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A day in the life of an economist – Brad Olsen
Tue 22 Aug 2017 by Jacqui Clarke in EducationNewsletter

Brad Olsen has only just reached his 20s and he's met Queen Elizabeth II twice! He’s our youngest economist and is already making his mark both at Infometrics and in youth politics.

Economically speaking Brad is very community minded, with a strong sense that evidence-based economic understanding can inform and improve policy and decision making.  He works across our Forecasting, Sector and Regional Teams with insights into education, infrastructure and other areas.

We chat with Brad about what a day in the life of an economist looks like…

Bio - Brad Olsen

Studies at: Victoria University of Wellington (BCom in Economics and Public Policy, BA in International Relations and Political Science)
Resides in: Wellington (but originally from Whangarei)

Jacqui: Can you describe a typical day at work?

Brad: As clichéd as it sounds, there’s no typical day at the Infometrics office. I’m often found drilling down into new datasets to find key insights about smaller breakdowns, and then working to package and present these to clients to allow them to better understand their sector and any future trends.

We’re keen to communicate what the data means in everyday life; to tell the story and make linkages to related events and explain how this might affect a business’ operations or their customers.

There’s usually some university lectures or assignments to complete outside of this, or I’ll be doing some work for one of the other groups I work with, including the Wellington City Youth Council, Commonwealth Youth New Zealand or on university boards.

JC: What are your ‘special interest areas’, economically speaking?

Brad: Given my work with councils and government departments, I’ve gained a good understanding of how councils work, including the intricacies of their planning and need for information to inform decisions. Similarly, in government departments I’ve come to recognise the importance of viewing issues in a wider scope and looking for options that can apply in different areas.

I’m often looking for new ways to provide insights into how different areas within the economy work – be that government departments, local councils, or educational providers. It’s all about identifying, explaining, and planning for where the opportunities and potential issues may lie. I’m well versed on fiscal economic concepts and how they are influenced by public opinion, and the motivations behind decisions being made. These groups all serve the public, which is important to keep in mind when looking at options to propose to issues within communities.

JC: What has been your most rewarding work experience?

Brad: It’s always great to see something I’ve been working on used to inform public debate – on anywhere from a national scale down to grassroots community level. It shows that the work has had an influence on how people perceive and understand an issue, and ensures they have some evidence to back up their points.

JC: What is your background and how has this influenced your work at Infometrics?

Brad: I have recent experience with the education and tertiary sector, and have been involved in some way with local government since age 15.

Hailing from Northland, I can also contrast the hustle and bustle of Wellington with the more provincial aspect of Northland – both have distinct advantages that can put them ahead in some areas, and I’m always looking for ways to capture these differences and ensure they’re maximised for the people with these areas.

JC: What advice would you give a younger version of yourself?

Brad: Don’t be afraid to take opportunities that might not align perfectly with the goal everyone else thinks you should have. Stick with economics – it’s the most interesting topic you can learn given that it allows you to begin to explain – quite literally, why the world works in the manner it which it works.

Also, use economics to your advantage. Putting a good economic argument in front of someone – be it your parents for a new mobile phone, your school for an educational course, or your local council to get them to fund new recreational facilities – will make sure your point is clear for all to understand. Economics lets you understand why people do things – use this to make the strongest case for change.

JC: What do you enjoy doing when not at work?

Brad: I’m fortunate enough to balance several things outside of work, like completing my undergraduate university courses, and travel to different areas around New Zealand and the world. I’ve also always been interested in politics, and enjoy working with the Wellington City Youth Council and Commonwealth Youth New Zealand. This means a few late nights every now and then.

JC: What is an intriguing fact about you?

Brad: I’m one of a select group of young people to have received a medal from Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II for services to young people as the 2016 Queen’s Young Leader for New Zealand, who then had the opportunity to head back to the UK for a second visit to Buckingham Palace this year!

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