Working Hospitably: By Erin Annis, Recruitment Consultant

What led you to the hospitality career path?

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I remember being in 9th grade, sitting with my Dad at a downtown restaurant that had new ownership and had changed drastically since the last time we’d been there.  The topic of hospitality came up…and that there actually was a degree in the field of hospitality management!  

I thought that was such an intriguing and unique concept.  On family vacations, the hotel was always my ‘happy place’.  So, contributing to someone else’s experience of such joy – combined with the opportunity for travel – seemed the most rewarding career choice that I could imagine!  

So, I studied Hospitality Management at the University of Guelph.  During my co-op placement, I landed an amazing opportunity in Human Resources with one of the Starwood Hotels. That experience doubly confirmed that this was definitely the path I wanted to follow.  My co-op teacher visited me at my placement and said something along the lines of “Wow, I have never seen someone so happy to be at work!”  She even decided to feature me in an article in our high school newsletter (a mini-work story, if you will!)

More specifically, what led you to hospitality recruitment?

The University of Guelph does an amazing job of highlighting how widespread the hospitality industry really is.  Courses range from Hotels to Restaurants to Airlines to Casinos to Property Management   – Hospitality is a multi-faceted industry!  I’ve always considered myself a "people person” as well, so the appeal of Human Resources was always there. Combining my passion for both Hospitality and Human Resources was the best of both worlds for me.  After graduating from Guelph, I knew I would come to a fork-in-the-road situation, since Corporate Recruitment roles, as with many roles, are extremely competitive.  I knew that I would have to take a few career steps before landing a role like that.  I could go either the Operations route in the hotel sector – and work my way up through the Front Desk ranks ­ – or I could get my foot in the door with recruitment in general.  

After graduation, I landed a Recruitment Internship with a recruitment company focusing on the legal sector.  Definitely not where I envisioned I’d be, but it played a major part in my career growth.  I took a leap out of my comfort zone into an environment where two great supervisors took me under their wings and showed me the recruitment ropes in an agency setting. Agency recruitment is closely linked to sales (as opposed to HR) and it involves  lots of prospecting and cold calling.  So this choice was especially surprising, since anyone who knew me growing up knows that I was the shyest kid ever!   However, I truly think that being in the hospitality industry and working in it since high school ­ – everything from McDonald’s to serving to working as a Reservation Agent ­ – has helped bring me out of my shell and improved my ability to think on my feet. 

For over a year now, I have been working as a Recruiter at Global Hospitality Inc, a hospitality recruitment company.  Every day is different…thinking on my feet, being personable, and understanding in-depth what motivate others.  These are all musts! 

Most rewarding parts of the job?  

There are several rewarding aspects of my job. What stands out to me is its variety and unconventionality – being exposed to the full spectrum of hospitality, working on roles ranging from Line Cook to CEO, and for a wide range of respected companies across North America! 

One of the accomplishments I’m very proud of is getting to work on a search for a high-profile restaurant opening before it was released to the public, and placing the General Manager there. I never thought at the age of 22 I’d be able to say that I’ve done that. 

Another would be the overall feeling that comes with any successful placement, when you know you have made a great match for the candidate and the client.  There are a lot of moving parts that go into a successful  placement  – after all, these are peoples’ careers we are dealing with and things are never taken lightly.  It is always great when you hear that your candidate is happy as the job goes on.  I've received lovely thank-you notes and Christmas cards and I keep them on the desk to remind myself of my accomplishments.

Biggest job challenge?

When I began recruiting and was working on more junior early-career roles, I thought I would have a way easier time connecting with those younger candidates since I’m younger myself.  What I quickly realized was pretty blatantly clear – there are a lot of older people who are currently employed who still have no idea what they want to do! There is nothing wrong with that whatsoever.  However, when you are a recruiter representing a candidate who cannot commit to an interview or the idea of a new job, it can b e challenging.  This has made me greatly value transparency and clear communication at work  ­– and this  carries over to everyday life as well. 

Best advice to anyone entering the workforce?

How I got my first “real” job out of university was by proactively reaching out to companies that I wanted to work for.  After completing my internship, I knew  that I wanted my permanent full-time role to be a step into hospitality.  So, I reached out to a few hospitality-specific recruitment companies and landed this role!  That was purely from conducting my own research on what’s out there, then connecting and expressing interest.  

Advice to anyone starting out in the workforce …?

  • Make a list of some places you’ve always wanted to work.  
  • Do a search of companies that fall into a similar realm – and send an email expressing your interest in working there!  Whether there is a job opening or not, they will know your name and most likely remember you when a suitable opening does come up.  
  • Do anything you can to expand your network.  Research companies, attend events, even just talking to people in your own network about your career goals could lead somewhere

It never hurts to be proactive!

 

Associate Account Manager: Tanner Fryfogel’s WorkStory

By Erica Pulling, WorkStory Ambassador  at Western University

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Tanner Fryfogel is an associate account manager in commercial banking at RBC.  He is responsible for maintaining positive relationships with business owners, and introducing them to other bank employees to help with their specific needs.  In addition to working with existing customers, he also tries to meet new clients and bring them over to RBC. 

Tanner completed a two-year diploma at Fanshawe College in Business, followed by an advanced diploma in leadership and management.  During his time at Fanshawe, he realised that getting a university degree would open more doors in the field he was interested in, so he decided to use the credits he had already earned towards a degree at Nipissing University.  With those, he studied another one year and a semester to complete a Bachelor of Business Administration degree.

