MEET OUR ALUMNI: THE APPLIED FEATURE OF THE MAE PROGRAM IS A UNIQUE COMBINATION OF ACADEMIC THEORY AND BUSINESS PRACTICE, SAYS KAREL MUSIL

Karel Musil, our MAE graduate from 2014, already held a Ph.D. degree when he decided to apply to the Master in Applied Economics program at CERGE-EI. In an interview with Karel, we discussed his career of 12 years at the IMF as a Policy Advisor, his position at the Czech National Bank as Head of Macroeconomic Forecasting, and why he decided to pursue studies in the MAE program despite his previous college success.

Your school trajectory is very unusual. You started your studies in the MAE program while you already had a Ph.D. degree in Macroeconomic Policy from Masaryk University and while being in the process of obtaining a Doctor of Science degree from the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics at Charles University. Why did you decide to apply to the MAE program?

My studies went from Masaryk University via Charles University to CERGE-EI and they were closely linked to macroeconomics all the time. Throughout my studies, I enjoyed the combination of macroeconomics, mathematics, and their applications. This is a mixture that is very useful, practical, and powerful.

I started my studies with general macroeconomic theory and policy. During my Ph.D. studies, I extended this field to macroeconomic modeling. It is something that provides a clear framework and full consistency to our thinking. The effective usage of technical tools boosted my analytical skills. However, to apply complex models into an analytical framework, it is extremely useful to understand the nature, motivation, limitations, and strengths of these methods. Thus, I decided to strengthen my skills in this regard at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Charles University. The study was challenging, but at the same time providing the basics and reasoning behind the applied tools in macroeconomic analysis and forecasting. The study seized me so much that I went through general mathematics to statistics, econometrics, and operational research.

Subsequently, I successfully applied for the MAE program at CERGE-EI. It allowed me to combine all the previously learned knowledge with an applied and practical-oriented study program. The strong and academic background of the institution is highly motivating for all the students to extend their expert knowledge further. Another big advantage is the fact that the lectures are given not only by highly reputable professors and academics but also by experienced experts from business and practice.

What knowledge and skills do you consider as the most useful ones you learned on the MAE program?

The indisputable advantage of the MAE program is its practical orientation. The variety of topics and lectures that were offered allowed me to further deepen my knowledge in the field and specialize in what I was interested in – monetary policy and macroeconomic modeling. Besides strengthening the theoretical background, there was a great opportunity to solve practical tasks and issues. Having the experience of my previous studies, the applied feature of the program was a unique combination of academic theory and business practice.

For more than 12 years, you have also served as a Policy Advisor at the IMF. Can you tell us more about your work there?

The gradual building of my capabilities in monetary policy, technical tools, and my orientation to applied macroeconomics gave me the opportunity to utilize my expertise not only in my home country, in the Czech Republic, but also at the international level. This involves working not only for the IMF, but also advising other central banks around the world, contributing to working groups at the ECB, and many other international institutions. At the same time, I am active in spreading these experiences and my knowledge in the Czech Republic via my membership in scientific and Ph.D. committees at universities, active participation in forums, reviewing papers and articles for journals, etc.

In this respect, I highly appreciate the fact that the MAE program – and indeed the philosophy of the whole institution – brings students from the whole world together. This will allow me to learn and understand my schoolmates and friends from other countries and continents, experiencing different cultures, habits, and life behavior.

Returning to my policy advising at the IMF, working there as an expert for more than a decade has covered various jobs and tasks. This involves not only teaching activities on behalf of the IMF but also practical policy advising for developing countries, especially for monetary policy authorities. Apart from projects aimed at establishing or boosting the analytical and forecasting capacities at central banks, I have contributed to the design of the whole model-based projection framework for monetary policies, coordinated internal and external policy communication, enhanced monetary policy implementation, improved monetary strategies, etc. The most challenging projects I have participated in included the successful transition from a fixed exchange rate or money targeting regime to inflation, targeting monetary policy framework in Uganda, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. Currently, I am working for new countries; in total, I have assisted more than ten central banks in multi-year projects. All of them have improved their monetary policies.

All this together is an irreplaceable and important experience for my professional life. At the same time, I am glad and grateful to the Czech National Bank, my current employer and one of the most advanced and transparent central banks in the world, that the Bank is willing to share this expertise and provide technical assistance in this area on its own, utilizing collaboration with the IMF, other international institutions and national central banks. This provides a great opportunity to improve macroeconomic policies together.

Your specialization is macroeconomics forecasting and since 2017 you have been the Head of the Macroeconomics Forecasting Division at the Czech National Bank. What from your MAE studies is helping you in your job?

The MAE program was useful even during the time when I worked at the Czech National Bank as a Senior Economist. This job included periodical macroeconomic forecasts together with monetary policy recommendations as deliverables regularly presented and discussed with the Bank Board of the Czech National Bank. This required not only a proper combination of a strong theoretical quantitative and economics background but also a comprehensive understanding of the practical implementation, coordination, and limitations of monetary policy. The emphasis on an applied approach and a general overview are some of the key ingredients of the MAE program.

In 2017 I was appointed as the Head of the Macroeconomic Forecasting Division, responsible for Czech economic analyses and forecasting in the Monetary Department of the Czech National Bank. Leading a team of 12 economists embraces not only forecast-related problem solving but also forecasting process coordination and team managing. Clear, comprehensible, and intuitive communication to the policymakers and to the public at this level is one of the core elements of success. And this is exactly the concept of the program that I studied at CERGE-EI. Although it is a while since I graduated there, that was in summer 2014, the program helped me get the correct sense of an applied and practical approach.

This year, CERGE-EI celebrates 30 years from its founding. What do you perceive as the strongest message CERGE-EI gives to its students?

First of all, I am grateful for having had the opportunity to take the MAE program at CERGE-EI and be a member of the CERGE-EI Alumni Community. Although it was the last stage of my active study life, the program offered and added new impulses to my professional career.

Pele, the great soccer player, claimed the following: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” This is a very encouraging idea, and CERGE-EI might be one of the components of success. It has a great potential to contribute to everybody’s professional career.

So let me use the opportunity to congratulate CERGE-EI on its 30-year anniversary and wish a lot of satisfied graduates for the future!

 

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