My (virtual) summer internship at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (BII+E) has come to an end and I want to share some highlights.
Given that I’ve always been passionate about research designed to improve the social and financial well-being of marginalized populations, it was natural for me to be drawn to BII+E’s work. In my four months with the Institute, I’ve felt incredibly supported by a great team, including my mentor Sarah Doyle. I’ve worked on projects at varying stages of completion and on many different topics, which helped me get the experience I was looking for.
Designing rigorous research sounds intimidating—but it’s really not
The first project I worked on explores job pathways in the grocery sector. Designing and implementing a strong mixed-methods approach, including new qualitative methods, within the constraints of a global pandemic, turned out to be one of our greatest challenges. I conducted a literature review to help identify and explore ethical, appropriate, and inclusive human-centred methods that would enable us to understand mid-career workers’ experiences and employers’ preferences from a distance. In collaboration with the talented team—Kimberly Bowman, Yasmin Rajabi, Annalise Hyunh, and Diana Rivera—I also helped to prepare a Ryerson Research Ethics Board submission. This was an important step, given that we’ll be undertaking primary research with real people. The early design phase opened my eyes to a whole new side of human-centred research methods, including the ones that are not so commonly used, such as digital ethnography. My time at the BII+E taught me that designing rigorous research doesn’t have to be intimidating, it can be a fun learning opportunity.
Getting hands-on with real-life data
During my internship, I also had the opportunity to strengthen and refine my quantitative research skills. While I have worked with large administrative data (like the Census) in a classroom setting, I was not familiar with techniques for analyzing and responding to data in a rapidly changing environment. It was an opportunity for me to get hands-on experience with this type of analysis as BII+E began to focus its research on the impacts of COVID-19. I used the Labour Force Survey to assess the economic impact of the pandemic on Canada’s tech workers. Knowing my interests, my colleague Viet Vu was very supportive of my desire to apply a lens of inclusion and equity into the analysis. Together, we critically examined the scale of economic disruption on different demographic groups, including women and immigrant tech workers.
It all starts with a proposal
To help round out my experience of the full research process, I worked on a grant proposal with the Innovative + Inclusive Economy Workstream Manager, Nisa Malli. I used my previous knowledge of Canada’s immigrant population, as well as the precarious working conditions of gig workers, to develop a project proposal. It was a great experience to build something new tied to my intersecting research interests. The evaluation chart I created to ensure that our proposal meets all the criteria and requirements of the grant will be used as an internal template at the Brookfield Institute going forward.
Refining my event-planning skills
Starting a new job virtually can be very strange. Our internship coordinator, Michelle Park, went above and beyond to ensure the interns felt connected and supported during our time at the BII+E. As part of her effort, we were given an opportunity to plan (virtual) events in partnership with the Business + Higher Education Roundtable. The events were highly relevant to me because they were designed to support recent graduates and young professionals in the policy world. Our aim was to offer career advice from experts in the field, but also to advocate for building a more equitable post-COVID-19 economy.
My experience as a Policy + Research intern at BII+E this summer exceeded my expectations. Despite the internship being virtual, I have gained a range of skills spanning from research design and project management to technical competencies, all in a highly supportive and encouraging environment. I look forward to applying the skills and experiences I’ve gained here to achieving my ultimate goal of improving the social and economic well-being of marginalized populations in Canada.