While completing his last semester of university, Tanner learned about The RBC Career LaunchTM Program offered through RBC.  Each year, this program hires 100 recent graduates from around Canada for a one-year contract.  Because of his interest in commercial banking, Tanner felt this program would be a good fit for him.  Initially, he applied for the program online.  He was then contacted for a phone interview, followed by a Skype interview.  After successfully completing the first three steps, Tanner was brought to Guelph for a panel interview with other applicants from the area.  During the interview, applicants were put through a variety of tasks designed to test how well they could think on their feet.  After successfully completing this interview, Tanner was accepted into the program. 

In late January, Tanner and the other new employees in the program were brought to Toronto for a three-day conference.  During these three days they were given the opportunity to hear a number of speakers and get to know the other members of the program.  After the conference, Tanner returned to London, where he completed the program.  The first six months of the program were spent working in a branch.  During this time, he spent four days a week working as a bank teller, helping clients, and doing tasks around the branch.  The fifth day was spent on training and personal development, where he was able to develop skills like communication, teamwork, and critical thinking. 

Next, Tanner spent three months working at Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU). YOU is a not-for-profit organization located in London, Ontario dedicated to helping youth in the community by providing them with the skills, confidence, and independence they need to succeed.  During these three months, Tanner was responsible for helping with business development.  This involved taking care of marketing activities, selling products created by young people in the program, creating and pricing gift baskets, and helping in any other way he could. 

After his time at YOU, Tanner spent the remaining three months working at a regional branch in commercial banking services. He was put in charge of a special project investigating how best the branch could open up communications and get better wealth management referrals.  RBC noticed that clients who used RBC for their business banking often used a different bank for their personal investments, and Tanner was responsible for investigating why this disconnect existed, and how they might be able to solve the problem.  According to Tanner, this was a great opportunity to learn more about commercial banking, as well as to network and meet people who he may not have otherwise met. 

At the end of the 12 months, Tanner and the other employees were brought back to Toronto for a final conference that signalled the end of the program.  Shortly thereafter, Tanner was called back in for his current position as an associate account manager.  

Tanner’s favourite part of the job is working with a variety of people, and getting to know clients.  Since every business owner is different, he enjoys figuring people out and getting to learn about people. 

When asked his opinion regarding how current students could be successful in finding a job after graduation, Tanner stresses the importance of networking.  He recommends taking the opportunity to get out and meet new people, and to keep in touch with them.  He believes the Career Launch Program was very useful because it allowed him to meet so many people in his field of interest.  According to Tanner, knowing people makes it that much easier to find a job! 

Creating Your Own Path: Nimra’s WorkStory

By Rija Choudhry, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Stepping into the real world without work experience can be discouraging for any university graduate.   After graduating from Ryerson University with a degree in Accounting and excellent grades, Nimra Choudhry had a clear idea about what her life was going to be like after she walked across the stage and earned her degree.  

Clear, but not necessarily accurate…

“All my life I was told that academic success will open doors to many opportunities. What you realize is that - without any experience - you’ll have to start at the bottom”. 

Currently, Nimra works as a Strategist, in the Strategy Group at RBC’s corporate office.  As part of her job, she makes critical decisions regarding the corporation’s future by working with colleagues from various divisions and creating strategies for the next 5 to 10 years.  “When you work as a Strategist you’re not only managing accounts and looking at numbers. You make those numbers come to life and tell a story. You engage in problem solving, creativity and present a solution. Solutions that impact the entire corporation. It is a position I genuinely enjoy, but I didn’t get here in the most conventional way. Sometimes you have to create your own path and the rest will follow”.

Nimra expected to land her dream job straight out of university, but reality had something else in mind. Success was a reward that came with great dedication and hard work, and it definitely did not come right away.

“After I left Ryerson, I applied to more jobs than I could keep track of! Eventually, I took a job at a call centre for a small collection agency”.   Although the call centre job was not in her field - or what she had hoped to do - Nimra worked hard and took the initiative to collaborate with the Human Resources (HR) team to create a training manual.  By thinking outside of the box, she was promoted to a Business Analyst position, where she provided training and delegated assignments to her team of 80 employees.  What Nimra initially thought was a dead end presented her with a huge opportunity! 

“Never let your past limit your future,” says Nimra. “I didn’t have a degree in HR, but I saw a problem and formulated a solution. Creating a training manual wasn’t something that I was familiar with. But it opened doors for me which I never knew existed”.

After Nimra concluded her role as a Business Analyst at the collection agency, she applied for an entry-level position at RBC in fund accounting, a position she held for two years. Despite having earned a degree in Accounting, she decided to follow a different career path.  As she puts it “Just because you liked something in theory, doesn’t mean you’ll have a similar experience in practice.”

So, next, Nimra applied to an event planning and client retention role, a position that had been newly created at RBC. “I didn’t know anything about the role, but I decided to take it anyway. I realized the position wasn’t for me, but I would have never known had I not tried something different”.  Nimra experienced many challenges that she attributes to working as a woman in a male dominated field.  She believes, however, that it is important to not be discouraged and that “when you work hard others will not hesitate to vouch for you”.  She continued to work diligently and let her performance speak for itself in every role she pursued.

By exploring different roles and responsibilities, Nimra developed a greater understanding of herself and realized her true passion for being part of RBC’s Strategy group and shaping the future. When that position opened, she applied, but she refused to be “just” a job applicant. She had to stand out. “After graduating you come to learn that it’s not only what you know, but also who you know. Networking is crucial to advance your career, because the last thing you want to become is just a number in the system”.

Nimra’s experiences prove that trying to explore different fields can take you out of your comfort zone. Yet, that is where the magic happens!    Her efforts were recognized and earned her a referral and placement in RBC’s Strategy Group.

