This profile was part of the Faculty of Public Affairs’ Generation FPA series, which highlighted up and coming alumni who graduated between 2008-2018. The series was published in 2018.

Juliana Serje is a Senior Development Analyst with McSweeney and Associates, a firm that helps Canadian municipalities with community and economic development.

What led you to study economics?

I always saw myself working in international development for a developing region. My father encouraged me to study economics, so I did some research on which professions would be a possibility with an economics degree and found that policy analysts, economists, and research positions were common. They were not only directly related to development, but many of them would also be in high demand by the time I graduated.

Were you able to combine the two interests?

The first year was challenging because the basics of economics were introduced from a “free-market” perspective, but I was taking electives in Political Science and international development, where many of the issues being discussed were the result of market imperfections. In short, I found there was a large disconnect between the issues I wanted to address and the tools that I was learning in first-year Economics. That feeling started to fade away as time went on, though.

By second year, I understood there was a balance: the market needs to have supply and demand, and there is a role for government to subsidize certain industries and curve externalities.

By third year I started falling in love with economic modelling. It dawned on me that you could create models to predict how human behaviour would turn out, which in turn could be used to build policy.

Your initial goal was to work in an international institution. What was that experience like?

After I earned a master’s degree at the Université de Lausanne in Switzerland, I got a job as an econometrician at the World Health Organization. But even though I had a fancy economics job in Switzerland and I was doing economic modelling everyday, I felt really disconnected from economics.

I realized I missed Canada, and wanted to have an impact at the local level, so I returned for a job with McSweeney & Associates in community and economic development.

What does your job entail?

When I started out, I called myself the data monkey because I would run all the stats and numbers, put PowerPoints together, and create summary reports. Now, I’m meeting with clients, putting together requests for proposals, doing the data analysis and developing my own business development plans.

How do you use your degree on the job?

My bachelor’s gave me the foundations of data analysis, econometrics, microeconomics and macroeconomics. I definitely use those basic principles on the job, along with my overall understanding of the economy and its fundamentals.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018 in
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