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! 

Taking his shot: Simu Liu, HBA’11, brings entrepreneur skills to Hollywood

By Angie Wiseman   

Becoming an actor on a popular new Canadian TV show or a stunt double on a Fall Out Boy music video was not at all on Simu Liu’s radar when he was working as an accountant in Toronto. Until he was laid off – and his world opened up.

“I remember feeling oddly free in that moment. I was without a job, but I thought I can do whatever I want. This is my one chance to really just try something. I owe it to myself to really give it a shot,” said Liu, HBA’11.

This past year, Liu’s acting career has gained momentum, with the success of his roles on CBC’s Kim’s Convenience and NBC’s Taken. Despite his respect for Toronto’s strong film industry, his ultimate goal is to move to Hollywood. On a recent trip there, he met with agents and casting directors in Los Angeles, including doctor-turned actor Ken Jeong (best known for his role in The Hangover) about a possible buddy cop movie that Liu hopes to write.

“I started talking to him (Jeong) on Twitter. When I got to L.A., he said come by the set and we can hang out more. So I ended up spending a lot of time with him. His advice was that you can’t wait. I joked that we should do a buddy cop movie for both of us and he said, ‘If you write it, I’ll be in it,” Liu said.

While there is no formal training to show actors how to network, Liu credits his networking and soft skills courses at Ivey Business School with giving him the tools he needed to push forward in his career and not be afraid to reach out.

“The hard part is to think of it (your career) as a start-up and think of yourself as an entrepreneur rather than an artist that waits for the phone to ring for opportunities,” he said.

“I spent so many years struggling as an actor. Then suddenly, I’m in demand. The only thing actors want to do is work. It was amazing – tiring, brutal and amazing,” he said of his recent schedule shooting two television shows at once.

In a long list of acting credentials Liu also includes stunt man, writer, director and producer – all skills that round out his already full resume.

Following his layoff from his accounting firm, Liu started out by looking at TV and film opportunities on Craigslist. In amongst some of the more unsavory ads was a posting for the movie Pacific Rim by director Guillermo del Toro. The movie was being shot in Toronto and they were looking for extras. The role paid just $10 dollars an hour, but it was the stepping stone Liu needed to start his acting career. As soon as he arrived on set he knew he was home.

“I ended up falling in love with everything I saw. People have careers devoted to the movies. It wasn’t just the actors – the assistant director, the gaffers working the lights – it was everything. It was such a big production.”

While Ivey attracted him to Western, Liu credits one of his first experiences as a frosh with giving him his first taste of fame and one he would reflect on often as he launched his acting career.

“The three sciences do O-Week together. So they had this big talent show where each of the sciences would audition one champion. Then on the final night of O-Week, they compete against each other on stage – and I won,” he said.

Liu used his dance, gymnastics and martial arts skills to put his routine together, all skills he would later draw on to expand his acting offerings.

“I had a very interesting first few months because everyone knew who I was,” he laughed.

While Liu majored in accounting, he was always involved in extracurricular activities that fed his interests and would later act as experience as he built his resume for acting.

“I loved that I could find a group of people that were passionate about the same things as me and when I did graduate and found myself laid off a few months later, it was really great to have those other skills,” he said.

Although he didn’t always recognize acting as his future career, when Liu thinks back to the first spark of interest in acting, he harkens back to his childhood when his parents dropped him off at the movie theatre for the day. “I don’t think I even entertained the thought of bringing that up to them. I was raised by movies, musicals and TV shows. And I loved all of it. Of course, it’s totally natural that I would want to go into that eventually,” Liu said.

Despite his passion for the craft, growing up, Liu didn’t feel comfortable broaching the subject of acting with his parents, Chinese-born immigrants determined to provide the best life for their family in Canada.

“I never really gave myself permission to fully pursue it. For me, my parents, above all else, wanted stability because their life, coming from a different country, had been anything but stable,” he said.

Liu’s drive, determination and his ritual of checking Craigslist every morning enabled him to build his resume and gain experience. Some days he was paid as an extra on a movie or a TV show and some days he worked for free in a music video.

“Looking back through it all, at no point did I say, ‘I’m going to give up or call it quits.’ I was still convinced this was something I loved enough to keep going. It’s not just about getting a degree and conforming to someone else’s idea of success,” he said. “You need to be honest with yourself about what your interests are because if you do have something that you are truly passionate about but don’t pursue then you run the risk of waking up one day and realizing that you don’t actually like your life. Take the time and know yourself.”

This article appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Western University’s Alumni Gazette. Reprinted with permission.

The art of newspaper design

By Andrew Vowles

Photo Credit:  Lindsay Lapchuk

Photo Credit:  Lindsay Lapchuk

Matt French tells stories not with words but with design.

An award-winning page designer and assistant art director for The Globe and Mail newspaper, he aims to create eye-catching page layouts that give readers a clear idea what the story is about before they read a sentence.

“The designer is there to make the message as clear and effective as they can,” says French, adding that a skillful design draws attention to the article rather than to the design elements, including graphics, photos and typography.

Take the Globe’s front-page coverage of last fall’s final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The story was illustrated by oversize numerals that punched out the key points: numbers of victims, witnesses and deaths associated with the country’s former residential schools.

“The story was the numbers, and the numbers are the impact,” says French, B.Comm. ’07. “It’s not about any highfalutin’ image or fancy colour.”

Most days, French, 30, helps design the newspaper’s front page, working with a “cast of many,” including editors, headline writers and the paper’s creative director. Over the past year, he’s designed more than 300 front pages and thousands more inside.

French’s design skills are self-taught, but his career path started at U of G. Always driven to do creative work, he pursued a commerce degree thinking he could “make a living doing something creative in business” such as working for a marketing agency.

During a summer job in a marketing department, French took a stab at creating promotional material for trade publications. Back on campus during third and fourth year, he then worked at Guelph’s student newspaper, The Ontarion, as photo and graphics editor, and layout editor. Recalling those days, he says, “You were able to cut your teeth doing what you wanted. Learning from your mistakes gave you the freedom to make mistakes.”

Following graduation, he worked at the Woolwich Observer. After three years there, he worked for 24 Hours, a Toronto commuter newspaper, and the Toronto Sun, among others.

