A Conversation with a Physicist-Turned-Politician: How to excel in a field outside of your degree

Ted Hsu is a Kingston-born academic-turned-politician who came to speak at a lunch time S2BN Kingston Chapter event on Queen’s campus. The talk highlighted his journey after graduate school and how he leveraged many of the skills he learned to help him throughout his diverse career.

While Ted was completing his PhD in physics, he was inspired to pursue either research or professorship, however during this time he still maintained interest in other areas, such as economics. After the successful completion of his graduate degree and a post-doc at the University of British Columbia, he landed a job at the Atomic Energy of Canada doing research for the government. Looking to advance his career further, he started looking for jobs elsewhere.

Due to the unique landscape of the job market, finance companies where hiring physicists like himself for their quantitative skills and their potential application to the financial market. He was hired by a firm and after moving up within the company to a managerial role, he took a brief 3-year hiatus to become a stay-at-home dad. In this time, his interest in public policy grew. He found himself working for the local Liberal Party of Canada after entering back into the workforce. The retirement of a local member of parliament initiated himself to run in a successful campaign as Kingston’s new representation in the House of Commons.

Ted provides us with 3 pieces of key advice that helped him have a successful career:

  1. Keep in touch with your fellow students in graduate school - in the future, it might be useful to see what they've done and subsequently learn from what their experiences have been.

  2. Learn a variety of skills so you are an immediate asset to any company – a company is more likely to hire you if they can benefit from you in the short-term. For Ted, computing was his forte.

  3. When you first go into a private company, don’t just go to work, do your job, and go home. Understand how the company makes money, takes risks, the expenses, and generally the “ins and outs” of how the company survives. This allows you to understand how you can impact the company’s success which will allow you to have mobility within it.

Today, Ted is co-chairing the housing task force in Kingston – a group set out to fix the low vacancy rate in the city. To read more about Ted's story you can visit his website at http://tedhsu.ca/

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