Born and raised in Ottawa, François Provencher understood the importance of public policy from a young age—an understanding that has shaped his perspective of the world as well as his career path.
“Growing up in our capital, I definitely had the importance of public service ingrained in me early on, and it gave me perspective on the impact that policy can have,” he says. “I think public policy will be key to addressing a lot of Canada’s and humanity’s biggest issues in the future, like issues stemming from climate change.”
While growing up, François represented Canada in the sport of fencing and travelled the world for international competitions. The experience instilled in him a deep passion for travel. “It gave me that wanderlust and desire to get out there and meet the world,” he remembers.
When it came time to pursue an undergrad degree, François chose a program that would allow him to combine his interest in public policy with his passion for exploring the world. He earned a degree in International Management from the University of Ottawa, and did an exchange year at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, where he earned a minor in Cross-Cultural Business Skills.
Forging a career in public service
During his undergrad, François interned at National Defence and Industry Canada—now Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED)—where he analyzed defence offset policy. After graduating, he spent time in Buenos Aires, Argentina, working as an international business consultant for an IT firm while mastering his Spanish.
From there, he moved back to Canada to work as a business tech analyst at Deloitte in Montreal—a city he says he was “determined to move to because I had friends living here, and so I made the life choice to move here after spending most of my life in Ottawa.”
After a year at Deloitte, he worked part-time for a friend’s startup IT company and also lived in Brazil for a short time to work and study Portuguese. It was during this time that he started applying for Master of Public Policy programs, ultimately landing on the Max Bell School of Public Policy.
Choosing the Max Bell School MPP “a great decision”
“I was applying for other MPPs and was accepted into a two-year program where I would have spent one year in China and one in London,” he explains. “But I decided to stick with Montreal and it turned out to be a great decision. My long term goal is to stay here for at least a few more years, and being able to network here while studying has a lot of advantages career-wise.”
Part of the School’s inaugural cohort, François wasn’t sure what to expect from the program going in. But he was “looking forward to getting some real work experience in policy-making and working with practitioners to develop some applicable skills,” which he says the program definitely delivered on.
Another favourite aspect of the program was the diversity of the student cohort.
“They put a lot of emphasis on the diversity of the group, so I learned as much from my peers as I did my profs,” he says. “A big takeaway was the importance of diverse perspectives and how that informs your decisions as a policymaker.”
A springboard for success
Soon after graduating from the Max Bell School, François accepted a role working as a senior advisor at Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions. His role involves working with the national shipbuilding policy to rebuild Canada’s navy. More specifically, it involves applying a national ISED policy that requires defence contractors who win government contracts to reinvest the value of the contract back into the Canadian economy.
François says the MPP program played a key role in helping him secure the position. “Everything I learned in the program helped me make a good impression in the interview and ultimately secure the job,” he says. His Policy Lab was also with ISED, which he says definitely helped him get a foot in the door.
“Policy writing, and how to effectively communicate policy ideas, has been very important,” he adds. “And the concepts we explored in the courses, the influence that business can have in policymaking, are definitely important concepts that I use in my job every day.”
Building core skills and connections for the future
Right now, François is enjoying working with the federal government and plans to continue working in development policy while building his skills and network.
“I would eventually like to work in something related to international affairs,” he says. “And I’d definitely like to live abroad again and have at least one more international experience before settling down and starting a family.”
Whatever the future holds, he feels grateful to have made so many valuable connections during his time at the Max Bell School and plans on leveraging them, along with the prestige of the McGill name, looking forward.
“We had some very high-profile people come to give talks, from former prime ministers to top experts in their fields,” he remembers. “And since I’d like to have a more international career, the McGill name is very useful. Having that global recognition was really attractive for me, and attending McGill is something I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life.”