French got called up to the “big leagues” in 2011. Up to 400,000 people read The Globe and Mail’s weekend edition.

Among his notable Globe projects, he points to an “Unremembered” series of articles last year about the suicides of Canadian soldiers and veterans who fought in Afghanistan, as well as the 11th-hour package of reports covering the 2015 federal election that vaulted Justin Trudeau’s Liberals into power.

Another favourite was the 2012 Remembrance Day cover, with the word “Remember” stamped over a soldier’s image. “It did what it was intended to do: cause the reader to pause and reflect.”

A fan of the Washington Post and the Guardian, French brings what he calls a simple and subtle but graphic approach to his work, as well as a refined sense of visual literacy — all without getting in the way of the story.

Sitting down to assemble a page, he knows that reporters and editors might have put months of work and passion into the article. “At the end, I’m the person responsible for taking it over the finish line, making it sing so that people connect with it.”

 

This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in The University of Guelph’s Portico Magazine. 

Allison Day: Blogger, food stylist, photographer, and cookbook author

By Susan Bubak

Beets are an often overlooked vegetable, but Allison Day, BA ’10 (University of Guelph) is trying to change that with her Yummy Beet food blog. Aside from beets, you’ll find almost every type of produce presented in a rainbow of colours along with “vegetable forward” recipes to prepare them yourself.

Now living in Hamilton, Ontario,  Day studied Sociology at the University of Guelph  and then completed a postgraduate program to become a registered holistic nutritionist, specializing in natural foods. “That inspired me to get in the kitchen and start experimenting,” she says. “I grew up in the country surrounded by farms and tons of produce, and that really inspired me to learn more about where my food came from and pay more attention to what I was eating.” She admits that beets aren’t her favourite vegetable, but decided to name her blog after them as a pun on a news beat.

When her younger sister was diagnosed with celiac disease and lactose intolerance, Day began experimenting with recipes that were gluten- and dairy-free. “It helped me understand there are people who can’t eat certain foods, and they still want to have foods that they enjoy and love,” she says. “It shows people with food allergies or intolerance that they can still eat really tasty food, and it doesn’t need to be expensive or from a box.”

Aside from her blog, Day has published two cookbooks: Whole Bowls features gluten-free and vegetarian recipes; and Purely Pumpkin features recipes using the gourd in everything from pies to pizza. She is also a regular contributor to Food Network Canada and has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Prevention and SHAPE.

Preparation can make or break a vegetable dish, she says. Despite her background as a nutritionist, “it took me a long time to learn how to prepare things properly.” Roasting vegetables, she adds, brings out their flavour more than boiling or steaming them.

Seasonings, especially salt, are key ingredients in her recipes. “I use more salt than normal,” says Day. “I think salt is a good thing. It really brings out the natural sweetness and savouriness of vegetables.” She also uses acidic ingredients such as lemon, lime and vinegar to make flavours pop.

Miso noodle bowls created and photographed by Allison Day.

When she isn’t working on her own cookbooks, Day spends most of her time on her blog. She does her own food styling and photography, making each meal look like a work of art. She also works on sponsored content for various brands, which involves testing recipes, taking photos and promoting them on social media.

She says photographing inanimate objects like food can be challenging. “Setting the ‘scene’ for a shoot can take longer than the actual photography process,” says Day, who also photographed all the images in her cookbooks. “Styling dishes makes a mess. From start to finish, a photo shoot for one dish can take two hours before post-production.”

Presentation can make even the blandest foods look mouth-watering. People eat with their eyes first, she says, so she tries to make each photo “inviting and warm, so someone wants to reach into their screen or into the book and grab it.”

This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in The University of Guelph’s Portico Magazine. 

Alumni Husband-and-Wife Collaboration A Success

By Jennifer Ammoscato

Everything in life is a process.  Just ask University of Windsor grads Tristan Boutros BComm ’06 & Jennifer Cardella BA ’06

Photo credit: Steve Biro

Photo credit: Steve Biro

Boutros, who majored in business, and Cardella, who focused on psychology, not only collaborated on their book, The Basics of Process Improvement—they even applied its principles to planning their wedding.

“Life is full of processes, whether you’re talking about how a business functions, or how to make sure your wedding goes off without a hitch,” says Boutros. “The idea of process improvement is something that goes far beyond the corporate world.”

When it comes to business, Boutros suggests thinking about every company as an ecosystem where everything is interconnected to a wide variety of touch points, both inside and out.

“Process connects it all. How a company operates from day to day within itself and with its suppliers and customers, including people, process and technology, he says. “For example, how an order is placed, right through the entire order to cash process. My job is to make sure things are being handled as efficiently as possible.”

Boutros serves as chief operating officer, Product, Technology & Design, for The New York Times. In that role, he spends his days considering ways to optimize how the 165-year-old news organization operates, and develop solutions which allow it to maintain its high-quality, well- respected product while saving costs.

Boutros, who began in the position in January 2016, brought to it more than 10 years of business, technology, and management consulting experience at such companies as DTE Energy, IAC, BlackBerry, and Warner Music Group. He also holds more than 10 professional designations.

“I’ve always been a process-oriented person,” says Boutros. “Very analytical and organized. It’s in my DNA.”

In university, he focused on marketing and advertising with a minor in computer science.” As a student, he ran his own e-commerce business selling DVDs, Books and CDs. He says that experience was the basis for where he is now.

“I learned all about business processes. I dealt with orders, kept track of revenues, and learned how to automate. I was learning about process management without knowing it.”

In his current role, Boutros focuses on the digital side of The New York Times—its robust website and the consumer products it offers, as well as its internal systems. It must compete in a difficult environment in which most newspapers are undergoing large, digital transformations in the wake of declining ad revenues and increasing market pressures.

“My specialty is to come into those difficult transitions, where companies want to be excellent and efficient, and find a way to increase quality while increasing agility and efficiency.”

Jennifer Cardella says her “passion” for process management was ignited courtesy of UWindsor psychology professor Ted Vokes.

“He was a phenomenal professor,” she says. “I took one ofhis courses and we had a great conversation about organizational psychology. I immediately connected to it. I saw how psychology and business go hand-in-hand. He had a large influence over where I am today.”

