Laura Di Giorgio, Sr. Economist, The World Bank


Alumni Service

30 May 2022

In order to help current students and recent graduates to find their way in the working world, many of our alumni shared their career story. Here the story of Laura Di Giorgio, Sr. Economist for The World Bank Group in Washington DC. USI Degree: PhD in Economics, 2013.

How did you start your career?

I was offered a PhD at the USI after having completed a Bachelor and Master in Economics at the University of Zurich. After obtaining a PhD in Economics at the USI under the supervision of Prof. Filippini, I won a Post-Graduate Fellowship in Global Health at a prestigious research center in the United States (the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation - IHME). This opportunity allowed me to: (i) apply my skills in economics to the field of development/global health (ii) learn about the specific health challenges pertaining to lower income countries and (ii) build a network of professionals in the United States. After this fellowship, I was eager to better understand what happens on the ground (in country), hence I worked as economist for a NGO (PATH) which aimed at developing low cost solutions (medical innovations) to health challenges in resource constrained settings. This allowed me to travel extensively in various African countries and get a better understanding of the local contexts. I was then admitted to the World Bank Young Professional Program, a highly competitive program that selects people with potential to grow into impactful leadership roles across the institution. Since 2019 I have been working at the World Bank as Economist, working with governments to address health systems challenges in their countries.

Why did you choose a career in The World Bank Group?

The World Bank is unique in its nature. It is probably the only institution in development that can tackle development issues from a comprehensive health system perspective, and much more. Indeed, solving the most pressing development needs often requires multi-sectoral solutions; at the WB we work across sectors to support our clients and their populations. We conduct analytic work, use the findings to engage in policy dialogue and support decision making that can have an impact on the ground. We also tap into and collaborate with an extensive network of highly skilled professionals and experts to find the best solutions; giving us an opportunity to continue learning and grow professionally. It is this intersection of knowledge/analytics, policy dialogue and implementation on the ground that drew me to work here.

What is your current role/duties?

As a Senior Economist in the Health Global Practice at the World Bank, currently working in the Latin America and Caribbean region, I am the focal person for a number of countries that request support to improve their health systems. I lead and support analytic, strategic and operational engagement with the overall objective of strengthening health systems and health financing models.

In your opinion, what are the qualities necessary for a successful career in The World Bank Group?

Broad understanding of health systems, in depth expertise in one or more technical areas, strong understanding of local contexts and how governments work, quantitative skills, people and project management skills, ability to work under pressure and with many responsibilities, and experience with policy dialogue. This work requires both seeing the big picture as well as an attention to details. But more than anything, a genuine passion for helping countries solve health system issues. Language skills are also important; in addition to English, at the World Bank French and Spanish are also of added value.

What positive aspects and qualities meant most to you during the study programme you attended?

During my PhD in Lugano I attended the international doctoral courses in health economics and policy. The program offered advanced courses in health economics and policy, complemented by seminars and workshops with leading international experts. This program not only gave me access to excellent knowledge and expertise, but it also allowed me to build a network with leading experts in various fields. For example, during my PhD I did a research visiting period at the University of York, an excellent university in health economics, supervised by Prof Andrew Street.

What competences and/or skills acquired in your USI Study Program have been useful/are useful to your professional career?

During my PhD I had an opportunity to crystallize the quantitative skills that I had acquired at the University of Zurich during my programs in Economics by applying them to concrete economic and policy questions. My PhD fostered my critical thinking, my ability to work independently to find solutions to (analytic) challenges but also to collaborate with colleagues to maximize the impact of research.

What is your advice to USI students entering the job market?

My advice is relatively simple: don't take the easy route, follow your passions, keep an open mind, travel and try different jobs, and work hard. Entering the job market is just the beginning, there are many opportunities out there and your career journey will change as you grow. The rest will come by itself. Wishing good luck to all students!