Eliza Owen began uni as an "English and drama kid". Determined to understand the issues that shape society, she improved her maths skills through study and committed to her part time job. She’s now one of the most respected economists working today.
I’ve always been interested in how we influence change to improve lives.
Economics provides a lens and language to start doing this. It’s a way to understand and reform things like wealth inequality, housing affordability constraints and unemployment through policy and research.
I chose The University of Sydney because it has an excellent reputation as a top Australian university. The clubs and societies really appealed to me too. I became active in the Sydney Uni Dramatic Society (SUDS) where I met some of my best friends!
I didn’t come from a mathematics background – I was an English and drama kid in high school!
Women in particular are conditioned to be less engaged with data and mathematics. I think that’s one of the reasons we don’t see as many women in economics, and I think that’s also part of why I struggled a bit in my first year.
If you love economics, but you aren’t “good at maths”, it’s time to change that. Do a bridging course. Get a friend to help you. Get yourself across concepts in algebra and calculus (derivatives in particular can be very useful for some of the theory).
The maths for economics is not hard, but it takes practice. Given the invaluable role data plays in the modern economy, a grasp of maths and statistics is extremely important anyway. You will not regret it.
The tutors and academics are a great bunch. They are so passionate, and every tutor and lecturer I interacted with was kind and approachable.
My favourite subject was Labour Economics. I learned how to interpret the unemployment rate and use data to explain movements in the rate. I learned about higher rates of unemployment among minority groups, and challenges faced by the long-term unemployed.
In my field of housing market research, understanding employment trends is fundamental to aspects of housing market demand. I still use these learnings regularly.
When I graduated in 2014, I had worked my way up from a part time job in a data call center to a market analyst and report writer role in the same company.
Part of that was because I impressed my employers with things I’d learned at university.
With my degree, I could analyse data, provide advice about research projects, come up with ways to crunch numbers and display data that would get us media mentions, and write quality, substantiated reports.
But I also took my part time job in the data call center very seriously. I started dressing very professionally, talking to people across all different parts of the business, and saying yes to every project and opportunity that came my way. By the time I graduated, I had been promoted to a research position.
My work has taken me to every capital city in Australia to present to thousands of people and participate in events. Thanks to Australians’ obsession with property, I’ve also done lots of media appearances across TV, print and radio
I regularly present housing market updates to clients, which include the RBA, Treasury, banks – basically any stakeholder in property. With the onset of the pandemic, these are largely webinars. People are very keen to understand how coronavirus has impacted the property market.
I play with data and try to answer topical questions about the housing market – I might write a blog, which we then send out to media. Other times in the day I might be doing a media interview, sitting in Zoom meetings, and fulfilling ad-hoc data and research requests for other teams in the business.
Much of my research skills and critical thinking were developed through my degree. Statistics was one of the most useful components that I still use most days in my job. During my honours year, I learned pragmatic skills on the periphery of research, such as how to distil and pitch research to media.
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