Category: Alumni News, Alumni Spotlights

Title: Alumni Spotlight: Soham Banerji (GHD’17)

Author: Malika Navruzova
Date Published: March 1, 2024

Soham Banerji (GHD’17), a seasoned professional in the international development sector and currently working with Ernst & Young (EY) in Boston, shares his journey and insights for current and prospective students. With a rich background in international development, including work with USAID, the World Bank and Land O’Lakes Venture37, Banerji brings a wealth of experience to the conversation.

Q: Soham, could you start by telling us a bit about your background?

Certainly! I’m Soham Banerji, currently serving as a Management Consultant at EY in Boston. My professional journey has been enriched by a diverse background in international development, culminating in over 12 years of experience in the field. Prior to joining EY, I immersed myself in impactful projects with organizations such as USAID, the State Department, and the World Bank. Prior to EY, I contributed to agriculture projects in East Africa and the Middle East with Land O’Lakes Venture 37. These experiences have not only shaped my perspective, but have also equipped me with valuable insights that I now apply to my current role, where I specialize in implementing effective change management solutions for clients.

Q: What motivated you to join the GHD program?

I was primarily drawn to the GHD program due to my passion for monitoring and evaluation in the context of international development. Having spent five years working with USAID and State Department contractors in program management and evaluation roles, I sought a program that would further deepen my expertise in this field. With an undergraduate background in economics, I was also eager to delve into data analytics and find a program that seamlessly integrated practical experiences with theoretical learning. The practitioner-based approach offered by GHD, coupled with its strategic location in Washington, D.C., provided the perfect opportunity to marry hands-on experiences with a rigorous academic curriculum focused on international development.

Q: How did GHD prepare you for your current career path?

GHD played a pivotal role in preparing me for my current career path by providing a solid foundation in development work and evaluation. Although I entered the program with a sector-agnostic mindset, my focus on monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) was clear. GHD’s comprehensive curriculum ensured that I gained both technical knowledge and academic rigor in this space, enabling me to excel in various aspects of my career, from project implementation to client-facing experiences and evaluation report authoring. The guidance and expertise imparted through evaluation courses under Professor Tiongson, coupled with practical experiences such as internships with the World Bank, proved invaluable in shaping my professional journey.

Q: Can you recall an instance where you applied skills from GHD directly to your job?

Absolutely, there are two instances where I directly applied skills from my GHD program to my work experiences. Firstly, during my summer internship at Coca-Cola in Indonesia, I had the opportunity to contribute to a women’s empowerment program, where I engaged with local organizations to promote financial inclusion for women in Southeast Asia. This experience not only deepened my understanding of socio-economic dynamics in the region but also honed my abilities in stakeholder engagement, program management, and cross-cultural communication, all of which I developed through coursework and projects in my GHD program.

Secondly, during my capstone project, I collaborated with the Kaizen Company on a USAID-funded initiative supporting agricultural startups worldwide. My partner and I worked closely with M-Fodder, a technology company in Kenya, leveraging our knowledge of market analysis and project management acquired through GHD coursework to help scale their innovative mobile-based solution for livestock farmers. Through these experiences, I not only applied the technical skills gained from GHD but also the critical thinking and problem-solving abilities that are integral to the program.

Q: With your extensive experience, what accomplishment post-graduation are you most proud of?

One post-graduation accomplishment I’m proud of is seamlessly transitioning from international development to management consulting, where I focus on sustainable initiatives and change management. This shift builds upon my foundation in monitoring, evaluation, and learning from my time at GHD. It underscores the importance of adaptability and continuous learning, skills that GHD instilled in me and that have been instrumental in thriving in diverse professional environments, while reinforcing my commitment to making meaningful contributions to global challenges.

Q: What advice would you offer to current GHD students?

My advice to current GHD students would be twofold. Firstly, it’s crucial to have a clear vision of your goals for the program and actively work towards achieving them. Take advantage of the vast network of alumni in your field of interest, and seek their guidance on the skills and steps needed to succeed. Additionally, explore the diverse range of programs offered within Georgetown University beyond GHD. Attend classes in related programs such as MSFS, McDonough, or McCourt school to broaden your knowledge and skill set. For instance, I found value in taking GIS classes, which provided me with valuable insights.

Secondly, I would encourage students to embrace emerging technologies, particularly in areas like AI. The future workforce will increasingly rely on proficiency in technological tools to drive innovation and streamline processes. Therefore, it’s essential to actively engage with new technologies and develop practical skills. Don’t hesitate to immerse yourself in learning new technologies early on, as this will better prepare you for the evolving demands of the global development landscape.

Q: How does the GHD program stand out in the field of international development?

The GHD program distinguishes itself in the field of international development through its unique practitioner-focused approach and its strategic location in Washington, D.C.

What sets GHD apart is the unparalleled access it provides to a vast network of professionals and the abundance of opportunities for hands-on, practical experience, such as internships and capstone projects.

While other programs may offer similar opportunities, GHD stands out because of its proximity to key decision-makers and organizations shaping international development policy and practice. Being situated in Washington, D.C., allows students to directly engage with global development issues and forge meaningful connections within the industry. From my conversations with graduates of other programs, many have expressed challenges in securing suitable partners for capstone projects or internships due to their distance from major development hubs.

For individuals aspiring to make a tangible impact in international development, GHD offers an unparalleled environment conducive to learning, networking, and real-world application of knowledge. The program equips students with the resources and connections necessary to thrive in this dynamic field, making it a great choice for those committed to driving positive change on a global scale.

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