Quando decidi que meu próximo passo na carreira seria o Master of Science in Behavioural Science, me vi diante do comecinho de uma jornada trabalhosa para cumprir uma série de pré-requisitos (e isso apenas para se candidatar a uma posição).
Um desses pré-requisitos é o que chamam de statement of purpose, ou mission statement. É uma carta onde você conta para instituição pra onde está se candidatando por que faz sentido pra você ingressar no programa. Assim a instituição avalia, a partir de seus próprios critérios, se gostaria de ter você lá dentro. É claro que há ainda outros elementos em jogo: o coeficiente de rendimento (CR, ou GPA) na faculdade e em outros cursos de pós-graduação, as cartas de recomendação, a prova pra comprovar o nível do inglês etc.
Escrever um statement of purpose é uma experiência única. Não é algo simples. Envolve muita reflexão sobre passado, presente e futuro, e uma grande capacidade de resumir de forma clara muita informação em poucos parágrafos. Ter certeza de que o que está ali reflete de fato sua motivação, propósito e visão de futuro.
Depois de revisar muitas e muitas vezes e finalmente chegar a uma versão final, é gratificante ver o resultado. Poder se identificar, e ter no documento um norte que te ajuda a sempre lembrar dos motivos pelos quais você chegou onde chegou. Dá orgulho, um senso de direção que faz tudo fazer sentido e retroalimenta minha motivação a cada vez que releio.
O meu statement of purpose foi escrito há uns seis meses e fica afixado na parede de casa pra eu nunca me esquecer dos motivos que me levaram a tomar as decisões que tomei. Hoje decidi “afixar” ele aqui também, com mínimas edições. Afinal, ele é talvez o melhor texto pra explicar o contexto em que o blog foi criado.
Então, lá vai:
Statement of Purpose
I truly believe one thing: financial responsibility and planning can change one’s life and allow for the pursuit of one’s dreams. Responsibility and planning skills, however, do not come easily and do not depend only on financial literacy. They depend on changes in behaviour, which, in turn, depend on a very thorough understanding of context, psychological barriers, incentives, and the environment around us.
I consider myself as an example. I was raised in the Favela do Barbante, a humble, shanty town on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. I grew up surrounded by all of the challenges that face families living in such conditions: crime, drugs, lack of basic infrastructure like water and sanitation, and lack of opportunities. I studied in Rio’s notoriously under-funded, mismanaged, and sometimes violent, public school system.
However, I worked hard at my studies in the best public institutions within my reach. From the very beginning, education was the weapon I chose to fight the inequitable environment I was raised in. Eventually, I became the first person in my family to go to college and to earn an undergraduate degree. Today I look back at that difficult path and think how challenging it has been to succeed. Financial responsibility and planning played a very important role in the process. What drives me now, is finding ways to create opportunities for people in similar circumstances to improve their socio-economic conditions.
I developed a career as a marketing communications professional with a focus on financial services. I wanted my work to be impactful, and I felt like the marketing strategies that I crafted could help and inspire customers to better manage their finances. I have spoken personally to hundreds of customers to better understand their relationships with money. This intense experience created in me a deep curiosity regarding why managing money is a big deal, and also, how managing money properly can be, in fact, a path to their dreams. That is how I built one of the largest money saving communities in Brazil.
I was fascinated to see how emotions and social interaction engaged them. I have collected amazing stories about members overcoming obstacles and building a savings habit that transformed their lives. For example, there was a man who quit smoking and started saving what was normally spent on cigarettes (a fantastic story that was even broadcast on TV by TV Globo). There was also a mother who saved for a year to travel to Portugal to see her son after ten years apart, and a young girl who could afford a treatment to her sick dog because of the “Desafio”. However, I realized that marketing tools were not enough to promote positive financial behaviour. I started searching for answers to help me understand the pathway of behavioural change. Because I myself came from a poor family and money was a problem, solving this problem is something that motivates me.
