Transition Q&A:
Dominique Riviere

What did you hope for in terms of employment as you completed your PhD?

I hoped to become a full-time researcher position at a university, or outside academia (e.g. at an NGO, NPO, or think tank).

What was your first post-PhD job?

The first post-PhD job I had was as a Research Officer at the Centre for Urban Schooling, at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

What do you do now?

In my role at MaRS, I am responsible for designing and maintaining all of my department’s administrative and operating procedures, and for overseeing all of our research / evaluation activities, both internal and external. I was also previously responsible for designing and implementing the department’s financial sustainability plan.

How did you get this job?

Through some serendipitous networking. At a launch event at one of my previous jobs, I approached a professor whose work I admired. I made sure to keep in touch with her over the years, which is how I learned about the position at MaRS. It turned out that I knew the director who was hiring, so I contacted him to learn more about the position. Based on that conversation, I decided to apply.

What kind of tasks do you do on a daily and weekly basis?

I send a lot of emails, and attend a lot of meetings.  As Manager, Grants and Operations, my primary tasks involve identifying and applying for grants to support our operational and programming activities.

As a manager, I also have responsibility for mentoring / coaching the more junior members on our team.

What most surprises you about your job?

The fact that I regularly get to draw on all of my sector-specific skills – academia, government, and education. I never imagined that I could find a position that required me to use all three.

What are your favourite parts of your job?

MaRS is an innovation hub that supports technology entrepreneurs who want to start, grow, or scale their business. As someone who had absolutely NO experience in this area, I am constantly learning new things, which I love. I also love getting to design new programs, services, and research based on what I’m learning.

What would you change about it if you could?

My working space: cubicle farms are SO 20th-century! But since the introvert in me balks at the idea of completely open, shared, co-working spaces, I’d love to have a happy medium where I have a dedicated quiet and private workspace that could easily be configured into a shared space as needed.

What’s next for you, career-wise?

I am currently on maternity leave, so I have been thinking a lot about my next career step now that I am a parent. I will definitely return to MaRS because there are a lot of growth opportunities for me, especially in terms of leadership. Further down the road, I see myself going into consulting, though the specific area is yet to be determined.

What advice or thoughts do you have for PhDs in career transition now?

The link between your scholarship and your post-ac career path may not be obvious, but trust that it is there. That’s why, in addition to researching the sector(s) you want to work in, I strongly recommend reflecting on the top 2-3 “spheres” in which you want your work to have influence (e.g. mine are Education / Learning and Equity). This approach will help protect you from any planned obsolescence in a given field, and keep you primed for new opportunities that you may not have otherwise considered.


Dominique Riviere earned her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She now works at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto as the manager for the Grants and Operations team.

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