Photo of Derek Li

Derek Li (MPP, MAPS ’17) completed his Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) with the Collaborative Master’s in Asia Pacific Studies (MAPS) at the University of Toronto. Before coming back to graduate school at U of T, Derek had a successful management career in the global investment banking industry.

While pursuing the MPP and MAPS, Derek landed a co-op placement with the Ontario Public Service (OPS), and he chose to return to the OPS after graduation. Derek has led a variety of transformational and innovative projects across multiple government ministries, and was nominated 3 times for Ontario Public Service awards (including the Amethyst Award, the highest public service award in Ontario) in roughly 2 years.

As a public servant, Derek continues to champion policy and solutions co-creation, and solving problems with cross-functional teams to achieve greater efficiencies, better outcomes, and excellence in the delivery of government services and programs.

What was the highlight of your time at the Asian Institute?

The MAPS and MPP programs helped me further build perspectives on public service, policy development, and global affairs.

I completed my MAPS’s thesis with Professor Hy Van Luong. My research examined the bilateral socio-economic relationship between China and Canada. Thanks to the Dr. David Chu Scholarship, I was able to get first-hand information for my research and develop an in-depth academic understanding of how foreign and trade policies engender social and economic impacts.

How did your degree help you get into the work you do now?

Several courses I took during my master’s program helped me better understand the process and impacts of government policy implementation, especially in fields like finance, health, education, economic development, and social and community services. Besides acquiring in-depth knowledge of public policy and Asia Pacific studies, I further enhanced my stakeholder engagement/management and oral & written communication skills, which still play a critical role when leading projects in the OPS.

What’s your favourite aspect of your job?

My current profession fulfills my passion that I have always wanted to serve a greater cause and make a positive contribution to society.

I believe achieving better outcomes and excellence in the delivery of various government services and programs benefits every Ontarian. I champion co-design and co-creation of new business processes and solutions with cross-functional teams in government that would deliver the best value for money for citizens of Ontario.

What advice would you give to a university student that you wished you’d known?

If you are like me and have the desire to deliver and want to make tomorrow better than today, a career in the public sector will be fulfilling and rewarding.

If you are interested in a career as a public servant, the most important quality to develop is political acuity. This refers to your ability to understand the machinery of government and deliver on government priorities.

Secondly, networking is very important, so start as early as possible.

Finally, hone your writing, interpersonal, and communication skills. The ability to articulate well is crucial if you want to work in the public sector.