More Than Counting Pills

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

 Salma Ghanie was introduced to pharmacy work through a Which Career is Right for You? test in Grade 10. She had always had a fascination with medications and what they do to the human body, but had never known what to do with that fascination. When she took the test, most of her career results were something to do with the outdoors but, interestingly, one of the final ones was a “pharmacist”. Salma decided to act on this and in Grade 11 she tried a co-op placement at Shoppers Drug Mart, which she loved!  A few years later, that experience made applying for her program an easy choice.

 Salma studied at Fanshawe College for 2 years in the Pharmacy Technician program, and loved it: "It was hard and tough, for sure, but it was fun for me. There's a ton of math, chemistry, and pharmacology. We had a course on pharmacy law that was brutal. Like most people I always thought that a Pharm Tech just counted pills; but no, there is so much more to what I do than counting pills and putting a label on a vial or a box."

 In second year, Salma had the chance to experience both a hospital and retail placement opportunity. She did not find the retail portion very helpful, as she was only able to shadow, and didn't really gain any hands-on experience.  When asked what courses were particularly beneficial, Salma shared the following:  “Pharmacy law for sure, math, compounding (making drugs), pharmacology and the practical retail course I took, that course taught us so much. Retail Pharmacy, it was a two part course and taught us everything from, drug names, chemicals, Latin, math, communication, and how to count things properly."  She uses aspects of these every day.

 In spite of the retail placement not going so well, Salma grew to love the retail setting as, according to her, you actually get to see and interact with the people you're helping. In her current position at Shoppers Drug Mart in St. Thomas, Ontario, Salma does just that. Her day is filled with answering phones, processing and dispensing prescriptions, and communicating with doctors, patients, and customers alike. She shared the most rewarding part of the job: "I think the most rewarding thing is that once you get to know patients, they will confide in you and they will tell you what's on their mind and how they are feeling and it’s really nice knowing someone trusts you. Whether they are 30 or 85!  People know my name and when they want my help specifically, that’s when I know I've made a difference"

 As content as she is right now, Salma would like to continue up the ladder to be a full-fledged pharmacist. Her ultimate goal is to become a pharmaceutical chemist.

 As for advice, Salma says you have to be caring and compassionate, as well as know how to multi-task with things like phone conversations and counting pills and dosages at the same time. Patience is also key when the pharmacy is busy. If you are not good with math, a pharmacy is not the place for you. It is also necessary to learn how to read “doctor scribble”. As hard as some of this may seem, Salma says it all comes together with practice.  

Make Some Noise with Transistor!

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

Formed in 2007, and based out of Barrie, Ontario. Transistor is a four member, award-nominated band. They have released two full length albums and are about to release their yet-to-be-named third in 2015, fusing a power-chord rock sound together with blends of blues, punk and country.

 The band's recipe is simple. A hard driving focus and power-filled songs, combine with intricate lyrics, to reveal music that ranges from melodic to heavy. Steve Wishart's vocals twist and turn throughout the songs, weaving an energy of rich harmonies with lead guitarist and backing vocalist Chris Nunes. The group's nucleus is held together by Joel Schonewille's steady rhythms on drums. Bass player Don Lindsay intertwines unorthodox bass lines to bring the songs together. Transistor has performed many shows and appeared at Earth Hour Music Festival, Barrie New Music Fest and Music on Main.

 Behind their unique sound, is a unique career path chosen by each band member. As Steve recounts "All of us have really taken different courses and schooling to get to where we are today. Being an honours graduate of the Georgian College Graphic Design program I have found that my career path has helped to give our band an identity, overall look and appearance. Because of my education, we have merchandise to sell and a website to promote ourselves and a visual presence that we can take pride in.  From an artistic point of view, I can utilize my training to think creatively and outside of the norms to not only brand us, but apply it to other forms of the group such as songwriting or making videos. It's the creativity that allows me to write lyrics to a song or help structure a guitar part. Music is much like design or any kind of art...everyone starts with a blank canvas and as an artist it's up to us to fill it with a picture that others can connect with on whatever level. But in this case our medium is our instruments".

 The band's drummer Joel took Radio Television Arts at Ryerson University. This gave him some audio training in a broadcast domain and an idea of the process radio stations use to select music for their playlists.  Guitarist and backing vocalist, Chris tried out Computer Programming, but never quite finished.  It was in his free time that he learned the art of guitar.

 When asked which school experiences helped the most, lead singer Steve said that he never really excelled in music in school. He didn't like the structure of music teachers assigning the roles played in a band. He wanted to be an individual.  Steve took private music lessons which boosted his confidence. This experience inspired him to learn independently and to decide for himself what role he would play.  Although Chris did not finish his post-secondary program, he notes that the time he spent there was worthwhile: "For the three of us school was our experience that helped define us. It's where we met, forged a friendship and started the roots of our band. Joel, Steve and myself have played together for many years in various bands. In a way, you can consider that a career, as most bands don't last even a quarter of that time together."

 A day on the job can vary, depending on whether the band members are performing or recording.  If they are performing, they have to incorporate extra time to travel, set up equipment, and make sure the instruments are working and sounding right; and then there is the work and effort that comes with putting on a good show.

Recording is a different story, because the band can either work together, or separately. They can work on their sound in the comfort of their own homes, and then come together to make the whole masterpiece. Practices happen once a month, and can last anywhere from 5 to 10 hours. Recording gives the band more time for sleep, and family; but for Chris there is nothing better then when they come over to his place for a jam session, and create new music. 

 There are many rewarding things about being in a band, including the fans, and seeing a song come to life. Steve explains the best part for him: "From a body of work perspective we are about to release our third album, and I always find that fulfilling and exciting...so first and foremost I would say writing the music tops the list. This is followed closely by the atmosphere of being in a band. It's truly like a family at times. Sharing ideas and creative moments right to traveling and performing live and having people listen to your music and like it."

 They admit that they would like to "make it big" with Transistor, but they know the industry is not what it used to be. Nonetheless they will continue making music because it's what they love. When asked for advice for those who may be interested in entering the industry, the band collectively agreed that you can't expect to "get rich quick".  You should make music because you love it; and stay away from today's talent shows that ultimately try to seize creative control.

You can find out more about Transistor at their website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube.

Online Learning Leads to Secure Career

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

Shane Cuillerier wanted a change of scenery from the Walmart Electronics department, so he began his search online, where, at Blue Knight Security, he found the courses necessary to apply to write a Security Exam. He started at a slow pace, then, during recovery from surgery, he took the time to accelerate through the course order to get his mind off of the recovery process. Shane completed his Private Security & Investigative Service Act course (PSISA), and applied to take the Provincial Security Exam which he passed.

Shane says that almost everything from his studies continues to stick with him, because it is practical and he uses the protocol every day: "What I've learned while doing my studies online is what makes a great security guard vs. your average guard. You need to put other people's values in your mind like they're your own. Let's say I was watching over someone's summer home while they were gone away. In my mind I pretend it's my property, making sure nothing happens to it. It just makes me focus so much more. I learned how to deal with unwanted people without it getting out of hand; how to talk to people who are very angry, so that I can de-escalate the situation. I learned about a lot of laws around Canada; what I can do and can't do. When I'm allowed to use force and not."  The only thing Shane hasn't had to exercise is what to do in the face of a robbery --  and he hopes he will not have to!

Working in the security field wasnt always in Shanes plans. He recalls his father teaching him to draw at the age of six and that for years he had an interest in careers related to drawing and creativity.  While in school, he wanted to be everything from a graphic designer to a professional gardener.  However, more recently, Shane became interested in work done by police officers, which resulted in pursuing the security qualification and gaining necessary security-related experience.

Currently, Shane works at a medicinal production plant. His job is to monitor cameras and workers to make sure everything runs smoothly. At the end of a shift, he records all the happenings in a log book. The most rewarding part of the job, he says, is providing the people you work for with a sense of protection. He loves coming to work every day knowing that those he works for are happy to see him.

The next step for Shane is to apply for both his restricted and non-restricted gun licenses. He also hopes to apply to Garda, where he will learn the practices of money transfers for either banks or businesses.  

When asked for advice for those entering the security field, Shane emphasizes the importance of paying close attention to detail.  If anything happens in a tight situation, the more detail that one is able to give, the better!

Becoming a Chef and Catering Entrepreneur: Tyler’s Story

Like a lot of us, Tyler found work that is a “perfect fit” only after life took a few twist and turns…personal, geographical, and professional.  Now a Red Seal chef and catering entrepreneur in Calgary, he loves what he does and seems confident he always will!

Shannon Sutherland Smith shares Tyler’s inspiring culinary and entrepreneurial story!

“Tyler Handy took the first tentative steps down his career path at the tender age of 14, working at a Burger King in Ontario to support himself while trying desperately to keep his head above water in a tourist town known for its world-famous waterfalls and affluence.”

Read more about the Red Seal program and Postmedia’s terrific Trades Alberta series

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.