The Bulletin Interviews Alumna Meike Reils

Meike Reils comes from Germany and graduated from the Willy Brandt School of Public School in 2015 with a Master’s degree in Public Policy. After that, she joined the KfW, the German Development Bank, as a Trainee. She still works there, but, currently, as a Risk Manager. 

Our editor Ariana Barrenechea talked to her about her experience in the Brandt School, her transition to the job market and much more. She reports below:

The Aluma Meike credits her adaptability, openness, and hard work to making the jump from IT Trainee at KfW to Risk Manager in three and a half years. KfW is the largest German development bank and is headquartered in Frankfurt. She first interacted with KfW while interning at the Federal Ministry of International Cooperation and Development working on business and technology development projects. Meike’s background prior to starting her master’s was International Business, graduating from Maastricht University in 2013. During her undergraduate career, she interned at the United Nations in NYC as well as the German-Argentine Chamber of Commerce.

Her journey was not mapped, in fact, she is not where her 20-year-old self had planned. “I never thought I would be working for a bank, but you have to take challenges as they come and opportunities as they come. I never planned to go into IT but I love what I do, my day-to-day is very diverse.” After earning her bachelor’s degree and subsequently her master’s degree, Meike thought she would be working for a ministry or state agency, instead, she found herself applying for an IT traineeship. Her previous experience in IT was a management course taken years ago during her bachelor’s degree, but nothing further. Meike jumped at the chance of an IT Traineeship and did not shy away from something that is often seen as daunting for people outside the technical field.

It may seem like destiny that during her internship at the German Federal Ministry of International Cooperation and Development, she was exposed to mobile technology use and how it can help societies. It was in this position that Meike met people from KfW and worked on a joint project through the Ministry. Coming back to the Brandt School in the fall, Meike found a class that further explored the concept of technology and development and quickly signed up, eventually leading her to write her thesis tying IT and international development.

Looking back now, Meike thinks what helped her the most applying for this IT Traineeship was not being scared to send her CV in the first place, and highlighting her skill set of process planning, effective communication with people from different backgrounds, and methodical thinking — skills sharpened during her time at Willy Brandt.

The IT Traineeship was part of a rotation, where Meike had the opportunity to work in different areas and get to meet different people, further expanding her network and knowledge. Her traineeship was on the job training where adaptability and hard work played an important role. She pointed out noticing the lack of women in the IT department, even feeling the prejudice against women who are successful in IT, but as more women become successful and awareness increases, she is hopeful the culture will change.

Her enthusiasm about the Willy Brandt School is evident when she speaks about the depth and breadth of the international program. The network she developed of people from all over the world and of different career backgrounds, as well as the wealth of international knowledge she gained from her classmates, has carried on well beyond graduation. She credits the interdisciplinary approach of WBS and the ability to choose from a wide variety of courses setting her up with a solid foundation for her career. “WBS helped significantly because I was able to choose from a lot of courses, exposing me to ideas and fields I had not considered before by learning from academics as well as practitioners”

Meike is excited about the future of IT in development. There is a potential that has not been reached yet when it comes to mobile technology. IT can help people increase literacy rates, becomes part of the financial institution through mobile banking, access to finance, being able to have a voice, use technology to improve health. She is excited for the future as she focuses on her current role.

Meike is most proud of the ways she has consistently jumped fearlessly at opportunities. She started working young and has made the most of every situation she has been in. She is also very proud of her time at the UN in New York City and thinks of that fondly. She doesn’t discard the idea of eventually pursuing a career there, emphasizing again the importance of staying open. Her words of advice to current Brandt students is not to be too picky, and staying open and fearless in order to gather as much meaningful experience as possible.

Outside of work, Meike loves to travel, read, and binge on a casual Netflix series. She has recently finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and recommends it to her fellow WBS community.

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Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She most recently interned at Open Development Cambodia in Phnom Penh, where she was responsible for incorporating Information and Communication Technologies to advance specific Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN in the context of Cambodia. She is currently the editor of The Bulletin."