverberates and impacts the business environment everywhere.

What are the current trends driving the future of your career field and what advice would you provide an Elliott School graduate student that is interested in your field of work?

The financial industry overall is being changed and challenged by technological advancements, “fintech.” In terms of policy analysis, the U.S. has historically been seen as a force for stability in geopolitics. These days, much of the uncertainty is emanating from Washington. My advice to job seekers is to get your foot in the door somewhere, even if it isn’t your dream job. It’s always easier to move around (and up) once you’re on the inside. 

How does your current position compare to what you thought you would be doing when you first started your degree at the Elliott School?

When I started at Elliott, I wanted to be a diplomat—and I did spend about eight years with the State Department working on Asia issues after getting my graduate degree. As much as I loved it, life is unpredictable and goals change. I miss my diplomatic passport (among other things) but am very happy with the path that led me to where I am today.

If you could travel anywhere in the cosmos outside of earth, where would you go an why?

Pluto, to solve the planet vs. dog debate once and for all.

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. The views expressed by alumni profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.