Luis Chavez got closer to his dream of working in international finance this past summer through a coveted opportunity with the Washington, D.C.-based firm Inter-American Development Bank.
The 24-year-old economics and finance major says he was interning at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory when the chair of Cal Poly Pomona’s finance department sent an email about a chance to work at the bank.
Chavez applied, interviewed and was accepted for the short-term assignment. A couple of months later, he was working in the nation’s capital alongside fellow interns from Peru, Bolivia and Colombia.
“It was great interacting with people who were from Latin America,” he said. “Working with them was exciting.”
During his three-month position, Chavez worked in the department that dealt with private organizations seeking funds to invest in infrastructure and other projects in underdeveloped Latin American countries.
IDB, founded in 1959, finances sustainable development projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. Besides providing loans to countries, the bank also awards grants, offers technical assistance, and does research. The shareholders are the 48-member countries, including 26 in Latin America and the Caribbean, who are IDB’s majority owners.
Chavez says he enjoyed working for a company committed to improving the standard of living for people in need, something he hopes to do in his own career.
“I was able to be in a space where you use economics,” he says. “You use finance, but it also has that social aspect to it.”
Chavez’s opportunity, which IDB funded, marked the first time Cal Poly Pomona had participated in the program.
“We at the IDB Group were grateful to pilot this relationship with a university like Cal Poly Pomona,” says Elizabeth Nicoletti, who works in IDB’s Vice Presidency for the Private Sector. “It can often be difficult to attract candidates from schools where students may not know about or have the resources to work across the country. Yet doing so can add value to students, employees and work environments overall, especially ones that tend to recruit from the same handful of universities.”
Nicoletti adds that Cal Poly Pomona provided an impressive group of candidates for the position, including Chavez, and that the hope is the IDB Group can continue to grow in its relationship with the university.
“Luis immersed himself well in the demanding and fast-paced work culture here,” she says. “His bilingualism and knowledge of international business facilitated the transition into the predominantly Spanish-speaking organization. His colleagues were impressed by his drive and willingness to learn as much as possible about how the IDB Group works with the private sector to promote economic and social development.”
Chavez, who is taking his last class to earn his bachelor’s degrees, says he hopes his finance career will involve working with Latin American countries and that he wouldn’t mind living abroad.
Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Chavez migrated with his family to California when he was a little boy. He grew up in Baldwin Park and Pomona. Chavez, a first-generation college student, is the oldest of four children.
While in high school, he had a mentor who attended Cal Poly Pomona. She suggested he apply. Chavez planned to study engineering, but an economics class changed his course.
“I fell in love with economics,” he says. “I was like, “Wow, I like this. I understand this.’ ”
He later decided to add a second major: finance.
Chavez says he loves the theoretical aspect of economics and how it helps give him an understanding of real-world issues such as recessions and economic growth.
“Even though economics is not a perfect discipline, it tries to explain how the world works as far as commerce, business and government,” he says. “All of that stuff really interested me.”
During his time at the IDB, Chavez got to see historical sites and museums in Washington. He also attended company events and think-tank seminars. The exposure to those working in international finance helped him figure out what he wants to do after he graduates and how he can go about getting there.
“If it wasn’t for this experience, I wouldn’t know what I needed to do to be where I want to be,” he says. “Being in that type of environment was good for me.”