Post-graduation, Cardella held positions at some of the same places as Boutros, including Pernod Ricard, IAC and Blackberry. Her roles evolved from the accounting department, recruitment and business analysis to project and process management.

Today, she is Vice President, Strategic Vendor Management, and Project Management Office for Viacom, an American media conglomerate that’s home to such brands as MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, CMT and Comedy Central. She joined the company almost two years ago.

In her role, Cardella is responsible for the vendor management and project management offices. On a day-to-day basis, that might mean making sure that the departments within Technology have the process, tools and services available to execute their projects whether that be internal initiatives or an award show.

“I’m not the project manager delivering the solution,” she explains. “I’m making sure they have the right agile project management tools for both planning and execution. I oversee the greater portfolio.”

Cardella considers herself “in love” with “agile methodology”—a disciplined, project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability, a set of engineering best practices to allow for rapid delivery of high-quality software, and a business approach that aligns development with customer needs and company goals.

There are several different software methodologies thatcan achieve this. Cardella is an ardent fan of Lean Six Sigma,a methodology that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing waste. The training for Lean Six Sigma is provided through the belt-based training system—white belts, yellow belts, green belts, black belts and master black belts— similar to judo.

Earlier in her career, she acquired her Green Belt and then continued to earn more certifications. “It was really important to me and I paid for it on my own.”

She brought the green belt course to Viacom. “I want people to recognize that we want to invest in them. At the end of the day, it’s the people who make the company.”

Cardella volunteers as a mentor to young women today and is looking forward to volunteering in co-ordination with Viacom as a part of Girls Who Code, a national mentoring program in the US meant to encourage young women to consider technology as a career.

“Tech jobs are part of the fastest-growing in the country but girls are being left behind,” she says. “The job is to close the gender gap in technology. I want to help women succeed and to be fully integrated into that.”

The decision for husband and wife to collaborate on a book about process management was a natural one for them. But it wasn’t Boutros’ first book on the subject.

In 2013, Boutros and his mentor, Tim Purdie, published the award-winning book, The Process Improvement Handbook:A Blueprint for Managing Change and Increasing Organizational Performance with McGraw Hill. “It was much more of a textbook about process management,” he explains.

The second, The Basics of Process Improvement, in collaboration with Cardella, came out in 2016. “It’s much more of a practical read. The feedback we’ve received is that it is very easy to use in day-to- day jobs,” says Boutros. This book has also received critical praise, and has been a finalist in both the USA Best Book Awards, and Book Viral Awards, while being nominated for several others.

Working together had its challenges, the largest being how to divide family responsibilities while writing. “Some days I was largely with the kids and other days Jennifer took the lead,” says Boutros. “I think the toughest thing was dealing with the amount of timeit took to write the book with a young family, as we had deadlinesto meet.”

The Basics of Process Improvement was featured at a January 2017 conference with the Process Excellence Network in Orlando, Fla. The couple gave the keynote address. Cardella is also slated to be a panel speaker in April at The Workfront 2017 Leap Conference.

They plan to launch a new book in summer 2017, Agile Process Management. “It won’t be focused on process improvement as much as how a company can be agile—more responsive to needs and changing situations,” says Boutros. “It will be for people who want more innovative and newer methods of product delivery.”

So devoted is the couple to the value of process management that they incorporated it into their wedding planning.

Says Boutros, “We planned a destination wedding in three or four hours. We prioritized, assigned duties, and largely completed any needed tasks within a four-week period.”

“We had sticky notes all over the walls,” says Cardella. “It was our wedding war room.” The wedding went off without a hitch.

This approach has continued into their marriage and daily lives. “We look at every aspect of our family and assess if and how we could improve it. Things like, outsourcing certain household chores such as having groceries delivered directly to buy us more time as a family together. We also use visual management, like having a family board with chores and tasks on it.”

Although Boutros and Cardella are in the same field, Boutros admits that they differ on how rigorous to be about planning. “Jen is more relaxed. She’s accepts shifts and evolution more so than me.I push execution a bit much sometimes.”

“I know when to slack off a little,” adds Cardella. “But, he’sthe one who gets us back on the right path. He’s definitely had an excellent influence over my path and I attribute a lot of my success to him.”

The Basics of Process Improvement (CRC Press 2016)  Agile Process Management (CRC Press 2017)  Available on Amazon

This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of VIEW, the University of Windsor Alumni Magazine

Western University Alumnus Forging Success on ‘Atypical” Career Path

By Krista Habermehl

If there’s one thing Travis McKenna didn’t want to do with his life, it was work a regular 9-5 job.

A career in aviation seemed anything but traditional, so out of high school he applied, and was accepted to the Commercial Aviation Management (CAM) program in Western’s Faculty of Social Science.

“I wanted a career that was atypical and I thought piloting was the answer for me,” said McKenna, BMOS’15, “but as I learned more about the industry itself, I discovered there were a lot of factors I didn’t like – from the increased automation of planes to the seniority system.”

Although he carried on with flight training in spite of his reservations, McKenna spent his summers dabbling in various entrepreneurial opportunities with friends: first a painting business, then a car detailing venture and, later, an app endeavour he admits failed commercially.

While those experiences showed him there was money to be made outside of a traditional career path, McKenna ended up taking a job in a corporate setting after finishing flight training.

“Even if you know you want to work for yourself, there’s a lot of external pressure – from your parents, from your program, from your friends. There’s a lot of pressure to go the normal route. I found it very hard.”

It was a repeat concussion injury, however, that forced him to reconsider his options.

“The job (post university) was intense. The hours were long – 12 to 14 hour days sometimes – and I just couldn’t do it. It was really hard on me and at the end of my contract, I had to call it quits.”

This turn of events gave McKenna the freedom to pursue a different path, and he joined a group of friends from Western who had recently launched an e-commerce bracelet venture, called Wrist & Rye. The company sells accessories and markets itself as a “social lubricant company,” tying its product line to names of popular drinks. Its purpose is “to deliver intoxicatingly beautiful accessories that incite social conversations,” according to the Wrist & Rye website.

“When no one was expecting anything of me, I was able to work for myself and make my own hours. I could bring a lot of expertise and knowledge. As my health started to get better, I took on more and more responsibility with the company,” he said.

