• Role: Research Officer
  • Location: London
  • University: Oxford
  • Degree: MPhil Economics
  • Organisation: NERA Economic Consulting

Matthew Mair

Why did you choose to do an internship?

I had previously done two internships with different employers, during my undergraduate degree and immediately afterwards. Although I learnt a lot, I wanted to find a career I was better suited to which made use of my knowledge of microeconomics. I felt an internship with NERA was a great way to try a possible career and work with experts in the field of economics.

I chose NERA because of its strong reputation in the field of economic consulting, its global brand, and its location in London.

How did it tie in with your overall career plans?

I wanted a career in which I could make use of the tools and concepts of microeconomics, having studied them extensively at university. I was considering continuing my studies to PhD level, but I was also interested in jobs where I could use a similar skillset. I therefore decided that economic consulting was a good fit, as it combined some of the aspects of business I enjoyed (such as working in teams on a variety of different projects), with the subject I was interested in.

What was the application process like – any advice?

The application had an academic focus. I sat an economics test based around logical reasoning, microeconomic concepts, and econometric techniques. Having passed the test, I was invited for face-to-face interviews with NERA staff.  During these interviews, I was introduced to concepts I was familiar with in new settings and asked to tease out their implications.

What were your main duties?

My main duties were research and data analysis. There was very little differentiating me from full time staff, except my junior status, so my job was to supply my team with the research they needed for projects. For example, I read some academic literature on monopoly regulation in order to inform a presentation my director was due to give, and consulted recently published EU Directives to understand the stipulations placed on firms in the energy sector.

My role also included a significant amount of work with data, in Excel and statistical programmes like Stata. One achievement that I was proud of during my internship was building a simplified model of the cost of generating electricity, which was later passed on to our client to inform their investment decisions.

What were the most important things you learnt from the internship?

  1. Firstly, I learnt a lot about applying economics to the real world. This greatly informed my studies when I returned to university. I was able to combine my new knowledge of the workings of electricity markets with my interest in auction theory when writing my thesis.
  2. Secondly, I improved my practical computing skills, which allowed me to work with data far more efficiently. This inspired me to take classes in basic computer programming when I returned to university – I wish I had done so much sooner!
  3. Finally, I learnt that I enjoyed the collegiate and challenging intellectual atmosphere at NERA. I decided that I preferred this to the solitary style of research conducted in academia, and applied to return full-time.

Do you have any advice for someone seeking an internship?

My advice to anyone seeking an internship is to have an open mind about which practice area you ultimately work in. NERA offers the opportunity to get a real feel for applied economics, and the chance to work with experts in the industry. This can improve your knowledge for your return to university, and for your future.

I would also advise prospective interns to think about how your academic work can offer something original to the firm. NERA places a high premium on original thinking and if, in the course of your studies, you have used a new technique or have read the most recent literature on a topic then this can be a valuable contribution.

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