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How I Got Here: World Banker Reaches Far Beyond El Salvador

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Oct 14, 2015
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Evelyn HartwickDevelopment banker Evelyn Hartwick, EMBA ’10, knew little of the world outside El Salvador when she arrived in the United States at the start of a civil war that tore apart her country in the 1980s. She was 17, fresh out of high school and alone in a foreign place. “I had $200 in my pocket, and I didn’t know any English,” she recalls. “Needless to say, I experienced culture shock when I got to New York to study.” Hartwick persevered, following four basic principles that have guided her career at the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation. Along the way she has visited more than 100 countries, expanded green bond programs from niche to mainstream and raised three bilingual children.

DREAM BIG: Not every venture has worked out for Hartwick, but she has followed a simple mantra: “Keep showing up.” New York City overwhelmed her, but she found a new home quickly in Washington, D.C. “Being from such a small place, Washington was a lot more manageable,” Hartwick says. She studied accounting at George Washington University and finance at University of Maryland University College. At the World Bank she focused initially on capital markets in Latin America, including assignments in Brazil that required her to learn Portuguese in addition to English and her native Spanish. Other assignments took her to China and beyond. In her newest position as senior financial officer for Africa, she lives in London and travels frequently to sub-Saharan countries.

EMBRACE CHANGE: Hartwick’s new African assignment requires French fluency, and she has welcomed the challenge of learning a fourth language. Rather than studying in the classroom, she immerses herself in after-hours activities when she travels to places such as Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast. “It is a stretch assignment for me,” she says, laughing. “It’s exciting.” Hartwick has followed the same pattern throughout her life, surrounding herself with lifelong learners who see problems from multiple perspectives. “People who resist change don’t grow,” she says. “That is just part of life.” Working at the World Bank fosters this global mindset. “I meet people from everywhere,” Hartwick says. “The idea of staying in one place is foreign to me.”

BENEFIT OTHERS: Growing up in El Salvador, Hartwick saw a keen need for caring leaders. “Poverty and challenges there are extremely visible,” she says. “I decided to leave the country, progress somewhere else, and eventually come back.” At the World Bank she also has emerged as a champion of the environment, helping partners issue credible green bonds for climate-friendly projects such as a wind farm in China’s Gobi Desert and waste water recovery systems in Turkey. Hartwick says the responsible investment helps everyone. “Development of the private sector creates jobs, and that helps people improve their lives,” she says. “That’s our main goal here at the World Bank.”

FIND ALLIES: Working alone can be efficient, but Hartwick says meaningful innovation usually requires collaboration. She traces her own success in the United States to the mentors and other allies who reached out to her in the early years. “I have had many guardian angels that have helped me along the way,” she says. When she started looking for an executive MBA program, she says the selling point that brought her to the Smith School was the coaching available from faculty, alumni and other students. “The professors are world class,” she says. “And the quality of other executives coming into the program is also extremely high.” Hartwick also credits her parents, who have provided guidance from El Salvador. “My parents always told me that I should always leave things better than I found them,” she says. “That keeps me going.” /DJ/