Nimra believes that self-exploration doesn’t end when you earn your degree.  Her advice?  “Don’t say no to any opportunity” even if it means you start your career in a position unrelated to your field.  By having the right attitude, that position can get you where you need to be.  And, according to Nimra, success will surely follow! 

Life as a Corporate Recruiter: Q & A with Robert Pitman

Robert Pitman is a Corporate Recruiter at Robarts Clinical Trials in London, Canada and is responsible for overseeing all recruitment activities for the London, San Diego, and Amsterdam offices.  Below he shares info about what he does, what he loves about it, and the path he took to get there…and some pro tips!

What’s great about my work?  Being a Recruiter allows me to have conversations with new people every day. From every interview or pre-screen I learn something about other jobs, companies, and so on. Also, being a Recruiter allows me to use my observational and active listening skills to make an assessment of whether an individual will be a good fit for the job and the organization. I feel very lucky to be in a position to help people realize their potential.

A typical day?  Lots happens!  Gathering and sharing information, screening applications received over the last 24 hours.  For the long-listed candidates, pre-screen phone interviews are scheduled.  Usually, I conduct 1-3 interviews a day either in person or via Skype.  I send pre-screen interview notes to hiring managers for review, book corresponding future interviews, share job postings on LinkedIn, conduct headhunting activities using LinkedIn and over the phone.  I check industry news sites for any happenings in the world of CROs (Contract Research Organizations). I update recruitment metrics, review the status of current initiatives and perform “after care” – checking in on new employees that recently started in their positions.  And I create a plan for the next day…

An unusual day?   Unusual days might involve one (or several!) of the following:  brainstorming new recruitment initiatives, scouting pipeline candidates for future opportunities, conducting benchmarking or searching for information about competitors, attending a networking event, reviewing employee selection interventions, researching new talent acquisition tactics….there is always something new to learn!

Coolest thing about my job?  Currently, I am responsible for all of our vacancies which span Canada, the US, and the Netherlands. Having global responsibility is quite exciting as it has added a new layer of complexity to the recruitment process. There are nuances to each market and candidates often have different experiences and values. Another great aspect of my role is that I get the opportunities to hear other peoples’ “work stories”!

How did I get here?  During my first year at Western University, I applied for a summer job through the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEPRP).  I was lucky enough to be selected for a position with Human Resources & Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and I held this position for 3 years, including during the school year. I had various mandates but the general mission involved helping youth (age 15-30) to find employment.  I really enjoyed this and ended up taking a number of classes related to Industrial/ Organizational Psychology at Western. I found Dr. Allen’s class one of the most interesting and practical in my time at Western.

One of the employees I managed while at HRSDC turned out to be a networking guru. We kept in touch over the years and he introduced me to the internal recruiter at Hays Specialist Recruitment in Toronto. I went through a number of interviews- including an Assessment Centre -  and was selected to become an agency Recruitment Consultant for the pharmaceutical industry. Agency recruitment definitely had its challenges, but I managed to build a solid base of clients and worked for three years with Hays, placing over 40 candidates and billing over $650,000.  Contingency recruitment – as this is called – can be very unpredictable.  In addition, as a consultant you can feel like the work is quite transactional.   

So, after three years, I decided to return to school to complete my Human Resources (HR) Certificate in pursuit of the Canadian Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation.  After that decision, it made sense to look for opportunities on the corporate side. I am originally from Windsor and have family in London, so when the position with Robarts presented itself, I jumped on it right away. It was definitely the right decision.  I could not be happier!

Some info & advice   Becoming a recruiter typically requires a college or university degree and coursework specialization in HR is helpful.  Increasingly, the CHRP designation is expected and the Certified Recruiter designation is also recognized.  To become a Corporate Recruiter it helps to have prior agency recruitment experience.    

Recruitment isn’t for everyone. Its most challenging aspects involve time management and communication. You deal with a huge number of stakeholders and candidates and it can be difficult to communicate effectively with everyone and on a timely basis.  However, if you are a social individual who enjoys building relationships, applying your observational skills, and you take an interest in I/O psychology, a career in recruitment could be a great fit!

Natalie Pecile…Making the world a better place

By Danila Di Croce

  Photo by Giulio Muratori

Photo by Giulio Muratori

When Natalie Pecile decided to study science throughout high school, she was planning to follow in her father’s footsteps and become an engineer. However, that all changed when she realized that her extroverted personality was far better suited for the business world. 

Her decision was definitely the right one as this recent alumnus of York University’s Schulich School of Business has flourished with the opportunities her program provided her. At 21, this native of Toronto has already garnered a pretty impressive résumé. She spent a semester abroad in Bangkok, Thailand, developed a literacy program at her old elementary school, competed in Dubai for the Hult Prize, held the title of VP of Operations of Schulich’s Undergraduate Business Society, and she was just recently hired for a full-time position with the Tim Hortons Leadership Development Program. “I’ve always been interested in how to apply myself to benefit society,” she says. “Originally, I specialized in accounting and the non-profit business sector; however, I then switched to focus on marketing and entrepreneurship.”

That switch is what led her to Dubai. In her fourth year at Schulich, Pecile directed her focus on social entrepreneurship and social business. This resulted in her, along with three of her classmates, entering a local competition organized by the Hult Prize Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to launching the world’s next wave of social entrepreneurs. The competition invites students to develop new ideas for sustainable start-up enterprises that will help to solve the planet’s biggest challenges. Although Pecile and her team did not win, she points out that the experience was definitely worthwhile. “It was very empowering; it allowed me to use everything I had learned at school up until that point and apply it to a global challenge that I am really passionate about. It helped me to look at our issues with new perspectives and taught me to be more flexible and open to change, which I think will be very helpful moving forward.”

Pecile’s experience in Bangkok, Thailand, also left her with a positive impression. “Meeting people, discussing career options with them, and observing individuals who were pursing entrepreneurship was a great career influence.”

 Nowadays, Pecile is focusing on her new position at the Tim Hortons Leadership Development Program, which allows individuals to train in different areas of the business before deciding on which sector to commit to. “I am excited about the program as it gives me the opportunity to try out new things; most especially to experience marketing in ‘the real world,’ outside of school.”

When she isn’t busy trying out new ventures in the business world, Pecile occupies her time with organizing and overseeing events at York University. She also devotes time to the arts. As a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music, Pecile enjoys playing the piano. When asked how she balances it all, Pecile credits her family for their support. “My parents have always let me make my decisions freely. They have always been supportive and helpful with their advice.”

She also credits her strong family ties for helping shape the person she has become. “We are close; for each special occasion we all gather at my grandparents’ house, and I really appreciate that because I know that not everyone has that.” She acknowledges both sets of grandparents, who hail from the Friuli and Lazio regions of Italy, for helping keep her connected to her Italian roots. “A lot of my Italian influence comes from food and speaking the language. Initially I learned Italian was I was little, and then I switched to English. My grandparents have always shown us traditions such as making sausages, wine and pasta sauce.”

In regards to continuing traditions, Pecile explains, “I definitely want to put more time into the Italian culture and concentrate on it more. I would love to improve in my speaking and continue the language with future generations of my family.”

When asked where she sees herself in the near future, Pecile says, “I want to learn everything about the business and hopefully one day become a successful entrepreneur. Having all parts of your life balanced and working hard at something, while improving the lives of others – that would be ideal.”

Reprinted with permission from Panoram Italia    

 

Marketing Communications Specialist: “Very Chaotic…In a Good way!”

By Michelle Doyle, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

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Susan Mutterback is Marketing Communications Specialist at StarTech.com, a manufacturer of products for IT professionals. The company extends beyond the headquarters in London, Ontario to 14 countries worldwide!

As a Marketing Communications Specialist, Susan handles social media, public relations and general marketing communication such as ads and catalogues. This is a new role and is “very chaotic…in a good way!”  Because it is new, Susan’s responsibilities were built from the ground up which she finds an exciting challenge. Her favourite part of the job?   Susan emphasized her admiration for the people she works with…she really enjoys the collaboration and brainstorming processes that occur day-to-day at the office. 

Susan’s work journey began at the University of Guelph where she studied Psychology in her first year.  She didn’t really have a solid idea of what she wanted to do, just a vague interest in the field. After that year, she knew it wasn’t a perfect fit for her and decided to take a year off to figure things out.  She moved back home and took courses at the University of Windsor to keep her average up. The following year, Susan transferred to Western University and started thinking about public relations and marketing.  She graduated from Western in political science and sociology and then applied to Western’s public relations program. Of all her formal education, Susan found public relations the most interesting area of study. The final four months of the program involved an internship position. Susan particularly enjoyed this and found it extremely valuable in helping her gain real-world experience in the field.

After the internship, Susan had completed her education, but had received no job offers. She moved back home and worked at an unpaid internship for about 9 months. During this time, she remained persistent and applied to job after job, not receiving any replies. Finally, Susan was thrilled to receive a call from StarTech.com!  She moved right back to London, joined the company, and hasn’t looked back since.

Susan started out in a marketing role that was mainly sales focused. She enjoyed it, but was particularly interested in getting a position in her field.  When the Marketing Communications Specialist job opened up, she applied!

Susan has nothing but positive comments about working for StarTech.com, and is thrilled to be at such a wonderful company and working with such collaborative and supportive coworkers.   When asked what advice she’d give to those entering the job market,  Susan’s first words were “It’s hard”.  Then she highlighted the importance of taking jobs that aren’t necessarily in your specific desired field for the experience you will get from working.  She emphasized the “foot in the door” approach, the importance of starting off somewhere, and getting your name out there.  Lastly, she noted that unpaid internships can be good experiences. Susan was thankful for hers and believes that students entering the job field should not underestimate them.


Leading a Customer Advisory Team: David’s Story

By Michelle Doyle, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

David Ennett is the supervisor of the customer advisory team at StarTech.com, a manufacturer of hard-to-find IT parts. The focus of the company is to make it easy for IT professionals to identify, find, and use the parts they require for their tech solutions. StarTech.com is a well-established international company, operating 24 hours a day, 5 days a week, in 8 different languages!  “It’s great to be part of a London company that has become a global business,” David says.  

David works with a team of 20 advisors who service customers via phone, webchat and e-mail. The majority of his time is spent working with the members of his team to provide them with the support necessary to help them be successful in their roles.

His day-to-day work consists of coaching the team and being readily available for assistance. David is very passionate about what makes exceptional customer service and makes an effort to put this at the forefront of how the team operates, “I believe that the best manufacturers not only create excellent products but also provide stellar service. I spend a lot of my time thinking about how we can do continue to enhance the experience for our customers.”

David says what he enjoys most about his job is “working with incredible people across the entire organization”. He explains that it is motivating to work in an environment where people enjoy what they do and work together to support one another. Everyone at StarTech.com is dedicated to their customers and is committed to succeeding in their work.  Along with this incredible commitment to customer service, the team also has a lot of fun.  “We celebrate Halloween like no other employer in the country (seriously it’s a big deal around here) and have employees who volunteer as fun ambassadors (that role is exactly as it sounds) who plan various events and activities throughout the year.”

Most of the fun, however, is experienced in the daily atmosphere of the organization.  StarTech.com is a place where everyone cares for each other and enjoys being part of the team. This supportive attitude creates a great sense of community – “the passion that everyone has for the business and one another is palpable”. The team appreciates that collaboration is not only the key to being successful, but is also essential for creating this meaningful, rewarding and fun workplace.


