Meet Our People
Every one of our people has an interesting story – both personally and professionally. We employ people from diverse backgrounds and experiences to enhance our team because this rich life experience adds value to the work we do. Find out about some of our people, why they joined us and why they find their work rewarding at Adam Smith International.
Joined us from Boston Consulting Group
I joined Adam Smith International after four years at Boston Consulting Group, the major strategy consulting house. At BCG, I was a global energy policy analyst and led on energy strategy and regulatory issues in many of the consultancy’s projects. I worked with companies, but focused on advice to governments.
I made the decision to join Adam Smith International for a few reasons. I wanted to take more ownership in delivering programmes; projects are much longer here than those at many strategy houses. I knew that working in developing countries posed its own set of challenges – but also thought that this could be hugely rewarding. I saw the opportunity to put my skills to use in countries where impact could be seen quickly and the benefit would be appreciated by many.
I knew that working in a small, enterprising company would give a greater degree of responsibility and provide a much broader variety to a role. One day, I’m providing advice on investment in green technology, the next I might be recruiting experts in Public-Private Partnerships. Bigger consultancies usually split these functions.
Two years in and I’ve not looked back. I spent the first year based in London and developed our climate change project portfolio. I am now based in Abuja, Nigeria and manage the Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility project, one of our flagship and award-winning projects, which provides technical assistance on power, transport and infrastructure financing.
Joined us from an investment bank
I joined Adam Smith International in May 2012 after 2½ years as a credit derivatives trader at an investment bank. It was an unconventional career move and one that certainly took my former colleagues by surprise. Within a short time, I found myself in Nigeria managing a large energy sector project. My motivations for the move were two-fold.
First, I wanted experience of managing people and projects in a challenging environment. In a large global organisation like a bank, management responsibility tends to grow incrementally over the course of a career. Adam Smith International’s model of hiring enthusiastic project managers meant that in one jump, I was tasked with responsibility for dozens of consultants and a multi-million pound budget. As for the challenging environment, swapping Canary Wharf for Abuja certainly met those criteria.
I also wanted a tangible output that would give me a greater sense of fulfilment than just another successful city deal, trade or pitch for my employer. Our continued work in the Nigeria power sector has been recognised as a key step in overcoming one of the greatest single obstacles to the economic development of the country, the chronic undersupply of electricity.
My experience in banking has proved valuable, both in terms of hard skills like financial modelling and accounting and soft skills such as professional confidence and negotiation management. Adam Smith International have been very good at recognising these and positioning me accordingly while at the same time making allowances for my lack of a traditional development background.
Joined us from the Overseas Development Institute
I joined Adam Smith International after 2 years in South Sudan as an ODI Fellow, as part of a scheme which places young economists within the governments of developing countries to provide technical assistance. I worked within South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistics, and I really enjoyed it. I realised that I find working within such governments interesting and rewarding.
My background is in development economics, and my focus has always been on economic policy for conflict-affected countries. For this reason, I had always wanted to work in Afghanistan. I’d also been wanting to do more work on public finance issues, so when a position came up at Adam Smith International to manage an exciting project in the Afghan Ministry of Finance, I jumped at the chance. It was exactly what I was looking for.
Though I joined Adam Smith International because of the exciting work it does in countries I’m interested in, I’ve been really impressed by the management model here, which places a high level of trust and responsibility on project managers. I’ve learnt more in my first 6 months here than I’d have believed possible!
Joined us from a German investment bank
Prior to joining Adam Smith International, I spent five years as a financial analyst in a German private bank, advising institutional clients on French equity investments. I focused largely on companies operating in the natural resources sector.
Having previously studied Development Economics at undergraduate level, I became increasingly interested in learning more about the economic, social and environmental issues surrounding foreign direct investment in developing countries. I therefore decided to study for a Masters in Global Energy, Public Policy and Corporate Development, with the aim of reorienting my career towards government policy, governance of the extractive industries.
On completion of my postgraduate studies, I joined Adam Smith International as I was keen to gain on-the-ground experience in a developing country environment and to learn first-hand about the challenges involved in converting theory into practice when it comes to policy change and implementation. Furthermore, I wanted to feel that the work I was doing was in some way making a positive contribution to the societies in which we work.
