Profile with Mariame McIntosh  

Mariame McIntosh (Jamaica & Hertford 1998) is currently a partner and member of the Investment Committee at Portland Private Equity whilst also volunteering with TEACH Caribbean, an educational non-profit organization that she co-founded. Mariame holds an MPhil in Economics from the University of Oxford, an M.B.A. from Harvard University and a BSc. (Engineering) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Rhodes Project: What is the last book you read for pleasure?

Mariame McIntosh: I’m reading a book right now called Destined To Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany by Hans J. Massaquoi. It sounds pretty dark but it’s actually very interesting.

Rhodes Project: What piece of technology could you not live without?

Mariame McIntosh: I guess right at this moment probably my smart phone and particularly Whatsapp or BBM. That’s because I have a lot of friends or colleagues in different countries and I find it to be the most efficient and cost-effective method of communicating and staying in touch with them.

Rhodes Project: Did you find your Oxford experience intellectually fulfilling? Was it what you were expecting?

Mariame McIntosh: I did an MPhil in Economics and before going, I had heard that you get an exam at the end of each year and I thought, ‘how hard can that be?’, because I went through the undergrad system in the United States where you get exams throughout every term. But it was like doing an MPhil in Maths! We had to prove everything from first principles, which was no small feat. The group of Rhodes Scholars who were in the course formed a study group very early on in the first term of the first year and today they are some of my closest friends to date.

Rhodes Project: When did you first become interested in economics?

Mariame McIntosh: Well I did engineering as an undergraduate degree at MIT however while there, I had to choose a few humanities subjects and I just happened upon economics. I found the subject area to be a lot more interesting than expected because it helped to explain what was going on in Jamaica. It was rewarding to be able to tie what was going on to what I could study academically.

Rhodes Project: What is the best part of your job now?

Mariame McIntosh: I think the best part is the impact I feel like we’re having. We offer equity capital to companies in the Caribbean region where there is a dearth. I believe that one of the only ways that we will grow as a region is via small businesses; and these businesses need equity capital to grow. There is a lot of debt capital available. I will admit though that up until five years ago, it was just about working with the best companies possible. I think that when you are younger, the focus is about learning as you think that’s the Holy Grail. Now, whatever I’m doing has to be with good people and they have to have a good value system, and the focus must be on things I care about or are dear to my heart.

Rhodes Project: What advice would you offer to a woman interested in a career in economics?

Mariame McIntosh: I would say definitely go for it! There are so many things one can do after so I would stay the course and consider doing it at the highest level. In hindsight it probably would’ve been good to stay on for the DPhil as in the grand scheme of things a few more years to get that additional degree is not very costly from a time-value perspective and it can open more doors. It’s good to be as qualified as possible.

Rhodes Project: Can you tell me about your non-profit work?

Mariame McIntosh: Absolutely! I volunteer with TEACH Caribbean, an educational non-profit organization “Targeting Educational Achievement in Caribbean High schools”. TEACH’s aim is to improve quality of and access to educational resources for high school students by using innovative methods and curricula. We run a six week summer program at two high schools in rural Jamaica where the students are taught Math and English with a focus on problem areas from the preceding school year to prepare them for the upcoming school year. The students start with us after grade 7 and come back each summer until they are ready to sit the CXC/GCSE exams in grade 11. We bring Rhodes scholars down to teach alongside the Jamaican teachers. We received seed funding from the Rhodes Trustees to run a pilot program from 2006-2008 and achieved successful results! TEACH is now fully operational. This summer we had two Scholars down from New Zealand and Botswana, and three Jamaican teachers, two for Maths and one for English. I am really passionate about educational development in this region.

Rhodes Project: If you had unlimited resources to address any one issue, global or local, what would it be and why?

Mariame McIntosh: I would absolutely invest in the education of children, from a very young age right through to pre-college age. Providing them with access to quality resources. A country is only as a good as its talent and a lot of emerging markets forget that. Through investment in education, countries can achieve their full potential and better solve some of the big challenges as more brain power will be focused on these issues.

Rhodes Project: Who has been your greatest inspiration?

Mariame McIntosh: My greatest inspiration on a very practical, micro level has been my dad. He was the person who said I should go to MIT, never forcing it on me but believing in me more than I believed in myself, especially when I was younger. I think more broadly my inspiration comes from those that are able to shun worldly possessions and give their life to improving the life of others.  Nelson Mandela really inspires me. It’s a bit of a cliché but when I went to Robben Island and saw what he and many others went through....the fact that he was able to turn around a create a peaceful transition, to me, is just incredible. I can’t imagine having that impact.

Rhodes Project: If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?

Mariame McIntosh: My two favourite places to go to are actually the Amalfi coast in Italy and Cape Town, such breathtaking beauty that it is humbling. But if I could click my heels right now I’d go to Brazil. I have never been before but I think it would be an interesting experience given its history, culture and on the more formal side, its economic performance. Plus I love dancing and music.

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