Now: MIT economics professor, co-founder and director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab
First Job: Research assistant
My first job was in Russia. I was 20. In fact I held two jobs, both as research assistant: one for the team that Jeffrey Sachs was running inside the Ministry of Finance, and one for another team of economists who worked with the central bank. It was in 1993, Russia was a mess, and I had the impression I was right at the center of things, although my main tasks involved translating articles in the economic press from Russia to French, and sitting in and translating interviews.
The central bank and the Ministry of Finance hated each other, so I was told never to mention to one team that I worked for the other one, and that no one should know I was working for both.
These jobs convinced me that economists had the best of all jobs: they had the luxury of always being able to take a step back. And at the same time, they had a huge amount of influence on real things. This is when I decided to become an economist.
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Last updated October 29 2010: 7:00 AM ET