Tomáš Roubal (July 2015)
Tomáš Roubal was born in South Bohemia and he graduated at the IES in 2005. During his studies he has spent a semester in Finland, at the Hanken Svenska handelshögskolan, and later another semester in Germany, at Friedrich-Schiller-Universität. In the course of these study stays he was interested in health economics and he focused on this also during his studies at the University of New Orleans, USA. He devoted the whole career to the field of health economics and health policy. Since 2007 he has been working at the Ministry of Health, as Main analyst, later on as Project manager, Advisor to the Minister of Health or Head of division of the health insurance funds regulation. In 2012 Tomáš worked at the OECD in Paris as an Intern. Currently, he is working as Health economist at the World Health Organization in South Africa, in Pretoria. Tomáš spends his free time by reading books, cycling, and practicing Iyengar yoga. He likes the travelling as well, mostly back in the Czech Republic.
You have been focusing on healthcare systems almost all your career. How the study at the IES helped you in this career path?
IES provided me with 2 things – economic foundations and thinking and a very good social network. As it was impossible to study Health economics in the Czech Republic, I benefited from studying abroad in Finland, Germany and the US where I applied economic concepts in the field of health economics. As no one was really investigating health economics issues in the Czech Republic, it was relatively easy to get involved into interesting projects. My thesis on hospital payment mechanisms as well as references from IES helped me in getting into the Ministry of Health shortly after finishing the IES.
How did you get the job at the World Health Organization? Do you have some advice or recommendation for those who are willing to work at this kind of organization?
The competition for jobs at the WHO is global, but there are several ways how to join this organization. There are many opportunities already during your studies to get involved in internships or volunteering at United Nations. Follow their webpages and send in your CV or a motivation letter. Try to design your thesis around some real world problem in cooperation with some Czech ministries. Analyze data and design some innovative policy with them. International organizations appreciate people with experience from government and research community. It is important to be willing to learn and explore new ideas.
I got into WHO through recommendations from the OECD. I was nominated as an expert representing the Czech Ministry of Health for several years at OECD. In 2012, I was seconded to the OECD during which I managed to get attention of some colleagues who recommended me for WHO.
You worked a few months at the OECD. How do assess this experience? Is the job at the WHO significantly different from the one at the OECD?
OECD is a very vibrant and stimulating environment focused on evidence based policies. You will meet many interesting people from all around the world there. Current economic problems are discussed here, which provides unique platform for analyzing public policies and their evaluation and mutual learning. I would recommend this experience to everybody who wants to work with a public policy.
WHO South Africa is part of the African region of the WHO, which is quite different from the OECD. People here communicate and collaborate differently and as country office we directly support South African government. WHO Country office translates international standards into local practice. I work directly with the South African Ministry of Health and with local experts on specific projects such as international comparison of hospital prices, reforming payments of General practitioners and public hospitals, monitor money flows, calculate demand elasticity for alcohol or measure financial risk protection of households.
You are currently living in the South Africa, how would you describe your working conditions and overall life conditions?
The inequalities among people in South Africa are huge. The global consumer-focused culture clashes with the traditional African culture and traditions. Apartheid left deep scars in the society and the poverty you see here is for me very disturbing. On the other hand, I admire their vibrant social society where the progressive Constitutions and human rights provide inspiration and aspiration for everybody. South Africa speaks for Africa, there are many top-level researchers integrated into global research, the private healthcare sector is the largest in the world.
The working conditions are here the best on the African continent, as far as I can judge. It is a perfect place for any type of research of problems of the developed or developing worlds.
Are you considering living permanently abroad or do you plan to come back to the Czech Republic in the future?
I have never planned to leave the Czech Republic forever. I really appreciate to have this opportunity to work for the WHO, but I plan to come back home, in the long run. Once you start working in such an international organization, there are many other possibilities to work in other countries or international organizations, so I do not have a specific plan to move home, for now.