How did David find his way to StarTech.com?  He explains that his career path was not exactly “planned”. He, like many other students, was not sure what he wanted to do professionally.  As he sees it, however, this confusion and uncertainty, while at times uncomfortable, is actually very healthy. It forces you to really understand yourself better and come to understand what you are passionate about.

David pursued a B.A. in Political Science and M.A. in Canadian-American Relations at Western University. He says that the liberal arts and social sciences are valuable as they teach students to “think critically, problem solve, write well and engage with a diverse set of ideas and people”. He argues that these are essential skills that are transferable to almost any workplace.

During his university career, David also took on various leadership opportunities, including president of his students’ council, where he learned to enjoy responsibility for projects and leading others. “I quickly found that the best leaders are consultative in nature and strive to empower and enable team members to play a large role in making decisions and sharing in success,” he says.

After completing school, David worked at Staples as a supervisor for a year, where he oversaw the service departments of his store, along with leading a team of 10 associates. It was here where he saw firsthand how great customer service can significantly impact the growth of a business. He has brought this passion for great service with him to StarTech.com.

David’s advice for new graduates is to not fear entering the workforce and to take on roles that may not link directly to your education. University can only prepare you for so much. Wherever you end up, take it very seriously, work hard, and embrace the idea that “no task is too small”. These are the skills he believes are most important for his generation.  “As millennials we need to show other generations that we are capable of working with humility and respect. If we can do this I think we will succeed.”



Plans Change, Opportunities Arise: Kerstin’s StarTech.com Story

Facilitated by Devin Gordon, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

My name is Kerstin Newman and I am 27 years old. I am German and spent the first 22 years of my life in Germany. Growing up, I always wanted a job where I could help people…in what way, I didn’t really care at the time. I used to envy people who knew exactly what they wanted to become and what they had to do to get there as I never had any specific plans. I was never confident in my abilities and didn’t know what career I wanted to pursue. I just knew I wanted to work with people my age or kids. So after graduating high school, I went to university to study German and English in the teaching program for German high schools (Grades 5-12).

During those university years, I went on an exchange and spent a year at the University of Waterloo, in Canada, where I completed my Master’s degree in German Studies. While everybody thought it was kind of strange that I left Germany to do an M.A. in German Studies in an English speaking country, I loved the experience of living in a different country, speaking English on a regular basis, but still studying German on the same level I would have back home.

I went back to Germany for 2 years after the exchange and completed my teaching degree at the University of Mannheim.  I knew at the time that I wanted to come back to Canada, especially since I had met my now husband (he is Canadian) in the German program at Waterloo. I knew the teaching job situation in Ontario was not great.  Also, the schools would not recognize my German teaching degree but would make me go back to teacher’s college, so I decided to switch careers while I was still in Germany. I did an internship at a John Deere facility in Mannheim, in the HR department for training and development. While the job was challenging at times (I had not really worked in office environments before), I loved what I did there, being exposed to people from all over the world, working with different people on different projects, being creative in scheduling, training or making materials available for people. My boss at the time was very supportive and connected me with the John Deere office in Brantford, Ontario, to see if they potentially had room for me. Since the office deals with all the finances, this didn’t work out, but the support of my boss encouraged me to pursue a career where I could do similar things to what I did at John Deere.

I decided to go to Fanshawe College for International Business Management to have better chances of finding a job with an international business. The program was only 8 months long and a post-graduate degree. While I was still a student at Fanshawe, they held a job fair in February and I talked to some people that represented businesses in London. One of the people I talked to ended up hiring me as a bilingual customer service advisor for StarTech.com after my graduation in April 2014. I started working in July 2014 and after completing the job training, I answered phones, chats, and emails for German and English speaking customers.

While customer service was never on my radar, I actually really enjoyed working with the team to help customers, talking to tons of different people all day, and learning new things every day. In April 2015, I was promoted to the role of team lead, meaning that I now am part of the leadership team for the customer service department. While I still talk to customers occasionally, I am now more involved in the operational reports, coaching people, and several projects designed to improve systems and processes.

My typical day is hard to describe as there are never two days that are the same. My main responsibility is to do some reporting on the teams’ performance the previous day in the morning, and then just be available for whatever questions the customer service advisors may have throughout the day. These might be process related, content questions, or system related, so most of the time, I function as a subject matter expert on anything regarding customer service. I approve one-off exceptions we might make for customers, I help advisors help customers in the best way possible, I try to help advisors succeed in their roles, and I am a point of contact for other departments that might have questions about customer service.

I love that every day is different. I love working with the people on the team.  I love being able to help people (the advisors and other departments within the company, and customers that buy our products). I love the challenges I encounter every day (figuring out an Excel formula, pulling meaningful statistics out of a mess of data, talking to people about odd customer situations that we need to figure out, etc.). I love being involved in cross-functional projects that will eventually help our customers have a better experience dealing with StarTech.com as a company. I love the support and encouragement I get from my colleagues and superiors, and I love the company in general for its culture and work environment.

While this is not at all the career (or the life – for that matter) that I ever thought I would have, I really enjoy working and living in Canada. When I was starting university at the age of 19, I was sure I would be a teacher for German and English at a high school somewhere in Germany by the age of 25. Instead, I am the team lead of a customer service team at a tech company in Canada at 27. Plans change and opportunities will come up that we never thought we would consider. I am absolutely happy with my career so far and I am sure there will be more planned and unplanned changes in the future.  I have learned to embrace change and unforeseen circumstances and to make the best of any situation not only in regards to my work life, but also as it relates to my personal life. 

