A day in the life of an Economist – Alistair Schorn
Infometrics welcomes Senior Economist Alistair Schorn. Alistair joined Infometrics in February and it feels like a lot has happened since then!
Originally from South Africa, Alistair has had an interesting and varied international career before settling in Blenheim, in the beautiful Marlborough Sounds.
You can read more about Alistair’s work in his article “COVID-19 and the economics of wellbeing” in our May newsletter.
Studied at: University of Pretoria, South Africa
Resides in: Blenheim, Marlborough
Jacqui: Can you describe a typical day at work?
Alistair: Being based in Marlborough, I work from home most of the time (even before COVID-19 came along and forced us all to do that). So a big part of my day is spent on platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, communicating with colleagues and clients. Otherwise there is plenty of economic and market research, preparing and writing insight documents, reports, news releases etc. There are also opportunities to work on developing new products and services, in areas such as wellbeing and international trade.
Jacqui: What is the nature of your work at Infometrics and how do clients benefit from what you do?
Alistair: Most of my focus is on Infometrics’ regional clients – Councils and regional Economic Development Agencies. Infometrics’ primary focus for these clients is to provide annual and quarterly economic information, along with detailed insights around the implications of this information. From my previous experience at Marlborough District Council, these insights are extremely valuable to our clients in their long-term planning processes. I’m also involved in specific pieces of consulting work for clients, looking at areas as diverse as population projections, skills shortages and wellbeing.
Jacqui: What are you currently working on?
Alistair: Pretty much all of our attention over the past few weeks has been focused on the economic fallout of COVID-19 for our clients. We have in a very short space of time managed to adapt our forecasting capability to provide clients with a short-term forecast of the economic implications of the COVID-19 recession for their regions and operations.
Jacqui: What has been your most rewarding work experience?
Alistair: One experience that stands out was the three years that I spent as a Trade Commissioner in the South African Consulate in Mumbai, India. I very much appreciated the opportunity to experience a completely different culture, while the almost constant sensory overload of living in a city of 18 million people really made me appreciate the calm, space and natural beauty of Africa, and now of NZ.
Jacqui: What has been your most challenging work experience?
Alistair: Probably the programme I headed for several years at WWF, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, which was focused on improving environmental responsibility in economic development policies in emerging economies. At the time, it was often quite a challenge to get conservationists and environmental scientists to see the link between economic policies and the conservation outcomes they were pursuing. This was particularly true given the wide range of developing and emerging countries we were operating in – e.g. the policies that we proposed for India weren’t necessarily relevant in Indonesia, Russia or South Africa.
Jacqui: What is your background and how has this influenced your work at Infometrics?
Alistair: I guess I’m a bit of an economic generalist rather than a specialist in one particular area – I spent 10 years working at South Africa’s equivalent of New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, in international trade and foreign direct investment, before moving into sustainability and environmental economics at WWF International. I’ve also consulted in various fields related to wellbeing economics. My first role in NZ was in regional economic development at Marlborough District Council, which gave me really good insight into the needs of Infometrics’ regional clients, and the value of our products for our clients.
Jacqui: What advice would you give a younger version of yourself?
Alistair: Take opportunities when you come across them – even when they don’t fit perfectly into your plans.
Jacqui: What changes or challenges do you see in the future?
Alistair: Well the world is still changing around us, isn’t it? I think the first challenge will be to get our collective heads around the scale of the health and economic crises, and the fact that there will be no going back to the way things were. In the longer term, individuals, communities, industries and countries will need to figure out how to operate in this new reality – which will require huge amounts of adaptability and ingenuity. Personally, I hope this will provide us with the opportunity to change at a systemic level, so that we can live within planetary boundaries and resolve the major social issues that the world faces.
Jacqui: What are your other major interests?
Alistair: I’ve been a bike racer since my teens, so I really enjoy getting out into the trails and back roads of Marlborough on my mountain bike. I’m hoping to do the Pioneer mountain bike stage race in Rotorua next March.
Apart from that, I love scuba diving and underwater photography, and with the amazing Marlborough Sounds on my doorstep, I’ve also taken up a bit of boating and spearfishing. In the future I’m looking forward to visiting some of our Pacific island neighbours to do some diving.
Jacqui: What do you enjoy doing when not at work?
Alistair: There is plenty of New Zealand that we need to explore – particularly right here in Marlborough. Before the lockdown, we tried to take a family day trip every couple of weeks, to somewhere we haven’t been before. When we get the chance to do so, we also plan to take some extended campervan trips around both the North and South Islands.
Jacqui: What is an intriguing fact about you?
Alistair: My first memory of New Zealand is as a very young kid (not even 10 years old) waking up at some ridiculous hour on Saturday mornings to watch the Springboks play the all Blacks on their tour of NZ in 1981. I clearly remember the flour bomb test at Eden Park.
Jacqui: Thank you for taking the time to chat to us Alistair. We look forward to hearing more about your work in the regional space in future.