Interview by Ariana Barrenechea
Richard Henahan comes from the USA and graduated from the Willy Brandt School of Public School in 2019 with a Master’s degree in Public Policy. He currently works as a Research Analyst and Consultant for the Institute of Baltic Studies (IBS) in Tartu, Estonia.
Recent alumnus Ricky Henahan boarded a plane this week from his hometown in the United States to Estonia, where he will be starting work full-time at the Institute of Baltic Studies (IBS). The firm is an independent think tank focusing on topics like digital innovation, economic development, and immigration. Ricky’s position is research analyst and consultant, and previously worked as an intern at the same company.
Ricky graduated from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology. He was heavily involved during his undergraduate studies competing in Division I swimming – the highest division of collegiate sports in the United States – and being a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Board. After graduation, his trajectory took him from a law firm doing workers’ compensation as a legal assistant to New York City where he worked at a tech start-up, and finally to a non-profit for a year, where he also began the application process to the Brandt School.
Ricky had always wanted to study abroad, but due to collegiate swimming, it was not feasible for him at the time. He chose the Brandt School because he wanted to experience political science in a multicultural setting, taking classes with international students and learning from different perspectives, all while living in Europe. Ricky found his internship at IBS by googling “think tanks in Estonia”, researching the results, and sending a cold email to IBS. He thought his Project Group experience fit well with the overall mission of IBS and could help him get a foot in the door.
As part of the curriculum of the Brandt School, third-semester students are required to participate in one of the project groups. This is an opportunity to act as consultants with a real-world client. Ricky was the Team Lead of his project group, which was funded by a Horizon 2020 initiative and focused on community development. The group researched Information and Communications Technology tools to give people in the community a voice about developments in their neighborhood. The particular neighborhood was predominantly refugees and migrants and it gave access to developers to communicate plans and residents to vote on neighborhood initiatives through a website. Their main focus was on keeping residents up to date on what is happening around them and giving them space to share community stories. This, he thought, was a perfect fit for a company that continuously works on topics such as smart cities.
While he was a research analyst intern, Ricky worked on a project for the Estonian government. The team had to do research on migrant experiences to Estonia and design a welcome integration program for immigrants. Ricky helped organize focus groups with immigrants, recording their experiences and reporting them out. He focused heavily on the quality of his reports, noting that he tried to be direct and concise, as opposed to a stereotypical academic writing style. He created graphics to visualize data, ultimately putting together multiple easy-to-read documents packed with information.
During his internship, it was clear to him that IBS was a good fit, he says “it was exactly what I wanted to do, the work was very interesting to me and there was a variety of projects I could work on. So I spoke to my managers and said ‘if there is an opportunity for a full-time position, I would love to stay on’”. When asked what he is most proud of since moving from the US, he replied it was getting his dream job!
Ricky’s advice to current Brandt School students, especially those with limited relevant experience, is to get involved. “Try to sign up for as many student organizations as you can: The Bulletin, student government, volunteering is always a good thing to do”. Future employers do not just look at what you did, but they can also tell if you took advantage of the opportunities you had, such as involvement in student organizations.
Ricky will be working on three different projects; one is a feasibility study on electric buses in the city of Tartu. The city has just finished testing an electric bus and they want to know if it is economically feasible to purchase a whole fleet of electric buses. Outside of work, he likes exploring his new hometown, going to the gym, and recommends the binge-worthy series Locke and Key on Netflix.
We wish Ricky the best of luck in this new chapter of his career!