Today, McKenna is the company’s CEO, a role he formally stepped into in April of 2016. Since that time, he’s worked to legitimize the business, establishing supply line management, inventory, manufacturing, legal and accounting systems.

In addition, he brought the company to Western’s Propel Entrepreneurship – an initiative that provides co-working space, mentorship, seed funding and acts as an advocate for local startups in the community.

McKenna said assistance and expertise from Propel helped the company navigate rough waters and set them up for success at a time when a major dispute between the company’s partners had the potential to implode the business.

“We pretty much have Propel to thank for helping us through the transition. When you’re a struggling entrepreneur, no one gives you respect. Propel helped legitimize the path. Instead of saying I was working on my business, I could say my business is part of an ‘accelerator’ that believes in us and is giving us grant funding. It legitimized it. Even my parents were proud of me.”

McKenna said the financial support Wrist & Rye received, as well as access to a community of like-minded entrepreneurs, through Propel was priceless.

“They held us to our milestones. We learned a ton from the workshops,” he said. “It also gave us a network of people who were doing the same things. People our age, all in different stages of business, but working toward the same thing and going through the same struggles.”

Since the launch of the company, the majority of bracelet sales – in the range of 50,000 – have been online through organic and celebrity marketing. Wrist & Rye has recently landed a wholesale contract, signed with a Canada-wide sales team and is now selling its product in select retail stores. These changes have the company poised to make sales in the hundreds of thousands range, said McKenna.

The company also sells a special bracelet, called the “Mustang” at The Book Store at Western, which provides students with a $10 Uber gift card when they purchase the product. The goal is to encourage students to make safe choices and avoid drinking and driving.

“We really want to take a proactive stance on students drinking responsibly,” said McKenna. “We’re hoping that if the bracelet is successful at Western and has an impact, we’ll roll out the concept nationwide.”

While McKenna admitted he finds it odd when aspiring entrepreneurs ask for his advice, since Wrist & Rye hasn’t quite attained commercial success, he does have a few words of wisdom to impart: “Start a business when you’re at school. It’s the perfect place. You have a large social network. A test market. School resources. There is no better time than university to start a business.

“The other thing is, don’t wait for that perfect idea. That million-dollar idea is never going to just come to you. Get to work on an idea. Learn a lot. Don’t get emotionally attached and blow all your money. Just start working away and you’ll learn. Then find a job close to, or in a similar field as your idea, so you can get mentorship and get paid to learn.”

Wrist & Rye bracelets are available at The Book Store at Western, or online at wrist-rye.com.

Posted with permission, Western News

Thinking On Her Feet: Jackie Perez’s Story

Photo by David Lopez

Photo by David Lopez

As far back as she can remember, Jackie Perez has loved sports. She grew up playing basketball, volleyball and baseball, and when she was just five years old, she started to dance. While they’re good for keeping fit and teaching teamwork, the thing that’s kept Jackie coming back to athletics all these years is their unpredictability.

“The thing I’ve always loved most about sports is that they teach you to adapt and think on your feet,” she says. Things can change in a moment, and you need to be ready to roll with the punches.

That passion for sports meant that when Jackie came to the University of Guelph-Humber to take media studies, she had her eyes set on a career in sports media. A few years later, now a host for a RogersTV show and the in-game host for the Toronto Argonauts, Jackie uses what she learned from sports and her time at UofGH, staying on her toes as she makes live news.

Jackie started at UofGH in 2004 and quickly got involved with student media. When she wasn’t in class or helping produce the student newspaper, she found time to become an orientation leader and helped first-year students transition to university life. When she graduated in 2008, Jackie was hired by UofGH as a recruitment officer and travelled across Ontario telling the university’s story to high school students. After that, she worked for the Mississauga News, and a few years later, Jackie saw an opportunity to take another step towards combining her love of sports and media and applied to be an Argonauts cheerleader.

“Since I got that job, I haven’t looked back,” she says. Year after year as a cheerleader, Jackie took on more responsibility. After a successful first season, Jackie was made a squad captain, after that, she stepped up to run their social media accounts.

 “It was taking the foundations I learned at UofGH and using them to build the cheerleaders’ brand,” she says. “At UofGH I developed an eye for taking pictures, learned how to write a caption and to think about what to post to attract people and build a community. Because of my media education, I knew how to produce a video, shoot and edit it. I hadn’t done it before for the Argos, but I love to take on a challenge.”

Around that time, Jackie also started to host a Rogers TV show called InSauga Live, spending more time producing broadcast work. When she had spent more time in front of the camera, Jackie was given the chance to step up to the role of In-Game Host. Now, on game days Jackie interviews fans and keeps the audience energized between plays.

While she’s happy to be in the sports media role she’s always wanted, Jackie says one of the most gratifying parts of the job doesn’t happen inside the stadium or in front of the camera. When the game isn’t on, Jackie volunteers with the Argonauts’ Huddle Up Bullying Prevention Program, going into Toronto schools to talk about the importance of self-esteem and the effects of bullying.

“It’s one of the reasons I joined the Argos. I like to get involved with the community and give back,” she says. “There’s a lot of talk now about bullying, but kids don’t always know how to act, so it’s nice to have a chance to help and inspire them.”

         “There’s a lot of talk now about bullying, but kids don’t
             always know how to act, so it’s nice to have a chance to
             help and inspire them.”

One of the parts of Huddle Up she’s proudest of is their program talking with girls about bullying and teasing. While people often think of a bully as someone big and tough who might steal lunch money, Jackie says that for girls, especially in grades 6-8, it takes a different shape.

“Girls are more prone to social bullying, where they’ll tease, spread rumors or exclude someone else,” she says. “When you’re 11 or 12, you’re still trying to figure out who you are and it’s important to show girls that they can be a different way.”

Whether she’s in the classroom, the TV studio or at the stadium, Jackie is using the skills she’s developed from her media education and a lifetime of sports to adapt to new situations and give back to the community.

“I get an opportunity to be a role model,” she says. “I get a chance to change the conversation.”

 

With permission of the University of Guelph-Humber.  Learn more about Media Studies at UofGH

Annamaria Perruccio…Vaughan lawyer move in leaps and bounds

By Marisa Iacobucci

Photo by Guilio Muratori

Photo by Guilio Muratori

While most unsuspecting little girls can easily succumb to fairytale dreams of becoming princesses, Family Law lawyer Annamaria Perruccio, 29, was far too busy for tiaras. 

