At Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, Waqar Ahmad is responsible for leading institutional networking and engagement for public policy and business advocacy with governments, multilaterals, industry associates, and nonprofits. Before joining Nestlé, Waqar worked as a private sector specialist at the World Bank and as a summer scholar at the International Monetary Fund.
The following interview, part of a series conducted via email by Ahmad Jamal Wattoo MPA ’21, has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What prompted you to join SIPA for the MPA in Economic Policy Management program?
Attending Columbia SIPA had been a lifelong dream. I had great interest in multilateral economic policymaking, and the MPA-EPM offered the best academic platform and strong institutional linkages with both the UN system and World Bank institutions.
Did you participate in any extracurricular activities at SIPA? What did your average weekday at SIPA look like?
I really worked to make the most of my time at SIPA. I actively participated in diplomatic engagements with the United Nations missions in New York that were organized by the SIPA Diplomatic Club, and also proactively participated in cross-department academic seminars and extracurricular activities in SIPA.
The mid-career MPA-EPM program is academically quite demanding in comparison to a regular MPA program. I had to manage a long day with follow-up next-day deadlines in order to fulfil my academic requirements.
How would you compare your work in the public sector—at the World Bank and the IMF—to the private-sector work which you do currently at Nestlé?
Working with public-sector multilaterals and multinational corporates has its own dynamics and organizational cultures. What is uniquely common to both the private and public sectors is that their systems in place and structured approach to solve development or business challenges are similar.
In your job search, how much emphasis did hiring managers place on your GPA?
GPA is always important, as it creates a good first impression on any interviewer. However, job interviews are about more than GPAs, as hiring managers give a lot of importance to the substance of your education, professional experiences, and on-the-spot interview presentations.
What made you choose to work at Nestlé? What does your average work day at Nestlé look like?
Nestlé is among the best employers one can dream of. The company offers a unique work-life balance, respect for local regulations and compliance, sustainability approaches, and best practices within its global value chain and the communities that it engages with.
Do you have any advice for SIPA students who are currently looking for internships and full-time positions at the organizations where you have worked?
Students should make the best use of their time by participating in activities outside the classroom. Believe me, that is the greatest strength and offering of Columbia.
It is absolutely important for students to explore their interests and pick courses relevant to their professional interests and that can enhance their employability. Starting to interact with prospective managers and teams ahead of graduation is important. Engaging with the alumni offline and online networking on LinkedIn can be a very useful step as well.