J-PAL

  www.povertyactionlab.org
  www.povertyactionlab.org

J-PAL Reviews

12 Reviews
3.5
12 Reviews
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  1.  

    Surprisingly entrepreneurial, need to have people/project management skills beforehand

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Research Associate
    Former Employee - Research Associate

    I worked at J-PAL full-time

    Pros

    - Very interesting work in India. Due to the professors' stature and connections, you can get access to some top policymakers, and the project results have a better chance of being implemented than many other NGOs.
    - Work with top-notch professors, get stellar recommendations if you do well. Almost everyone gets into a top grad school in economics or policy (masters or PhD)
    - Work and lifestyle is fairly entrepreneurial -- you manage your own time, and often a team of staff. Should have some people management skills (and like managing people) to do well in JPAL, even though it attracts aspiring PhDs.

    Cons

    - Support and directions could be weak because professors are far away, but JPAL has beefed up its project management structure in the recent 2 years. Hence, there are now more senior managers than before to oversee the young RAs and help them deal with management problems.
    - Choose professor carefully, not necessarily project -- not all JPAL professors are equal in terms of the strength of recommendation at different schools and how willing they are to write great ones. I would focus on choosing the right professor (and do some groundwork and who's good to work with) instead of the most interesting project area.
    - Non-Indian origin RAs are no longer hired due to change in work visa policies -- very sad!

    Recommends
    No opinion of CEO
  2. 1 person found this helpful  

    Intern

    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at J-PAL

    Pros

    Development projects and econometrics, grad school opps

    Cons

    Development projects take a long time to finish!

  3. 1 person found this helpful  

    Pretty good for getting into grad school

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at J-PAL

    Pros

    Strong network of professors and great group of RAs

    Cons

    Terrible disorganization, experience depends on PI

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
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  5.  

    Could be better

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Delhi (India)
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Delhi (India)

    I have been working at J-PAL as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    Connections, name, office culture, intellectually engaging issues. Office culture is nice-- higher up people are willing to discuss their work with you

    Cons

    Interns can be often given busywork. I often felt that my talents could be better spent than in various administrative tasks.

    No opinion of CEO
  6. 3 people found this helpful  

    One of the leading global centers of development

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at J-PAL

    Pros

    - Great people. You'll be working with smart, motivated, hard-working people with - on the average - a great sense of humor.
    - Young organization. This may be a pro or con, but most of the organization is young (20s-30s), highly educated, friendly.
    - Technical expertise. You'll get technical knowledge on how to run RCTs; you'll learn everything from power calculations to questionnaire design. These are incredibly marketable skills these days.
    - Travel. Even if you're working in the Global HQ at MIT, you'll still likely be asked to travel (sometimes extensively - 2-3 months) to projects in the field.
    - Training. There's a 1-week training which many staff end up attending twice: first, as a student, and then, as a Teaching Assistant or Lecturer. This is a great opportunity.
    - Glamor/fame. J-PAL is considered one of the best development organizations out there, so obviously having it on your resume is a huge bonus. J-PAL alumni have gone into top-tier PhD programs, to the World Bank, USAID, Social Impact, and so on.

    Cons

    - Global positions are a little better-treated than positions with the regional offices. The former are better paid, have access to MIT's amazing ecosystem, access to great benefits (again, through MIT), slightly more reasonable work culture (things usually die down by 6:30pm) and can even get more facetime with the "famous" PIs like Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee. Regional office positions (J-PAL LAC, South Asia, Africa, Europe, SE Asia), instead, are relatively underpaid, overworked (late late hours are normalized - 8pm, 9pm at the office), and sometimes isolating (e.g. if you're working alone on a project in a remote part of the country). That said, regional office positions (field positions) are probably much more valuable to growing your skill set - you learn a LOT more by facing the challenges (of which there are many!) of running an RCT on the ground.
    - Parallel track: to PhD or not to PhD. Many people use J-PAL as a springboard into their own PhD programs. As such, they accept low pay and hard working conditions in order to get a letter of recommendation from their PI. For those not intending to do a PhD, career progression can be vague or absent.
    - Professor-managers: This is changing somewhat, with the introduction and beefing up of middle management positions. But PIs still act as the ultimate "bosses" of J-PAL and this can be problematic. You have to realize that, often, these are people who have never left a university setting - as such, they're often not great managers. They may have unreasonable expectations, they might forget to think about your career development and training, they might also be insensitive or harsh in their emails. A big part of the job is "managing upwards", since many of these PIs are, well, a little "disconnected" from the realities of the workplace, to put it mildly.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    - Raise field-level salaries. Often these salaries come from proposal budgets, prepared by PIs, which don't accurately reflect market rates. Resist the urge to trade in informal benefits (great network, letters of recc) and, instead, improve formal benefits and pay.
    - Disempower the PIs, empower management. All of the managers at J-PAL are deeply committed, smart people who understand how to run an RCT as well as the next PI. As an added bonus, they're also aware of management principles. To put it bluntly, PIs are thinking about their own careers - their own publication track. Managers are thinking about J-PAL, the organization, and the staff in it.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  7. 1 person found this helpful  