Working at Adam Smith International has enabled me to do all of this. I have had significant opportunity to travel and to engage with experienced specialists and government counterparts on the complexities surrounding natural resource governance. The company culture lends itself to those who are proactive and who seek to learn and take responsibility; it therefore offers you the opportunity to shape your career path in the way you want to go.
Joined us from an NGO
Having gained experience on the management consulting graduate scheme at Deloitte in London I moved to South East Asia to spend 4 years working in the global shipping industry. I then realised a long held ambition to gain hands-on international development experience by working for an NGO focused on finding and destroying landmines and the explosive remnants of war in post conflict countries around the world.
I joined Adam Smith International in order to marry my business and consultancy experience with my desire to do something that makes a real and tangible difference to communities in need. Having worked in remote and rural locations I also wanted a chance to develop a work/life balance that enables me to build a life with some stability, but still allows me the privilege of getting under the skin of some of the most vulnerable and interesting countries in the world.
The opportunities and experiences here are immense, from working with a diverse and dynamic group of people to putting my mind to intellectually demanding problems, the solutions to which can have real, measurable impact. On a personal note I can’t deny that the chance to see places that other people only read about in the papers and indulge my desire for adventure as part of my work is a huge incentive.
Joined us from the Financial Times
I used to work as a reporter for a major international newspaper covering issues of national and international importance. However, I had felt over a number of years that I wanted to do things not just write about them. I knew someone who worked at Adam Smith International and knew that he was working with people at a high level on projects to help support the Israel-Palestine peace process. This seemed so important and interesting that I was drawn to find out more about the company.
I’d always wanted to work in Afghanistan. And strangely, I was also interested in public sector contracting out (a geeky interest from when I was a reporter). When I was offered an opportunity to join Adam Smith International to manage a flagship programme for a major donor, it seemed like the perfect job at the perfect time. Since I’ve joined a lot of time has been spent keeping that programme going and then winning the next phase of the project, as well as getting involved in a few other prominent initiatives that are at the coalface of state-building in Afghanistan.
I spend my days sitting in Afghan ministries and meeting with donors to discuss the work we do for them. Occasionally I’ve marvelled at how I now find myself on the side of the newsmakers rather than the news-gatherers in such a quick space of time. It has been far from easy, but it has been very rewarding and completely fascinating.
Joined us from the British Army
I joined Adam Smith International this year after five years in the British Army. I spent two years as an infantry platoon commander and did a stint as a company operations officer in Helmand, but then felt it was time for a change.
I was interested in international development, but didn’t have a background in the field. However, Adam Smith International weren’t put off by this, and seemed much more interested by the experiences and skills I had developed during my time in the military.
I now spend my time between London and Kabul, where I manage two projects focused on improving local governance throughout Afghanistan.
To do well in this job you need to develop a range of very different skills: I’ve needed to manage a team of highly experienced consultants (many of whom are renowned experts in their fields), to advise donors on how a project should be adjusted to reduce the risk of it exacerbating community tensions, and to convince senior government officials to implement reforms needed to reduce corruption.
Adam Smith International is a fantastic place to work – I can’t think of anywhere else where I would have had the opportunity to do such fascinating and meaningful work, or to work with so many bright, motivated people from such a range of backgrounds.
Joined us from an NGO
After completing a Masters in International Relations, specialising in conflict and post-conflict analysis particularly focusing on West Africa, I knew that I wanted to work in international development. Immediately after completing my Masters, I worked as the Regional Campaign Coordinator for an international NGO providing support for socially excluded women in eight conflict-affected countries. Working for a development NGO was interesting but I wanted first-hand experience of working in the field, rather than at a desk in London.
After speaking to a member of the Adam Smith International team, I realised that joining the company would provide me with the opportunity to get directly involved with managing projects delivering economic and government reform. Working in such fast paced environments, means that the work varies on a daily basis, which keeps it engaging. Having now been at Adam Smith International for 3 years, I am continually impressed by the sense of team-work, particularly when dealing with challenging situations.
I have had access to a number of different and exciting projects and opportunities, most notably managing the business environment reform, ENABLE, programme in Nigeria. Being given the responsibility of managing such a large programme early on was encouraging, and enabled me to work with a variety of stakeholders. Since then, the work has increasingly become more interesting, and it is great to see such a variance of countries first-hand rather than reading about them in books.