Ava Chang ’15 majored in Computer Science and minored in Economics. She graduated a semester early and is currently working at the World Health Organization’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Ava plans to return to the U.S. in June to begin working as a full-time Investment Banking Analyst in the Public Finance group at J.P. Morgan in New York City. In the past, she has completed business development and analyst internships at Encore HQ, Red Fields Partners, and J.P. Morgan.
Day in the Life (at WHO):
7AM: Wake up, exercise if I have time, eat breakfast
8AM: Head to work
8:45/9AM: Arrive at work and start checking emails. Do edits on country briefs that the Director General will be using during her visits with country officials.
10AM: Attend a meeting with another WHO programme to discuss the Global Induction coming up.
11AM: Begin doing research on “Best Practices” by international organizations
12PM: Head to lunch, usually in the UNAIDS building
1PM: Back in the office, continue doing “Best Practices” research
2:30PM: My supervisor sends in a report discussing mobility opportunities and asks that I edit it
3:30PM: Attend another meeting discussing the Global Induction
4:30PM: Back to editing the mobility report
5:30PM: Leave the office
Day in the Life (at J.P. Morgan):
7:30AM: Wake up and get ready for work
8:30AM: Arrive at work and check my emails, grab a quick breakfast downstairs
8:45AM: Meet with the team and discuss the edits that have come in overnight
9AM: At the desk running numbers for debt analysis for different scenarios and editing the PowerPoint accordingly
11AM: Send in the edits to the Associate. Do edits for another project discussing investment profiles for major healthcare systems.
12PM: Edits come back from first project. Start fixing, as we have a meeting at 1:30PM with the Managing Director. Grab a quick lunch.
1:30PM: Finish edits in time, and meeting begins.
3PM: Begin building new financial models suggested after the meeting. Run multiple scenarios and send results to my Associate.
5PM: Grab coffee with an analyst in my group.
5:30PM: Edits come in for a different client – quickly do them and send back to Associate.
6:30PM: Order Seamless! What should I get tonight…do some work, talk to other interns in the meantime.
7:30PM: Seamless arrives. Eating while doing some work. Calculating ratios for a few healthcare competitors.
8:30PM: Another round of edits come in for the first project. Continue edits on PowerPoint and run a new set of numbers.
10:30PM: Send edits back to associate. This took awhile because I had to make sure the numbers were accurate. Wait for a response in the meantime.
11:30PM: Associate comes back and asks for a few more fixes.
12:30AM: Send back edits to Associate who then sends it over to the MD. I start working on a few other less urgent projects.
2AM: Head home.
Q: How did you land your internship with WHO?
A: The internship process I went through was actually quite informal! I knew I wanted to gain experience within an international agency in healthcare but wanted to better understand how the agencies worked and what the specific programmes within them did. Thus, I sent a couple of emails to technical officers within various programmes at the WHO and asked if I could chat with them on the phone briefly to learn more about their work. On the phone, I emphasized that although I didn’t have a health background, that I was analytical, very interested in healthcare and the public sector, and hardworking. I then asked if there were any internship openings available at the organization. Many people talk about the recruitment process at international agencies as being similar to “sending your resume into a black box”, but there is always a way to put your name out there! Try to find them, instead of it being the other way around. There are so many candidates who apply and often times the process isn’t very centralized.
Q: What are your current responsibilities as an intern at WHO?
A: I definitely have a really wide range of responsibilities. This includes printing and picking up documents and handing them out during meetings, taking meeting notes and creating notes for the record, and editing documents developed by the document. On the more “analytical” side, I’ve created concepts for projects the department is developing such as guidance on “Best Practices” and country groupings, country briefs that describe health situations in different countries, and helped plan the development of the Global Induction for the Heads of Country Offices.
Q: WHO’s Country Collaboration Unit serves as a link between the WHO country offices and the headquarters and regional offices. What are some things you’ve learned from working with this group?
A: My favorite part of working with CCU is the broad exposure it provides me to the organization as a whole. As both a very technical and support-based group, CCU works with pretty much every programme (i.e. NCDs, health financing, Humanitarian Response, etc.) at the WHO. I’ve learned so much about how different programmes at the WHO work in different capacities and how the WHO also attempts to link these programmes together. WHO is currently going through a reform process that emphasizes efficiency and support at the country level, and I’ve seen firsthand how CCU is promoting this. I’ve come to understand how high level ideas are formed at HQ and how the process of actual implementation works in the country level. Because I’ve had interactions with employees at the regional and country level, I’ve also come to better understand the challenges they face, and the type of support they need from the international level.
Q: What are some unanticipated challenges you’ve encountered during your internship so far?
A: I don’t know if this was unanticipated, but definitely just how complicated international agencies can be and how much I had to catch up on! There are a ton of processes going on at the WHO and the UN (i.e. WHO reform, GPW, the MDGs, etc.) that I had to learn quickly about in order to understand what was going on at meetings and in the department (and to take sufficient notes). There are a ton of projects currently going on at the WHO that get quite technical that I also had to read up on (i.e. hiring processes, procurement, emergency response framework, etc.). It definitely wasn’t difficult to get briefed on these topics, but I just had to be sure that I asked questions before it was too late. An anticipated challenge I did have was going into the internship without a traditional public policy or public health background. The WHO is filled with people who have expertise in either (or both).
