Independent Artist Goes Global

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Patrick (also known as Pat) Maloney is one of the lucky people who can say, “I do love my job!” Raised in Ottawa, Pat works as a self-employed musician. It’s been a long journey for him to get to where he is today, but it is a journey that has taken him around the world doing what he loves—making music.

Maloney got his start in music as a child, where he played piano and later a drum set in high school. He then moved to London, Ontario to attend Fanshawe College for its two-year Music Industry Arts program. He ended up staying at Fanshawe much longer than he had originally planned because after he graduated, he became a Fanshawe College employee!

“I got a job with [the] Fanshawe Student Union promoting events on campus” says Pat. “That job put me in touch with a lot of industry contacts.” In addition to his “day job”, he also played drums for a band which had several other members. Eventually, Pat knew it was time to go solo and depart from the band and the college where he had worked for six years, thanks to the networking he had done with people in the music industry.

In 2013, he played 170 shows across Canada in all 10 provinces, as well as touring college and university campuses in the United Kingdom. Of this experience, Pat tells us,

“I book the Canadian tours myself, and travel England with Tony Lee, the Hypnotist. I spend most afternoons making cold calls to bars and sending emails to book myself. In these early stages of my career, I probably land one show for every 5 emails I send.” Although low numbers and low pay can be discouraging, Pat’s fan-base continues to grow and he couldn’t be happier with his job. However, when he first left London for Toronto, where he currently lives, he wasn’t sure how it would all turn out:

I was worried about the money at first. But once I had my first bad month [over with], I was still happy and alive and I still didn’t have to go into an office [for work]. I could still focus on my passion! It was worth being a little strapped for cash!”

Luckily for Pat, the cash came rolling in when he reached out to his friends, family and fans for help to fund his second album, Repotting, the follow up to his solo debut, Root Rot. Earlier in 2014, Repotting was crowd-funded online through and he says that “it was a great feeling to know that there are people out there willing to shell out a few dollars for a record they haven't even heard yet! There is very little financial support for independent music, so it's nice to know the fans are willing to step up.”

When asked why he loves his job as a self-employed musician, Maloney was quick to answer, “I love that I work for myself, and that I get to play music every night. I get to share what I love the most with audiences all over the world!”

Visit Pat Maloney’s website for upcoming tour dates and more information



Twitter: @_patmaloney  

Instagram: _patmaloney 

Applying Outside the (Online) Box: Daniel's Engineering Story

By Daniel Fensom      Facilitated by Elyse Trudell, WorkStory Ambassador

Dan Fensom.jpg

I was quite amazed reading the stories of young, talented people on this site. In thinking of what to write for my post, it took many hours to determine how my story compared to those of successful entrepreneurs, brilliant artists and activists for social change. So I thought I would begin, from what I remember to be the first thing I wanted to become when I grew up; a professional hockey player. Upon realizing just how realistic this dream was by the young age of 14, I thought it would be time to explore other career paths; perhaps an avalanche hunter in BC, guide in Yukon or a lobster fisherman on the east coast.

I settled on attending the University of Guelph for environmental engineering. I had no idea what to expect prior to the start of second year. I always knew I had a deep passion for nature and exploring the wilderness so I figured that with my math and science credits from high school, environmental engineering would be a suitable subject. I initially thought that I would be designing wind turbines and solar panels but I was gravely mistaken. Much of what I learned in school was about water quality and treatment, air pollution and soil quality.

Although I liked and appreciated the new material I was learning, I often thought that maybe engineering wasn’t for me; maybe attending law school or completing a master’s degree would better suit me. The choice became especially difficult in my final year of university when several of my friends decided to pursue a master’s degree. I came to the conclusion that I should test the engineering job market first and if it did not pan out, I could always return to school. So I scoured the school’s job posting website, recruiting websites and top engineering firm job sites; applying to every applicable job I could. It then occurred to me that there are probably thousands of recent grads applying to these same positions with more experience and higher final grades than me. I then started to search out the smaller firms; ones not listed in the top 100 engineering firms. Although there weren’t necessarily job openings posted, I sent in my resume anyways as a general application.

My hunch worked and soon after graduating, I was lucky enough to have been offered a job at a small engineering consulting firm – XCG Consultants Ltd. It happened to be for a position that I was very intrigued by and enjoyed learning about in school. I have been at this firm now for almost a year and a half and I have really enjoyed my time there. The projects are extremely diverse and I’ve yet to work the same day twice.

The projects I am involved with are mostly water related where I simulate what happens to municipalities under extreme storm events. We then recommend solutions based on our results. As a smaller consulting firm, we do get our share of larger projects but we also get quite a few smaller projects. The smaller projects are really what provide with valuable learning experiences and the opportunity to work in a range of disciplines.

I think the variety of my work is a result of the culture surrounding smaller engineering consulting firms. Smaller companies don’t often employ many junior staff and as a result, junior staff are often assigned a number of projects of a wide variety rather than specializing in one specific task or project. Another intriguing aspect of smaller companies is the hierarchal structure. As a junior staffer, you’re often dealing directly with the senior partners and associates, thus minimizing the distance between you and the final decision makers.

Just recently I learned a valuable lesson for all job seekers. Senior managers don’t like posting job openings online. They seem to find it difficult to differentiate the people who are really passionate about the work from those who have used the same cover letters for the hundreds of other job postings. Senior managers prefer those who take the initiative of sending in their applications even though a posting online may not exist. I’m not saying applying to all the postings on a recruiting website is a bad idea, but rather diversify your applications to firms who don’t post openings online.

If you are truly passionate about a position or field of work, show it and apply where you want to work, regardless of online postings.

A Childhood Calling

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

From a young age, Kayla Quenneville knew that she was meant to help people in some way - although she was not always sure of the form that it would take.  "When I was in public school I was a “recess buddy”, meaning I would go down to hang out with the kids in the Developmental Centre at my school. Being down there and seeing how the teachers and educational assistants worked with the kids made me want to do the same. At first I wanted to be the teacher, but then years later realized that the educational assistants were the ones who worked that much closer with the kids. Which is what changed my mind from wanting to be the teacher to the EA."

Kayla was able to make her childhood discovery into a career path when she took, and eventually graduated from Fanshawe College's Developmental Support Worker program.  When asked what Kayla found most useful from taking the program, she had this to say: "The DSW program has many great courses that prepare you for the workplace and I could list reasons for all of them, but one sticks out clearly as the most helpful. When I was in the program, we had three placements. They were usually in three very different settings. It was great to get the experience and a feel for the different settings before graduating so we knew what was out there and see what we liked or disliked in each of them.”

Kayla chose to stick to what she knew she loved, when she took a position as an Educational Assistant at The Thames Valley District School Board. As an EA, Kayla can do a wide range of activities such as helping kids with schoolwork, following a teacher's instructions, helping students with personal care, and most importantly promoting an environment of acceptance, and inclusion.

Currently, Kayla works with a girl in senior kindergarten who has feeding and breathing tubes, and a boy in Grade 2 with autism, both of whom she helps take part in a regular classroom. Regardless of who she is working with, Kayla says the best part of her job is "really getting to know the kids. I’ve mainly worked with kids who are medically fragile and don’t use words to communicate. Getting a smile or laugh, an eye roll when a silly joke is made or even a sarcastic smirk, makes the day great. It shows just how much personality each of them has and makes working with them that much better. Also being that person that the child can trust and just being there for them when they need you."

When asked for a word of advice to the people who may be interested in the field, Kayla highlighted the importance of making sure you really do like to help people, because although there are good days, not every day will be perfect, and that's when it pays to have patience and to love what you do.

