Policy analyst

Duncan Matangi has absolutely no regrets about swapping from engineering to focus on subjects he enjoyed studying the most - physics and mathematics.

Career: Policy analyst, New Zealand Treasury, Wellington.
Programme: Bachelor of Science majoring in Physics and Mathematics.

“I have an in interest in, and aptitude for, the hard sciences,” he says. “So I liked the challenge offered by higher-level, undergraduate physics and maths courses as well as the breadth of topics available.”

Duncan relished the camaraderie generated in the small cohort of like-minded students, which he says led to a lot of collaboration and support. The opportunity to work as a tutor and marker in his final year also provided some valuable experience.

Since graduating, Duncan has been employed as a policy analyst at the New Zealand Treasury, where his job involves providing advice to Ministers on financial and economic issues.

“My areas of expertise are Treaty Negotiations policy, the Budget process, and public financial management,” he explains.

Duncan says Treasury offers opportunities to demonstrate competence early on in your career, and some independence to develop skills and connections across the public sector.

He appreciates the complexities of the political environment, working closely with senior Ministers, seeing how government functions and being involved (and influential) in decisions that affect New Zealand.

His university education has provided him with both practical and transferable skills.“

Mathematics trained me to think logically and rigorously about complex issues. You have to set out your reasoning in arriving at a solution.“

This is very applicable to policy advice, as it is crucial to demonstrate how you have arrived at your proposal. A rigorous thought process helps cut through complex policy issues.

“Physics taught me to write and communicate clearly and concisely.

“This is a valuable skill in the policy world, as decision makers need to be able to quickly absorb the information and key decisions you are outlining in your advice. Florid language, while pleasant to read, can inhibit the clear communication of ideas.”

Duncan’s succinct advice for would-be physicists is to “apply yourself, and let your passion drive you”.

“Choose courses that interest, both in physics and across the university. This helps motivate you when you’re working hard, and you’ll become better-rounded.”

Duncan Matangi recently moved to a new role at Ministry of Justice and shares his career progression in inSCight.