At the BIP Lab, our main goal is to understand parental decision-making. If information is power, we believe that learning about someone else’s personal experience can be particularly helpful when making decisions for your career, too. That’s why we wanted to introduce a new interview series, “Alumni Spotlight,” where we sit down with former students to learn what drives them, what they liked about working at the BIP lab, and where they are now.
We reconnected with Ana Dora Gonzalez Guerra, a former research assistant (RA) at the BIP lab and a current Senior Associate at Ideas42, a New York-based non-profit design and consulting firm, which addresses complex social problems using insights from behavioral sciences. We spoke with Dora and learned more about her interests, past experiences and her journey to get to where she is today.
BIP Lab: How did you become interested in your field?
Dora: I am originally from Mexico. While I was there, I stumbled across a book titled “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. It explains how we have an emotional side and a rational side of the brain and how we need to appeal to both sides in order to make change. Reading this book sparked my interest and inspired me to explore this field further.
BIP Lab: What drew you to work at the BIP Lab?
Dora: I am highly interested in behavior science and how its application can be utilized to gather insights to inform public policy. So, I had signed up for the BIP Lab digital newsletter even before I started my MA in Public Policy. One day, I received an email stating that the BIP Lab was hiring an RA so I replied and was able to schedule an in-person meeting to learn more about the BIP Lab and its work. I was immediately sold and applied to be part of the team!
BIP Lab: What is one of your favorite memories of the BIP Lab, and how does your experience reveal what the BIP Lab is all about?
Dora: While I was working as a RA with the BIP Lab, the Clinton Global Initiative program was calling for applications and a few other RAs and I decided to apply for it. We came up with a behavioral intervention idea and we were able to reach out to experts at the BIP Lab and seek their advice over lunch to improve our project proposal. This is one of my favorite memories from my time as RA with the BIP Lab and I think it shows how willing at everyone at the BIP Lab is to assist and share ideas with each other, even with things beyond their BIP Lab job scopes.
BIP Lab: What are you doing now?
Dora: I am a currently a Senior Associate at Ideas42. I am manage the economic justice portfolio and part of my work involves studying the ways harmful narratives surrounding poverty can affect public policy and the behavioral barriers that prevent people from increasing their skillsets in order to get higher paying jobs.
BIP Lab: How do you think your experience and time at the BIP Lab has helped you get to where you are today?
Dora: My experience at the BIP Lab has helped me learn all the steps involved in conducting an original research: from conceiving the idea to applying for funds to implementing the proposal to collecting and analyzing the data to finally, publishing it. I was able to experience and see firsthand how all the theories I had learned about conducting an original research is applied in real life and without this, I would have most likely had to spend many more years reinventing the wheel and learning second-hand rather than firsthand.
BIP Lab: What advice would you give to other students who aspire to follow a similar career path?
Dora: Actively search and attend webinars and workshops in your area of interest. Also, I would highly encourage anyone who has the chance to work at the BIP Lab today to reach out while you are there and ask the people around you for any advice that you may need, whether it is which classes to take or how to get to a certain career path. Being able to learn from others before me, has been a very helpful on my journey to get to where I am today.
BIP Lab: What do you enjoy doing with your free time?
Dora: I enjoy reading. Some of my favorite books are “Nudge” by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein and “Thinking, Fast and Slow: by Daniel Kahneman.