Q&A WITH OUR ANALYSTS
#WednesdayswithMDBInsight: Our new Wednesdays with MDB Insight blog posts will feature the thinkers and doers on our team sharing ideas and talking about what’s important to us as professionals.
We have very diverse backgrounds and a range of interests among our team members, and we look forward to sharing some of our thinking with you each week. Look for these posts every Wednesday, join the conversation with us, and let us know what’s on your mind mid-week.
Today we share a glimpse into the thoughts and ideas of one of our Research Analysts, Natasha Gaudio. The work of our valued analyst team members isn’t often highlighted but their contributions go a long way in ensuring our clients’ project successes.
When did you join the MDB Insight team? And what surprised you the most about your first month with the firm?
NATASHA: September 2018! I came to the firm after having worked as a practitioner in the economic development field, in much less populated Northwest Ontario. Adjusting from working with one community and giving it my all, to working with multiple communities all over the country was huge. In my last position, I was deeply committed to my community while I lived there and worked in that role – I likened it to being a local cheerleader. I try to bring that energy and context to each of our client communities at MDB Insight. Now, at any given time, I’ll be contributing to several different projects in different communities across the country and I am rooting for every single one.
What’s the coolest task you’ve worked on in the last few months as a Research Analyst?
NATASHA: My favourite thing is *always* stakeholder engagement. I’m an extremely social creature and I love speaking to people about economic and workforce development issues. The stakeholders we speak to are folks who are so close to the puzzles we are hired to solve, and they have such good insights. I’m intrigued by the human/social element of policies, projects, and institutions. Things can always sound good from a higher level but it’s those nuanced, on-the-ground, and highly localized elements that are crucial to the functionality of our recommendations.
What are you reading right now that you would recommend?
NATASHA: I read a lot of Canadian Literature (CanLit, for those in the know). One of CanLit’s defining features as a literary canon, historically, is its concern with landscapes and geography. Regional backdrops are huge in CanLit. I’ve read fiction that’s set in or near a lot of our client communities and that’s often my first impression of a place. Sometimes the portrayal can be decades behind, and after reading too much Sinclair Ross I had to remind myself that the threat of locusts on the dustbowl prairies is something that happened in the 1930s. But on a more serious note, I find I connect with places through their art. I’m also a Canadian folk music fan, so I’ll usually have some local reference point to start with and I find it adds colour to everything else I end up learning about a place.
If you could work on a project in any community in Canada which one would it be and why?
NATASHA: I have a love affair with the near and far north. I’d love to work in Iqaluit or somewhere like that. No two northern communities are exactly alike, but there is such a resourcefulness and resilience in the north and I love that.
Are there any particular trends you’re watching or developments in the field that you’re following closely?
NATASHA: I feel like I’ve been discussing the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) so much lately. It’s a huge topic but it impacts so many things on the ground – workforce development especially. Young people entering the workforce are entering a completely different world than what previous generations experienced because so many entry-level jobs can be replaced by AI now. Workers have to be more creative and flexible than ever before.
What’s the most helpful or complimentary feedback you’ve received from one of our clients?
NATASHA: It’s always gratifying when clients feel we’ve reflected them well. I really strive to achieve that. And, if a client suggests something could be revised to better suit a specific situation, I take note of that and consider it helpful feedback.
What do you think are the key issues facing economic development as a profession over the next few years? What are your fears for the profession?
NATASHA: I’d like to flip this on its head, because I have nothing but optimism – I LOVE that the economic development profession is increasingly populated with smart, strong, entrepreneurial women. This profession did not have the same gender parity 15 years ago, but the face of economic development has certainly changed – at least that’s what my superiors tell me! As a woman in the field, having strong female role models and peers doing amazing things in their communities is so inspiring. Increased diversity is pretty much always good for the economy, too, so I’m excited to see the trend continue.
Describe what the role of a Research Analyst looks like 10 years from now – what’s different?
NATASHA: That’s a funny question – because even now, our job is always different. This role has us sinking our teeth into whatever topic we need to learn and think critically about, and those topics are different all the time. Economic development is always changing, and it’s our job to keep up. I don’t know if I can predict what a Research Analyst’s job will look like 10 years from now. That feels a little like trying to predict the future on a science fictional scale.
To learn more about Natasha and the other members of our team, go to https://mdbinsight.com/team-bios/