Biology Meets Business: The Best of Both Worlds

By Veerta Singh, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Who says biology graduates are limited to working in the science field? Not Zach Armstrong, that’s for sure!

Zach is currently the Director of Business Development for Mitacs, a national not-for-profit organization based at Western University that designs and delivers research and training programs in Canada. Zach completed his undergrad in biology at Western University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 2008. His fourth year research project involved looking at a family of proteins within a species of flowering plants known as Arabidopsis thaliana (a weed). Zack then continued to pursue doctoral work at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry and completed his PhD in 2014.

Prior to procuring his position at Mitacs, throughout his undergraduate years, Zach worked a series of summer jobs in his hometown in Northern Ontario --  jobs at a lumber mill or a convenience store. During undergrad, Zach was involved in many volunteer and extra-curricular activities. He was the president of the Science Student Council in his 3rd year and a member of the University Student Council for a number of years until he was ultimately on the university Senate in his 4th year. He really enjoyed being involved with the school and the community and still enjoys it.

A typical day in the life of Zach Armstrong at Mitacs is variable!  Much of the work involves meeting people and discussing the challenges they may have. Often he is involved in promoting Mitacs programs.  Some of the work is administrative.  For example, he does a lot of reviews of applications, and makes sure the research proposals are hitting the right notes. He says that the skills he gained during grad school really helped him in that particular part of his job.

The main part of Zach’s job, though, entails talking to professors and students.  As Zach describes it, these conversations involve “explaining how the programs work, providing tips on how to build partnerships with non-academic organizations (i.e. businesses and non-profits) and then talking to those businesses and non-profits and explaining how the program works. Digging into the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis and showing them how research can help them solve those challenges is just one of the many facets involved in this job. It’s a very dynamic job”.

Although Zach graduated with degrees in biology, he was able to use the skills and knowledge he obtained and apply them to his current job as a Director for Business Development. “It’s a big field with a lot of different organizations. In terms of qualities that would help one become successful in this field, a lot of them are gained as you go through graduate school, such as understanding how grant and research proposals are supposed to be well written. But it’s difficult to find someone with ‘the complete package’  for these types of jobs, specifically the ones at Mitacs, because there is such a business development side to it and those aren’t necessarily skills gained as a graduate student. Skills such as being able to explain complex concepts in simple forms, networking skills and presentation skills are skills that are hard to find in someone with a PhD “

So the burning question is how did Zach, a biology graduate, discover that he wanted to become a Director of Business Development at Mitacs? When Zach was in grad school for 5.5 years completing his PhD, he wasn’t aware of Mitacs (which in retrospect he says is disappointing because they had many programs that would’ve been helpful for him).  He actually learned of the position by a happy chance.  Prior to his PhD defense, his supervisor sent him a job posting based at Western University.  This was perfect because Zach wanted to stay in London!  It was also convenient because the position was outside of research,  but still associated with the things he had been doing so it seemed like a perfect fit. “I was a little hesitant at first, but I applied and was lucky enough to get an interview and then a position in the organization. The position was actually for a business development specialist which was the entry-level position and then eventually I was promoted to Director”.

Clearly, Zach didn’t ‘always know’  he wanted to work at Mitacs. When he started his PhD, he was still exploring his options and wanted to be a faculty member at a University.  Although this was his initial interest, he realized halfway through his PhD that instead of dedicating an immense amount of time to one single goal, he wanted to be involved in things outside of school. So academia seemed like a less viable long-termgoal. However, all is well that ends well because the Mitacs position was the best of both worlds and a perfect fit for Zach!

When prompted to provide some advice for people who are in the early stages of their career,  or just about to enter the workforce, Zach stressed keeping an open mind. It’s something he would say to grad students as well. “Not everyone will be a professor at a University and there are plenty of other jobs out there. Do your best to keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to take risks. Do something you love. There shouldn’t be anything to stand in your way between doing something you love because ultimately you will be more successful at that than doing something you’re not passionate about. Find an organization you really believe in because it won’t feel like work and that’s really something everyone should strive for!”

My Fitness Dream: “Howe Fit”

By Alexandria Friesen, WorkStory Ambassador  & Amy Howe-Wall

Passion is one of the most easily recognizable traits a person can have.  If you have never known someone or had a conversation with someone who has passion, I’d like for you to meet Amy Howe-Wall. From my first encounter with Amy, I knew that she was a genuinely caring person devoted to improving the wellness of others. It has not always been smooth sailing, but success does not always come easy; it’s a matter of believing that it is worth it.

Amy is the Owner-Operator and Instructor at Howe Fit, the premiere customized fitness and nutrition provider in the greater Kingsville/Leamington/Harrow, ON area. Offered at Howe Fit are group classes, single and group private training, nutrition programs and, most importantly, an incredibly positive environment to help you achieve your fitness goals! So, how has Amy come to gain so much success doing something she loves for a living? Here is her story.

Amy attended Kingsville District High School and, upon graduation, attended St. Clair College in Windsor, ON. She graduated from St. Clair with degrees in both the Paramedic and Law & Security programs while maintaining an athletic scholarship for her badminton career while in college. Amy has also obtained the following licences and certifications on her path to success: Can-Fit Pro Personal Trainer, Can-Fit Pro Fitness Instructor Specialist, Resist-a-Ball Level 1, Kickboxing Certification, Kettlebell Certification, Zumba Certification, Spin Instructor Certification, and Pilates Instructor Certification. Talk about qualifications!

