“I wanted to work for something bigger: like helping people, reducing poverty.”

An education specialist, Manal spends half her time on analytical work—reports, research, thinking at a higher level about the best policies. The other half is spent on projects—working with countries and education ministries to help with policy issues.

I’m originally from Japan: Tokyo, Japan.

I work for IFC and I work for financial markets, global portfolio. So that means we have two functions:

  • One is we are looking after supervising some of the invested projects which was for the global clients: the clients who are in Europe or some other places but not in the developing countries.
  • And also the second function is we look after overall financial markets’ portfolio.

We, as a department, we have invested about $15 billion: It’s a big portfolio we have. So we are looking at the risk areas, how the overall portfolio health is doing … so we have basically two functions.

When I was in graduate school, I was studying international relations. And I always wanted to work for the international organization. But after the graduation, I went back to Tokyo and worked for a Japanese bank and also after that I worked for the consulting firm, a U.S. consulting firm. But I always wanted to go back to an international organization and the organization that has a … bigger mission. The company that I was working for in Tokyo is working for a client’s profit-seeking, right? It, itself is great, but I wanted to work for something bigger—like helping people, like reducing ... poverty. And so that’s the reason why I chose to switch my career from the private sector and working for the international organization with a very beautiful mission like the World Bank.

Out strength is that we have a global network; we have many people in the field and we have a strong connection with local business and also government. So we are very well positioned to approach those economic issues or directly working with the client, especially for the IFC because we work with the private sector companies. We can directly work with those companies to grow healthy and grow bigger to sustain the economy of the company. So I feel like we can make a difference by working directly with the private sector and making them healthier and stronger in each country.

I have a few things that I really enjoy and appreciate about the Bank. One is that this work environment, working with people from around the world, and I think that this is a very unique situation—that you can work with coworker[s] from Brazil, from Spain, from everywhere. And also I have close interaction with the field offices. So the coworker in the field in Africa, the coworker in Europe, so it’s [a] very dynamic and very multicultural environment which is very unique. I enjoy that very much.

Also, the people in general are very respect[ful] to each other and each other’s strengths and also each other’s expression of their own opinion. And I think it’s a very fair organization and it’s not, like, bringing someone else, you know, down or something. It’s quite a cooperative environment, I think. So in general I like those atmosphere[s] to work closely together, respecting each other’s differences.

I sometimes sit down the interviews or group discussions of candidates. And they are technically very strong, most of them, and it’s very impressive to see them. And, at the same time, the other aspect we look at is how they work together. The World Bank, I think we emphasize teamwork and collaboration. So not only the technical strengths—which is very, very important—but we also look at how they can work together with people, especially with somebody who has a totally different upbringing or cultural background. So I think that’s something that we look at.

I want to … meet somebody who I want to work with. Part of it is I want to see that they are technically strong—they have a very strong background in finance, all that. But, at the same time, I always thing about ‘Do I enjoy working with this person? Can she or he be a good team worker?’ Not just being able to work cooperatively, I want to see somebody who practically proposes something new or bringing in some new perspective. So then I can think that ‘Oh, I never thought about that. But it’s a very interesting point of view. So I would like to see those people who ha[ve] a multi-face contribution.

One thing that I wanted to share is that, since I work in headquarters, it’s very limited in a way, to actually see the client, which is like one step further. One thing I want to make a point is probably—and there are many opportunities to work in the field offices—and in those situations you will have more exposure to the client and maybe directly feel what we are doing for them. And that’s one aspect. The other aspect is, even though I work in HQ, I occasionally have time or opportunities to meet our client[s]. And because our department is financial institution department, one time I went to Eastern Europe to meet one of our our microfinance client. They organized a few meetings with their client, so the end-users.

One of them [was a] dressmaker in Sarajevo, and she was talking about how difficult it was for her to [go] through all this war time. She basically lost everything. But, but by meeting with the microfinance institution, she was given a little loan to buy a sewing machine. And that’s where she started over after the war. And it was quite impressive and kind of touching to hear her story—how she started with just one sewing machine. Now she is preparing to have a second loan to open up her own boutique and hiring a few more sewing persons. So she, at the last of the meetings, said that ‘we appreciate the World Bank[’s] work with these organizations who help us, individuals like us who didn’t have anything after the war. But now I can flourish. I can grow my business.’ It was very touching to hear first-hand from the end-user of our service. So that was very nice.

I think the World Bank is all about the diversity, and I understand that we don’t have enough representation from, for example, my country, Japan. And I think that we always encourage to apply those representative nationality people to join us. And I am very much happy to help, if I can do anything for those candidates who [are] willing to join the World Bank.