Do you have a chance to travel in South Africa? Do you have some favorite place?
South Africa is a huge country with the best infrastructure in Africa so you can get around easily. South Africa has it all - Western Cape with beautiful wine farms, the beaches at the Indian Ocean are full throughout the year, Kruger Park is one of the world's greatest game reserves, Kalahari deserts starts just around the corner... My favorite place is Stellenbosch, the heart of the wine lands in Western Cape, 20 minutes-drive to the beach, to Cape Town or into the mountains, surrounded by amazing nature. For an exchange program I would recommend University of Cape Town.
Zuzana Posoldová (June 2015)
Zuzana Posoldová, by her maiden name Tóthová, comes from Nove Zamky in Slovakia. She finished her studies at the IES in 2007. Already during her high-school studies she gained a number of foreign experiences. First, she spent a year studying in Australia and the following year on high-school in Austria. She continued in her studies abroad also during university studies. During Bachelors she spent a year at the University of Bath in the UK. During her Masters she chose the specialization at Finance and Banking and she passed a semester at the University of Konstanz in Germany. Moreover, she studied French at the Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis in France. She speaks fluently six languages. Zuzana started her career during her Bachelor studies. In 2002, she began to work as an Analyst and PR assistant at BNP Paribas Asset Management. When she graduated, she became a Credit Analyst at BNP Paribas Corporate and Investment Banking. In 2010, she moved to Sweden, where she took on the position of the Head of Credit Analysts at BNP Paribas Fortis. She is currently on maternity leave with her second child. In her free time Zuzana enjoys cycling, skating, snowboarding and travelling.
If you could choose one subject at the IES, that you would like to study again, which one would that be?
Mathematics with Oldrich John. He made me look at mathematics from a completely different angle. I learned to be more structured, focused and look for a solution by applying various methods. The course improved greatly my ability to think and work under stress. These are things which are useful not only at work but also in private life. And the level of satisfaction after having passed the exams was just sensational.
You have lived and studied in various countries: Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Australia or France. Which studies were the most difficult and which of them would you highlight as the most beneficial for your career?
I would say that the year I spent in Australia was the most challenging and at the same time the most giving of them all. It was my very first international experience. I was only 15 when I left my family and friends in Slovakia and landed on the green island of Tasmania. I hardly spoke any English at all. I became the oldest of my host family’s five children and lived on a farm. I confronted a very different life from the one I had back home. But I adjusted quickly, learned the language and made great friends from all around the world. I came home a rather different person. Much more open-minded, confident, critical and eager to continue travelling and discovering the world.
You have more than 10 years of the experience in banking. What do you like the most in this field?
Definitely its diversity. When people hear the word banking, they often think of a clerk sitting behind a counter. But there is so much more to banking than that. You can do thousands of very different jobs. I have chosen to work for a major international bank because it gives me the opportunity to try out different jobs and also move between countries. I started in asset management, then moved to credit analysis within corporate and investment banking and will soon join sales within global trade solutions upon my return from maternity leave. In my eyes, the attraction of banking is that it provides really broad base for learning new things, facing challenges and meeting people.
You are living with you husband (also an IES graduate) in Sweden. Why did you choose this country?
We knew Sweden from our earlier travels. We fell in love with Sweden’s nature, the food and the lifestyle. I also had some good Swedish friends whom I had met during my studies abroad. So when we got offered the opportunity to move to Stockholm, we decided to go for it.
How do you balance work and family? You have 2 small children, the second one is only few months old, are you planning “the Swedish” or “the Czech” model of the maternity leave?
Swedes succeed in finding a good balance between work and private life. The social system is built in a way that gives both parents equal opportunity to take care of their children. It is very common for men to take at least three months of paternity leave. Just to give you an example, my husband took six months with our first child and will take one year with the second one. Men overall play a bigger role at home. They change diapers, take kids to dancing classes, cook, clean, do groceries… something which is unfortunately still less common among Czechs or Slovaks. We have still a lot to learn from Swedes in this respect.
Our children start at kindergarten around the age of 18 months. Furthermore, the pre-school system provides excellent care (e.g. one teacher per 3-5 children) and guarantees place from the age of 12 months. This coupled with commonly offered flexible hours makes it possible to balance work and family life.
Viktor Zeisel (May 2015)
Viktor Zeisel was born in Prague and he finished his studies at the IES in 2011. He currently works at Komerční banka as an Economist, and he has been devoted to the banking even from the time of his studies. Viktor has started his career at the department of the Investor relations at ČSOB where he has worked during his bachelor studies. Then he spent a year abroad, at the University of Constance in Germany, partially thanks to the program Erasmus, partially thanks to the joint scholarship of Uof C, German-Czech company in Constance and the town Constance. When choosing the master program, Victor decided to study the IES/CERGE-EI Joint Master in Economic Theory. At the same time he began to work at Komerční banka as an Analyst. Viktor later switched to the position of Economist in Monetary and Statistics Department at the Czech National Bank. Lately he came back to Komerční banka as the Senior Economist. Viktor spends his free time mainly by some kind of sport activity, he likes biking, hiking or swimming. He also relaxes by reading.
You have studied IES / CERGE-EI Joint Master. What is the difference between this program and the classic Master program at the IES?
I think that both programs are extraordinary. The main difference is that the majority of master students at the IES works somewhere. At CERGE this is almost impossible. I do not want to say that the students at the IES have fewer duties while studying. They spend a lot of time by solving their homeworks as well, but master program at CERGE is a bit more demanding in this regard.
Another difference is that you find subjects like Academic Writing or Combined Skills among the CERGE core courses. They are really useful, even if you are not willing to continue with the academic career.
What is the most important thing you have learned at the IES?
Contacts. I still consider as the major strength of the IES that you meet there very nice and clever people. This is what I really appreciate. For me as an economist at the investment banking the contacts for example in the central bank are priceless. Whoever from my former classmates I meet, they all have an interesting career. I may find out interesting facts even from the fields I do not understand. And those are majority.
You have worked as an Economist at the Czech National Bank and now you are working for Komerční banka. From employee´s point of view, is there any difference between the central bank and the bank from the commercial sector?
The difference is unbelievable. I think that everybody should try to work in the private sector. We have a completely different workload in KB. On the other hand, at the CNB, there is an immense emphasis on detail. That we cannot afford at KB. Both approaches have some advantage. At this moment I like the workload. Besides, I am in touch with both internal and external clients, which makes the work really diverse. I also like the fact that I have to combine the soft skills and hard skill while working.
Your career path is really straightforward. Have you always been sure that you want to work in a bank? Do you have some advice for the students who are willing to work in a bank?
It all happened by chance. When I was studying at the Bachelor degree I was thinking that I would save the world as a consultant. Nevertheless all of my bank job offers came by a coincidence, through friends or acquaintances. That means that the best way to get the job at the bank is to find some contact there. Then you can try some junior position while studying. It is good to get an insight to the office machinations even before the real start of your full time job. It saves a lot of problems.
You relax mainly by doing the sport; one of your favorite hobbies is hiking. What is your most interesting experience? Do you have for example some favorite peak, where do you like to come back?
I like exploring new places by hiking, cross country skiing or cycling. Actually, I do not need to come back to the same places. I like discovering new things. With my girlfriend, we have a target to cross all the important Czech mountains. Last week we came back from Šumava and Český les, where we walked more then 240 km. We have already done Jizerské hory, Šumava, Krkonoše, Lužické hory, Český les and České Švýcarsko, and the rest is still remaining to explore. We have found out incredibly beautiful places. What I like the most is Karlovský bridge at the Czech-Polish boarder in Jizerské hory.
