Culture at PWBM

What makes PWBM special?

Located in Philadelphia and Washington D.C., PWBM gives policymakers the tools that they need to assess the impact policy choices on the economy and the federal budget. Accordingly, we also help related Congressional and Federal committees and agencies conduct their own policy analysis better, faster and with more transparency. Similar to the CPB Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis in the Netherlands, we aim to become the mandatory go-to source for quality, independent analysis for U.S. government authorities, candidates for office, and the general public. By 2020, we aim to become the only non-governmental entity in the United States to provide comprehensive government spending and tax modeling, culminating in an independent deficit forecast. We sponsor multiple convening events each year, including private sessions with policymakers and public sessions open to the general public and media.

Achieving our objectives with a lean team requires close collaboration between economists, data scientists and software engineers. We are a small, agile team of high performers operating within a highly entrepreneurial work environment. No other organization, government or independent, provides our level of sophistication in economics and policy modeling. We are also the only major public policy modeling organization that posts all of its key model equations online to allow for peer review.

Our platform includes a microsimulation model with rich demographic details that is integrated with a cutting-edge dynamic heterogeneous-agent overlapping-generations model with uninsurable shocks. Despite this level of sophistication, our focus on quality software engineering, data analytics and cloud computing allows our analysis to be timely and useable by policymakers while they are writing legislation instead of waiting for a score after the fact.

For example, in the two months before the Job Cuts and Tax Act was signed into law on December 22, 2017, we scored numerous amendments, sometimes within just a couple of hours. One key Senate staffer told us that “we have become the go-to source on Capitol Hill.” Another key policymaker told us that they “give us the really hard work.” We regularly consult privately with key staff, either delivering some analysis or helping them enhance their own models.

How do we work?

We want PWBM to be a place that is both challenging and fun, where everyone feels part of a team of fellow superstars. Our work should be meaningful on a personal level: Are you learning and producing products that are relevant for your career? Does your work have significant meaning to the world around us? Are you helping PWBM have a big influence on policymaking?

We want you to be surrounded by people that you respect. We want you to learn new things, especially across different fields. For example, our newly hired PhD economists are typically surprised by our intense software development process and data analytics, which makes their job and research immensely more productive. In the process, they learn how to code better and work smarter.

Depending on the project and deliverables, our work environment ranges from one of wide-ranging academic research to a deadline-driven production of specific policy results (for instance, to support a bill score or a media publication deadline.)

Our core values are:

  • Impact: Are you making a big impact? What are you doing exceptionally well? Are you making good, smart decisions?

  • Passion: Are you driving hard to meet exogenous deadlines? Are you willing to put in the extra mile when needed?

  • Initiative: Are you willing to speak up and suggest improvements and new ideas? Are you interested in learning new things?

  • Collaboration: Are you making time to help colleagues, even with tasks that you think are “beneath you”? Are you sharing openly? Are you willing to consider other ideas? At the same time, you should never simply validate other opinions: you graciously push back when needed. Are you sharing information? Do you communicate well with others?

  • Integrity: Are you treating colleagues with respect and respecting personal boundaries? Are you always working in the best interest of PWBM?

  • Ownership: Are you taking responsibility to ensure a project succeeds, regardless of whether you are the project leader? Are you actively seeking out deliverables and taking charge of their successful completion?

In return, PWBM commits to you:

  • Interesting work: We will provide opportunities for you to work on areas of interest to you within the span of PWBM’s mission in public policy. We want you to be excited about what you are working on. We will support you in exploring new topics, techniques, and technologies.

  • Flexibility: We want you to be productive. Within the scope of working with others on a team, we do not follow a strict work-time policy but operate within the flexibility allowed by the University.

  • Openness: We are responsible to be open to you about PWBM’s future plans, major deliverables, long-term vision and our finances. If you ever feel in the dark, just ask. You should always be “in the know.”

  • Trust: We want you to take ownership. That first means communicating your plans and ideas widely, especially with your boss. In return, we respect and believe in your ability and decisions to do what is best for your deliverables and for PWBM. We will stand by you in external interactions and never “throw you under the bus.” We trust you to seek out help and support when you need it and to work on your own when you don’t.

  • Compensation: Since we are a team of superstars, we always aim to pay well, within the existing benchmarking of the university system. PWBM strongly advocates for its employees, including gathering our own benchmarking information to bring to HR.

  • People over Process: While it is now a bit cliché, we really do value people over processes. To be sure, a large university requires processes, which we must abide. However, it is the job of the faculty director to run interference as much as possible to isolate you from external processes in order to give you the freedom to be your best.