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Careers in Finance


Photo of Maggie Reilly
At Mercy Corps Northwest, Maggie Reilly helps entrepreneurs get the loans they need to launch or expand their business. Mercy Corps Northwest is a field office in Portland, Oregon, for Mercy Corps, an international development and relief organization. In the Portland field office, the organization focuses on microfinance and microenterprise development, which means helping small businesses get access to capital.

Maggie works in the individual-development account program, which is a matched savings account. She also works with clients who are going through the loan process.

We talked with Maggie to find out what she loves about her career and what she did to get there.

How would you describe what do you do at Mercy Corps Northwest?
I work with small businesses in the area of finance. We work with entrepreneurs to start their business or expand their business, as well as get them connected to funding they may need to either expand in size or capacity. We help them get access to capital and connect them to resources to ensure they have a solid business plan.

How did you choose your career?
I decided to come to Mercy Corps Northwest because its principles and beliefs very much parallel my own. Also, the world of microfinance is very interesting to me and has a proven impact on the community that one can really see. I enjoy working both with numbers and the community.

Describe how you got to where you are today. What was your smartest move? What would you do differently if you had the chance?
I got to where I am today by having experience and skills needed to perform this type of work that I acquired via a circuitous but purposeful path filled with opportunity and wise decision-making. My smartest move was taking an internship during college. I would do nothing differently if I had the chance.

How is your job different from what others in your occupation do?
We have a very dynamic office, where we all take part in every activity of the business-development process.

What did you study in school?
In school I studied international affairs, foreign languages, and literature. It's really great to have a liberal arts background because it's definitely enriched me personally.

What skills do you need for your job on a day-to-day basis?
Pretty basic math -- addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, as well as some fractions that we use especially when calculating amortization. We run various scenarios with different businesses, and really see the power in how much even a hundred dollars will make to a small business over the course of a year.

What do you like about the microfinance field?
Microfinance is so cool to me because a small amount of money can really have a big impact on business. Both in the U.S. and abroad, people who are in the area of microlending are able to disburse small amounts of money to businesses and the small businesses are able to really transform themselves.

What's the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the creativity and passion that drives small-business owners and being able to work with them to realize goals.

Who is an important role model for you?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is an excellent role model because he showed us how peaceful change and the impact of a group of people affect positively. My parents continue to give me a lot of support and allow me to make decisions on my own, as well as guiding me when needed, as they have done throughout my whole life.

What advice do you have for young people considering a career in finance?
Pay attention to the people behind the numbers. Think critically but compassionately.

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