Varun Srivatsan, BIE’18 shares what leadership means to him, lessons he’s learned, and how UBC alumni can enter his field of work. He shares how being able to learn from others helps him become a better leader. Read more about Varun, currently working in Ottawa for the Parliamentary Budget Officer as a Research Assistant.
What ways do you demonstrate leadership?
I don’t think I demonstrate leadership as much as learn as much as I can, and apply what I’ve learned, through leaders in my own life, whether that be family, friends or colleagues. Part of my job involves speaking to the facts, regardless of what the reception to those facts might be. In that regard, I would say I demonstrate leadership, but that’s only because I work with a team full of amazing leaders.
What lessons have you learned as a leader or from a leader you admire?
Someone I admire is my boss. He’s someone who can speak with conviction, passion and empathy, and that’s something I try to emulate.
What does leadership mean to you?
The ability to listen, the courage to take the path others haven’t taken, and having the humility to know you’re always learning.
What do you think were some of the key skills you gained from your time at UBC?
Communication skills, becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable, working with people from literally all over the world
Tell us about your role. What are your main responsibilities? Who do you work with?
I work for the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who is accountable to the 338 Members of Parliament and 105 Senators in providing an independent, impartial source of economic, financial and budgetary analysis. This involves using financial and economic tools, but also strong writing and public speaking skills to effectively communicate the work.
What attracted you to this organization?
The opportunity to provide an impartial, apolitical source of information to Parliamentarians and Canadians with which they can make decisions that shape this country.
Did you expect to be in this type of role/organization upon graduation?
I did not, but then again, I don’t think many graduates expect to land in the role or organization they first thought they would entering UBC. I think that’s a great thing, that people change their minds and always reevaluate what they want to get out of their careers.
Generally, what is your best piece of career advice?
Stay open to as many opportunities as you can starting out, but also know that at some point, some doors are going to close and that’s fine.
Where do you see your field going in the next 5-10 years?
The demand for independent fiscal institutions such as the one I work for is only going to increase. The demand for economists in general will increase, but in fields that go beyond government or financial institutions, or even tech firms as we see now. Keeping your eye out for new sectors that might require your expertise (such as the growing cannabis industry in Canada) will be important.
What skills will be important?
It’s quite trite, but the ability to work with data while being able to communicate your work well is never going to stop being useful. Despite being a platitude though, it’s still incredibly hard to master.
What can alumni do now to prepare for possible entry into your field?
Talk to as many people as possible, try out as many things as possible, use UBC as a safety net while you can to see what’s out there, and when you enter this or any field, you’ll feel more confident about why you’re in it and what you want to get out of it.