From one capital to another

Trading Brussels for a job at the World Bank

Sophie DongFor Sophie Dong (MFM, 2011), graduating from her Masters in Financial Management course led her to make a giant leap from Brussels to Washington DC. “I saw this great job at the World Bank advertised on the Vlerick career site and applied for it.”

Sophie, you first came to Belgium in 2005.

“Yes, I moved from Canada where I’d lived for a while. I studied for a Bachelors degree at EHSAL (Brussels) and got my first job in investment support at the Bank of New York Mellon in Brussels. I was excited about coming to Belgium, as it was a chance to explore a European culture and also to discover Brussels as the capital of Europe.”

Why did you decide to do a Masters?

“I wanted to change my career direction, but after a few attempts I found my CV and experience weren’t strong enough to compete internationally. Some of my friends at business schools advised me that studying at a school with a good reputation would help me expand my network and strengthen my CV. Vlerick is a top business school in Belgium, and affordable, so I decided to apply for a Masters. I was delighted to get in and really enjoyed my time there. Vlerick was a great place to study: so many nationalities and so much time spent in teamwork and on group projects.”

In 2011, after graduating from Vlerick, you got a job at the World Bank in Washington. How did that come about?

“I saw the job advertised on the Vlerick career site and applied for it. I didn’t have much experience with assessment centres, but one of the Career Services advisers, Katleen De Stobbeleir, explained all about the different types of centres and how to tackle them. I was also able to rely on my classmates for mental support. I went through all the formal interview procedures (CV screening, phone interview, three-day assessment in Washington), before being hired several months later. I liked what I learned about the culture of the bank during the interview and decided to join them after finding out more about their mission and the calibre of my future colleagues.”

What do you actually do at the World Bank?

“I’m currently part of the World Bank Finance Associates (WFA) programme. This is a three-year development programme that requires a combination of practical experience (through job rotation) and individual learning to help us progress towards Chartered Management Accountant (CMA) status. Working for the World Bank has been a great experience. There’s true appreciation for human diversity here, with more than 10,000 people from different backgrounds gathered together to fight against poverty. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some extremely bright people and discuss with them how to make a better contribution to the bank’s mission. I’m being inspired all the time.”

And what about Washington DC?

“It’s lovely to be able to visit the Kennedy Center and there are so many other great activities: I particularly love the piano concerts and musicals. It’s fun to live in the ‘other’ capital of the Western World.”

What advice would you give fellow students?

“Graduating from a top business school is just the first step in the hunt for a good job. No matter what school(s) you’re from, the search process can be a long, hard battle. Some people get their dream job on their first try, while others see their efforts rejected time and again. Don’t get anxious, especially if it’s nearing the end of the academic year and you see most of your classmates receiving job offers, but you still don’t have one. Maybe you think that as an international student you have either language or identity disadvantages that might make your application more difficult. Maybe your savings are starting to run out so there’s financial pressure. Whatever the reason, don’t lose confidence and hope. And please don’t take just any offer on the table unless it was what you went to this school for. It’s not always about having the right skills; sometimes it’s about applying for the right position at the right time.”

What are your future plans?

“I’d like to travel more. I used to prefer big cities like Hong Kong, but now I just enjoy walking the streets of places with character, like Havana. It’s great to feel part of a place and do things the locals do.”

Last but not least, what’s your motto in life?

“Well actually, I’ve got two: ‘Take every day as it comes’ and ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’.”

& Rankings

Equis Association of MBAs AACSB Financial Times