Claire Ewing (BA 2019 in Politics and International Affairs; Minors in Biology and Environmental Studies)
Metro Vancouver, Senior Policy and Planning Analyst in Vancouver, BC, Canada
Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.
Metro Vancouver is a regional government (the Canadian equivalent of a large county) that plans for and delivers regional utility services, regulates air quality, plans for urban growth, manages a regional parks system, provides affordable housing, and serves as a regional federation. I am a Senior Policy and Planning Analyst in Metro Vancouver’s Air Quality and Climate Action Services department, serving on the Regional Climate Policy team. I contribute to developing and implementing actions in our Climate 2050 Strategy and Clean Air Plan, which aim to make the Metro Vancouver region carbon-neutral by 2050. In doing so, I conduct policy and data analyses and manage and support many internal and cross-jurisdictional/collaborative projects. My particular focus is on using data to help reduce greenhouse gas reductions from buildings, transportation, and industry, while bolstering equity.
What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?
After graduating from Wake, I got my Master’s of Science in Resources, Environment, and Sustainability. Throughout my undergraduate and graduate experiences, I had several internships and part-time jobs, including working for a water utility, various campus organizations, and an internship with Metro Vancouver, which were essential for getting my current job. They established connections and demonstrated that I could translate my knowledge and skills to applied, diverse fields, which helped a lot in interviews and building my resume.
What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?
The transition to my first “real world job” was pretty smooth, but there was an adjustment period around managing my schedule and reading the work culture. The 9-5 is great in that I get to fully “check out” of work at the end of the day, but it’s less flexible (as compared to grad school or college, where I had a lot of flexibility in my schedule, but would often work late at night, on weekends, etc.). I initially found the routine stifling but learned to appreciate the benefits and adapt my life around it. It also took some time to read the work culture at my team, my organization, and the various individuals/groups that drive different dynamics, then figure out how I fit into that. I spent a lot of time listening (versus talking), which I learned was a good approach for me.
What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?
1. Establish healthy and enriching habits, develop skills, and do things your future self would thank you for. As Meg Jay describes in “The Defining Decade” (a book I highly recommend), what you do in your 20s sets you up for the rest of your life – for better or worse. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, but remember the choices you make today matter. I’m still in my 20s, but I’m already seeing huge benefits from habits I established over the past few years.
2. Try to strengthen your spine (literally [beware the bad-desk-posture-to-expensive-physical-therapy pipeline] and figuratively). There’s a lot of uncertainty and change in newly-graduated life. I’ve found that self-confidence, optimism, advocating for yourself, and resiliency go an incredibly long way.
3. Work smarter, not harder, and not longer. Working longer hours can lead to burning out faster, and doesn’t necessarily translate to more productivity.
How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?
Most of my personal relationships are from grad school, but I’ve made other friends through hobbies, mutual friends, and work. As for professional relationships, my work has a lot of “built-in” networking – I collaborate on projects with many different folks at various organizations. This is a major benefit of my role, especially in my early career. I also spend a lot of time going to conferences, workshops, classes, etc., which are great ways to meet people as well.
Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?
I’ve had numerous “informal” mentors (people who helped and guided me in my personal and professional development, but aren’t explicitly established as my mentors) at Wake and beyond. Those relationships have helped me very, very much – both directly (as they’ve written recommendation letters, offered references, etc.) and indirectly (providing advice, sharing their experiences, etc.). As for formally established mentors, my current job has a mentorship program, where I established a formal mentor/mentee relationship with a director in another department. That relationship was tremendously helpful in learning the ins and outs of the organization, mapping out what my future might look like at the organization, and connecting me with others.
What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional job?
1. If you can, take a break between graduating and starting a job. I traveled for a few months and spent a few at home between grad school and starting my job. It refilled my cup and gave me time to reflect on my education and think about what I wanted in the next phases of my life.
2. One thing you can do today: make an appointment with the Office of Personal and Career Development (or the Alumni Personal and Career Development Center if you’re an alum)! I used the OPCD for resume and LinkedIn reviews, interview practice, cover letter development, and especially one-on-one coaching, and I found it all to be extraordinarily helpful. I really can’t recommend them enough.
What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?
Overall, my goal is to do all I can for climate action and planetary health writ large. I’m open to wherever that goal may take me. I’m taking advantage of personal and professional development opportunities (learning Python, taking courses, going to conferences, etc.), which improve my job performance and support my overall goals.
Story published in February 2024. For current updates on Claire’s career path, visit her LinkedIn profile.