Emma Bienias, MA

Director, Stout Risios Ross, Global Financial Advisory Services

I started my academic career studying biology and chemistry and was content but not entirely satisfied with my studies. My sister was taking economics courses and one day I started to flip through her textbooks. I quickly realized I was much more interested in this subject matter as an academic focus. I could read about certain economic concepts and be able to link them to current financial and fiscal events in the news. This is what spurred my interest in pursuing studies in economics. I completed my science undergraduate degree and applied to Waterloo to pursue another undergraduate degree – this time with a major in economics. I choose Waterloo because the co-op program would allow me to get some real-world experience to supplement the classroom learning. Following Waterloo, I worked at Arthur Andersen doing risk consulting for nearly two years. As the health of the company deteriorated, I made the decision to go back to obtain a graduate degree at Waterloo.

After completing my masters, I worked at a consulting firm providing financial analysis and determining economic damages in disputes. I knew the US legal environment would provide many opportunities for professionals who work in the litigation consulting field. So, a year after I finished my graduate degree, I transferred with my firm to Chicago and focused my career on dispute and litigation consulting with a primary emphasis on intellectual property matters. I combine financial, market and competitive information to value intellectual property for a variety of objectives such as regulatory compliance, licensing, and securing financing for corporate acquisitions and expansion. I also provide litigation support for analyses of economic damages resulting from the infringement or misappropriation of intellectual property rights. This field of work combines my science and economics background and challenges me each and every day.

What interests and goals led you to graduate studies in economics?

I wanted to dig deeper into some of the areas, such as econometrics and macroeconomics that were touched upon in undergrad. I also felt that I needed to differentiate myself in the job market, and having a graduate degree from one of the most well-respected universities in Canada would set me apart from other candidates.

How has your graduate training in economics impacted your career path?

I don’t think there was anything specific in graduate school that impacted my career path; however, having a degree as broad and relevant as economics allows flexibility in the many different types of professions a graduate can pursue.

What aspect of Waterloo's economics graduate program did you find most useful in terms of your career?

While I considered myself responsible and took undergraduate studies seriously, in the graduate program, there was a whole new level of juggling and preparedness. With classes, homework/readings, group work and being a teaching assistant, I had to make sure I was prepared for each day and prioritize my time because there were others that were depending on me. Having developed those skills in grad school has helped me with the multiple projects and tasks that demand my time at work.

If you went on co-op how critical do you think it was for your career?

Co-op was absolutely critical in shaping my career. Not only does it provide the real world work experience that most employers want, in my opinion, the type of job you get in co-op, in most cases, determines the type of job you will land post-university. Most of my friends who landed jobs at banks in co-op ended up securing jobs in the banking field. Similarly, those who got consulting-type co-op positions, ended up at one of the consulting firms after graduation. It is important for students to not only know what they want to do but the type of company they would like to work for.

Any other comments about the Department? Would you recommend it as a destination for graduate education? if so, why?

I selected Waterloo over other graduate programs because I was familiar with the school and the professors, having attended undergrad there. I also preferred a program where the class sizes would allow me to get to know not only my classmates but my professors. I did not want to be just a student ID number. Waterloo’s economics program is supportive, yet challenging, and I would highly recommend it as a destination for students considering graduate education, especially for those who want to gain valuable work experience while earning their degree.

Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo