Profile with Tara McIndoe Calder

Tara McIndoe Calder (Zimbabwe & Hertford 2006) currently works as an economist at the Central Bank of Ireland. She is interested in credit risk modelling and Small and Medium Enterprise credit allocation as well as a broad range of development economics issues including factor flows, trade, migration, capital flows and macro finance (inflation, government revenue, financial institutions). Tara holds a PhD and BA from Trinity College, Dublin, and an MPhil from the University of Oxford.

Rhodes Project: Where do you call home?

Tara McIndoe Calder: I currently call Dublin home but I’m from Zimbabwe originally.

Rhodes Project: When you were a kid, what did you aspire to be later in life?

Tara McIndoe Calder: When I was very little I wanted to be a “Chartered And Countant” because that’s what my dad was. When I finished school I wanted to do something business related. But once I got to university I realised that I wanted to become an economist.

Rhodes Project: What surprised you most about Oxford?

Tara McIndoe Calder: I think the thing that surprised me most was how the economics departments at Trinity and Oxford could be so different from each other. The thing I enjoyed the most was the college and Rhodes House side of life at Oxford. I hadn’t expected college life to be such a rich, social experience. Because lots of people from the Rhodes community and the college community are far away from home it was really lovely - what good friends you can make in a very short period of time.

Rhodes Project: What is an average work day like for you?

Tara McIndoe Calder: Currently it involves getting up at quarter to six in the morning and feeding my ten month old before doing lots of chores around the house until I leave at half past seven. I get into work at around eight and have a nice quiet, productive hour before everyone else arrives in my office at nine. My job entails carrying out economic analysis in the financial stability department here in the Central Bank. The exciting part of my job involves discussions with internal and external influential people regarding policy issues around the current economic crisis in Ireland.  Then I leave at around four or five to go home and spend a couple of hours with my baby before collapsing for the evening.

Rhodes Project: You’ve joined the Bank at a time when central bankers are more in the spotlight than they’ve perhaps ever been before. Does the media interest in how central banks deal with the fallout from the recent recessions affect you at all?

Tara McIndoe Calder: I only became a central banker after the crisis started so I don’t have a good reference point for before the crisis.  However, in my organisation at the Central Bank of Ireland, we’ve moved towards a model of publishing as much of our research and policy work as we can, specifically to inspire discussion around these really important policy aspects of the crisis. So to the extent that the work that I do is picked up by the media and discussed more widely, I think it’s viewed in quite a positive light.  I think that an important aspect of the job is to make sure that the work we do is discussed widely and openly so I really enjoy that part of it.

Rhodes Project: Is there anything about public perceptions of economics or economists that consistently frustrates you?

Tara McIndoe Calder: I do think that economists, and in particular central bankers and academics, are perhaps seen to be a little removed from people’s everyday lives.  They might look at issues which people who are dealing with difficulties and credit constraints might think of as quite esoteric. I do struggle with that misconception. The work that we do is very strongly founded in policy development questions. It’s a challenge to make sure people know that -- that when they look to the organisation they can find useful information.

Rhodes Project: Do you find yourself drawing parallels between your own academic research on developing economies and events of the last few years within the global north?

Tara McIndoe Calder: I still think of myself as first and foremost a development economist so it is strange for me, in a way, to be working in a developed country central bank. But to the extent that Ireland is a small, peripheral European country, in the middle of an economic crisis, working here is not so different from developing country work. My PhD thesis broadly related to understanding institutions better, especially during times of change or crisis. This is currently very relevant to my current job.

Rhodes Project: If you had unlimited resources to address any macroeconomic issue, which would you focus on and why?

Tara McIndoe Calder:  My research has focused on migration in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly between Mozambique and South Africa and agricultural reform in Zimbabwe.  The key lesson is that institutions are really important and it’s crucial that they are constructed correctly and given a lot of support. So if I had unlimited resources I think it would go towards understanding institutions and understanding how to evolve them in a way that copes with lots of social, political and historical changes.

Rhodes Project: Who is your favourite real life heroine?

Tara McIndoe Calder: I think that women are lacking in senior positions in many organisations, which is something that I engaged with while I was at Oxford. There aren’t enough female role models in academia and in the private and public sectors. At Trinity there is a Professor, Carol Newman, who is young, ambitious and excellent at what she does. She received her doctorate whilst I was an undergraduate and I respect her and look to emulate a lot of her professional developments.

Rhodes Project: What do you do to relax?

Tara McIndoe Calder:

What I would like to do to relax is yoga and running and reading more novels, but what I actually do at the moment is maybe half an hour of watching something silly on TV to unwind before I go to bed. Although, it is also relaxing to spend time with a ten month old: playing with soft toys, building blocks and wondering when crawling is going to happen.

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