Olga Monfiston (MBA ’17) Spends Summer in Jordan Working on Youth Entrepreneurship
Olga Monfiston (MBA ’17), originally from Belarus, traveled to Amman, Jordan, this summer to intern with the National Microfinance Bank (NMB), an opportunity she discovered through Georgetown McDonough’s MBA Career Center. She shared her impressions of the global experience with us:
What was your role at the National Microfinance Bank?
Most of my time was dedicated to developing and preparing necessary materials for the pilot of a training program — the Ibda Youth Training Program — designed to empower Jordanian youth to start and successfully manage a small enterprise. This project was part of the bank’s focus on expanding its non-financial services. It also fit perfectly with the bank’s bigger mission to help improve the socioeconomic conditions of its clients, particularly women and youth, by supporting the development and growth of microenterprises.
I was fortunate to be involved in a couple of other projects during my internship, too. I helped NMB develop the customer service capabilities within the Mobile Banking Project. This project was especially exciting because NMB will be the first microfinance institution in the Middle East to introduce mobile banking to its clients.
Lastly, I worked on a few tasks for the partnership project between the NMB and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) after the bank was asked to expand its involvement in the project. NMB had been delivering pro bono financial awareness training, as well as managing the distribution of grant money, to the participants of UNDP’s 3×6 Project. The project helps mitigate the effects of the Syrian refugee crisis on the host communities in northern Jordan through micro and small business development.
How did you become interested in microfinance?
To be honest, I knew very little about microfinance before taking the internship with the National Microfinance Bank. I thought that pursuing an internship with NMB was an incredible opportunity to learn something new. I also wanted to gain first-hand experience of the industry in order to be able to form my own opinion about the ability of microfinance to promote financial inclusion that could lead to economic development and poverty elimination.
What motivated you to pursue this opportunity in Jordan?
One of the biggest motivating factors for me was the bank’s involvement with UNDP’s 3×6 project. I also was impressed with NMB’s extensive non-financial service offerings and a number of projects (mobile banking, Ibda Youth Training, and a partnership with a Jordanian production company to create a TV series about microfinance, to name just a few) that NMB was involved in at the time. Moreover, I found the internship in Jordan to be an incredible opportunity to learn more about the Middle East and Arab culture.
What has been the biggest business lesson from your internship at NMB?
It is difficult to narrow it down to only one business lesson, as I feel that I have learned a great deal during my internship in Jordan. I was fortunate to see the incredible potential and capability of the private sector to achieve both financial and social and environmental goals when those goals are incorporated into the company’s mission and all of the strategic decisions of a business.
What impressed you the most about the city of Amman?
The Jordanian hospitality. I have never seen a nation more welcoming, generous, and kind than Jordan.
Do you have any words of wisdom for students who would like to pursue a similar opportunity abroad in the summer?
Do not be afraid to do the unexpected. Take the road less travelled and challenge yourself. Be open-minded and show flexibility in adapting to cultural norms that may be different from your own. Lastly, make an effort to learn a local language, as it can be an incredibly useful and rewarding experience.
What classes are you looking forward to during for your last academic year at Georgetown McDonough?
I am excited about further exploring the role of business in issues of international development, and I am looking forward to taking several classes on the economics of poverty and business development in emerging markets.
What kind of consulting projects will you be interested in for your Global Business Experience course?
Any international consulting project would be a tremendous opportunity to learn something new from a culture that is different from my own. I would love to work with a company that has a strong mission and commitment to economic development and creating a positive social impact in its community and/or on a global scale.