Michal Šinka (April 2015)
Michal Šinka was born in Trenčín, Slovakia, and he graduated from the IES in 2011. His career path, however, took a completely different direction. Currently he lives in Prague and he is a professional musician and music producer. Michal has played the guitar since he was a child and after finishing the high school he started to study at the Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory in Prague. At the same time he began to study at the IES, as economic studies were the way to leave the door open even for another career than the music. He finished both programs in the same year, and even after that he published several economic papers. Nevertheless, the music won. Michal has been awarded a scholarship for the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA, where he continued with his musical studies and majored in Guitar Performance and Contemporary Writing & Production. He finished it in 2014. Even during his studies he started composing and producing music. He combines classical guitar music with jazz, Brazilian styles and pop. Currently, Michal cooperates e.g. with a young American singer Claudia Atkinson. When he is not involved with music, he studies foreign languages. Together with travelling, this activity is one of his favorite ways to spend his free time.
You have played the guitar since you were a child. You even studied it at the Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory. At the same time you started your studies of economics. What was your motivation?
I was around 15 years old when I realized that I wanted to make music professionally. But I didn’t want to study music at a university after high school because my only option at that time would be the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava or in Prague, and I definitely didn’t want to pursue my career solely in the field of classical music. I was much more into contemporary music. At the same time, I wanted to have a university degree. After some time I found a solution to this dilemma – studying two schools at the same time: a conservatory and a university. The Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory in Prague focused on contemporary music, so it was a clear choice for me. I had also been long interested in economics, international relations and finance during high school, and that is why I sent my application to the IES. It wasn’t easy, as both schools were rather demanding, and I admit that I had some tough moments during the studies. However, my motivation – to have much broader options after graduation and maybe even connecting the two fields somehow at some point in my life – was fortunately strong enough for me to make it all the way through both schools.
Is there any similarity of the studies at the university in the field of economics and playing the musical instrument?
Absolutely! Economics, just like playing a musical instrument, is a very complex science. Everything relates to everything. While there can be plenty of subjective perceptions of an economic problem or of a musical work of art, there are some basic rules that apply no matter what your personal opinion of the underlying asset is. In both fields, you need to develop a deep knowledge of the basics as well as of the advanced stuff, so that you can fully understand what is going on. In a musical performance, however, you also need to make sure that it still sounds easy and understandable to your audience.
Are you using your knowledge from the IES in your current profession?
Yes and no. I may have forgotten everything about econometrics or advanced macroeconomics, simply because I have not used it since my graduation, but there are things that the IES has taught me that I use every single day. Having a rigorous education in economics has broadened my horizons in many directions and thus given me more confidence when dealing with clients and with business issues. I am more detail-oriented and I work in a more systematic way. The intense training in mathematics at the IES has also improved my musical memory and imagination. As we all know, studying economics affects the way we think about the outside world, and I am no exception. But my non-economist friends around me sometimes tell me that I assess everything in terms of “efficient/inefficient” just way too often…
Even after finishing your studies at the IES you were devoted to economics. You have published a book and a few scientific papers. Which are your current plans for the future, do you think that economics will remain somehow in your life?
Thanks to my master thesis supervisor, Mr. Petr Teplý, I continued doing economic research even beyond my studies at the IES. The topic of my master thesis (regulation of hedge funds and private equity) was very “hot” at the time of my graduation, and since Petr was also doing some research in that field, we joined forces and published few papers together. I am very thankful to him for the fact that he encouraged me to edit, update and add to my master thesis, so that I could publish it in the form of a book, which eventually happened under the name ofRegulation of Hedge Funds and Private Equity: Lessons from the Global Financial Crisis. I am currently not planning to do economics per se in the future. However, in the same way I did not expect to write papers on economics of music and on superstar effect in music, or a history paper on how the Martin Guitars company survived the Great Depression, yet I eventually ended up writing all three of them. Therefore, one never knows. Somehow I feel that economics will always remain a significant part of my life.
Which is according to your opinion the biggest success in your life?
So far, it was definitely the fact that I was accepted to and even awarded scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA, the school I had been dreaming about since I was a little boy, and the fact that just recently as one of the very few I graduated summa cum laude from a dual major at Berklee after only three years of studies.
What do you do in your free time, how do musicians relax?
It is hard to say where the border is between my work and my free time. I love what I do, and during what most of other people would call „free time“, I usually still do something connected to music in one way or another (listening to music, going to concerts, researching the music production market, etc.). Of course, sometimes there is just too much of music, and then it is the right time for a walk. I love walking through the streets of Prague. From non-music activities, I really enjoy learning foreign languages, as well as successfully trying to embarrass myself by using them when I am travelling.
Adrian Lupusor (March 2015)
Adrian Lupusor comes from Chisina, Republic of Moldova. He started his studies at the Academy of Economic Studies in Moldova where he received MA in Financial and Banking Administration in 2010. The same year he began to study with us in the Master in Economics and Finance. He finished graduating “cum laude” in 2012. Adrian started to gain his working experience even during his studies.
From 2008 he worked as the Head of Monetary Sector and Econometric Modeling Department in Analytical Center ”Expert-Grup“. Expert-Grup is an independent economic think-tank, based in Moldova and it is specialized in economic research and public policies. Adrian was responsible for conducting econometric analyses and providing evidence-based policy consultancy for the government and international organizations (e.g. UNDP Moldova). In 2013 Adrian became the Head of Working Group „Economy, Finance and Business Environment”, of the National Council for Participation, which is an advisory body created by the Government of Moldova and at the same time he acquired the position of the Executive Director of the “Expert Grup”. In the meantime, he cooperated on many projects. Among others he was the team-leader for developing the National Human Development Report 2014 for the Republic of Moldova, assisted the UNDP Moldova and the Government in defining the post-2015 agenda, worked with OECD on developing green growth policies in Moldova and coordinated other consultancy projects. During his studies he was repeatedly awarded as a student with the extraordinary results, he received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Moldova or received a number of scholarships. In his free time he relaxes by doing photography, travelling and playing tennis.
You come from Moldova, was there anything surprising for you while studying in the Czech Republic?
My decision to study in Prague and, specifically, at the Charles University, was based on prior analyses and discussions with students who were studying there. Hence, I knew what to expect: professional teachers, very strong and research oriented study program, international environment, and all this in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. My expectations were fully met, except for one thing: it was even better :)
You have completed two Masters degrees: one in Prague and another one in Chisniau. If you compare the Czech and Moldavian universities, what was the biggest difference?
The educational system in Moldova differs a lot from the one in Czech Republic. At Charles University the students can adjust their study program based on their interests, thanks to the large number of elective courses, whereas in Moldova the program is more rigid. The marks are similar to the American system, with a scale from 1 to 4, whereas in Moldova we had the scale from 1 to 10. Last, but not least, is the environment, which at Charles University was much more international and dynamic, which I think is a major advantage of this program.
You are currently the Executive Director of Expert-Grup – an independent think-tank based in Moldova. What does your organization do?
Expert-Grup is a think-tank specialized in economic and social research with a strong focus on empirics and public policies. The organization is very dynamic and is continuously growing, being one of the most important in its field in Moldova. We are providing economic analyses, forecasts and sector-specific assessments, for the Government, as well as international organizations (UNDP, World Bank, OECD, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, International Labour Organization etc.) who are presently active in Moldova. We also act as a watchdog organization, monitoring the reforms undertaken by the government, activities which are funded by organizations such as Moldova Soros Foundation, SIDA, Eastern-European Foundation and many other donors interested in Moldova.
How do you find yourself in this position?
I was appointed in this position about 2 years ago, which was probably the most important challenge I had to undertake so far in my professional career. Since then, the organization grew both numerically and qualitatively, which is a good sign and we will do our best to continue this trend.
What are your future plans with the think-tank, are there any interesting projects, analyses which will follow and which you might disclose us little bit?
