Name: Nora O'Reilly ‘20

Title: Director's Financial Analyst

Employer: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Major: Economics B.S.




What do you enjoy the most about your position?

I really enjoy working on behalf of consumers in relation to the issues that I see in the headlines everyday. It is very sobering and motivating to have even an ounce of influence on the policies that shape the lives of other people.

I also love how much I get to learn. I was really passionate about history during college, and there are many avenues to learn about that in my position. I also love working in a relatively new federal agency, where I feel like I have agency.

Could you explain more about your current responsibilities?

I work in the Mortgage Markets office of the Bureau, so a typical day starts with me reading up on the news in the housing environment. Throughout the day, I typically have a meeting or two about a mortgage issue the Bureau is addressing or a project I'm working on. Any other time I have throughout the idea is dedicated to a research report I am working on, where I am currently trying to figure out a data-discrepancy issue. I give presentations, do literature reviews, work in Tableau and R, and take on whatever other spontaneous tasks cross the Mortgage Markets desk.

How did you find your current position?

The Fall Career Fair at UMD.

Would you say the courses that you took as an undergraduate prepared you for this position?

Quantitative coursework like Econometrics (mainly getting comfortable with R and Stata, not necessarily learning regression theory) has been key to my position. It's important to know how to handle data and have the skills to analyze it. Google is my best friend when it comes to this, what's most important is being able to visualize the big picture and then you can google from there.

I think my history courses, particularly Black Women in US History taught by Dr. Elsa Barkley Brown and the Civil War and the Rise Industrialization taught by Dr. Robert Chiles have really informed my work. Obviously my work is focused on the current mortgage market, but I think understanding some history on how financial systems were built and how African-Americans were systematically excluded from financial systems is vital to working in those spaces today.

Dr. Katharine Abraham teaches an excellent course on economics in policymaking that gave me a great dive into the real world of economic policy, and from one of the most experienced professors in the department.

Aside from your coursework, what else were you involved in and how did it help you develop professionally?

Internships at NARAL-Reproductive Justice and doing research on Universal Basic Income on campus were excellent experiences for me to build my policy and research skills. Being part of the Design, Cultures and Creativity program gave me a home at UMD and gave me a lot of freedom to explore things outside of Economics, which I found really important! I've had many wonderful professors, and a few that I count as mentors.

When searching for jobs, what should students consider?

Go after what you want! I heard about this from someone at the career fair and the reason I pursued it is because we had a wonderful conversation and I thought the recruiter was someone I wanted to work with. Seek out the professors you think sound cool or are very nice, and they will advocate for you if you need them too. Also- don't be afraid to apply for positions you don't think you are qualified for. For me, coding can be very intimidating and I often convince myself I can't do it- but it turns out, I usually can, and you can probably do the thing you think you're bad at, too!

What piece of advice do you have for students pertaining to being successful during the pandemic?

Take care of yourself! This is so tough, you don't deserve to be in this position, and you're doing your best in a time when everything is extra hard. Also, please feel free to reach out to me to talk about my experiences, ask for advice, or honestly whatever. I am happy to share what I know and help out if I can.