Kristyn Frank

PhD Sociology alumna; Research Sociologist, Statistics Canada

Kristyn FrankWhat are your key responsibilities as Research Sociologist at Statistics Canada?

I am primarily involved with conducting research that pertains to immigration, education, and labour market issues using Statistics Canada data. 

These projects involve various activities such as writing programs to run statistical models, synthesizing the literature in the subject matter of interest, analyzing data, and writing analytical papers. I also write manuscripts for submission to academic journals and present our research findings at academic and policy conferences, and to individuals working in other government departments. Additionally, I work on data development projects and cost-recovery projects with external clients.

What drew you to this role?

I was interested in a position that allowed me to continue conducting research in my areas of interest, but also provided me with an opportunity to learn new approaches to research by working with individuals with different backgrounds. This position allows me to continue being engaged with the academic research community, while also providing me with the opportunity to learn about the role of research within the government. I was interested in working for Statistics Canada specifically because of their reputation as a leading statistical agency and their commitment to continued learning.

Describe your journey after graduation. How did you get to where you are now professionally?

After graduating in 2009 I worked at the University of Guelph for one year as a SSHRC post-doctoral fellow. The fellowship was helpful in providing me with additional research experience and also allowed me to write manuscripts from my dissertation research. During my post-doctoral position, my supervisor and I conducted research for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO). Towards the end of my fellowship, HEQCO advertised a position for a research analyst. I applied for the position and received a job offer. I began working there immediately following my fellowship. Several months into my position at HEQCO, I was contacted by Statistics Canada for a position to which I had applied during my post-doctoral position. I wrote an exam and was interviewed and subsequently received a job offer with the Social Analysis Division. I decided to accept the offer at Statistics Canada, where I have been working since 2011.

How has your degree prepared you for your current position?

My degree prepared me for my current position in several ways. First, it provided me with the research skills necessary to develop research ideas, analyze data, synthesize information, and write research articles. Further, it strengthened my self-discipline and time management skills. During my graduate studies, I also built communication and presentation skills by presenting at academic conferences, working as a teaching assistant and instructor, and serving as a graduate student representative within the Department of Sociology. My dissertation work and research assistantship positions also allowed me to conduct research in the South-Western Ontario Research Data Centre (SWORDC) at UWaterloo where I worked with various Statistics Canada data sets and learned about Statistics Canada’s policies regarding data confidentiality and disclosure of results. These experiences have been extremely valuable in my current position.

When in school, what were your career goals?

My main career goal during my PhD was to have a career doing social research in some form. While I was initially interested in becoming a professor, I realized early in my studies that academic employment might not be feasible given the labour market for academic jobs. Therefore, I decided to focus on developing research skills and knowledge that could be used in an academic position or applied to other careers. In particular, I tried to build my knowledge of a variety of quantitative methodologies.

What are your career goals now?

I would like to continue doing the type of research that I am currently involved with and eventually move into a more senior-level position.

Do you have any advice for current graduate students who are exploring the job market and planning what’s next?

I have two pieces of advice for current grad students planning their future. The first is to be aware that you are not bound to your specific thesis topic after graduation. It does not necessarily determine your future employment or even your future research projects. Although you develop very specialized knowledge of a particular subject matter, be aware that you are also developing skills that can be applied to many other subjects and many different types of jobs. For example, strong writing, communication, and time management skills are key components to many jobs. Your responsibility is to understand what skills you have developed and communicate that to potential employers. Second, keep an open mind. For PhD students in particular, there is a lot of pressure to obtain an academic position. There are many alternatives to academic positions that allow you to continue doing research, collaborate with individuals who are bright and engaged, and provide you with new opportunities.

Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo

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