Geoff Bowlby, MA

Director General, Collection and Regional Services, Statistics Canada

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

I actually stumbled upon my interest in economics, as an undergrad studying political science. What originally started as a way to round-off my understanding of politics, turned into a new direction for my studies, and for my career.  Economics began to fascinate me, perhaps because it fit well with my way of thinking and my desire for a practical application of my studies. When I couldn’t understand the evening business report, or the front page of the Financial Post, I knew that I needed to learn more.

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

It has greatly shaped my career path. Much of my career has been with the Labour Force Survey at Statistics Canada, our premier socio-economic survey. In my early years, I was an economist who told Canadians what the monthly jumble of labour statistics actually means: were the numbers indicating an improvement in the economy, or a downturn? The profile of this position helped me earn a positive reputation in the organization, where I progressed up the ranks to senior management at a relatively young age. Around five years ago, during a particularly scary time for the world economy, I was the director responsible for the broader labour statistics program. I am very grateful for my University of Waterloo education for helping me understand what the world was going through, so I could help Canadians understand what was happening to our economy.

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

I appreciated the efforts of the faculty to make our education practical. There were more references to real-world examples in the Master's program, which I did not receive in my undergrad, which seemed more theoretical. I recall one Resource Economics class where our weekend assignment was a mock briefing to a senior executive about what price deflator we recommend the organization use to evaluate its’ gold portfolio. To me, these sort of creative exercises were what made the difference. In addition, I greatly benefited from my classmates, with whom I formed a strong friendship. We needed each other; the U of W program was challenging, which encouraged us to work together to develop our knowledge and skills.

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

The co-op option was very critical for my career. I was stuck in the vicious cycle "no experience, no work, no work, no experience". It was the co-op option of the program that broke the cycle and helped me find my first "real" job. I was employed for a term with Industry Canada, where I was thrust immediately into a job preparing economic briefings to Ministers. Industry Canada  kept me on contract, while I wrote my research paper in the evenings, and gave me the experience I needed to enter Statistics Canada as a recruit economist. In addition to getting my foot in the door, the co-op program helped me develop job application and interviewing skills, which still help me to this day.

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

I would recommend the University of Waterloo to anyone interested in pursuing a career in economics. Its’ rich and practical program were right for me, and would be for others as well.

Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo