What Does An Economist Do At An Automobile Firm?
On the 10th of February 2021, the Amrut Mody School of Management at Ahmedabad University convened a talk for people who wanted to know more about career options in economics. The guest speaker was Ms. Simran Uppal, an economist at Ford Motor Company in India, who was out to shed some light on the career-oriented side of economics.
Ms. Uppal started her talk by telling the audience more about the use corporations have for economists and cited her own job as an example. She went on to explain that economists are best suited towards the macroeconomic research and forecasting that they need to function and help design their public policy. Furthermore, economists help design the companies’ pricing strategies which play a huge part in its success. She also brought to light some of the challenges that she faces on the job such as illustrating the relative elusiveness of usable data for any analyses she has to perform and the challenge of making long term decisions due to changes in policy. Furthermore, as someone who works closely with the Asia-Pacific market for Ford, she also highlights the challenge of working with different markets in the same region and tailoring the company’s policy to fit each region.
Ms. Uppal then moved the talk towards the skills that would be required of economists looking for corporate employment. In terms of hard skills, she emphasized that an understanding of Statistics and Econometrics is necessary to handle data. She also insisted on gaining proficiency in a programming language such as R, Python or MySQL though she also mentioned that basic competency is all that is required. She also placed importance on developing the ability to link data to economic concepts and the ability to understand business problems and identify their key variables.
With the required skill set laid out, our next topic was the roadmap to gaining those skills. Speaking from her own experience, Ms. Uppal explained the importance of being present and following economic news. She also showed the value of following prominent economists on social media to master the art of asking the right questions. Another insight was to practice using econometric techniques on statistical software. Academic papers were also given a lot of importance.
With that we moved on to three emerging fields in Economics to specialize in; Behavioural Economics, Development Economics and Agricultural Economics. We discussed the three fields and what to expect going into each of them. In addition, we discussed alternate career paths for graduates and those included
data analysis, consulting and academic research. We also discussed the option of going into the Indian Economic Service, although that is only open to postgraduates.
Coming to the end of the talk, we received some advice on expanding our knowledge and experience going into our careers. One key piece of advice was to have internships every break in domains that were of interest to us. This way we could narrow down what part of our subject genuinely excited us and make an informed decision on what to go into in the future. Another piece of advice was to keep expanding your skill set by doing extra courses on certain specific skills and to apply those skills throughout your academic career. Adding to a point made earlier about following prominent economists online, we also received some advice on where to find them.
To conclude, we received some insights into what the corporate world expects out of economic graduates and how we could go about meeting those expectations. We also learned how economists contribute in a corporate setting. The importance of continuing to learn even after the formal education phase was reiterated many times throughout the talk as well.
To me personally, the talk solidified the notion that learning shouldn’t be confined to the classroom and that extra learning would happen only if the student took their own initiative. The talk also provided me with ideas on where to start for this purpose.