She heeded, instead, to her future call of litigation. “As a child, I would defend my younger sisters whenever they got into trouble or were being scolded by my parents. I distinctly remember a time when I was arguing contributory negligence on behalf of my sister and was insisting that it wasn’t her fault that she had broken the lamp in my family room. Instead, it was my parents’ fault for placing the lamp too close to the edge of the table,” recalls Perruccio, whose family lovingly nicknamed her “the little lawyer with backwards shoes” because of her childhood habit of wearing her shoes backwards. 

Perruccio, who grew up in Vaughan and now works for Sutherland Law in Vaughan, was always interested in law and languages. She pursued an undergraduate degree in Multidisciplinary Studies from Glendon College (York University), which allowed her to combine her interests in languages (Italian and French) and law. The trilingual Perruccio then went on to complete her Masters coursework through York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, focusing on social environments, specifically, the discrimination faced by Italian-Canadians in Toronto after the Second World War. Her research was put on hold while she pursued a law degree at the University of Windsor, but she plans to complete it.

For now, Perruccio is focused on practicing family law and is committed to assisting her clients during what might be the most challenging periods in their lives. “I am passionate about what I do – everything from the initial client meeting, to mediation, court attendances and the completion of a file. I love being able to find creative solutions to meet the individual needs of my clients,” she says.

While the demands of her career keep Perruccio working long hours, she longs to spend time with her parents and her two younger sisters (Daniela, 28 and Alessandra, 25) even if that means sharing at least one meal together on weekends. Perruccio’s father was born in Argusto, Catanzaro in Calabria. Following in his brother’s footsteps, he immigrated to Canada in 1973 in search of a better life. Perruccio’s mother, also from a Calabrese background, was born and raised in Toronto. 

Perruccio’s Italian upbringing is something she is fiercely proud of. “Italian traditions and culture are an important part of my life and have played a significant role in shaping me as an individual. My strong work ethic is rooted in the values and morals my parents instilled in me at a young age.” Some of Perruccio’s fondest memories of growing up in an Italian family include always being surrounded by family, friends, and food of course.“Whether it was sitting around the lunch table on a Sunday afternoon, making sugo over the Labour Day weekend or buying an entire cantina full of panettone and visiting relatives at Christmas, Easter and other times, the love and laughter that filled my home cannot be understated,” she explains.

“Italian traditions and culture are an important part of my life

and have played a significant role in shaping me as an individual”

While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Perruccio was lucky enough to be able to study abroad at the University of Bologna for one of her Italian courses. Thus began her love affair with Italy. She found a reason to return every summer, while working as a supervisor and assistant teacher with the Centro Scuola e Cultura Italiana Summer Exchange Program in Italy for Canadian high school students.

Besides her career and family, volunteer work is also very important to Perruccio. “I maintain my commitment to volunteerism as a mentor to youth and [am a] strong advocate and supporter of various organizations, such as Camp Oochigeas, Parkinson Canada and SickKids® Foundation,” she says.

Perruccio is currently president and chair of La Rocca Memorial Society, a non-profit organization, whose mission includes inspiring volunteerism and engaging young people to become change makers in their communities. A past bursary recipient, Perruccio is living proof that the next generation can be encouraged to become involved and make a real difference in the lives of others.

Her career, family life and volunteer work show no sign of slowing down anytime soon, just as Perruccio likes it. If she could give any advice to future leaders, it’s this: “Be true to who you are and never compromise your values or beliefs for anyone or anything. There is nothing greater than one’s integrity. Work hard and persevere in order to achieve your goals and never forget your roots and where you came from.”

Reprinted with permission from Panoram Italia    

Camille Porthouse Returns as “The Fairy Goth Mother”

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Camille Porthouse was last interviewed for WorkStory in 2014 at the beginning of her career as an Alternative Photographer. While she initially took photos for the music industry, a “Zombie Walk” ironically brought her passion to life. From there, Camille Porthouse Photography focused on the darker, more twisted things in life. It has since been rebranded as Fairy Goth Mother Studios in order to reflect Camille’s mission: “to help people be themselves and learn that you can find empowerment in letting your freak flag fly”.

Camille’s metamorphosis into “The Fairy Goth Mother” took a year to complete and she explained how something negative turned into something positive along the way: “I decided to re-brand in early 2016 after a year-long hiatus.  I wasn’t in a great place emotionally in 2015, and I felt unable to channel it into my art so I took a break. When I started to find myself and live more, I felt my passion coming back, and sat down to evaluate what this company is to me. I came upon the name Fairy Goth Mother Studios when I thought about the models I worked with that loved the alternative industry but didn’t fit into it. I worked to transform them … and thus acted like a fairy god mother of sorts-- just darker, of course…. At this point, I finally feel like my art can help people embrace their bodies, their sexuality, their inner weirdo, and see media and pop culture as a usable platform and not just some ‘body shaming industry’”.

When asked about what remained the same as the company changed, Camille replied: “My pre-shoot nerves are always tried and true. I have this moment the day of a shoot where I think to myself, ‘Oh my gosh! What have I gotten myself into?’ It doesn’t matter how long I have been preparing, I always have a huge inner panic”.

Fairy Goth Mother Studios is actually located inside Camille’s home, which helps relieve some of the stress for her and the models. Before each session, Camille gets to know her client(s) and they plan their photoshoot together over a few drinks:  “I like to really know the person modelling for me. It helps me pull out the emotion I am hoping to capture.  I recently bought a townhouse and chose to convert the basement into a studio. This is why we can have casual beers and hang out.  I have started to furnish my home with shooting in mind. I added a fireplace in my bedroom and a lovely canopy over my bed. I even [positioned] it so it would get the best natural light for Boudoir sessions. What can I say? I love this career.”

In November 2016, Camille displayed her work at RAW, a Kitchener-Waterloo based art show. In the days that followed, she was then approached to have her work on display in another Kitchener gallery. When she asked the curators what type of art they were looking for, they responded, “The weirder, the better!” and Camille is up for the challenge! In the past, Camille has described her work as “risqué” and originally didn’t see herself as an artist. Today she accepts her artistry and stresses that “it is so much more than a half-naked girl in a weird pose”.

