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To Sharpen My Statistical and Programming Skills

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Joanne Chang

1.What encouraged you to apply to Johns Hopkins SAIS? 
I dreamt of pursuing a career in economic development. I wanted to help developing economies find the right path and catch up with advanced economies. As a result, I am interested in knowing more about the role of multilateral organizations and their operation in the fields. Due to the connection and proximity to multinational organizations, I believe SAIS could bring students chances to talk with economic development experts. Indeed, during my time at SAIS, I met professors, guest lecturers, speakers, and alumni with working experience in the IMF and the World Bank Group. They shared their stories in the classes and workshops. I thus gained a deeper understanding of the structure, practice, and challenges of multilateral organizations.
2.What were you doing before attending the school? 
I graduated in 2020 and joined the Institute of Economics in Academia Sinica as a research assistant. Our research team focuses on spatial competition and economic analysis of law. I provided data analysis support and work closely with professors and Ph.D. fellows. My experience as a research assistant lays the foundation of economic research and enables me to think critically in the academic setting. However, I also realized my limitation when encountering advanced econometric methods in research projects. While I learned by reading papers and consulting senior colleagues, I desired to advance my econometric skills through a well-structured graduate program.
3.What program are you in and what do you hope to gain from it?
I am now in the Master of International Economics and Finance (MIEF) program. Since economics is my passion and finance is a highlight in my toolbox, this program is a good fit for me. My goal is to develop my skillset in three aspects. First, I wanted to advance my econometric and modeling skills; the three quantitative methods in the MIEF curriculum support this target. Second, while I learned finance in college, I want to develop skills that are useful in project evaluation and execution. As a result, I choose corporate finance and project finance as my second focus. Lastly, I aim at sharpening my programming skills in statistical software. Before coming to SAIS, I learned Stata, R, and python through multiple research projects. Therefore, I believe doing projects is the best way to get hands-on experience with statistical software. Thus, the capstone project should be a good chance to improve my programming skills.
4.What has been one of your favorite experiences or classes at the school so far? 
The class I enjoyed the most is International Trade Policy with Professor Krishna. Professor Krishna has rich research experience in international trade. His lectures are well-structured and intense. Starting from trade theories, we discuss the issues related to policy instruments, optimal taxation, market structures, and market failures. We wrapped up the course with the history and dilemma of the World Trade Organization. The professor supplemented the trade theories with his view and interesting stories in the World Bank Group. This course provides me with a framework to understand and discuss current trade issues. It also arouses my interest in international trade; I decided to explore product quality in international trade in my capstone project.
5.Tell us about your capstone project. 
I am now working on my capstone projects, and I am looking forward to the rest of the journey. My topic is how Chinese manufactured goods move along the quality ladder, evaluating from the US's perspective. So far, I have intensively used my programming skills to handle the data. While several challenges still need to be solved, I expect my programming skills to be improved when exploring the solutions. Besides, through the project, I have become familiar with trade data, international classification systems as well as the product quality model. I am excited to keep expanding my knowledge in international trade. Undoubtedly, this project would be a rewarding experience.
6.What do you hope to do with your degree after you graduate?
I am graduating in June 2022, and I have secured an analyst position in an economic consulting firm in DC. Economic consulting focuses on the economic and financial analysis behind litigations. It was not until the fourth coffee chat with alumni that I realized that economic consulting is a better fit for me than multilateral organizations. With the nature of consulting, I am excited about the opportunities of being exposed to different industries in a short period.
Economic consulting covers various practices, such as energy, competition, finance, and international arbitration, to name a few. I am interested in anti-trust cases the most. I plan to accumulate experience as a research analyst for a few years. If being an expert in economic consulting is my pursuit, I would consider doing an economic Ph.D. as the next step.

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