Irfan completed his Bachelor of Science in Economics from Trent University and his MA degree in Economics from the University of Waterloo. As part of his co-op placement, he completed an 8 month term at the Ontario Ministry of Finance (MOF) and upon graduation was hired by the MOF as an economist where he focused on regional economics and innovation policy related issues. Irfan was then hired by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade as a Senior Economist where he focused on sector policy development for the Information and Communications Technology sector specializing in the interactive digital media sector. In 2007, he became the Senior Policy Advisor to the Deputy Minister of Economic Development. In this role he acted as the liaison between the Minister’s Office and the Ministry in the area of sector development and program delivery. In 2009, as Senior Policy Advisor, Irfan worked on the delivery of the Innovation Demonstration Fund, which focused on providing prototyping funding to the emerging clean tech sector. Irfan is currently developing a new program at the Ministry of Research and Innovation that supports young entrepreneurs through the Campus Linked Accelerator Program, which is part of the government’s Youth Jobs Strategy.
What interests and goals led you to graduate studies in economics?
It was fascinating to me how people made decisions about their lives and how these decisions and transactions collectively impacted the economy. Economics was a great way to explore those ideas.
How has your graduate training in economics impacted your career path?
I have taken on increasingly senior positions within the Ontario government as a result of the skills obtained from my MA in Economics from the University of Waterloo. I have found that my education and training has been well suited for policy development. Part of the policy development process is being able to ask the right questions and testing to see what implications the policy may have. My education trained me to think critically and to ensure that my recommendations are supported by sound theory and good data.
What aspect of Waterloo's economics graduate program did you find most useful, in terms of your career?
One of the most valuable skills taught in grad school was how to analyze, interpret and communicate complex information. While working on my research paper I found it invaluable to discuss my research findings with my supervisors. Their insights were informative and it taught me how to analyze large sets of data and focus on the information that was relevant. As a Senior Policy Advisor in the Ontario Government, a lot of my time is spent looking at a variety of complex issues and perspectives and taking that information and conveying a simple story. This is an invaluable skill to have and one that was honed during my graduate studies. I also found it very useful to work on assignments with fellow “economists-in-training”. I recall taking a forecasting course where we were tasked with working in groups on several assignments. Not unlike my current workplace, we all brought different skills and strengths to the table but working together our work was greater than the sum of its parts.
If you went on co-op how critical do you think it was for your career?
One of the key factors for me applying to the MA program at UW was the co-op option. I didn’t have the work experience required to be employed in the Ontario government and I needed a way to get my foot in the door. The co-op program allowed me this opportunity. It also gave me the opportunity to learn about the job and to show my prospective employer that I had the necessary skills if not the experience to contribute to the team.
Any other comments about the Department? Would you recommend it as a destination for graduate education? If so, why?
The University of Waterloo was a great place to do my MA in Economics. The university has great resources, a strong faculty and a well-organized co-op program. The positive reputation of the university’s graduate economic program is also well recognized in the public sector. I would highly recommend the department to anyone looking for a fulfilling career in either the public or private sector.