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Data + AI = The future of economics careers

In his economics career Callam Pickering uses data to get a handle on the number and types of people looking for a job

Callam Pickering works at global jobs website Indeed, but his career has been full of variety. He’s also been the economic editor on a 24-hour business news website, and a senior analyst at the Reserve Bank of Australia. Careers with STEM sat down with Callam to get his thoughts on the importance of maths and data to his job, and how AI will influence economics work in the future.

How do you use data in your job?

Data is central to every economist’s job. Working at Indeed, I use a range of internal data on the behaviour of jobseekers and employers to try to gain a better understanding of the Australian labour market and provide key insights to clients and the media. But I also regularly use data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and global data from organisations such as the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development].

How important have you found maths in your career so far?

Maths and data analysis are often closely aligned. Often the maths can be simple, such as growth rates, fractions, simple statistics, but it can provide powerful insights into what is happening in an economy and what it means. Statistical regressions – comparing dependent and independent variables – is also a key part of an economist’s job and these tasks typically use more advanced techniques to analyse the relationships between different data sets.

To what extent does AI compete with or enhance what you do?

Already the tools can be highly useful. Just recently I was creating code through R [a programming language] and using ChatGPT to troubleshoot, as I’d run into problems. Previously, I’d have had to do a web search.

My general view is that AI will augment and enhance the ability of people like me to conduct meaningful analysis and provide insights into economic developments. 

What advice would you give yourself if you were graduating today?

The best career advice I’ve ever heard was to learn how to solve problems. Everyone can spot problems. But the precious few who can solve them become irreplaceable.

So take steps to create a broad skill set that can be utilised across a range of tasks. Learning and skill development doesn’t stop at graduation. 

Callam’s study and career path to becoming a senior economist

  • Bachelor of Commerce / Bachelor of Economics, Monash University
  • Economist, Reserve Bank of Australia
  • Senior analyst, Reserve Bank of Australia
  • Master of Journalism / Master of International Relations, Monash University
  • Economic editor, Business Spectator
  • Founder, CP Economics
  • APAC senior economist, Indeed.com

This article originally appeared in Careers with STEM: Maths & Data 2024.

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