Munk Done: Lessons and life beyond the classroom
What is your current occupation?
Press Secretary, Office of Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services
How did Munk One help you explore your interests and find a path that suited you?
For our Dragon’s Den project in MUN105, my group ended up modelling a Social Impact Bond (SIB) to fund kinship care to tackle the national crisis in Indigenous child welfare.
That project allowed me to harness my interests in economic development, Indigenous issues, policy, and finance. It also taught me about ways I could combine my interests in business and social impact. It ended up being the thing that led me to learn about ESG investing and ultimately get a job in sustainable finance.
Indigenous child welfare has also continued to remain a personal passion of mine - I truly believe this is one of the defining issues of our time. Since I modelled that bond in 2018, it’s been so heartening to see reform on numerous levels: federal legislation with Bill C-92, Ontario’s child welfare redesign, and a renewed interest in these issues among members of the public.
Building on these experiences, I continued to work on many of these issues on behalf of social service agencies and Indigenous governments who ask for help solving their public policy challenges.
I am now honoured to have been asked by the Minister to serve in this government in a mandate tasked with improving Indigenous housing, clean water, health care, child welfare, and emergency preparedness. With confidence, I can say this is one of the most important issues for our country.
How did you know you wanted to pursue the career you did, and what has your experience been like so far?
To be honest, this wasn’t the plan: I had always been interested in government, society, and business…I thought I was going to go to law school.
Over the course of university, I applied for jobs that sounded interesting and took what was available to me. The summer after my first year, I worked for the U of T Student Union. The summer after 3rd year, I worked on a political campaign full-time in Nova Scotia. Then in third year, I caught my “big break” when I landed an internship doing sustainable finance and ESG public affairs at CPP Investments (which invests the Canada Pension Plan).
My job at CPP Investments was awesome and opened me to an array of opportunities known as “public affairs”. These are the folks that help corporations navigate complex political environments, advocate for their public policy needs and help communicate with the general public. I have been in that space ever since. After graduating, I interned with Kinross Gold (one of Canada’s largest mining companies) doing political risk analysis with a focus on West Africa, South America, and Russia.
For almost two years, I was proud to work at one of Canada’s largest public affairs firms. Navigator works on some of the country’s most important front-page stories - and shape policies behind the scenes. In my first year alone, I worked on hostile takeovers, helped draft and publish op-eds in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and gained a deep understanding of key policy sectors.
My colleagues are former premiers, MPs and elected officials, chiefs of staff, editors-in-chief at newsrooms, journalists, and pollsters. Ultimately, this job has taught me a lot and I am super grateful to have been afforded this opportunity to work with some of the smartest people in the country on these issues. Ultimately, this role helped inspire me with the confidence, abilities, and skillset to take on a new challenge working in a Minister’s Office.
If I have one word of advice: it is to explore opportunities. I think so many people get stuck in the mindset of law school, grad school, or work in finance and consulting. There are so many opportunities out there.
What does your day-to-day look like?
It’s tough to describe a typical day in media relations - whether at Navigator or in a Minister’s office - but I’ll do my best. On most days, I am usually up by 7:00 a.m. or so to check morning headlines for any big news and get out some briefings or work that’s due before the day starts.
From there, either virtually, or in office, every day can be a little bit different but could include research to better understand current government policies in a specific area, monitoring major announcements, helping to draft letters to government, budget submissions, op-eds, social media tweets or communications materials. At Navigator, I was frequently meeting with colleagues to discuss major policy initiatives: Canada’s critical minerals push, clearing the surgeries backlog or the successes and challenges of cannabis legalization.
In my new role, my day-to-day is about serving the Minister as we deliver on an important and challenging mandate. My duties may include staffing the Minister for cabinet meetings or the House of Commons when parliament is sitting, speaking to journalists about new policies, legislation or funding announcements, or going on tour visiting Indigenous communities to make announcements and hear directly from stakeholders about the impact of the government’s work.
Are there any insights from your Munk One experience that you can still apply to your activities now?
Munk One served as the foundation of my degree at U of T. The program taught me numerous skills: stakeholder analysis, presentation skills, analyzing complex case studies and conducting research interview. These skills serve me well throughout my time at U of T, and I continue to use these skills to this day: to boil down to the heart of an issue, understand stakeholder incentives and advance my clients’ interests. I really think Munk One was the highlight of my time at U of T and would highly recommend the program to anyone.
What is your fondest memory from your time in Munk One?
Without any doubt, the best part of Munk One was the people. From going for lunch and studying together in first year to the lifelong friends who I continue to hang out with every week, I am so grateful for those little moments.
Any final thoughts?
After first year, I worked at L'Espresso Bar Mercurio for the summer. To this day, I have very high standards for my coffee; If you would like suggestions or want career advice, always happy to meet for a cappuccino.
Zeus Eden, Munk One Class of ‘17, B.A., International Relations, Economics and Political Science (2021)