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Tolly Oram

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Tolly Oram is an Economist at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). He studied Economics and History at the University of Leeds and spent a few years working in policy and financial supervision at the Bank of England.

Why did you choose to study economics?

It's hard to remember exactly what drew me to the topic as a teenager, but I think reading books such as The Undercover Economist and Freakonomics were instrumental in realising that economics was all around us in everything we spend our time or money on. I also found understanding economic forces as drivers of change really helped me as a historian too. Having great teachers at school helped too!

How would you describe economics?

I would describe economics as a toolkit which helps us to think about the world around us and to tackle challenging problems; whether that's fighting climate change, reducing inequality or responding to financial crises. I think it's a misconception that economics is nothing but complex maths equations - in fact, I didn't study maths at A-level!

If you had a time machine and could meet your 16-year-old self, what advice would you give them?

Don't be afraid to put yourself out there, be confident and experience as many different things as possible, whether that's work experience, travel, volunteering or student societies. Make the most of your freedom as a student!

What is your favourite part of economics?

I am particularly interested in international political economy and geo-politics; i.e. how different international actors engage with one another and the economic forces and incentives at play, and how this is informed by the nature of each nation's economic structure, politics, geography and history.

Is there anything you would do differently if you had the chance?

That's a difficult question to answer; if I had told myself 10 years ago I would have joined the Bank of England, supervised one of the world's largest banks and now work for the FCDO I wouldn't have believed you, so I am grateful for all the opportunities (and mistakes!) which have guided me so far. I have nurtured a "don't ask don't get" mentality over time, something I could have done more of sooner. Often we assume things are not possible or the answer will be "no", but you will never know all the possibilities for sure unless you ask the question!

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