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Tuesday Transformation - Shane Lowe


Economist, The World Bank Group

Who is Shane Lowe?

I’m a pretty simple guy from relatively humble beginnings. I’m initially from Cane Garden, St. Andrew but now reside in the USA. I’m a son, brother and friend, and for two and a half years, I’ve been a husband to my wonderful wife Terri-Anne. I’m a big football fan and a pretty loyal one at that – a quality that is required if you support Arsenal in these times. I am also, of course, a proud Barbadian and love our culture. While I’m not a party-goer, Crop Over is my favourite time of the year, and unlike most people my age, the Pic o’ the Crop Finals is my favourite event of the season. Finally, a large helping of pudding and souse with a side of breadfruit and a tall glass of golden apple juice makes my day, any day.


What is 1 thing our readers might be surprised to learn about you?

Some people may think that I’m very outgoing, but I’m actually very shy and introverted, and struggle with self-doubt just like many other young people do. I never believe that, because I’ve been successful at something in the past, that I will overcome future challenges easily. I approach each new one with the perspective that this time could be different, and it therefore requires my best effort to succeed. Somewhat contradictory though, I enjoy public speaking and teaching people new things.


How did you manage to remain motivated while pursuing your studies?

Several things keep me motivated, even during the most difficult challenges. I think the idea of what I can accomplish after I’ve completed my studies is a major motivation to continue until the end. However, learning more and recognizing that there’s so much I don’t know keeps me trying to add to my knowledge base. From youth I have been afraid of not fulfilling whatever little potential I have in life. It terrifies me to think that I may waste my time here on earth. Another motivation is being a positive example for others but also for my future (hopefully) children. I want to be someone they look up to and be proud to say, “that’s my father!” or say, “my father is Shane Lowe!” and have a big smile on their faces as if that means something. Being able to relay to them a story of success rather than failure through quitting keeps me going each day.


You’ve accomplished a lot. Tell us a bit about your journey.

My first knowledge of Economics as a subject was at the end of my 5th form year at Harrison College. I was preparing to select my three optional subjects to pursue in 6th form and had decided that Accounting and Management of Business would be my primary focus areas. I needed one more subject, and was convinced that Mathematics, with which I had slowly (and temporarily) fallen out of love, was not going to be it. Economics was about to be offered for the first time at the CAPE level at Harrison College, and after some consultation with my Management of Business teacher about Economics, an area I knew virtually nothing about, I decided to choose it as the 3rd subject. To my surprise, I loved it and vowed that, some day, I would be Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados just across the road. Therefore, after two years of 6th form, I applied to UWI, Cave Hill to pursue my BSc. Economics and Accounting and spent each of my summer vacations while at university as an intern at the central bank in different capacities.


At the end of my final year at university, I gave up an opportunity to work full time in accounting at a regional organization to take up a 4-month stint as a clerical officer with the central bank while a member of staff was on maternity leave. It was a gamble worth taking, and 4 months later, having presented a research paper at their annual review seminar, I successfully interviewed for a position as a research officer with the Research and Economics Analysis department, and was appointed as an Economist one year later. After almost four great years with the central bank, during which I also completed my MSc. International Financial Economics as a Commonwealth Scholar at the University of Glasgow, I took up a position with CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank as their Strategy and Economic Analyst, providing economic surveillance and guidance on 17 economies across the Caribbean.


During that time, I started and am still pursing my PhD Economics with the University of Glasgow on a part-time basis and hope to complete those studies over the coming year and a half. It was also during this time that I took up the position of President of the Barbados Economics Society. I felt that, while challenging, this was an opportunity to educate the general public about the issues that plagued the economy at the time, and to try to distill and clarify much of the discussion that was occurring in the lead up to a general election. Those 4 and a half years with FirstCaribbean before I left for my current post in Washington D.C. were very fulfilling and, as with my time at the central bank, I met some wonderful people. I can honestly say that, in each of my jobs so far, I have worked with some great bosses and amazing colleagues who have provided much of the guidance and facilitated much of the growth that my career has benefited from to date.


Tell us about your move to Washington D.C. How has the experience been like so far?

I moved to Washington D.C. in January 2019, and while it was a choice I made willingly, it is not one I could have imagined making just six months earlier. I love Barbados, and the idea of leaving to live and work somewhere else for an extended period was nowhere close to my thoughts at the time. However, in October 2018, I saw a once in a lifetime opportunity to further my career as an Economist with the World Bank Group, and felt that I, and hopefully ultimately Barbados, could benefit from this experience. I’m loving the new role and learning something new each day.


Washington D.C. itself has also been great. Life over there can only be described as efficient and instant. Everything moves a bit faster, but that’s fine because I’m enjoying it. The city and surrounding areas in Virginia and Maryland are beautiful, especially in the Spring and the World Bank Group is a melting pot of so many different nationalities, cultures and ethnicities that it never gets boring.


What advice would you give someone who is interested in pursuing a career similar to yours?

Economics is one of those fields where there are not as many obvious job opportunities locally (especially in the private sector) as I think there should be. However, it simply means that the best in that field will have the best chance to pursue and take advantage of any opportunities that do arise. Therefore, trying your best and using opportunities to stand out relative to others will always yield rewards in the long-run. I remember that, in my final semester at UWI, I needed to complete just one course in accounting to graduate. However, recognizing that there would be fierce competition for places in the central bank, I chose to pursue 2 additional quantitative courses in economics, one of which was notoriously difficult – Econometrics II (recall that I had temporarily fallen out of love with mathematics just 5 years earlier). As a matter of fact, just two of us took that course, and we were the two selected to be research officers with the central bank later that year. Therefore, never let your fear of a field, subject or lecturer stop you from pursing your dreams. The skills you take from that course, regardless of the grade received, may be the ones you need to stand out amongst a crowded field of candidates, whether interviewing for a job locally, regionally, or internationally.


More generally though, you only live once. While it’s important to be prudent about the decisions you take, spending years of regret because you didn’t back yourself is likely to be worse than taking a shot and it not working out. Having studied in the UK and now working in Washington D.C., I’ve learned that Barbadians are among the most highly educated people in the world. We have no reason to feel like we can’t excel in anything in life, and there are several stories of Barbadians excelling globally. Oftentimes it’s not our competence that holds us back, but the opportunities that may or may not be available. So, if an opportunity ever arises to do something you love, whatever and wherever it is, I say grab it and enjoy every moment of the experience!


Barbados is very proud of your achievements and we celebrate with you. Can you share any future plans?

Right now, my immediate plans are to complete the PhD and spend more time with my family and friends. However, I definitely plan to return to Barbados some day to put some of what I learn abroad in practice. I’m not sure in what capacity that would be, but any opportunity to represent my country and contribute to its development, is one that I will always find hard to ignore.

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