Gregg French’s Story: The History of His Story

As told to Brandon Pedersen, WorkStory Ambassador


I suppose that I could argue that my life as a historian has been far from linear.  I began my Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Western Ontario in September of 2005 with the full intentions of finishing my degree, entering law school, and practicing law for the remainder of my career.  The problem was, I didn’t know why I wanted to practice law; heck, I didn’t even know what type of law I wanted to practice.  All I knew was that some lawyers made a lot of money, they got to wear fancy dress clothes, and they held a position of power in society.  So, like most individuals that aspire to go to law school, I took the advice of my guidance counsellors and I enrolled in a program that I was interested in, and I knew I would excel in.  Luckily for me, the program was History.

From a young age, I have been interested in the past.  My grandparents were my first history teachers and at the age of eighty-seven, my lone remaining grandmother is still my oldest history teacher.  Growing up, I was inundated with a broad range of historical stories ranging from life in rural Ontario during the Great Depression, to the legendary stories of the Portuguese discovery of India in the late fifteenth century.  However, at the time, these were just stories from the past, not a possible lifelong career.

I guess that you could say that the cliché of “finding yourself” at university applies to me.  By the time that I had completed my third year of my undergraduate degree, I knew that I no longer wanted to become a lawyer (Side note: Spending a bit too much time with my friends, instead of studying for my LSAT, may have played a role in this decisions but I think that things like this happen for a reason).  However, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.  I enjoyed studying history and I enjoyed interacting with fellow students but I still didn’t think that studying history was a realistic or viable career goal.

I really enjoyed my undergraduate years at Western, so when I was faced with the decision of either coming back and doing my Masters or entering a job market that had recently been hit by the recession of 2008, it was a no brainer for me.  Essentially, I was forced to ask myself, “Let me get this straight, you’re going to pay me to study history and I get to teach undergraduate students in a tutorial setting, where do I sign?”  Little did I know, conducting my Masters research at the University of Western Ontario was going to introduce me to several influential people that were willing to show me that a career as a historian was both a realistic and a viable career that I could excel in.

I guess that brings us to today.  Presently, I am a fourth year Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History at the University of Western Ontario.  Under the supervision of Professor Frank Schumacher, my dissertation examines American perceptions of Spain and the Spanish Empire from 1776 to 1914 (For more information, check out my website  Sound like a bunch of theory and historical jargon?  Well, to a certain degree, it is.  However, at the root of the narrative is a story about the past. Historians are story tellers, and it is important for us all to remember that.

At the moment, I just returned from three months in Washington, DC, where, on behalf of a Doctoral Research Fellowship from the German Historical Institute and a Harris Steele Travel Fund Award from the Department of History at the University of Western Ontario, I was conducting research at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, the National Archives, and the Library of Congress.  Currently, I am working on a body chapter of my dissertation, applying for future fellowships, working on a few publications, and preparing to teach my first course during the Winter Semester of 2015.  So life is busy but that keeps things exciting. 

I hope to finish my dissertation by the Fall of 2015 and at that time, I hope to either acquire a post-doctoral fellowship or be teaching at a post-secondary institution.  My career goal is to acquire a tenured position at a post-secondary institution that will allow me to continue to conduct research, as well as continue to teach university students.

Advice for an individual that is interested in becoming a historian? 

Surround yourself with a strong support group.  Friends, family, and mentors help with the long hours of solitary work. 

If you intend to do a Ph.D., be prepared that your friends will be getting married, buying houses, having children, and making more money than you until you finish your dissertation, and perhaps for several years after.

Block out the noise.  Not a day goes by where I don’t see an article where a Ph.D. candidate or a recent graduate is writing about his/her difficulties in finding gainful employment.  Yes, I feel for these individuals; heck, I’m in the same boat as them but reading too many of those articles will often cloud you mind with negative thoughts.  My advice is keep your head down, get your own work done, help other people as much as you can, and remember that you volunteered for this.  Dr. Christopher Stuart Taylor gave me that advice when I started my Ph.D. work and now I’m passing it on.

Be organized and focused. 