A few months ago, I decided to leave a career at a fast-growing Brazilian mobile bank to commit to a learning journey about how people make decisions and behave with money. I am currently enrolled in a postgraduate course that prepared me with the fundamentals of Applied Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience. For my final paper, I am crafting a proposal to adapt Richard Thaler and Shlomo Benartzi’s “Save More Tomorrow” insights to the Brazilian context. Last August, I went to Copenhagen to study Behavioural and Experimental Economics in a summer course at the University of Copenhagen. I was the only non-economist in the classroom, and I learned so much from that experience.
Furthermore, I started working part-time for a behavioural economics consultancy. After a few months, I was invited to lead projects with financial institutions. My experiences and studies over this past year have taught me a lot, and I am applying that knowledge gained as a volunteer to help institutions, whose work I believe to be worthy, to increase the financial wellbeing to people in need. Currently, I am a volunteer in two such institutions.
I decided that pursuing a Master’s degree in Behavioural Science is the next logical step in my career transition, and will help me to learn to apply methods to influence positive behaviour. The program at LSE will help me make this transition.
As Professor Paul Dolan from LSE wrote in his book “Happy Ever After”, once you have enough money to afford the basic things you want in life, you can stop constantly worrying. In Brazil, the lack of economic growth, inequality and extreme poverty does not make things easier. How can you save money when you only earn $100 a month like half the population does? However, I believe behavioural-informed solutions can help Brazilians to change for the better, and the LSE Master’s degree in Behavioural Science will prepare me to work on this challenge from various angles.
My long-term career goal is to run a nudge unit that enables behavioural-informed public policies aiming to help Brazilians manage their money in a sustainable and easier way. The effects of the global pandemic in Brazil have only confirmed my convictions. Millions of people are currently dependent on government assistance for survival. Extreme events like this pandemic are opportunities to change perspectives and strategies on how we deal with money.
I expect that both the theoretical and practice experiences I will have at LSE, added to my contextual knowledge of Brazil, will train me properly to be able to run a nudge unit project in a public institution in the future with a large scale impact. As a short-term career goal that will prepare me for the long-term one, I will work in the private sector, as long as it provides me with the opportunity to apply behavioural science knowledge to create a relevant impact. Furthermore, I would also use a private sector position to conduct local, applied research to better understand our social environment in Brazil regarding financial behaviour. I would start by targeting specific underpriviledged or so-called non-WEIRD groups, like public school students, and also women, as we are historically less incentivized to achieve financial wellness. LSE will give me the tools to accomplish all of this.
I choose to study in the UK because I have much to learn from British institutions that believe in behavioural interventions, like the government’s Behavioural Insights Team. The UK is the epicentre of applied behavioural science in the world. I have done my homework and researched various programmes, and I am totally sure that LSE’s will offer the learning experience I need to succeed with my career goals. The programme is extremely complete with foundations, methods and quantitative approaches to behavioural science. Specifically, I look forward to studying Experimental Design and Methods for Behavioural Science, which I believe will prepare me to conduct randomized controlled trials to bridge the gap between the academic world and real life. In addition, three other aspects excite me about joining LSE. First, I look forward to the opportunity to be inspired by lectures that the institution hosts with big names from the social sciences field. Second, I would have access to the Behavioural Science Lab so I can work on my final dissertation with a strong experimental research component. And third, I expect to join unions such as the Microfinance Society.
I expect the LSE experience to be of great value to my development, but I also have a lot to contribute to the institution as well. I have a unique background: a first-generation university graduate, born and raised in Latin America, with first-hand perspectives regarding the challenges that developing countries face. I will make rich contributions to discussions inside and outside the classroom. Also, because I have significant professional experience, I can help my colleagues explore the applied side of behavioural science.
In one of the LSE online sessions I attended, the presenter said that the institution’s mission was understanding the causes of things to solve problems. That is exactly what I intend to do. I want to work to understand how people behave with money and to craft interventions based on scientific evidence to help them overcome financial problems.
By doing so I expect to contribute to what should be a mission of social science: making the world a better place for all of us, and I know that LSE’s program in Behavioural Science will give me the opportunity, skills and tools to make that goal possible.