Devon Power

Alumnus - Class of 2018

professional headshot of class of 2018 alumnus Devon Power

Academic background: Communications and Multimedia Studies, McMaster University
Co-op position: Junior Economist, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Why did you choose Waterloo’s MPS program?

I chose MPS for a variety of reasons. One of the main elements that attracted me to the program was the wide range of courses offered, and the manner in which assignments and course content were designed to prepare students to enter the workforce. The second main reason I was interested in MPS was the co-op component of the program. I knew that a co-op based program would allow me to gain valuable work experience that would help my resume stand out in the future, and also would allow me to get my foot in the door to build connections in the public service. Employers are looking for both knowledge and experience, and MPS was focused on providing their students with both.

Tell us about your current co-op position.

I am currently a Junior Economist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada in the Strategic Policy Sector. As a Junior Economist I have had the opportunity to work on forecasting the price of several species for the upcoming fishing seasons, and helping to update the forecasting model to produce optimal results for each species. The economic analysis team also receives many requests from the Minister, Deputy Minister, and other senior level executives, resulting in our team dropping all tasks to focus on those more pressing issues. In my first couple weeks on the job I was conducting media scans and literature reviews, extracting and analyzing data, and helping to edit and finalize ministerial memos, backgrounders, and briefing notes. The documents I helped produce were used to prepare the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for question period, and were used by senior level executives to make decisions that directly impacted Canadians.

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

Without the MPS program there is no way I would have been prepared to work as a Junior Economist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Coming into MPS with an academic background in communications and multimedia, I did not have a significant amount of experience with statistics or economics. The economics and statistics courses, and the practical assignments included in those courses, allowed me to push myself to gain a new set of skills and to be more confident in my data analysis and math abilities in the workplace.

Additionally, the policy based courses helped me to step away from the academic writing style I had acquired throughout my undergraduate degree and allowed me to practice writing materials that were more condensed and focused.  This is one of the skills I had to start using immediately in the workplace, and it definitely helped to have had the opportunity to practice in an academic setting.

Lastly, the program gave me the opportunity to work on my networking skills. Because of the MPS program, I have learned the importance of building connections and gaining mentors in the workplace, and I have taken advantage of the opportunities available to me to meet upper management, Your Professional Network, and colleagues on various teams within the department.

The MPS program helped me to diversify my skill set,  instilled a sense of confidence in me to tackle a job that is out of my comfort zone, and encouraged me to take advantage of the many opportunities  to meet people in order to develop my network and seek mentors that will support me throughout my journey in the workplace.

What are your favourite MPS moments?

MPS is all about the amazing people you get to spend time with each and every day. I was so grateful to have met such wonderful people right off the bat, and after only a few weeks you feel as though you’ve known some of your new friends for years. Whether studying in Dana Porter Library all weekend, playing dodgeball and soccer intramurals at ungodly hours of the night, or just hanging out during lunch; it was always a great time in the company of my classmates. I likely won’t remember all the things I did during the program, but I will definitely remember all the wonderful people I had the opportunity to get to know over the course of the year.

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

The program helped teach me that I am capable of achieving my goals when I stay determined and set my mind to it. A few months before starting the MPS program I had a moment of panic thinking about taking economics and statistics, especially since I knew how terrible my math skills had been in the past. With the support of my classmates and professors, and a lot of time in the library, I actually excelled in those courses (and even enjoyed the lectures and assignments). I initially felt challenged by the content, but felt accomplished when I finally understood the concepts and was able to apply them to my econometrics and cost-benefit analysis papers.

My co-op term has actually been a very enlightening experience for me. I have previously worked at the municipal and provincial levels of government, in jobs where I worked closely with clients and frequently collaborated with colleagues. Entering my co-op position was extremely different, both in the position and the work environment, and I learned that I really value work where I have the opportunity to interact with others and see my work directly benefitting the public. While I am learning new skills each day and gaining experience that will support me in my future career,  co-op ultimately allowed me to learn more about myself, my passions, and where I see my career headed in the future.

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

I think the most interesting part about my job with the federal government thus far has been seeing how some of my work has come to life and has directly impacted the public. Within the first couple weeks of my co-op, I was surprised to discover how much the Minister and Deputy Minister depended on my team. The economic analysis team works on a variety of projects to support senior level executives, many projects I would not have automatically assumed would fall into the hands of an economics and statistics team. This meant that I had the opportunity to develop an array of skills, and was not stuck with one type of work or assignment.

I have also found it quite interesting to see how passionate the Deputy Minister and Assistant Deputy Ministers are about students and young professionals. At Fisheries and Oceans Canada the senior level executives are focused on making their department a place that students want to not only join, but stay on a more long-term basis. They are extremely open and willing to have candid conversations with young professionals, and are excited to listen to their opinions and ideas. The federal government tends to have a fairly strict hierarchy, but by getting involved with Your Professional Network (a professional development and networking group for workers young and old) many opportunities become available to meet with executives. It was surprisingly easy to get connected, and it was always interesting to hear about the journeys senior level executives took in the public service to get to where they are now.

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

My advice for future MPS students is to take advantage of the amazing support system that is built into the program. No one will understand the stresses and challenges of the program quite like your classmates. These are also some of the few people who will be there cheering you on when you achieve both personal and program milestones.  Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help when you need it, from either classmates, professors, or the MPS team. Everyone wants to see you succeed, and will do whatever they can to help you meet your goals.

There are also so many talented and knowledgeable people in the MPS program, and it can often be difficult not to compare yourself to others. Remember that you were each selected because you are unique and there is something you can learn from each of your classmates (and there is something they can all learn from you as well). Instead of competing with others, compete with yourself. Work your hardest, strive for your best, and it will pay off.

Lastly, take time for yourself. The year can be a rollercoaster and it can be easy to get stuck in the library or program space studying for hours on end. Find moments to relax, laugh, do things you enjoy, and make memories. You’ll never regret the time spent with friends.