Remember that every day is not going to be filled with sunshine and roses.  Sometimes, you’re going to have a lecture that doesn’t go well or you’re going to have a day where you can’t find what you’re looking for in the archives.  Don’t block those days out, learn from them.  Also, make sure to remember the day when you saw that light bulb go off over one of your student’s heads or remember the day when you found exactly what you were looking for in the archives.  Those days keep me going; hopefully they will keep you going too.

Elite student kept in tune with industry

By Paul Mayne, Western News

Koen Tholhuijsen, a recent graduate of Western’s Piano Technology Program, recently started an internship at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music. The Netherlands native said the program at Western taught him all he needed to know about tuning and repairing pianos.

While growing up in the Netherlands, Koen Tholhuijsen spent countless hours in his father’s workshop.

“As an electrician, he had a lot of tools hanging around. As a kid, I was extremely good at breaking stuff,” said the 25-year old. “I would always try and fix things before my parents figured it out. Playing with all those tools was when I started enjoying working with my hands.”

Today, Tholhuijsen uses this curiosity to get ‘in tune’ with his internship as a piano technician at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music. And he gives credit for his ear for music to Western’s Piano Technology Program, which has been training students from around the world for 14 years.

The one-year intensive program has seen students arrive more than a dozen countries – Australia to Ireland, Germany to Cuba – to learn the fine art of piano tuning, repairs and findng that perfect pitch.

Formerly located at Toronto’s George Brown College, the program was revamped and brought to where it belongs – in a music school, said program co-ordinator Anne Fleming-Read. It remains the only piano technology program offered in North America.

“It’s like its own laboratory. This is the perfect location,” she said of the program, tucked neatly in a corner of the Don Wright Faculty of Music Building.

“This is a niche market – and a very small market. There have been several schools throughout the world that are no longer operating,” Fleming-Read said. “Apparently, word gets out you can come here and, in eight months, have what you need to go out and start making a living, and continue your learning.”

With just 14 students in the program each year, Tholhuijsen saw Western as the perfect opportunity for him, despite the fact he was already enroled in a similar program in Amsterdam.

“It was a three-year program. After I did the first half-year, I pretty quickly figured out it wasn’t the right school for me,” said Tholhuiijsen, who quickly began googling piano technology programs. “Western was one of the first ones that popped up right away. The website was good and I got a lot of great information. So, I got in touch with Anne and made my decision.”

Coming to London was delayed as he spent the next year-and-half saving up the $16,000 program tuition. But it was worth the wait, Tholhuijsen added.

“I just wanted to go to a good school and reach my goal of working in the business,” he said. “They teach you the basics of what you’re going to need to be successful. And to be sucessful, you spend on average of 60-70 hours a week in school. That’s a lot of time to put in. But if you do that, there’s a big chance you’ll learn so much.

“They push you to succeed, which is great. My personality needed that pressure.”

Fleming-Read said students appreciate the individual time they receive, with such small classes, thanks to senior technical officer Don Stephenson and resident technician Paul Poppy.

“It allows for a lot of individual and personal attention,” she said. “It’s not just them sitting at a desk. You are working right there with them. You get to see their ‘up’ days, and their ‘down’ days, and respond accordingly. Sometimes, you take risks when you push them harder, but they need to know they can do it.”

While the main program will not be growing, a summer session in Piano Technology is offered to graduates and practicing technicians. A similar one-month program will also be offered for residents of China, an area desperate to educate technicians.

“This will be for those who already have some experience and want to take it to the next level,” Fleming-Read said.

Tholhuijsen joked that despite waiting the year-and-a half to begin at Western, he still graduated before his former classmates in Amsterdam. And a few months into his internship, despite all his training, he admits the learning never stops.

“You are always developing your listening skills,” said Tholhuijsen, who, while not a pianist, dables on the piano. “Everybody has it, everyone hears it, but you really need to develop it, which is why it’s important to put those 60-70 hours in.

“Most people who listen to music will hear different things we hear, as tuners. At the beginning, you barely hear anything, but then you slowly start developing your listening skills and begin hearing more and more. It takes time and, still now, it’s improving for me.”

Posted with permission, Western News