    Research Associate

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Research Associate
    Former Employee - Research Associate

    I worked at J-PAL full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    Work with phenomenal academic researchers/Experience to observe how randomized evaluations are done/Data Analysis/Great letters of recommendation for graduate schools

    It really depends what you want to get out of the job position. There is room for enough growth as a researcher. You end up learning how to handle pressure. You get to enhance your management skills. You also get an opportunity to decide whether you really want to devote the rest of your life doing randomized evaluations. If you want to be in academia or want to pursue development as a major field of your study, I would strongly recommend gaining at least a year long experience with JPAL.

    Cons

    Inadequate salary by global standards (if you work in a developing country)/ Stressful job - need to work even in the weekends

    Although pros clearly outweigh cons, you should be mentally prepared that this is not going to be a standard 8:30-5 job. Honestly, because you are surrounded my fellow JPAL employees (depending upon where are based out of), you get used to the culture of the organization. Plus, while socializing with your fellow colleagues, you end up learning a lot. Be prepared that you will be working all the time, literally.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    More structure needed. Lack of transparency on what the position actually entails.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  8.  

    The best social science research experience. But no place to move up.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Research Associate
    Current Employee - Research Associate

    I have been working at J-PAL full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    Direct contact with researhc community in the US.

    Cons

    There is no place to grow within the institute.

    Positive Outlook
  9. 1 person found this helpful  

    Low pay, high brand but above all great experience - for a time.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Research Associate in Delhi (India)
    Former Employee - Research Associate in Delhi (India)

    I worked at J-PAL full-time (less than an year)

    Pros

    1. Poverty concerns all of us. Understanding it is rewarding in an intellectual and moral sense.
    2. Great professors, brand. Useful for those who want a recommendation for PhD/MPP admission.
    3. Great managerial position with enough scope for on-the-spot thinking and learning.

    Cons

    1. Low pay. This is the flip-side of pro #2.
    2. Low focus on intellectual value-add - focus is to get the data for the profs. One can start feeling like an automaton soon.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    More two-way feedback sessions - even if associates' suggestions are ignored - may lead to morale boost.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
  10. 2 people found this helpful  

    Career Launch-Pad, and much more.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Research Associate in Ahmedabad (India)
    Current Employee - Research Associate in Ahmedabad (India)

    I have been working at J-PAL full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    Interesting projects, research opportunities, learning new stuff, academic environment, talented colleagues and superiors

    Cons

    Not anything serious in particular. People deciding to work for J-PAL are motivated enough to bother less about the traveling part, or relatively low compensation as compared to private sector companies.Work-life balance does take a hit, but as majority of researchers are bachelors looking for some experience before enrolling in a university, it doesn't really matter.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
  11. 2 people found this helpful  

    Interesting research and management opportunities in the first 3 months, after that you feel under-paid and over-worked.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at J-PAL

    Pros

    Prestige of the organization and its MIT and Harvard connections
    Recommendations from top professors
    Working with the brightest minds in Economic Development
    Interesting work - at first
    Opportunities to live abroad

    Cons

    Truly under-paid and over-over worked
    No appreciation for any personal time you may want, thought taking vacations (if you find the money) don't seem to be a problem
    Management is very poor
    Training is horrendous and unhelpful
    You're pretty much expected to enter a PhD program after a year, max 2, and there is little other room for advancement

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Develop and prepare your training -- remember you're generally sending 21 year olds into very remote areas and they made need some guidance on that.

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