Rumya Nithiananthan is a Program-Policy Analyst at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), whose mandate is to promote healthy living among Canadians and support non-profit organizations in their achievement of public health projects. Rumya began working at PHAC as part of a work placement in her fourth year at Carleton and was recently named to a permanent position. She is also a graduate student in the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA).
What does a Program Policy Analyst do?
When I started, I was researching other government departments’ policies and best practices; and then comparing them to those of the agency. Now, in addition to research, I tend to various ministerial and executive correspondence. I write briefing memos on projects and priorities identified by the government—such as climate change or mental health promotion—that are sent to director generals or even the president of the agency.
What do you like about it?
I work at the Centre for Grants and Contributions, where we manage the funds the agency provides to beneficiaries—such as hospitals, non-profits and universities—for public health efforts.
We look for strong evidence that the funding is leading to solid results for Canadians: measuring that is really important. If something is a priority, it has a direct influence on how we carry out our work. I find that very interesting.
How does your undergraduate degree help you on the job?
If it weren’t for political science, I wouldn’t have gained and strengthened the policy analysis, research and problem solving skills that I need for my current job. In my program, we often reviewed reports and policy statements to understand issues, along with relevant laws, policies, and research.
Has anything surprised you about the public service?
It may look like a very serious institution, but it’s actually a really cool place to work! There’s lots of great work being done in many government departments and there are lots of opportunities for career development and personal growth.
Do you have any advice for students who might be interested in a career in government?
For those interested in a career in government, I would suggest conducting research about various government departments and the type of work they do. Find those that you would like to work for; see how you could contribute to what they are doing; and express your interest in wanting to work for them.
Any advice for getting a long-term position?
Once you’ve obtained a position in the government, make yourself indispensable and irreplaceable in whichever organization you work for.
When I started, I was thrown into a project and asked to lead it. I didn’t know anything about it, but I learned more, put a little effort into it and they recognized how valuable my contribution was.
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