“I started out not wanting to think of myself as an artist. I shot the things people wanted me to do and acted like photography was just a chill side-job…. I downplayed what I loved the most and in turn I doubted myself….  Over the last year I have really embraced what my art is. It’s a part of who I am [and] it’s how I view aspects of society… I always felt that everyone has a little hidden side to them, a side that they don’t show off to the rest of society because it isn’t appropriate or the social norm…. My work is risqué and provocative to some, but as I have grown as an artist I see the human body as something completely different than what some take at face value….”

Seeing the body differently may also be due to do with the fact that Camille works 6 days a week in the medical field as well! “I absolutely adore human anatomy, biomechanics, blood, gore, emergencies etc. so a career in the healthcare industry is a no-brainer! I am nerdy and logic-based and adore reading medical textbooks, but I also daydream about covering a model in cake and glitter.”

Before RAW, Camille had never been face-to-face with a critic, but she said overall the “response was amazing”. “I got to watch strangers look at my work for the first time.  There were [some] that didn’t seem to enjoy my work, but … people wanted to know the inspiration behind my images! No one had ever asked me that before and I got to open up and discuss the different layers and how I integrated them into my work. I was told that my work was inspiring, that people could see how comfortable I am with myself from my work, that they hoped to push their personal boundaries with their work after seeing mine, and that I should absolutely refuse to ever censor [myself]! I could have cried! I never thought that anyone would feel that way about my work.  It made me realize just what kind of impact I can have on people and that makes me want to do more and make people celebrate their oddities and just be free.” Camille Porthouse said that her goal as The Fairy Goth Mother in 2017 is to “push more boundaries, meet more people, and make them loosen up!” She will probably also cover models in cake and glitter.

You can connect with Camille on social media here, here and here.  

Culinary Dreams Do Come True: Chef Ami DiPasquale’s Story!

Being a woman in the culinary industry is rough. I wanted to follow in my grandmothers’ footsteps and learn how to cook. So, in 2009, I enrolled in the Culinary Skills / Chef Training program George Brown College. My class had 20 people in it, and I was 1 of 4 women. I was 20, and didn't know how to hold my knife unlike the others who came to school to refine their skills. I had a slow start.  People told me to give it up and go towards a different career, but I didn't listen.  I dealt with down talk, sexual power tripping, sexism, inappropriate behaviour, and disbelief in my skill…but my love for sharing my heart through cooking kept me going.

My first job at Origin Restaurant in Toronto refined my skills and cooking technique. I came to the job as an apprentice without knowing how to work basic equipment and without ever having worked a dinner service, but the chefs were patient with me. I went from being a oyster scrubber to first cook in my 2 years of employment at Origin. I learned discipline and I learned how to be strong and hardworking…skills that would get me noticed in the future.

I knew after I left that it was my sole goal -- and reason for going through everything I had -- to open a restaurant and own my business.  Be my own boss.  After leaving Origin, I worked as a sous chef at Blue Goose Pure Foods / Common Food in the summer container market at Harbourfront Centre. For the first time, I ran a staff of 12 and created my own menu.  I witnessed people eating my food and appreciating my vision.  I loved it!

To save money, I worked full time, 6-7 days a week and 12-hour shifts, as a junior sous chef at a large catering company. If only the people who told me to quit could see me now!   I headed weddings for 200 people with teams of ten under me. I catered private sit-down dinners for 6. Clients requested my services. The urge to open my own restaurant was becoming more and more pressing.  It would be a tapas restaurant named Ragazza with a Italian Fusion menu.  All homemade with love with a fine dining twist…

However, I wanted a business partner, and that's when -- out of nowhere -- I met Steffen Marin, the chef/owner of Heirloom Food Truck

At that point, I had spent two years in an elite position at the Food Dudes and was making good money.  After meeting Steffen, I quit my job and dropped it all to join him in his vision of promoting local and artisanal cuisine from his food truck.  Steffen’s vision soon became my own vision. We worked together to revamp his menu and make a name for the food truck. Together, we were getting attention with our food, and our love and passion for feeding our customers.

In June 2016, my dream finally became a reality.  I became co-owner of Heirloom.  After 6 years of cooking under other chefs, I finally had a chance to show people what I could do!  We've done catering, private events around the city, and we have worked the summer and winter markets. In 2017, we plan to open our first restaurant together, called Heirloom 2.0, promoting our local and sustainable cuisine, an extension of the food truck.  And I know that my dream tapas restaurant has a place in our future.   

Pretty good for a girl who was told she would never make it in this industry! 

Broadcasting All-Star Lands Sports Fan’s Dream Job

By Kyle Rooks

Photo credit: Agnata Lesnik,Fanshawe College

Photo credit: Agnata Lesnik,Fanshawe College

In 2012, Caroline Cameron graduated from Fanshawe’s Broadcast Journalism program on a Friday and started her career at Sportsnet in Toronto the following Monday. It was the start of a meteoric rise that saw her spend two years in Vancouver hosting Sportsnet’s national morning
show and, in 2014, be recognized with a Fanshawe Distinguished Alumni Award. In April 2016, she returned to her hometown (Toronto) to co-anchor the late night/early morning version of Sportsnet Central.

What does your job entail?

On a typical day, I arrive for work at 8:30 p.m., check in with my producer and discuss the show’s rundown alongside my co-anchor. I write my scripts, keep my eye on as many games as possible, spend some time in makeup and wardrobe and prepare to go live at 1 a.m. On a busy night, we do a post-game show out of a live event which is always fun! It keeps me on my toes! I do all my prep at home during the day. That consists of watching TV (tough life, I know), and doing a lot of reading.

What's the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is I get to sit and watch sports for a living! It’s really fun working with other sports fans. We watch the games justike one would at home, or out with friends. We cheer, debate and laugh along the way. The only difference is we’re doing it for work. It’s pretty cool!

 Is it safe to say this is your dream job?

