Post-graduation reflections from Boris Maguire, an MPA-DP alum in Tech4Dev

Part of what makes the MPA in Development Practice program so unique is the network you can build within your cohort and with the alumni. We always have a lot of #MDPLove for one another, and today alum Boris Maguire, MPA-DP ’15, shares with us his personal affection for the program and an update on his career post MPA-DP. 

SIPA Admissions Blog! Long time, first time. I write this from my balcony in Nairobi, Kenya, where I’m preparing to run part of the Nairobi marathon tomorrow. As an American running a Kenyan race, I’ve set my goal to “not last,” and I’m mostly just excited to see the Nairobi streets emptied of their usually horrific traffic. My wife and I moved here at the end of June, just a month after I received my MPA in Development Practice (MPA-DP) from SIPA, so we’re still adjusting. Back in Spring 2013 however, we were both in DC, nervously preparing to move to New York so I could start the MPA-DP program.

I had chosen the DP program for its emphasis on practical skills and field experience, as well as for its balanced structure; combining a rigid focus on integrated approaches to development with the flexibility to design my own sector or skill-based track. I got exactly what I wanted. Coming to SIPA after five years administering non-profit media development projects from a DC office, I was eager to make some changes to advance my career and quality of life. I wanted to get back overseas, to move into a management role with a for-profit company, and to move away from television and radio projects. I remained fascinated by the use of communication tools to drive private sector development, but I had become increasingly interested in the massive enabling power of mobile and web-based communications technology. The MPA-DP program seemed like the best way to obtain the skills, knowledge and experience that would position me to design and oversee development projects that leveraged that power. I was right. My MPA-DP summer placement took me to Cambodia where I was an ICT Innovations Fellow for DAI. Working for a development consulting firm implementing a USAID project increased my exposure as to how technology solutions can be used for development challenges.

Two years later, I am a Project Manager for Echo Mobile, a Kenyan technology firm that builds and consults on the use of mobile tools (SMS, voice, Android and sensors). We help businesses, NGOs and international organizations to communicate with hard-to-reach markets and populations, enabling them to make better, data-driven decisions. I can imagine no better preparation for this job than my two years in the MPA-DP program.

[Photo courtesy of Boris Maguire]
[Photo courtesy of Boris Maguire]

I currently direct all of our consulting work, managing projects for clients that include the Kenyan Ministry of Education, a Rwandan integrated coffee company, The University of California, and multiple United Nations agencies. “Multi-sector” is right. For one UN client, I’m working with a dozen inclusive businesses all around the world to help them design impact measurement frameworks and use mobile data collection technology to align their business with the SDGs. With each of these companies, I am directly applying skills learned from the MPA-DP program: I am creating logical frameworks, theory of change maps, implementation plans and mobile survey forms, each of which was the focus of a different DP Lab during my first year. When new business opportunities arise for Echo Mobile and I need to write proposals, negotiate new contracts, or prepare project management plans and budgets, I apply skills and use resources directly from my Management for Development Professionals class, a second-year MPA-DP core course.

Yet, the most rewarding reminders of my time in the MPA-DP program come when I’m meeting with a client about how mobile technology can improve their work, or when I’m in the field training their staff on Echo’s technology. While I still get a rush from these experiences, they feel familiar now in a way they could not have two years ago. While at SIPA, the MPA-DP program enabled and empowered me to take on three distinct technology-for-development consulting projects, working for real clients in Mexico, Timor-Leste, and Cambodia on technology projects ranging across agribusiness, health and infrastructure. Each of those opportunities helped me learn the hard and soft skills required to assess whether certain types of technology could be integrated into a development project, business, or government process to enable social impact. They made me better at working with diverse stakeholders, ranging from bureaucrats to farmers, programmers, municipal workers, shopkeepers and whatever others were involved in making the right technology sustainable for the right context.

And best of all, my summer placement in Cambodia gave me the opportunity to travel to Myanmar, where I found the perfect stone to make a ring and propose to my then girlfriend, now wife. So, in just two short years, I landed my dream job AND my dream girl. At the risk of overstating things, I could not have done either without the MPA-DP program, and I’m forever grateful. #MDPLove

Thank you, for sharing your story Boris. As always, for more information on Summer Field Placements, Development Practice Lab, or alumni jobs please feel free to contact me