Policy Analyst at Environment Canada
Faith Edem is a change agent in sustainability, where she is currently developing Bilateral Climate Finance Programming in Environment and Climate Change Canada. Faith has an array of expertise in climate finance, net-zero policies, building sector, electrification and sustainability. She has been recognized as an Aspen Institute 2022 Climate Future Leader, 2021 Corporate Knight 30 under 30 Sustainability Leader and a GreenBiz Circularity 2021 Emerging Leader. Faith is a public policy researcher, published climate resilience author and diversity and inclusion actor. She is passionate about shaping youth projects and programs to support an intergenerational approach to Canada’s climate goals.
Work and impact
How is sustainability/social impact integrated in your work?
I work on our national environmental public policy. This means supporting Canada’s sustainable transition towards a low carbon economy and low carbon future.
What are your past and current areas of focus in a few words?
The awesome thing about policy is you get to work on so many different files. I’ve been able to work on energy policy, net-zero emissions, electrification, and now I’m currently working on bilateral climate finance.
How did you enter this space?
I actually came across the opportunity through my Master’s of Public Administration career board, at Queen’s. It was towards the end of my internship at the Ontario Cabinet Office and I wanted a new challenge at a larger scope. I was intrigued because they really just focused on energy policy. I thought – I might be interested in that so that’s where it all started for me.
Did you always want to work in the impact space?
I think in some sense, I definitely always wanted to work in the impact space. I’ve always felt that I’d like to be a change agent, especially in regard to sustainability. It was surprisingly a perfect fit for me.
What are you most excited about that has been happening in your industry/field for the past few years?
I mean, we’ve been pretty transformative the past couple of years. I definitely think one of the big things is clean technology in sustainability, just seeing where the research and the development can grow into. Also, youth taking a seat at the table and driving for more inclusion to be reflected in policy decision-making and overall climate action.
Are there any misconceptions about your profession or industry?
I think the biggest one is that people think public policy actors don’t care. From my experience, they couldn’t be more wrong. I have come across so many passionate people in the industry making bold and innovative changes. The work that they do, the level of expertise they have, certifications and knowledge – it is expansive. If people really knew how dedicated public workers are in contributing to our policy priorities, they would really be more interested in getting to know about the profession and how we’re all trying to collectively implement some really great things.
Life and aspirations
What does a typical workday look like for you? What’s your work-life balance like?
When I start my day, I usually go through my emails to make sure there’s nothing that’s a high priority that needs my attention. I usually check my emails and then figure out the tasks for the day/week for myself and the research team. Depending on the day, I usually have about one to three meetings a day. Then, I usually spend a couple of hours either conducting some research and analysis, drafting a debrief, providing recommendations on a reports or advising other teams on climate finance. That’s my typical workday, and it’s pretty well balanced. I’m thankful for having a good team that prioritizes our well-being.
What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
I think one of the most challenging parts is turning really complex ideas and research into concise information that can help towards our larger priorities. This is a big part of our job as public policy actors, creating accessible information. It is a challenge, but also a great experience because that’s a good marker of an effective policy. It’s about being able to tell those really complex ideas and make them more accessible.
What’s next for you, what are your long-term goals (if you have any)?
Long-term goals-wise, I think I want to gain other sectors’ perspectives on sustainability and climate change. We do need a multi-sectoral approach and actors contributing to climate actions. It can’t just be the national or provincial actors, it really does need the leadership of other sectors. I think gaining that lens and understanding can support my work and how I contribute to policy and programme development. I also want to support our local small businesses to understand how sustainability can be integrated into their day-to-day so that its commonplace. I want to support small businesses so they can also partake in shaping the future of the environment.
Advice for the next generations
What are 3 key skills required in your position?
Definitely written and oral communication, being able to be a strong writer and also being able to be concise in your presentations. The second is of course research and analysis. You need to be familiar with the research process – how to verify your research, designing research projects, analysis, and how you go through that process is really important. Then lastly, definitely project management, especially as you move from an entry role into a more intermediate role and then more senior. There are just so many competing priorities project management is definitely paramount.
Whether it’s from your own path or the ones from your colleagues and friends who have a similar profession, how important is it to have a specific degree to be able to work in your industry/profession?
Currently, for public policy at the national level, you do need a Masters. You have to show specialization in either economics, sociology, or statistics. They’re pretty flexible with what that looks like. For instance, my undergrad was in Law and Political Science and then my Master’s was in Public Policy and Administration. I did take concentrations in economics, statistics and sociology in both degrees. When you add all of those experiences together, as long as you can show its substantial knowledge, that’s what’s really key. It doesn’t mean you have to have a bachelor’s in economics or a master’s in statistics. As long as you can show that you have taken part in these key specializations that are important to developing public policy. I have friends who have their masters in global affairs or their masters in environmental sustainability. Its important to develop a profile that can show how your courses and experience hit those points in terms of specialization.
What are some personal characteristics that you value in someone you’re interviewing/working with?
Working in public policy is all about collaboration, so definitely, strong communication, collaboration and teamwork skills. You can be well versed in technical skills, but policy is all about problem-solving and going through various iterations so you really want those soft skills. Those skill sets to me have been really impactful, ensuring, you know, we make our timelines and we’re getting things done, and there’s good team morale.
Knowing what you know now, would you have done something differently with respect to your career? If not, why and what is your best life or career advice for youth?
I think I would have zeroed in on my interest when I look back. After taking a law course in my second year focused on corporate social responsibility, I knew that was my first inclination of “I think I’m interested in sustainability”. I did take some environmental courses, but I only took three and I would have taken more environmental courses back then. When I think back, I really thought that I had to be passionate about a topic to be interested in it. It doesn’t always have to be in that process. We’re expected to be just interested in one singular passion and I honestly don’t think that’s how it should be. My career advice is to lead with your curiosity, which will lead you to your passion. If you’re not curious about things naturally, start exploring! Be comfortable with the discomfort of being curious.