I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but moved to the United States (US) eight years ago after graduating from La Salle University with a degree in Accounting. At present, I work as a full-time Financial Analyst for USAID, an international government agency. I work in business development projects where we focus on areas of concern in developing countries such as anti-corruption, straitening, poverty, and community development. My work for USAID has taken me to Africa and Asian, where I witnessed hungry families begging for food and countless abandoned children living in over-crowded orphanages.
My visit to these countries were particularly profound, as it made me realize that there is indeed a vast need for competent individual who can contribute to bringing advances in development to disadvantaged countries especially in Africa and Asia. Specifically, while in Malawi, Africa, I was saddened to see what is all too common – children begging for money, food, and even water – their thin bodies showing the years of neglect and malnutrition, and children left parentless because of the HIV pandemic that Africa is facing.
My experience in these communities made me realize not only the relevance of the job I perform on behalf of the US for some of the poorest developing countries in the world, but also that my work has become a personal mission. The desire to become more knowledgeable and more adept in international development, as a financial professional, has grown stronger and keeps growing stronger the more I become exposed to development work, and the more I learn about various legal, financial and ethical considerations in this graduate program.
I firmly believe that I can make a greater contribution to international development if I focus not only on fueling this desire to help, but in also constantly training to become a highly-skilled, and highly-trained financial professional. In other words, I believe that fulfilling my personal mission involves, simply, learning how to do my current job well, and to the best of my abilities. It should necessarily involve the right mix of passion and duty. I am passionate about what I do, but I know that I need constant training and learning in order to do my job well.
I am fortunate in a sense since I have been around the world and have gained a wider perspective on international issues. From my native Colombia, to Europe, Asia, and Africa, my travels and experience has brought an insightful perspective into the problems and benefits of globalization, and world-wide problems. I am aware that there is a growing need for international managers with a broad world perspective, in order to come up with unique solutions on issues facing the growing global community. It is this desire to study further that intrigues me both at the personal and professional levels.
My Ethical Theory I work as a financial analyst, as previously mentioned. This would seem rather incongruous with my personal and professional mission, as the financial profession is usually associated with the corporate world – with making profits and revenue – and not necessarily with development work. In short, the typical misconception with being a financial analyst is that people assume it is all about making money. To a certain extent, my current position does indeed involve money – but the money is earmarked for business development work – which projects to fund, which programs to support.
The key difference is that financial analysis within a corporate setting basically involves making profit. Financial analysis in my current position involves ensuring sustainability for the communities and projects chosen for support and funding. It can however be easy to overlook the big picture and simply focus on the “financial” part of the job – of looking at numbers, and not the actual people and communities involved. As I previously mentioned, I believe I can contribute best if I do my job well. In doing so, that means I must constantly learn how to navigate the financial profession side of my job.
Being a financial analyst inevitably involves the study of finance and of business, and sometimes it can be easy, and tempting, to just focus on these aspects and for the end goal to blur. The challenge there is learning how to succeed in my current position as a financial analyst without losing sight of my personal mission. Thus, I find it extremely helpful (and comforting) to adhere to a maxim that serves as a personal compass to guide my professional growth. Having a personal compass, or an ethical theory, helps to steer me towards my personal and professional dreams and mission.
In maintaining an ethical theory, I’ve found it useful to draw from the teachings of various ethics philosophers I’ve studied and read up on. My ethical theory revolves around doing my duty well so that I can serve out my responsibility to others. My duty is my current position as a financial analyst for USAID, involving business development work. As I’ve said, I cannot be expected to contribute to international development work if I cannot do my immediate tasks and responsibilities well and to the best of my abilities. These are, after all, areas within my control.
I draw inspiration in this case from the teachings of the philosopher, Immanuel Kant, on the formal principle of duty. Kant (1964) provides that: “an action done from duty has its moral worth, not from the results it attains or seeks to attain, but from a formal principle or maxim – the principle of doing one’s duty whatever that duty may be” (p. 20). According to Kant (1964), a maxim is a principle upon which we act. My ethical theory is anchored on this maxim – to contribute to international development work. It is a purely personal principle, and is manifested in my actions and decisions.
The maxim which gives moral worth to actions is the maxim or principle of doing one’s duty whatever one’s duty may be (Kant, 1964). This maxim – of wanting to contribute or do my part in helping people and communities in developing countries – motivates me to do my duty, regardless of what my duty may be, pursuant to Kant’s (1964) theory. My own personal ethical theory, however, departs a bit from Kant’s teachings on formal maxim and duty. Kant’s concept of duty involves making moral decisions taken in accordance with duty but for the sake of duty itself (Korner, 1955).
