Urban Planning Policy Analyst (Political Science, MA)

Josef Filipowicz, The Fraser Institute

Toronto, New York, Paris! From a young age Josef Filipowicz was always fascinated with cities and how they can be so similar, yet different at the same time. This curiosity was further nurtured by the trips that he took to visit family in France, exposing him at a young age to international urban environments. This interest in cities would carry well throughout his adolescence, ultimately culminating in his decision to attend Ryerson University for a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning.

Following completion of his undergraduate studies, Josef realized that what he loved most about his studies was the policy-related material instead of the nuts-and-bolts of the field (e.g. building permit applications). During his schooling, a professor told him that he was a “poli-sci student in a planner’s body.” He didn’t think much of it then, but after some deliberation, he decided to attend Laurier for his Master’s in Political Science. His goal was to strengthen his understanding of policy to become a municipal government/planning expert. While at Laurier he joined multiple clubs and attended many events as it was a great way to further expand his interests and be exposed to new ideas. Two experiences that stuck with Josef the most were the Waterloo Political Economy Group and his experiences as a teacher’s assistant. Being a teaching assistant in particular proved to be very helpful in developing his presentation skills, which would prove to be vital in his role as a policy analyst.

As Josef was defending his MA thesis, he received a call from the Fraser Institute (which had initially turned him down for a summer internship) with an offer to join them as a research intern. He has now worked his way up to his current position as senior policy analyst and there seems to be no slowing him down. A valuable lesson he learned from this is that, sometimes employers really do hold on to the resumes of unsuccessful candidates, and consider how else they may fit into their organization.

The Fraser Institute is a Canadian public policy think tank that is located in Vancouver with a mission to improve the lives of Canadians by studying and measuring the effects of government policies on their lives. On an average day, Josef has broad freedom to schedule his time as he sees fit, as long as he is able to meet deadlines. Since there is a great deal of autonomy in the position, it is important for him to be proactive about his work and to actively seek guidance and mentorship if needed. In a given year, he is involved with five to ten studies, but just as important as the research itself is ensuring the public is aware of it. Josef’s research over the past couple of years has focused primarily on local government, housing, as well as local governance and finance. He believes that this research will help municipalities to encourage a healthy housing supply, which goes a long way towards more affordability in regions like Vancouver and Toronto.

An important part of being a public policy analyst is leveraging your research and being involved in the national debate. You have to be aware of what is happening in your field so you can comment on current issues. Currently Josef is primarily focused on print media and he has written articles for The Globe and Mail regarding foreign buyers in the Canadian housing market and the housing implications of current government policies. He is now in the process of transitioning to radio and eventually television and live broadcasts.

Just like with any job, there are some aspects that he enjoys more than others. What Josef loves about his current role is the fact that he has great autonomy over his daily schedule, which allows him to dictate how he chooses to utilize his days. Also knowing that his research is influencing decisions on a national level and having a chance to be involved with that debate is a very rewarding feeling. At the same time there are projects that he needs to work on which he doesn’t necessarily enjoy but have to be done. With policy research, the math involved can get very complicated, and it can be something which is hard to be passionate about for Josef. The benefit of working in a team is that there are always team members that he can rely on and whose strengths and weaknesses complement each other.

Looking back on his career path so far Josef believes that there is nothing ordinary about the journey he took to get to his current position. Josef has held many jobs that have all contributed to his various skills and traits that allow him to excel at the Fraser Institute. Josef believes the key to being a public policy analyst in his field is having an appreciation for both the planning and public policy side of things. For someone that is entering the industry, the most marketable skill that you can show on a resumé is a strong understanding of statistics, as this is heavily used for economic research. Being able to demonstrate a thorough understanding of Excel and knowing where and how to find data is also vital for this field. Furthermore, being able to demonstrate strong writing skills is essential in order to produce reports. For students coming straight out of university, showing an employer good grades in certain courses or having class projects related to the field are great ways to demonstrate your competence. Most of the projects will require the use of software that is readily used within the industry itself, such as STATA or SPSS, but these are not pre-requisites. Josef stressed the importance of networking to enter the field; this could be something as simple as reaching out to someone on LinkedIn for an informational interview. The information you get can go a long way in your career development and will pay dividends in the long run.

Within the policy environment there are a wide variety of people and it is partly this diversity that allows for The Fraser Institute to achieve success. One example of this is that there are introverts and extroverts, but it is the contrast between people that allows teams to be successful. Josef explained how he has a co-worker that is slightly introverted and doesn’t necessarily enjoy the media aspect of the work, but the same person is also the backbone of the team because she is an excellent researcher. In the coming years Josef is looking forward to progressing within the role and becoming more actively involved within the national debate regarding his research so that he can better inform the policies that govern our nation.