As Amy is self-employed, she will not hesitate to tell you that the path to get to where she is now has not been easy. “As a business owner,” she says, “you come to learn that you work 24/7, no matter if you are present at work or not.”   Howe Fit was established in October, 2010 and it is incredible to see where Amy’s hard work and dedication has brought her once-small business. “When you’re the sole operator, there is no ‘calling in sick’, finding a replacement, or simply not showing up,” she continues, “Work has consumed my life for the last 5 years in some good ways and in some bad.”

With dreams of working in the police force, Amy had always shown a love for health and fitness. The turning point was her own weight-loss success at the age of 20. After working long, tedious hours at other businesses and helping those around her succeed, she decided to try her luck at self-employment at the age of 22. “I always believed in myself so I used that confidence to push through the tough times because I knew deep down I had what it took to become successful,” says Amy.  Like anything in life, there were obstacles – finances, time, energy, support – and sacrifices had to be made.

So what does Amy enjoy most about her job?  The answer is simple: “I am one of those crazy people that absolutely loves working out, I sometimes can’t believe I actually make money doing it on a daily basis!” In addition to that, Amy expresses that helping people achieve their personal goals is one of the greatest accomplishments one can achieve. “It makes me smile knowing I am helping others regain their self-esteem and in some cases their lives”.

Are you interested in pursuing a career in the health and fitness industry or looking to start your own business? This is what Amy has to say to you; “Explore your options! Become well informed and do your research! I do not regret my time working for other business at all…it actually gave me a platform to the people and also a better understanding of how I wanted to run my own business”.  Because of how hectic Amy’s schedule is, there is often little time to do things other people her age may be doing, like going on vacation – “there are a lot of variables to consider; it’s a big decision to make!”

Regardless of the path that Amy will continue down, she knows she will always be involved in health and fitness promotion; “it is who I am, not what I do”, she says, “the sky is the limit for what I wish to accomplish and challenges I wish to tackle.” Regardless of what she chooses to do, it is quite clear Amy will be successful at it.  In times of stress Amy often remembers these words and would like you to do the same the next time you are faced with an obstacle: I would rather live a few years of my life like most won’t, to live the rest of my life like most can’t. 

Adam's Story

Elyse Trudell had the chance to interview Adam Ludolph today. Adam completed his undergrad in Movements in Science at the University of Windsor and was set on becoming a chiropractor for most of his life. However, Adam spent the majority of his free time enjoying business oriented hobbies and eventually wound up as the youngest financial planner at Investors Group Financial Services Inc. in Chatham, a spokesman for Toastmasters and a chairman for United Way. Watch the interview here!" 

It’s a Jungle Out There: The Jobmanji Story

By Guy Baldwin

Starting a new business from scratch isn't the easiest thing to do, but that's exactly what Jacob Johnson and Guy Baldwin have done with their inspired idea to create a jobs website that pulls all the information from thousands of recruiters into one easy-to-access place.

Jobmanji is the new kid on the block in the online jobs sector and is taking on a market that has been established for many years and is highly competitive. The launch of Jobmanji's Canadian site, following hugely successful launches in the UK and US, marks another milestone in the company's global strategy.

Jacob and Guy knew exactly what they were taking on when they developed the concept of Jobmanji. As Jacob explains: "I had experienced the frustration of both recruiters and job seekers when I was doing IT work for a recruitment agency. Recruiters were having problems getting their information out to where they wanted it to go because there were so many different job sites available, and people looking for jobs either didn't know where to go for information or had to trawl through multiple sites to find what they wanted."

So the idea was born to create one website to pull together all jobs available on other sites as well as those posted directly by recruiters.

As Jacob says: "What we wanted to do was save job seekers the hassle of searching dozens of websites and making recruiters know that their jobs are easily accessible in the one place. We've put a lot of resources into giving recruiters and those looking for work the information and back-up to be confident that Jobmanji can deliver what they need."

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and Jobmanji has satisfied many appetites since its initial launch at the beginning of 2013.

Guy, Jobmanji's Marketing Director, says: "In our first year we have had 1.2 million unique visits, 7.9 million page views and advertised 3.75 million jobs in the UK alone. That shows that Jobmanji is offering exactly what people want, and our central hub is delivering a really effective service."

So how does a business idea in the sharp, competitive world of online recruitment become a reality? It needs the right people to deliver the vision, and this is where Jobmanji has brought together the ideal team. Combining experience of cutting-edge technology and astute business administration, the company has the expertise to continue developing its concept worldwide and the resources from investors to achieve the vision.

"Make no mistake," says Jacob. "Our goal is to help people who want to find jobs and those who want to attract the best people for their jobs. The process for Jobmanji is simple and that's how we intend to keep it. No more wandering through a maze of other job seeking sites – everything is here."

Jacob's background is in computing and includes the ability to program in several languages, administer Linux servers and work with cloud computing and network security. These skills allowed him to develop the basic site whilst Guy continued research and developing the company. Guy's experience ranges from working for a successful family business doing corporate restructuring and insolvency to managing a variety of enterprises including construction, manufacturing, haulage, marketing and recruitment, skills that have helped build Jobmanji into the successful company it is today.

The idea of one central job search site proved attractive to investors, and with that financial impetus the company took on Marcos Lujan as a core team member. Marcos' background and training is in IT, having studied computer science in the USA, and he has wide ranging knowledge of both hardware and software issues as well as the ability to program in several languages. His experience in online marketing has brought significant added value to Jobmanji, and he is responsible for the company's search engine optimization team.

Jacob is clear about Jobmanji's vision. "Everything starts from an idea, and our idea was to help people who recruit and those looking for work to place and find jobs from a central website'" he says. "We use sophisticated technology to ensure users are able to find jobs quickly, matching their skills and experience to what recruiters are looking for. Our aim is to make it as easy as possible for recruiters to upload information and for job hunters to access it.

