Austen is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, where he leads policy planning for economic opportunity and growth in northeastern Illinois. He was the primary author for Prosperity recommendations in ON TO 2050, the new strategic plan for metropolitan Chicago. In a region with 284 municipalities and an economy slightly larger than Sweden, strategic planning requires transparent, collaborative partnerships with stakeholders and the public. Austen manages the agency’s engagement and policy analysis efforts on the intersection of economic and workforce development, inclusive growth, innovation and entrepreneurship, infrastructure, and tax policy.
Prior to joining CMAP, Austen earned a Master of Public Policy degree from Duke University, where he focused on how state and local governments in the U.S. manage disaster risk and vulnerability. While at Duke, he conducted research projects with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Geneva, Switzerland and the Foundation for Ecological Security in Udaipur, India. He previously worked as a consultant and management analyst in Washington, D.C. with Capgemini Government Solutions.
Austen graduated from Georgia Tech in 2012 with a B.S. in Public Policy and a B.S. in International Affairs, concentrating on science, technology, and innovation policy. While at Tech, he served as undergraduate student body vice president and studied abroad in Brussels, Belgium.
How did Tech and INTA help you get where you are?
My experience in the Nunn School helps me understand the complex pressures within our client organizations and adapt to ever-changing circumstances. The study of international affairs teaches you to see the hidden webs of influence underpinning difficult situations and to constantly adjust your strategy to new developments.
Also, I went on the EU Study Abroad program with Prof. Birchfield, which travels across northern Europe from Brussels to Krakow. The program is designed to immerse curious students in the full complex reality of EU integration and trans-Atlantic relations. It was an incredible opportunity to sit down with a Member of the European Parliament or the Polish Ambassador to NATO to get a firsthand account of European integration.
What advice you would give current students at Tech as well as the Sam Nunn School specifically?
It is undeniably a tough job market at the moment for students hoping to start a career in the public sector. The budgets of federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private think tanks simply haven’t rebounded from the recession yet, and the job market is flooded with highly qualified candidates looking to jumpstart their careers. However, your time in college is an incomparable opportunity to set yourself up for beating the competition and landing that first job after graduation. The two most important things you can do are getting an identity and using your weak connections. Of course, you need good grades and some work experience to strengthen your resume. But, the things that will truly set you apart in an applicant pool are the one-of-kind, adventurous experiences that give you an identity and show your character beyond just the quick bullet points on your resume. Volunteering in a developing country, working for a struggling start-up, or taking a cross-country internship can all be ways to find your identity --- and can also give you the perfect starting point when talking to a hiring officer. Likewise, don’t be afraid to call up your neighbor’s cousin’s wife’s niece’s boss to ask them about their work and any employment opportunities they may know about. If you can talk to someone one-on-one about who you are and what you can do, you will have a far better chance of showing hiring officers that you are the best candidate for them. Remember, organizations don’t hire resumes; they hire great individuals. The hardest part of a job search is making sure they look beyond your resume to see you, the great individual behind it.