Business schools are best known to prepare students to excel in the corporate hierarchy. Despite being trained in finance and marketing at the Institute of Business Administration, the leading business school of Bangladesh, I opted to venture into the rather uncharted field of development research. Motivated by my earlier orientation and engagement with the marginalized communities of Bangladesh, it was not a difficult choice given how I wanted my life and work to create values for others, particularly for those who often get forgotten. With immense interest to support government agencies to formulate inclusive policies and strategies, I joined a policy research outfit to contribute to the process of informed policymaking.
I joined The Institute for Policy, Advocacy, and Governance (IPAG), the then lesser known think tank in Bangladesh, as a Research Assistant with very little experience in economic and social research. In spite of being apprehended by the uncertainties and risks of failing, I took the challenge as an opportunity to explore, learn, and excel by not just doing what was required but always going the extra mile. I had the privilege of working directly with the Chairman, a Wharton graduate who has an unwavering penchant for maintaining international standards, and in the process, I got opportunities to put leadership theories into action.
My first challenge was to keep my purpose alive. Unlike sales or finance, research activities do not produce immediate results or impact. And thus, having patience to do things right and staying connected with the purpose was necessary. There were so many depressing days when I questioned my achievement of the day and failed to find any. The only solution was to be connected with my purpose and remind myself how my work would make the country and the world a better place to live.
My second challenge was to minimize theoretical and subject knowledge gap and to come up to speed to make meaningful contributions in policy analysis and recommendations. I was already communicating with experienced scholars and policymakers and I had very little scope for errors and complacency. While there is no shortcut to gaining knowledge, you can expedite the process by reading relentlessly and persistently. When I was struggling, my main source of motivation was my sincere interest and passion for knowledge.
The third challenge was to convey your thoughts and recommendations without alienating the recipient, particularly for a young researcher like me. Communication is key to policy changes because people do not question the message first, they question the messenger. There is no alternative but to establish your credibility so that they listen to your ideas. For that, you need to be an empathetic and compassionate communicator with a firm grasp of the issue at hand who understands and values people’s opinion and humbly puts forward thoughts backed by solid data and research. You will also need allies to help bolster and champion your ideas.
My last biggest challenge was that I didn’t want to work. Yes, I might seem very contradictory but its true. I have seen many people who work to tick off his responsibilities with questionable dedication, commitment, and loyalty to the organization for a month-end salary. This seemed a very narrow and bleak outlook to life. I didn’t want to work but I wanted to live in work. My vision was to create a legacy so that when I would leave others could get benefitted from my work and I might have also be considered as an inspiration for future young researchers who will create and disseminate knowledge for good.
If I am asked about my biggest success as a researcher, I would humbly say that I made small contributions to take IPAG to new heights where IPAG is now ranked among the top 50 leading international development think-tanks in the world published by Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the Lauder Institute, University of Pennsylvania. As a recognition of my contribution, I was promoted as the youngest Fellow at IPAG and entrusted with leadership responsibilities.
Now, when I reflect, I realize how my initial leadership training guided me to achieve what I could. Theories are established out of realities and are often obsolete if not applied. Simple yet powerful precepts of leadership such as ‘knowing the purpose’, ‘being passionate about what we do’ and ‘creating value of others and leaving a noteworthy legacy’ surely guided me and will continue to take me to new heights. As a firm believer of what Tim Cook, CEO of Apple said about ethical leadership ‘leaving things better than you found them’, I hope to practice leadership to create values and make things better for everyone.
Makshudul Alom Mokul Mondal
Makshudul Alom Mokul Mondal, is a young researcher and also the co-founder of Youth Opportunities, one of the leading opportunity discovery platforms for youth across the world. Makshudul is also a Global Shaper at the Dhaka Hub, an initiative of the World Economic Forum (WEF). He is a graduate of BYLC BBLT 5 and was an Instructor of Leadership for several BYLC’s programs.