In terms of culture, I didn’t really have any problems. Geneva is such an international city, with a huge intern and expatriate community. You can also get by quite easily as most people speak quite good English. I’d still learn some basic French though because you are in a foreign country after all and want to speak in the local language when possible (and out of respect).
Q: How did your internship with J.P. Morgan last summer prepare you for your current internship with WHO?
A: To honest, my internship at J.P. Morgan was quite possibly one of the best experiences I’ve had in that it worked me to my limits. It was quite intense because of the hours I had to put in and the level of quality I needed to ensure in my work. At the same time I was also expected to network and meet new people. After my time this summer, I felt like I could do a lot of things. At the end of the day, doing well in an internship is about being committed and hardworking, being willing to figure things about, being passionate about the subject matter, and being a good team player. I felt like I learned all of these things during my time at J.P. Morgan and they translated perfectly into my time at the WHO.
Q: How did you become passionate about the financial industry?
A: I was actually first introduced to the Financial industry at a pretty young age! My parents are both Finance professors and encouraged me to read up on the markets when I was young. My dad also loves doing investments so I was brought up in that kind of environment. As a result, I began taking Finance classes at MIT (15.401, 15.402) and also Accounting (15.501). I also worked at Red Fields Partners in Beijing my sophomore summer, working for a Wellesley alum who had a commodities trading and financial advisory firm. In the meantime, I had the opportunity to talk to a number of alums both on the phone and in person, and attend trips like Wall Street Warm Up that gave me a chance to better understand the financial services industry. I also applied and attended a few banking summits for women at BAML and J.P. Morgan. I ultimately went through the recruiting process and found entering the financial services industry to be a great opportunity that also provided a lot of options.
Q: How did you ultimately decide to accept J.P. Morgan’s full-time investment banking offer?
A: Ultimately, I felt like the position was a great opportunity. I definitely don’t know where I see myself in ten years (but hopefully working within healthcare or finance in the public sector), but believed that the position would open a lot of doors and be a great foundation. At the end of the day, employers want candidates who are hardworking, analytical, and passionate, and I think J.P. Morgan can speak for itself on these values. J.P. Morgan is a great bank with great people, and I really identify with its core values. I also felt that this position would provide great networking opportunities and introduce me to a number of different fields and positions at the bank. The salary also helps!
Q: As a Computer Science major who is currently working in public health but plans to go into finance, your experiences have been very diverse. What guided your decisions to pursue this path?
A: Being a Computer Science major was a really great decision – I learned some really necessary skills like being analytical and quantitative, figuring things out for myself when my code wasn’t working, working long hours and being persistent, and being creative. I find the tech world to be really interesting, but didn’t see myself becoming a software engineer. I’ve always been passionate about social impact and development, and actually ultimately see myself working in the public sector, either in healthcare or financing (and hopefully the impact of technology), and working in both headquarters and country offices to gain a mix of high level and fieldwork experience. This thought guided my path to work at the WHO this semester, and my time at the WHO has definitely confirmed my prior thoughts for the future. I plan on going into finance now for all the reasons described in the previous question. I realize I need a set foundation, a very strong work ethic, a network, and experience in Finance for my future plans, and I feel J.P. Morgan is a great opportunity for this.
Q: Graduating a semester early seems like an amazing opportunity to travel and intern before starting a full-time position, but the preparation to do so can seem daunting. How did you prepare to graduate a semester early, and do you have advice for other students wishing to do the same?
A: Definitely plan ahead! Make a schedule for the classes you’ll take every semester. If you do so, you shouldn’t have any problems. I’m so glad I was able to graduate a semester early and have a chance to travel and explore a different career path before beginning work full-time. It is also a good way to save money. I definitely encourage it!
Q: Do you have any advice for other Wellesley students seeking careers in public health or finance?
A: I’d say definitely get out there and talk and meet people! Don’t be free to cold call/cold email people you are interested to speak with, whether they are Wellesley alums or names on a really interesting publication that you’ve read. Next, be passionate and read, read, read. There are a ton of resources at your fingertips thanks to the internet. For recruiting purposes specifically, start early. Understand the recruiting process in finance and public health and think clearly about your responses to basic questions (i.e. why banking/public health, tell me about the markets) that really cater to your thinking and aren’t just generic answers. Think about what you can offer in your position that would better the organization. You don’t have to have a background in Public Health or have gone to business school to perform well. A lot of it you can learn on your own and you just need the motivation to do so.
Q: Prior to graduation, what were you involved with on campus?
A: Prior to graduating, I was heavily involved in Asian Student Union (ASU), having served as co-president, co-social chair, and first year liaison. I was also in Wellesley Women in Business as Social Media Chair. I was also a Computer Science tutor for CS111 and CS251, for two semesters.