A Glimpse Into The Privy Council Office – Part 1 of 2

A Glimpse Into The Privy Council Office – Part 1 of 2

By: Troy Liu
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Troy Liu is a Graduate Student currently completing his Master's in Public Policy. In the first part of his two-part series, Troy shares the adivce his has gain form the Senior Policy Advisor at the Privy Council Office.


In the summer of 2019, I landed a co-op position with the Privy Council Office (PCO) in Ottawa as a policy analyst. Together with the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada (TBS) and Department of Finance Canada, the PCO is one of the three central agencies that support the Government of Canada.

Within the PCO, I work under the Public Service Renewal Secretariat (PSR). Our team supports the Clerk of the Privy Council in renewing the federal public service. The work entails looking for ways to modernize the workplace. One of our roles is to provide a platform to share and amplify best practices and success stories across the public service that exhibit certain mindsets and behaviours. We call this initiative Beyond2020.

While working on various project files and supporting my team on Beyond2020, I took the opportunity to document some of my student experience outside the day-to-day activities. For this blog, I’d like to highlight two interactions that inspired me to further my professional development. 

Conversation With a Senior Policy Advisor

I had the pleasure of interviewing my supervisor – John. As senior policy advisor, John is highly esteemed among PSR’s colleagues for his mentorship and guidance. During his time at PSR, John has worked on numerous initiatives in renewing the public service.

One particular experience that he considers his highlight, is putting together the 26th Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service of Canada. It was one big undertaking and it involved reviewing close to 400 submissions of success stories across the public service.

The report is an important instrument that reflects the state of the public service and it has helped shape ideas, directions, and decisions in renewing the public service over the years. Learn more here.

Professional Development

As a student, I want to gain a better understanding of what kind of professional development John looks for at his level. He responds by indicating two streams of potential training.

First, there is the formal classroom training where management sends him to attend sessions, which can last from a day to a week. The second method is simply learning through doing.

In comparison, he prefers the latter. There is an adventurous and challenging aspect to delving into the unknown and embracing learning through working on real files.

To give an example, John and I recently conducted research on the UK’s civil service and its diversity and inclusion initiatives. We started with a few leads but quickly became knowledgeable on the topic through investigation.

The ability to apply learning opportunities in our work played a big role in keeping us engaged. The best part is we didn’t need budget approvals for this training!

Conversation over Coffee

In addition, John would often liaise with colleagues from various departments and agencies. He takes these opportunities to build new relationships through informal conversations and to identify potential partnerships that he could help facilitate. 

Work-Life Balance

The workload at the PCO can be overwhelming at times, but what drives John to continue to excel at his job is his appreciation to be in a position of work that connects with many areas of the public service. Despite the challenges, he can see and feel the impact his work has on renewing the public service.

Outside of work hours, John likes to go on long walks with his camera. Photography is his way to declutter the mind and allows him to organize and express his thoughts through a different medium. Parliament Building

Higher Education

In the pursuit of higher education, John believes his Master’s degree in English Literature has helped expand his mindset and horizon. Although the subject matter may not be the most useful for his work as an analyst, he values the mindset, open debates, best practices, and methodologies that can be applied and utilized to dissect any particular issue.

Maple Leaves on Ground

General Advice

His advice for young public servants is to seek ways to add value for their teams. Students are not always expected to be subject matter experts, but they can create value by offering different perspectives and practices from their experience. The key is to be agile and have the willingness to adapt to what the team needs.

John believes that in order to receive, one must be able to give. So he would always take the time to help others. I want to thank John for taking the time to share his insights in the public service. 

Beyond the Article


Posted on March 03, 2020