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 her – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.