Student - Class of 2019

Professional headshot of class of 2019 student Raquel Damiao

Academic background: Bachelor of Arts, major in Legal Studies & minor in Political Science, University of Waterloo
Co-op position: Junior Program Officer, Income Security and Social Development Branch, Employment and Social Development Canada

Why did you choose Waterloo’s MPS program?

I chose the University of Waterloo’s MPS program because of the faculty’s commitment to the students, the community that alumni raved about, the diversity and well-rounded foundation of classes, and the co-op opportunities. I found out about this program on a Master’s program walk with the UW Faculty of Political Science. It was the last stop on the trip, and I honestly wasn’t even going to go. I’m so happy I did because the students expressed so much enthusiasm for the program, which I found was missing in all the other presentations. I wanted a practical way to achieve my goals and to develop a more robust skill set that could be easily applied to most jobs and the MPS program fit this perfectly.

Tell us about your current co-op position.

In my current co-op position, I work with the Renewal Program Office that oversees the initiatives that are going to improve the Canada Pension Plan Disability Program.  I get a chance to sit in on meetings with directors and assistant deputy ministers (ADM) on a weekly basis, and my job puts the skills that I’ve gained in the MPS program to good use. I am responsible for a Gantt chart that will be used for the project close-out that looks at the deliverables for all 15 initiatives and documents their progress through the various phases of the program’s renewal. I get to touch policy a little bit, but my area is mostly in project management (which I would never have been able to do had it not been for Dr. McGowan).

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

The MPS program prepared me for my career in so many ways. It gave me a professional network right off that bat that was willing to support me through my job growth. It gave me the necessary interview and resume skills that I needed to get a job, but it also gave me the skills I need to excel at it.  I won’t pretend like I knew everything about my job when I first started. What is important to know about the MPS program is that it’s designed to give you the right foundational tools, but more importantly, the program is designed to develop some softer skills that change how you are as a person. I came out of the program as a much more adaptive and flexible person who can respond to high stress situations and who can gain new skills much faster. I found this above anything else, to be the most important skill that the program has given me.

What are your favourite MPS moments?

It’s definitely hard to choose my favourite MPS moments, because there are genuinely so many. Oddly enough, late nights studying with your friends while eating way too much Chinese food are at the top of my list. Being a part of the MPSA was also a highlight of my year, and I’m proud of the events that our team put together that gave our class a closer overall sense of community. The trip to Ottawa was also a major highlight of my year, as it really cemented my decision to take a co-op position there. Heart to hearts with Sheila, Ramona, and even Dr. Sen, really supported me through the year. They provided priceless advice whenever I needed it most. Most importantly though, I made an amazing group of friends in this program that I hope to have for a very long time.

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

Through this program, I learned that I’m more suited for leadership positions that I initially had thought. I was dreading having to work with groups at the start (and sometimes it wasn’t that glamourous, I won’t sugar-coat that). But starting projects, getting organized, and managing group roles was something that came pretty naturally to me. Learning this about myself also helped me realize that a career in the public service as a project manager could be a really good fit for me. More importantly, the program showed me that I can really do anything if I put my mind to it; it also helps to have good friends that will help you study for hours. I never thought I would be able to excel at economics and statistics, and while I may not pursue a career in economics anytime soon, I know that being able to learn and adapt those concepts is truly invaluable.

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

My most interesting experience in the public service thus far has been sitting in on ADM meetings and being exposed to such a vast amount of policy and projects all happening at the same time to benefit the outcome of one overall program. Being part of the significant impact that this program has on so many Canadians, has been a mind blowing experience. I’m looking forward to participating in roundtables and anything else they throw at me.

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

The best advice I have for anyone going into the MPS program is you get from it what you put in. If you contribute, try, and help people, the program will do the same for you. You’ll never know if you don’t reach out. Also stick to dishwasher duty or some crazy person might get mad at you. I’m always around to help, message me on Facebook or LinkedIn if you have any questions about the program, Kitchener-Waterloo, co-op, MPSA, or moving to Ottawa.

Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo