By Veerta Singh, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University
Besides being a tri-athlete, a yogi, a traveler, a writer, and a gamer, Rachel Berdan is also the Chief Marketing Officer of rTraction Canada, Inc. Rachel got into sales and marketing relatively slowly and somewhat by accident and today she is also VP of Sales for Ellipsis Digital, a division of rTraction Canada, Inc. located in London, Ontario. She loves working within an organization that encourages creativity, openness, entrepreneurial thinking, and attracts people who value those things. “I have fun, I am challenged, and I get to bring new ideas to life pretty regularly.”
Rachel attended the University of Toronto, where she earned her Honors Bachelor of Arts degree in Semiotics & Communication Theory and Equity Studies in 2005.
Working at Ellipsis Digital inspires Rachel every day. “As a bonus, we were just certified as a B Corp, which was an initiative that I led within the organization and was happy to see finally reach a happy conclusion. It’s a big commitment on the part of our company to look out for the needs of our employees, our clients, our community, and the environment. It’s an initiative and a movement that I’m very proud to be part of.”
Rachel definitely did not always know this was what she wanted to do. Sort of. She always wanted to be a writer. “I also wanted to be a lawyer and a psychologist and a forensic accountant, but writing was always in the back of my mind. I don’t write novels and poetry for a living, but every part of my job revolves around communication in one way or another, so in a way…I suppose I did end up where I always wanted to.”
The long-term goal for Ellipsis Digital is to be the agency that the arts and culture world looks to when they need help telling their stories. “That goes for our other two verticals, as well: mental health and community engagers (creative cities, specific community engagement initiatives, etc.)”
When asked if she had any volunteer experiences that helped her become successful, Rachel answered “Probably. If you pay attention as you go, you can always look for ways that your experiences connect and create a richer story of your value.”
“When I was in university, I interned at CHUM television (Bravo!, Space: The Imagination Station, and Drive-In Classics). I also worked part-time with a woman who ran her own business, and my job was basically to keep the business running while she travelled and did her thing. I learned all of the moving parts that a business owner has to consider, which set me up for success in the business world.”
A common day at Ellipsis Digital is rare. “I wear quite a few hats, so I don’t know that there’s such a thing as a common day. Some days are heavier in sales, some are more about creating our marketing messaging or sorting out our tactics, some are more about creating good process and improving client engagement. Every day begins with a 10-minute standing meeting with our whole team to hear what everyone’s working on and adapt priorities if needed.”
To be successful in the field, Rachel says empathy is an important quality. “The ability to understand where people are coming from is critical in any communications role, but also in any environment where you have to work with other humans (i.e., all of them). Empathy helps me understand what our clients need. It also helps me understand what my team needs to know to serve those clients. It helps me to understand what the people who reports to me need in order to do their best work and grow to their full potential.
Curiosity and an open mind are also valued. “I do not know everything and never will. Asking questions even when I think I know the answer opens me up to new ideas, and those new ideas create new connections that help me do my best work.”
Last but not least, dedication. “I have a lot of flexibility in my work. People listen to me. I can work in a way that works for me. All of those things are great, but they’ve been earned, because I also demonstrate that when things get tough, I get into the weeds and do what’s needed to make things better. I do it because I care about the people I work with and I care about the collective success of our business, but there are perks.”
When asked what she loves about her work... “I love that I get my brain working every day. I love that I get to try new things. I love that I work with incredible people who care about making a positive difference in the world. I love that I actually feel like I’m part of something bigger than me. I was inspired by the people I get to work with and the culture we have. I wanted to be a part of the group, and didn’t really care what I did (within reason). I ended up landing in work that suits my strengths, and I love being a part of building our messaging and connecting with people who can be a part of our community (as clients, employees, partners, etc.). I cannot imagine doing what I do anywhere else. I do love coaching people to find their best selves, so if I were ever do anything different, it would be along those lines.”
Outside of work? “I adore my family, so time with them (my husband, our son, and our extended family) is my favourite extracurricular.”
For those about to enter the workforce, Rachel shares some valuable insights….
“Knowing what you want is great, but even greater is paying attention to what you enjoy. I have met many people who felt they knew what they wanted and were shaken when they started doing it and didn’t feel like it was working. I know many people (myself included) who didn’t know for sure, but instead started building experiences that felt good and found a way to pull the pieces together into a vision. In either case, paying attention to what was working and what wasn’t made a huge difference in building a career. Start with what feels good (whether that’s job security, good pay, the mail room at your dream company, or a service job that lets you create what you want) and pay attention to whether it actually feels good while you’re there, what doesn’t feel good, and what’s missing. Keep filling in what’s missing, and letting go of what’s not working. Trust that the puzzle comes together.”