" Another important aspect of Jobmanji is our section on tips and advice for jobseekers. We want to share our knowledge of the recruitment business so that people can find and prepare for their dream job.

"It's a jungle out there and if you can't see the wood for the trees you're looking in the wrong place. With Jobmanji you're looking in the right place!"

Since its launch Jobmanji has already proved phenomenally popular both with recruiters and job seekers, and the core trio of Jacob, Guy and Marcos are moving forward with their plans to add more countries to the site.

The Right Fit: BCom grad Kendall Barber finds startup success with Poppy Barley, a made-to-measure boot design company

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Think of a great idea, turn it into a business and spend your days passionately serving that idea—it’s a task on any entrepreneur’s bucket list. Kendall Barber’s (BCom ’05) boot design company, Poppy Barley (poppybarley.com), is undoubtedly a product of this vision. However, it is only after recounting the story of how she came to design handcrafted footwear, that this wide-eyed fashionista suddenly morphs into a seasoned executive, reminding us of the difference between those who simply draft bucket lists, and others who stomp on said bucket to hoist their way to the top. Kendall Barber is in the latter category.

The light bulb moment came shortly after Kendall’s younger sister Justine Barber travelled to Bali last February. When a local shoe store associate casually asked if she wanted to be measured for a custom pair of boots when in-store sizes didn’t fit, she was in awe. Justine returned to Alberta and shared her experience with Kendall, and they began to investigate whether custom-made footwear was something Canadian shoppers might appreciate.

After combing through survey results and focus group data, Kendall and Justine found that over 60 per cent of women struggle to find boots that fit properly. They also learned that a large number of shoe manufacturers that supply the U.S. are based in León, Mexico. The sisters decided it was time for some first-hand research. “We ultimately made the decision to buy plane tickets, go there and figure it out,” says Kendall. “We were two girls from Canada with an idea, looking for a partner who believed in us enough to commit to making some samples.”

Kendall and Justine eventually formed a relationship with a manufacturer willing to work with their requirements, such as using an eco-friendly tannery and monitoring where the materials came from. Environmental concerns have always been important to the sisters, as has maintaining a close connection with suppliers and employees in León. This is what pushes them to make frequent trips south, instead of relying only on email and Skype.

Named after poppy seeds and barleycorns, the original elements used to make made-to-measure footwear, Poppy Barley launched in November 2012. With prices starting from $450, the company strives to supply handmade boots that fit perfectly and are built to last, while providing exceptional customer service.

Poppy Barley has been open for less than a year and Kendall says the experience has been a whirlwind. That said, she is reluctant to take credit for the company’s initial success. “I think that sometimes the founders of companies get too much credit. I feel like there have been so many people that have made Poppy Barley what it is today.”

Some of Kendall’s biggest supporters have been fellow UVic business alumni she has kept in touch with since graduating. Many of these colleagues have been valuable resources while getting Poppy Barley off the ground. Kendall is glad to have chosen the UVic program—smaller class sizes allowed her to form these lasting relationships with her classmates. “I went to school with some amazing people who have gone on to be incredibly successful entrepreneurs,” she says.

Judging from the enthusiasm of Poppy Barley fans, avid followers on social media platforms and the decision to expand the product line in the upcoming months, it is safe to say that Kendall can now count herself as a successful entrepreneur—one who will keep checking off items on her bucket list.

This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in Business Class Magazine, a publication of the Gustavson School of Business

Making a Splash: The Entrepreneurial Story of DrawSplash

By Shirley Chen

A friend of mine once jokingly said that the most successful place to produce prominent business leaders is in a garage.  And, surprisingly, the founders of some of the most successful businesses, including Amazon, Apple, Disney, and Google did start their initial operations in their own garages.

Similar to those success stories, the co-founders of DrawSplash, Gary Rodrigues and Hyunbin Lee, two ambitious business students, started their company as a small scale T-shirt printing operation in their garages in London, Ontario. Within three years, they quickly learned about the entire distribution network and challenged the inefficiencies in the industry. They have now transformed their original operation into a one-stop solution to schools’ merchandising needs, offering a much simpler and more user friendly ordering system to their customers.

When the operation first started in 2009, Gary and Hyunbin had very little help, so the two of them were in charge of every aspect of the operation - ranging from acquiring sales contracts to printing T-shirts. Leveraging their social network on campus, the two best friends first secured orders from student clubs; then they were able to gain orders from student councils and eventually became the supplier for Western University’s Orientation Week.  

Since the transition from a small printing company to the current version of DrawSplash, the tasks of everyday work have changed for the two founders. As the company grew, so did the need for more high-level coordination and leadership. Now on a typical workday, Gary and Hyunbin are likely to be booking meetings and talking to team members, and occasionally traveling to various cities for sales meetings.

When asked to reflect upon the best part of his job, Gary replied that it’s “[the] freedom and the satisfaction from being responsible for your own success” and knowing that “[you are in] total control over your future”. Indeed, unlike many office jobs students get after graduation, where much time could be spent idling, the job of an entrepreneur requires the two founders to be highly focused. They spend every minute of their working hours trying to be efficient and productive in order to reach their goals.

Although experience is not necessarily required to be an entrepreneur, Gary recommended starting early. By starting while still in school, you will have something to fall back on if your business tanks. Additionally, starting early will give you the ability to learn about the industry before fully committing yourself to it. One of the perks of being a student entrepreneur is that you could talk directly to your competitors and find out what they are doing without being perceived as a threat or as a serious competition.

Finally, some direct advice given by Gary: “Make sure you are doing what you want to be doing. Think about the job you are in and see if you would do it for less pay. If you’re doing it only for the paycheque, it’s not going to be worth it.”