So my dear friend Margaret pointed out I have yet to write AT ALL about my job and what it is I am doing here in Bangkok.  I think Margaret has an incredibly valid point. :)

Currently, I am working as a DLI Program Economist (Junior Officer) for the USAID/RDMA GDO office.  What that's not clear?  I can start by breaking down that title a little.  I know I have gone on at length about what the DLI program is, but as a refresher the Development Leadership Initiative was started by Henrietta Ford under Condeleezza Rice as a mechanisms to restaff a dwindling USAID Foreign Service workforce.  All of the new hires for the past 3 years are under this funding mechanism.

Next Junior Officer.  There are two types of DLIs Mid-Level and Junior Officers.  Essentially when determining your starting level USAID looks at your background and education.  Considering I only had 3 years of work experience, I was classified as Junior.  That matters here in the mission too because it shapes my opportunities to participate on other teams and visit other USAID missions "to enhance my learning."

Program Economist:  This is the sticky one.  It could mean lots of things.  The program economist can do a lot for the mission.  Essentially they act as the economist on staff who can provide support to project design, project monitoring and evaluation.  Program Economists attempt to support all the offices, from health to education with possible analytics on the sector or cost-benefit analysis on a project.  Also, they can assist in managing the economic growth portfolio.  That is to to say they can lead/manage contracts on Economic Growth or even Food Security.

RDMA:  The mission in Thailand is called the Regional Development Mission for Asia.  Unlike some of my economist friends in other missions, my job is regional.  As part of the USAID/Forward initiative regional missions have regionally based programs, but in addition to that, support the bilateral missions in their region.  Officially RDMA supports Burma, China, Laos, Papua New Guinea and a little bit Thailand with programming out of this office. However, and more so now, the technical staff supports the bilateral missions in the region (Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and name a few).  This means...a lot of travel for me!

GDO:  I am currently sitting in the General Development Office, which handles...general development projects :)  This includes food security, support to regional secretariats, and public-private partnership building.  Through this office I am currently assisting on a food security and being trained to work in "monitor and evaluation" for other projects.  I am hoping in the long-term to build a more solid portfolio.

As a bonus RDMA has brought in a Senior Program Economist who works a little differently.  From what I understand, I will also be working to support his projects and shadowing him to learn everything I can.

As a DLI JO I will spend a lot of time in trainings and rotating around not only Asia, but the different jobs to learn more about how USAID functions.

More on my job as interesting things come up :)


  1. I think I understood maybe half of that...but that means I am 50% closer to understanding your job!

    Please note: my inability to understand is because I read the word "economic" and my brain shuts down, it is NOT due to the quality of your explanation which was most excellent.

  2. Well Maggie I think I've got you beat by just a little! I got about 75% understanding. I appreciate the explanations of all the initials! I still prefer to use my own (ie u box and h box)but this is definitely helpful, now I just need to print it out and keep it next to me whenever I talk to you. Love you much.

  3. Hello! First of all, i love your blog, and I'm a friendly stalker thinking about applying to be a JFSO, to the same backstop as you. I was wondering, how technical do you find your job? I notice that they require macro, micro, and econometrics grad school courses...Do you spend a lot of time running sophisticated regressions, and using all that stuff?

    Thanks so much for existing!


  4. Mom and Maggie...if something isn't clear, please tell me and I will reword it. Andrew pointed out not everyone knows what food security is and I will explain that at a later date :) However, stop reading my guess you won't understand 100% of my answer to Greg.

    Greg, glad to know strangers are out there reading and enjoying the blog. Now to answer your question, and I apologize for my answer, but it is the US government. "It depends." Personally, I have limited the amount of technical work I have taken on because sometimes I get self conscience about my mathematical background. In Washington and at the mission you truly do shape and mold what you work on. Naturally, since the numbers can bore me, I focus on policy and more agriculture lately. Primarily because it's what interests me and you will find its MUCH easier to work on things that interest you.

    However, the gentleman I am replacing (and if you know bill, I use the term gentleman loosely :) ) was HIGHLY analytic. He enjoyed the analysis and writing papers, so that's how he spend his time.

    I will say the agency is getting HIGHLY involved in evaluation and are REALLY using the economists to do this. This means a focus on Cost Benefit Analysis. So much so that they are sending most of us for a month long training course.

    Did I answer your question? How about this...haven't run a regression in about 4 years :)

    As a side note, if you are truly interested in joining the agency, you should do it soon. The hiring is starting to dwindle. Please continue asking questions, I had no one...and that's not cool!

  5. I didn't know you were also doing support for Nepal. Does this mean you're going to be visiting us????

  6. Thank you so much for your response! Actually, the idea that the job is flexible is exactly what I was hoping, since I'm not exactly sure if I want to be a regression monkey for my whole life. I'll definitely take your advice to keep asking questions!

    Thanks again!


  7. Actually I will be in Kathmandu Nov 14-17, but alas you won't! I am supposed to be doing a TDY at some point and Nepal is high on the list because of you guys!

  8. Hi! Just another friendly reader interested in becoming a JFSO. Wanted to also say thanks for the blog, it's a lot of great information.

    Just wondering, you said hiring is starting to dwindle. Do you know if USAID is still planning to hire junior officers in 2012? Is hiring down because of funding, if so, will it pick back up if funding increases?


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