A day in the life of an economist – Andrew Whiteford

January is the time of new beginnings and this month we chat to Andrew Whiteford, Managing Director of Infometrics, about his new beginnings in New Zealand, having emigrated here from South Africa 16 years ago. 

January 2017 also marks the 10th anniversary of Andrew joining Infometrics. During that time he has overseen the development of Infometrics’ Regional Service. Andrew has always been focussed on developing new data sets and making complex data accessible to clients. 

When not focussed on spreadsheets, he and his family enjoy living in the beautiful Wairarapa, with all its opportunities to appreciate what New Zealand has to offer.

Bio –  Andrew Whiteford

Studied at: University of KwaZulu-Natal. MSocSci awarded cum laude.
Resides in: Wairarapa

Jacqui: What are you currently working on?

Andrew: I am looking at which is New Zealand’s most creative city using Infometrics’ Sector Profiles. A few years back we calculated a Bohemian Index which measured the size of the creative class in each city. It replicated in New Zealand the work of Richard Florida who linked the size of the creative class in US cities with the strength of its high tech industry. Florida argued that a vibrant artistic community is a necessary condition to attract talented people to fuel the knowledge economy. In 2009, Wellington just pipped Auckland as the most creative city and it will be interesting to see if this has changed in 2016.

JC: Where else in the world have you worked?

AW: I grew up in in South Africa and started my career there. I started work in a large social science research organisation and then branched into economic consulting.  There were different challenges to working in Africa compared with New Zealand. We had very little data to work with – I don’t think I had used a quarterly data series until I came to New Zealand. The sparsity of data forced us to be very creative and develop models to fill data gaps. This approach has served me well at Infometrics where data models form the backbone of much of our work. 

JC: What has been your most rewarding work experience?

AW: I have enjoyed being involved with the process of transforming the way Infometrics presents data to clients. As users of data ourselves we appreciate that big complex data sets are pretty much useless to most users unless the key insights are easily extractable. A few years back we introduced web-based interfaces and boom, data analysis was suddenly made a whole lot easier.

JC: What are your other major interests?

AW: I have a great love for architecture and design. I started a Bachelor of Architecture but stopped after a year. I have recently started a few building projects around home and found that it gives me a way of experimenting with design and pretending I am an architect!

Our family loves travelling and we try to do an overseas trip each year. Last year we visited the national parks of southwest USA and coupled it with a long overland journey through Mexico. 

JC: What is an intriguing fact about you?

AW: When I was 19 years old, New Zealand was the second country I had visited outside of South Africa (if I could have got to New Zealand without stopping in Australia it would have been the first). I hitchhiked the length and breadth of New Zealand. It was before tourism really got going in New Zealand. I have a photo of my travel mate at Franz Josef glacier in which we were the only people in the whole valley. Today there are thousands of visitors each day. The glacier also extended much further down the valley than it does today!


JC: Thank you Andrew, for taking the time to chat to us and we hope that this summer improves and offers you more opportunities to spend the weekends outdoors!
 

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