Alumnus - Class of 2017

professional headshot of class of 2017 alumnus Christina AjithkumarCurrent position: Senior Policy Analyst (Community Safety and Countering Crime Branch), Public Safety Canada
Co-op position: Analyst, Statistics Canada
Academic background: Legal Studies, Arts & Business co-op, minor in Sociology, University of Waterloo

Why did you choose Waterloo’s MPS program? 

I chose the MPS program because after comparing and contrasting a few different MPA programs I felt that the broad range of courses offered through MPS best catered to my interests. Additionally I felt MPS really focused on the skills necessary to be a public servant while also providing context to current political and economic issues. Finally, one of my sorority sisters had gone through the program and it came highly recommended to me and after meeting professors/program administrators at a grad school fair I was sold.

Tell us about your current co-op position. 

I am an analyst at Statistics Canada and I work in the Retail Service Industries division. My works consists of assessing survey data for two major service industry surveys and as an analyst, I handle queries from clients about the data that we produce while using tools like SAS to identify any discrepancies. I then analyze trends in the data and present my findings to the chiefs of the division and then publish my findings to the CANSIM website for the public to access and use. The whole process entails a lot of economic and statistical analysis as well as presentations and stakeholder meetings. 

How did the MPS program, including your co-op experiences prepare you for a career? 

The MPS program prepared me for my career by giving me the opportunity to work in small groups to present big projects. I did not often have to do this in my undergraduate career and the level of work we did in these projects prepared me to work within sometimes difficult teams. Also, MPS provided me with a lot of background on the political and economic landscape in Canada and especially what a public servant's role was within this context. I was provided with plenty of opportunities to network during the program and this was something I have learned is important to be able to do in the workplace. My co-op experiences prepared me for my career because right out of the gate I was treated like a full time employee because I was a master’s student. I was given large projects to do and able to take ownership for the work I produced. I have had to work with people in different divisions within my department and learn how to prioritize working on multiple projects at once.

What are your favourite MPS moments?

My favourite MPS moments are the many intellectual, informal, and always educational debates we had in class. I loved having classmates from so many different backgrounds contesting their sometimes contrasting views on issues. I always came away with a new perspective and having learned something new, and it was awesome to see how engaged everyone would get. I also quite enjoyed the community feel within the program and how we loved spending time with one another whether it was through formally organized events or impromptu study sessions it was always a good time! We celebrated holidays together at our home away from home in Allen Square and we participated in philanthropic efforts to be better citizens in our community.

What have you learned about yourself as a result of the program and your career? 

What I learned about myself from the program and my career is that I am able to be a leader and I enjoy taking on leadership roles. During the program I had the opportunity to become the MPSA president and I worked with my MPSA team to make the program an enjoyable experience for all my classmates. At work I joined the Young Professionals Network at Statistics Canada and I have taken on the role as chair for the Appointment Committee. Through this role I am able to interview individuals to take on leadership roles in the steering committee while also designing informational material for our network. 

What has been your most interesting experience working in the public service?

My most interesting experience working in the public service was the opportunities I was presented to meet the chief statistician. I met the former chief statistician Wayne Smith on a few accounts and was even able to network with him in a speed mentoring session. I learned that he spent a lot of his professional career at Statistics Canada and he wanted to modernize our approaches to data collection and dissemination. It was then very surprising to learn about his eventual departure from Statistics Canada because he did not agree with the approach the government had been taking to the grievances he aired about our current data storage efforts. I was able to watch his abrupt departure from Statistics Canada and hear him speak about why he was leaving and how this was the only way he would be able to maintain his integrity. Despite public servants often acting alongside the government’s interests, it was interesting to see that sometimes it is difficult to make that compromise if it opposes your own personal views.

What advice do you have for someone interested in taking the MPS program? 

The advice I have for someone interested in taking the MPS program is use this program as an opportunity to create networks with your classmates and alumni as you never know where you may find yourself in the government. Additionally it is going to be important that you participate in discussions during class with your classmates, because as more people participate the more opinions are voiced and you become exposed to different schools of thought. Finally, try to have fun, the eight months of in-class work is challenging however the best way to succeed is through balance and having fun with your classmates because the eight months goes by quickly. This program in my opinion provides a unique and unparalleled education about the public service, providing you with mentorship opportunities, amazing guest speakers and a wealth of knowledge that is both relevant and useful in the workforce. 

University of Waterloo