Megan Melanson, PhD
Analyst, Province of New Brunswick
What's your vision for Atlantic Canada in 10 years? What’s our biggest opportunity now?
My vision is to see a secure, resilient and inclusive province. First, I want businesses and government to take the leap and hire young people to keep them in the province, and I want young people to recognize the interest and move away from the stereotype that there are no jobs in New Brunswick. The government of NB has been working on a social media campaign to motivate millennials to apply for government positions, so there is certainly a building interest in young people. Second, I want to see engagement between all communities and law enforcement. We have the luxury of being a small province with minimal degrees of separation, so I dream of the day that citizens get to know their community police officers as people, not as uniforms. Third, I want to see higher levels of literacy. An informed province is a more culturally-inclusive and prosperous province. Our biggest opportunities now are all of the above! Hire young people, and develop literacy and engagement programs. Finally, cyber-security. Cyber-security is an amazing focus to bring educated individuals into the province, build our economy and get ahead of the security curve.
What was your greatest stage of growth? What made it a shift for you?
Stages of growth can be steady and exciting, but can often be sudden, challenging and emotionally exhausting. I am very lucky to have had several stages of the former, and I like to search for experiences that allow me to continuously grow as a person and as a professional. My greatest stage of growth, however, was the latter experience: I was accepted into a PhD program at the world-renown University of Edinburgh at age 22. I went from an undergraduate Honours degree in history with seminar work to a doctoral degree in another country. In the UK, you remain a candidate in your first year until you defend a detailed research plan to a board of academic experts. The board has the option to award you a Masters degree for your work and deny your candidacy or accept you as a full doctoral student. I had never planned for a large research project before, I found the discipline of Sociology to be most appropriate for my research (with the application of theory!?), I was lecturing students almost my own age, and my supervisor left me on my own for sabbatical. It still amazes me that I passed my review board with no corrections. But more importantly, I learned more about myself during that year than any other: I learned that I love what I do, I love research and I love writing; I learned that my support system is and was amazing; and finally, I learned that I am strong, able, resilient and competent.
What's your deepest learning from this past year? How did/will you apply it?
Within the last year I have left academia to work for government, so my learning curve has been steep. I have been most struck by the people in public service and law enforcement that love their province, and are genuinely working hard to serve its citizens. I think that this is sometimes lost on the populace amidst political and socio-economic events and debates, but there are individuals that have been working their entire lives to serve us and our interests, and who fully believe in the democratic system. That being said, Government is never perfect and there is always work to do.
Who's inspired you, directly or indirectly? How have they inspired you?
I’m inspired by the many women who manage a healthy work and life balance! Female professionals who have children are awe-inspiring to me as a young female professional. When I was writing my PhD in the UK, eggs freezing was a hot topic, and many of the female academics at the University of Edinburgh did not have children. Whether or not I choose to have children, I remain truly impressed by the dedication, organization and strength of these women. Secondly, I am never too old to be inspired by my parents. In fact, I become more and more amazed of their support and love as I grow older. My father edited every single word of my doctoral thesis, and both of my parents are supportive of my decisions; but the truly inspiring part is how they have continuously supported each other in their careers and personal lives.
What would you have done differently?
My initial response is always: I should have done a masters in between my undergraduate and Doctoral degrees! But in reality, I have no regrets about my professional stream. I am still so early in my professional development that I am constantly learning about how I can improve, and what I want in, my career. Right now my focus is on new projects and experiences that will continue to develop my skills and make me more marketable for management.
What were your priorities and how did they help you overcome some of the struggles you've faced? What motivated you to make the choices you've made? What are the principles you live by?
I was once described as a sponge by a past employer; I have a need to understand everything around me and I have a thirst for knowledge that drives my work and motivates my choices. My priorities in my work constitute professional development and to love what I do, and these priorities have very much shaped my career to this point. I have been able to work within men-dominated spaces because I articulate my opinions and recommendations in an informed manner, and I am confident in my knowledge and work.
Public Servant, PhD, Academic, Outdoor Enthusiast, Athlete