An important medium-term objective of Expert-Grup is to expand at the regional level and to provide the same consultancy services for other Eastern-European countries. In this regard, we are currently seeking international projects and are building international consortiums with other similar organizations.
How do you clear your head, do you have some hobby which enables you to switch off completely?
I enjoy the combination between travelling and street and landscape photography. On some weekends, me and my wife (who is also a graduate of IES) are driving outside the city in order to enjoy the nature, colors and peace of the countryside. Another passion is playing tennis, which I try to do at least once or twice per week, although sometimes it is hard to merge it with my working schedule.
You can find more information about the activities of Expert-Grup here.
Ivona Butcher (February 2015)
Ivona Butcher, by her maiden name Hrušová, was born in Pardubice. She finished her studies at the IES, with the major in Finance, Financial Markets and Banking, in 2011 with the PhDr. title. Already during her bachelor studies, she seized the opportunity and spent a semester as an exchange student in Denmark. During her master studies at the IES, she started to work intensively on her career development in Next Finance and meanwhile she has received a Masters in Economics from WarsawUniversity. In the company Next Finace she worked as Analyst of Financial Markets. In 2011 Ivona moved to the USA to study M.B.A. at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. After graduation in 2013, she started to work at the company Magnitude Capital in New York. She is responsible for researching investment strategies and development of business opportunities and new products. She also founded and manages Czech Sport Horse, a company that acts as a dealer between horse breeders and professional equestrians. No wonder that horses are her biggest hobby. Ivona spends the majority of her free time with them, by the training of show jumping. If time allows her she relaxes again with an exercise – she does the triathlon.
You have studied at various universities from different countries; you have two Masters degrees, one PhDr. and M.B.A. Which part of your studies was the easiest one and which was the most difficult?
The easiest part was studying itself. I learnt soon that even the most difficult problems can be solved and such a finding served me well during studies as well as career.
The most difficult part was the decision to study MBA. Acceptance to Kellogg MBA opened the door to the best career opportunities worldwide but taking such an opportunity meant undertaking a huge student loan which is uncommon to mentality that I was raised with. I knew that studying Kellogg MBA would mean full devotion to career for the years to come. From that perspective, it was a life decision, not only a studying decision.
What was your key moment of your career? Is M.B.A. from Kellogg School of Management a clear sign for employers that you are the right for them?
In my opinion, MBA from a top school is less about education and more about the contacts. Your classmates are accomplished professionals that will soon be at top positions around the world and those contacts are priceless for future business opportunities.
Obviously, top MBA is valuable for world class employers. However, I’m more of an entrepreneur and as such, the interactions and sharing ideas with ambitious people was the most valuable. It confirmed what can be accomplished once you set your mind.
Do you think that you can apply your experience from the USA in the Czech Republic? Can you imagine you live here again?
Absolutely. I’m looking forward to coming back one day. The only thing to miss will be the American optimism and courage to think big.
Having left Czech, I became quite a patriot and would love to contribute to improvements there. Considering my skillset, my place is in business. There are lots of capable people in Czech that need a better platform in order to market their skills. My biggest hope is to found or buy a company that will allow that to happen.
You have founded a company that acts as a dealer between horse breeders and professional equestrians. How are you able to manage this besides your job at Magnitude Capital?
I built the company while studying and tried to structure it in such a way that everyday operations are independent of me. I was lucky enough of find excellent colleagues and most of issues can be solved online. At the same time, horses are my biggest hobby so I don’t perceive this as a job.
How do you spend your leisure time? What does work-life balance mean for you?
Work life balance is a key to productive career and happy life overall. One can easily spend 15h daily at work and it is crucial to switch off, relax and recharge creativity in your brain. Show jumping with horses works the best for me. I’ve been riding competitively for years and it’s my second ambition – right after developing a successful company in Czech. When I cannot ride, I try to stay in shape by running, skiing or simply working out in a gym.