 Absolutely! If you had told 13-year-old me, that this is what I’d be doing, I wouldn’t have believed you. I first set my sights on being a sports broadcaster early in high school. I loved playing and watching all kinds of sports, but I also grew up in a family that consumed news; putting the two together seemed like the perfect match. Now that I’ve gotten to where I am, I can’t help but think: what’s next? But your guess is as good as mine. We don’t know what TV will look like in 5 – 10 years, just like we didn’t know what it would look like 5 – 10 years ago. I’m just along for the ride!

What's your favourite sport?

Despite having two older brothers, I was the jock of the family growing up. As the little sister, I was always trying to catch up with them – whether it was playing catch in the backyard, kicking a ball around, or shooting hoops on the driveway. I played basketball and softball in high school, but, the sport I gravitated to the most was tennis. From a young age I played with my Dad. At 15, I volunteered to be a ball kid during the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Being on the court with some of the greatest players in the world grew my love of the game even more. I’ve met some of my best friends through the sport and still play a couple times a week.

What's been the highlight of your career so far?

Tough to say. I consider a highlight to be any moment I catch myself thinking “the little kid in me would be freaking out if she knew what’s happening right now!” I remember the first time I was in the Toronto Blue Jays dugout at the Rogers Centre - that was pretty surreal. Most recently, covering Milos Raonic’s run to the finals of the 2016 Wimbledon Championships, was a huge honour. As a fan of the sport, it was incredible to see him beat Roger Federer in the semi-finals. It was a great feeling to know that I was covering an important moment in Canadian sports history. Iwanted to do the story justice.

How did Fanshawe prepare you for your career?

 By the time I graduated, I already had the structure and skills to move forward. I knew how to speak to people, conduct interviews and craft a story. When I arrived for my first day at Sportsnet, as a deer caught in headlights – I quickly settled down because the surroundings and what was expected of me didn’t seem foreign. To this day, when I write scripts for the show, I still think back to the writing rules and lessons I learned from Jim Van Horne and other faculty at Fanshawe.

Reprinted with permission from Fanshawe College Alumni News. All rights reserved. 

Painting the Town Red: Carly’s Work Story

By Abigayle Walker, WorkStory Ambassador at University of Ottawa

We last saw Carly Silberstein in her first WorkStory back in 2012, when the Western University grad was working as a corporate event coordinator at KCI Management. Now, Carly comes back to share her journey on becoming a successful entrepreneur. She is the CEO and cofounder of a startup company, based in Toronto, called Redstone Agency . Being active members of industry associations, Carly and her business partner noticed that there was a gap in the market – younger generations were just not being represented or engaged by these types of organizations.

Redstone–  the youngest-run association management company in Canada– was created to fill this void.  

The agency provides its clientele with a well-rounded assortment of services that include event and association management, digital and technology solutions, and consultations. The business works with organizations such as TalentEgg, the Women’s Business Network, Women in Nuclear Canada and the Planning Standards Board to name a few.

Carly is truly passionate about her career and company! She especially loves the team that she works with and interacting with clients. Since Redstone represents a wide array of companies in different fields, Carly has the opportunity to wear many different hats and is required to perform a wide variety of tasks. She enjoys that every day is new and exciting.

The team at Redstone is constantly hard at work. Some days, they work on client events while other days are spent in the office, brainstorming and strategizing. Being a startup company, the Redstone team works vigorously to increase professional development and acquiring networking opportunities. The priority, however, is always to serve the client.

The success of Carly’s business is dependent not only on the hard work the team does, but also their ability to build and foster relationships. They always make a conscious effort to stay up-to-date on the constant pulse of the trade. The team also contributes to the field by volunteering, writing in industry publications, and participating in industry and non-industry events.

For aspiring event planners and entrepreneurs, Carly strongly recommends joining professional associations to create professional ties. She also stresses the importance of volunteering and internships/co-op, which she says are crucial because the experience gained is invaluable. Volunteering one’s time is a great opportunity to learn from others in the business. Carly’s closing remark was to always say “yes”…you won’t know what you’re going to love until you try it!

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!

Alumna Bringing Realism Back To The Art World

By Heather Hughes

Emily Copeland knows your eye better than you do.

A collection by Emily Copeland, BFA’15, for her thesis, titled The Stacks, was recently on display at the Artlab Gallery in the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre. This was Copeland’s first solo exhibit.   Photo by Heather Hughes.

A collection by Emily Copeland, BFA’15, for her thesis, titled The Stacks, was recently on display at the Artlab Gallery in the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre. This was Copeland’s first solo exhibit.   Photo by Heather Hughes.

Copeland, BFA’15, is perfecting the art of realism drawing. Only one year after graduation, the young artist is managed by Bernarducci Meisel Gallery in New York, which focuses on contemporary realist art. Currently, her work is part of the First Look exhibition at the gallery; she is working on completing a 12-piece exhibit for spring 2017.

“I’m now the youngest person in the gallery,” she said with a smile.

While many artists struggle for a few years (typically age 30 is the sweet spot where artists tend to gain notoriety, she said), Copeland was determined to do things differently and create her own opportunities.

She started to “creep” art dealers and galleries on their social media accounts, particularly on Instagram, and through following popular accounts, regular commenting and posting images of her work and process pictures she was able to make some meaningful connections. These efforts proved fruitful, as it connected her to Bernarducci Meisel Gallery and the alumna’s art now garners a price tag of about $10,000 ($7,000-$8,000 U.S.). She recently sold a piece to a collector in Australia.

“You reach more people on Instagram,” she said. “It’s a very modern way of doing things, but it’s the whole reason I have a career right now. I’m proud I’ve done it on my own. You don’t have to follow the typical route. You have to find ways to beat the system.”

 In 2014-15, she worked with piles – or stacks – of poker chips, books, wood, clothing and teacups. These elements were blown up much larger than life size to give it a surreal effect. According to her, this method gives the audience a unique viewpoint that exposes detail they wouldn’t normally see. Each stack was comprised of something different – different materials, textures and colours – causing a variety of different shades and tones. Even though these objects were completely random, she attempted to create a pattern of shapes that change from circular, to rectangular, to triangular, then back to rectangles and circles.

As a result of those efforts, that collection of her thesis work, titled The Stacks, was recently on display at the Artlab Gallery in the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre. This was Copeland’s first solo exhibit.

“I’d never thought I’d have a show here – let alone a solo show,” she said.

The London, Ont.-based artist dedicates about 10 hours a day on her craft. Her technique? She photographs vintage subjects, such as a worn leather baseball glove, a glittery disco ball or a burlap-wrapped spoon and fork. Using Photoshop, she magnifies sections of the image and recreates it in charcoal on Stonehenge paper, working from the top left corner and moving section-by-section. Some of the images can take upwards of 300 hours to complete.

She draws inspiration from Baroque era artists – Caravaggio, La Tour and Velazque – and their focus on mimesis (replicating what they see) and their contrasts with lighting. Her current influences are Jonathan Delafield Cook, C.J. Hendry and DiegoKoi, primarily because they work from photographs to create hyper-realistic works.

“Realism – people don’t do it anymore. They don’t really teach it anymore,” she explained, noting she doesn’t look for deep, contemplative meaning behind her works, instead she likes “creating things that are nice to look at. If I see an object, I think, that would look good in black and white in space. I don’t have a lot of meaning behind my drawings. With realism, I’m focused on the technique.”

Even though she has spent her whole life in art school in some form, Copeland didn’t always see herself becoming a professional artist.

She attended H.B. Beal Secondary School in London, which has a strong emphasis on the arts. At the time, however, she thought art would always be a hobby. She was pre-accepted into the Ivey Business School, but in second year switched to Visual Arts. Even afterward, she wasn’t committed to art as a career. However, in fourth year, everything changed – she fell back in love with drawing.

“I said, ‘Nope, I’m being an artist.’ Obviously I’m meant to do this. If I have to draw every day of my life, it’s not work,” said Copeland, whose work was recognized through the Undergraduate Awards program.

Her intricate drawings capture the texture and light reflections of an object in an almost photo-realist way. She is particularly attracted to drawing items that aren’t flat and have dimension to them. Currently, she is working on a large-scale vintage bicycle with a flower basket on the front.

She has created a few sport-related images, however she does not want to be pigeonholed into one subject matter. “I have my audience in mind at all times. I like to please different audiences.”

With such early success in her art career, Copeland continues to refine her talents and is always looking for new ways to connect with her audience.

“I’m very proud of myself. I work really hard. I’m very stubborn and when I’m not drawing, I’m researching. I want to prove (the critics) wrong,” she said.

Learn more about Emily Copeland and her work at http://www.emilycopelandartistry.com/ Follow her onInstagram e.copeland

 

 Posted with permission, Western News

 

 

 

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    

 

Unlocking the appeal of the escape room

By Tracy Robinson

Shawn Nagy, BA’14 (Psychology, Western University), and Emily Lyons, owners of Escape Canada on York Street, are working with Ivey Business School professor Ann Frost to use the facility for executive team building.

Adela Talbot, Western News

Adela Talbot, Western News

The teamwork required to work yourself through an ‘escape room’ is providing an alumnus with a growing business opportunity and a professor with a powerful training tool.

“Most people just want to come and have fun and they are buzzing when they leave,” said Shawn Nagy, BA’14 (Psychology), who along with Emily Lyons own Escape Canada on York Street. “But when I talk to teams about how they solved problems, it always comes down to someone on the team having a skill that others didn’t.”

Escape rooms are a physical adventure game where players are ‘locked’ in a room and must use elements in the room to solve a series of puzzles and ‘escape’ within a set time. For more than a decade, escape rooms have grown in popularity with players.

Nagy called escape rooms “a sensory experience of a perceived crisis” best solved with the combined skills of the people who are with you. Every escape room tells a story, an important part of the progress through the room and the enjoyment of solving puzzles.

Teamwork is essential, he stressed.

At Escape Canada, participants are given one hour to get through the storyline. There are generally 10-12 puzzles in a room and two-to-four steps in each puzzle. Solving puzzles can unlock doors, give you new puzzles and sometimes trigger surprise plot twists. Progress is monitored by game marshals via closed-circuit television and you are allowed to ask clues when you are stuck. Asking for clues may get you through the puzzle quicker, but the satisfaction of solving the puzzles usually means that you limit the number of clues that you request.

For inspiration, there is a leader board with time records for each room in the Escape Canada lobby.

“In an age where so much of our entertainment is experienced with our eyes only via screens, the appeal of an escape room comes from the immersive experience,” said Keegan Guidolin, a third-year Medical student, who along with his team holds time records at several escape rooms in London and Toronto.

“Not only are you completely surrounded by the puzzle (a part of the puzzle itself), you have to physically interact with the puzzle. You have to touch it, crawl through it, inspect it, listen to it and in at least one case, taste it. Escape rooms engage all of our senses and couple an immersive experience with challenging puzzles, teamwork and a sense of urgency to give you the rush of adrenaline only experienced with time running out.”

Keegan said teamwork is essential and that high-performance teams have members with diverse skill sets. “These teams understand the importance of humility and that there’s no shame in asking for help from a teammate,” he continued. “Good teams also have good communication and are able to understand the problem facing them and what solution they’re looking for.”

How teams solve problems is also an interest of Ivey Business School professor Ann Frost. She is currently using Escape Canada for executive team building.

“What seems to help are those people who are willing to verbalize. That sounds weird, but if people just start a running commentary on what they are observing they do better,” she explained. “They aren’t necessarily solving a problem, but if members of the team are verbal, it may be at exactly the moment someone with another problem needs what they have.”

Nagy is pleased to be a part of the collaboration with Ivey and believes teams can learn a lot about themselves from the rooms.

This maximizing of skills within a team is what makes escape rooms such good team-building experiences. Facilitated de-briefing is available for corporate groups to translate the escape room back to the work environment.

“In executive teams, they make connections to other people they didn’t have before and maybe they look at problems in more novel ways and not just from one perspective,” Frost said.

Nagy creates all the puzzles with help from Lyons and then constructs the rooms. To stay a step ahead of the gamers, a new room is installed about every six months. “Crafting the puzzles is my favourite part – but it’s not easy. Construction phases are intense. Sometimes, I will be standing in the shower and suddenly I’m calling to Emily to get me a pen because an idea just came to me.”

The London natives first got the idea for the escape room after visiting a room when they were travelling in Budapest. Building on their success in London, the pair will open another Escape Canada in Hamilton, in the coming months.

Reprinted with permission from Western News.