So, what do I do every day?

I keep wanting to write about work, but I keep saying… I better wait until I have a better idea of what I’m doing here. Almost a month in and although I still feel like I’m swimming in a sea of unknowns, I think I can take a stab at describing my role and give you an idea of my work life.

Like most of you probably already know, I’m in Madagascar to work at la Première Agence de Microfinance (PAMF).  PAMF is about  10-15 minute walk from my house. The building has 3 floors. The bottom floor is a functioning branch of the MFI, so that’s where you’ll find the credit officers and clients coming into apply for loans etc. The top two floors are the Head Office of PAMF’s operations around the country. These two floors are where products are brainstormed, portfolios managed, risks assessed, and operations streamlined for PAMF’s 13 branches around Madagascar. My desk is on the second floor!


PAMF from the outside

I usually stumble into work by 8:30. At about 9, the rest of the Product Research and Development Department usually rolls on in – in other words, my colleague Bertrand arrives. Bertrand is the Product Manager at PAMF and has been working here for a couple of years.


The second floor of PAMF (that’s Bertrand). There are about 15 people who work on this floor, but I waited until everyone was on holiday to take my pictures!  

So far, Bertrand and I have been working on a handful of different projects. I would separate my work so far into three main buckets:

  • Pilot Reviews:
    There are three new products that PAMF has been piloting over the last 6 months. These products are now ready to be reviewed to assess how they compare to projections and whether they are ready to be rolled out across the country. I have been working on creating Research Frameworks for these three pilots. This means, deciding what type of data is important for PAMF to collect on these products (on the supply and demand side) and how to collect it.
  • Needs Assessment:
    Based on client feedback from a Customer Satisfaction Survey in 2012, PAMF has proposed a new product idea. In order to determine the specifications for the product, we need to collect more data from clients by doing a comprehensive needs assessment. I have been working with Bertrand on putting together a Research Framework that outlines what data we need and again, how to collect it.

  • Product Approval Request
    Again, based on client feedback from the Customer Satisfaction Survey, PAMF has proposed a new loan product. A Product Approval Request has to be submitted to the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM) in Geneva before it can be piloted. In order to do this, I have to do a bunch of research on this product. I need to figure out what other banks and MFIs in Mada are offering a similar product, what the country-wide statistics are for this type of client need, and what global best practices are for this loan type.



My bible. Yes it’s in English! I will write another post about the language dynamics at work soon. 

Basically, it a lot of research (and research frameworks!) and data collection. This type of “product management” feels very different from the work I was doing at Kiva Zip, but I guess the principle is the same – how can we collect data that will lead to product creation that addresses user needs and has high user satisfaction – no matter if that product is a web page or a loan product or whether I have to work with engineers or credit officers.



My desk. Note the moleskin from Akash (with process diagrams!!) , Tufts alumni pen and cup of tea to make me feel at home. 

Did you notice how I didn’t mention any of the specific products when I described my work above? That’s because sometimes I feel like I’m working for the microfinance version of Willy Wonka’s secret laboratory or something. When I leave work every day I have to lock all my product documents in a secret cupboard! Who knows if the Mr. Slugworth of Malagasy microfinance is reading my blog 😉



“Ah-lee-za, pretend you are working” – my French colleague as he took these pictures


My role requires a lot of back and forth with the AKAM RPD team in Geneva. They approve all research before its done and all products before they are piloted in an effort to standardize processes across all the PAMF/First Microfinance Banks around the world. I really like this aspect of my role, because it gives me an idea of how things are working in other AKAM countries and reminds me that there is a world beyond this island!

Even though RPD can sometimes be slow, everyone else seems to be extremely busy alllllll the time. Usually when I get there at 8:30, about the half of the office is already there… and when I leave by 5:30, I’m usually one of the first out. Sometimes I wonder if they even go home.

One of the reasons I took this fellowship was to get some experience “in the field,” but somehow sitting in an office in Tana is not so different from sitting in an office in SF (other than the dogs, unlimited snacks, and ping pong table of course). In the next few months, my goal is to actually make it out to the field to collect (or observe the collection of) data and meet some borrowers! Oh.. and obviously, figure out mobile banking in Madagascar 😉
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “So, what do I do every day?

  1. Justin

    this is awesome. agreed on the field work, that will be super valuable. hopefully you can create the mobile infrastructure for Zip to get into Madagascar! I am super proud of you Alyza!

  2. nikkigladstone

    Does Bertrand know about that photo or?

    Great post 😉

  3. you are awesome

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