Such a reading does not really take into consideration my motives, or why I made or continue to make certain decisions about my personal or professional life. As I said, I do my duty, and strive to do well in it, precisely because I am driven by a personal motive – a maxim – which serves as a personal compass to inspire and motivate me in my work. Here I find it useful to combine some aspects of Kant’s (1964) teachings with that of Emmanuel Levinas’ (1985) theory on Responsibility for Others.
I am passionate about my work as a financial analyst for USAID precisely because I feel a great sense of responsibility for others. It is not necessarily a specific individual, group, or race. But I feel a sense of responsibility particularly for communities in developing countries who have so little in life. According to Levinas (1985), “positively, we will say that since the Other looks at me, I am responsible for him, without even having taken on responsibilities in his regard; his responsibility is incumbent upon me.
The responsibility that goes beyond what I do” (p. 96). The personal sense of responsibility, in my case, I believe, stems from the fact that my experience, education, and background has, in a sense, given me more, and has placed me in a better position to help out those who have less. When I look in the mirror, the person that I see is someone who is driven by a strong sense of duty and responsibility. I feel it is my responsibility to do well in my current duties as a financial analyst for USAID.
At the same time, my duty is motivated and inspired by a sense of responsibility towards the developing communities we support and try to reach out to in USAID. I feel like I am adhering to my ethical theory because I am driven by this sense of responsibility to others. In short, I do not just treat my job as a job or as a duty that has to be performed. I am driven by a moral compass or maxim, which is centered on something beyond myself and beyond my immediate duties as a financial analyst. It because of this that I feel that what I do is “ethical. ” Competencies
One competency that I must embody in my profession as a financial analyst for USAID is one that was, again, inspired by the teachings of Kant (1964) – one that involves reverence for the law. Kant (1964) provides that “duty is the necessity to act out of reverence for the law. ” This reverence for the law is premised on fear of the law which imposes certain duties and obligations, and which, consequentially, also imposes penalties for breaking the law. I believe that a morally good action is one that is rooted in reverence for the law – it is that reverence which gives the action unconditional value.
An area of study which particularly struck me during this graduate course was our discussion on corporate social responsibility. I was particularly impressed with this corporate law/business ethics theory since it provides that corporations, being concentrations of great economic power, should consider the social and economic effects of their business policies – even if these policies have detrimental or negative results to their stockholders or the company’s bottom-line (Millon, 1990).
I believe that an organization – whether private or public – should always strive to maintain a sense of corporate social responsibility. A social responsibility charter in any organization’s constitution or articles of incorporation would require such an organization to take into account different environmental or social actors or goals, and would force organizations to also consider the interests of various other stakeholders before making a decision (Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee, 2006).
Businesses, in particular, have responsibilities to the community precisely because organizations have the great power of influencing both business opinion and public opinion generally (Dodd, 1932). More importantly, business decisions can have overwhelming economic impact not just in the home country where the organization is situated but also to the economies of other nations.
A growing notion in business ethics is that business, while still an economic organization of society, remains private property in a qualified sense only, since society may demand that it be carried on in such a way as to safeguard the interests of the general public (Dodd, 1932). My job as a financial analyst requires that I maintain a social responsibility competency in the sense that the decisions, research, contributions, and analysis I provide on what programs and projects to support or develop would have a ripple effect outside the organization or immediate project involved.
Thus, even though I am clearly an employee of USAID, I should not just act for the interests of my organization, but should also consider the impact of the decisions I make, or the strategies I help in establishing, on the different stakeholders involved in our projects. Lastly, I believe that the two most important competencies that I must embody in my profession, around which my personal ethical theory revolves, are good will and duty. My personal maxim, as earlier discussed, is to contribute in international development.
Pursuant to Kant’s (1964) teachings, this embodies my good will, and in itself, is good but does not necessarily translate into action. Without action, I would merely be a well-meaning idealist with good intentions. It must be combined with the concept of duty, and in my case, I believe that it is my duty to do well in my current position as a financial analyst – and this includes further studies, such as taking up this graduate course, and in constantly learning on the job and from the people around me.
This sense of duty and good will are completely intertwined – I am not just doing my job because it is my job; there is a motive behind it. At the same time, I am not just sitting here with my lofty goals and ambitions – I am going through the day-to-day motions of working and studying and increasing my knowledge, so that I can attain my personal and professional dreams.