Paraniya Balakumar

Alumnus - Class of 2018

professional headshot of class of 2018 alumnus Paraniya Balakumar
Current position: Program Analyst (Provincial Anti-Human Trafficking) Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services
Co-op position: Policy/Research Assistant, Strategy & Innovation Branch, Environmental Services, York Region
Academic background: Bachelor of Science, Neuroscience & Specialist in Psychology, University of Toronto

Why did you choose Waterloo’s MPS program?

I initially chose to enrol in the MPS program through a friend’s recommendation. My friend recommended the program based on my interests and values. At the time, I was passionate and interested in working in the public sector especially in the fields of health and social policy. I compared and contrasted the potential masters of policy and administration programs and chose the MPS program as it focused on the key skills necessary to become a public servant. In addition, it provided the required experience through the 8-month co-op term.

Tell us about your current co-op position.

I am currently working as a Policy and Research Assistant at the Strategy and Innovation Branch at the Environmental Services Department in York Region. I am responsible for assisting with research and policy development for Environmental Services, which includes water, wastewater, waste management, water resources, forestry and energy. In addition, I provide administrative support by performing data entry, data analysis, research and review of policies, regulation and legislation, report writing, supporting the facilitation, and the documentation of key policy decisions.

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

First and foremost, the MPS program has taught me the importance of effective and efficient communication. During my placement at the Environmental Services Department in York Region, I was able to quickly adapt to the fast-paced municipal environment. The unique coursework that the MPS program provides truly helped me complete tasks that required a thorough understanding of public policy development and familiarity with government procedure and documentation. In addition, using my communication skills, I was able to ensure my ideas and input to my team were understood, accepted and executed without delay.

What are your favourite MPS moments?

My favourite MPS moments were simply all the times the MPS family came together to hang out. I remember all the late night study sessions that would go on all through the morning. It was great to meet up with friends and celebrate holidays together as a family as well.

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

As a result of the MPS program and my career, I have learned that I am capable of using a variety of tools, techniques and methods learned in the classroom environment and apply it to real-life tasks. There have been several instances where I have used past MPS work items to use as a reference for tasks assignments here at the Environmental Services Department, for instance, briefing note, policy analysis report and the cost-benefit analysis report.

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

The most interesting experience working at York Region was the time when I got the opportunity to research, plan and facilitate a meeting on my own using the Strategy and Innovation teams’ newly developed policy tool that I used to access, discuss, and document a policy with regards to compliance audit data. It was an exciting and creative experience for me as I got free reign on how I conducted the meeting. After the whole process, my colleagues and managers were extremely helpful and provided me with constructive feedback and I was also able to join in on a two-day facilitation workshop so that I may do better on future facilitations."

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

My advice for someone interested in taking the MPS program is to make sure to network with your peers, current students, alumni and faculty members as this is essential for good learning and future career opportunities. Keep an open mind because the unique coursework structure combined with the 8-month co-op truly helps you acquire the skills required to accomplish a career in the public service. In addition, take full advantage of all the resources provided such as the mentorship program, one-on-one mock interview help, and the various seminars and speaking engagements that the program organizes. These little things are what truly help build your portfolios for co-op and the best ways in which you can gain valuable insights on how you can improve and move forward.