Media Maven, Aicha Cisse

By Abigayle Walker, WorkStory Ambassador at University of Ottawa

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Aicha Cisse is the Web Editor of MSN Canada, in charge of the Entertainment and Sports pages. Aicha is also responsible for the marketing of the Microsoft online store on MSN. She decides which Microsoft electronics or merchandise the site will promote and how it will be promoted. She likens her job to that of an Editor of an online magazine.

On a regular day, Aicha prioritizes any advertising campaigns that are running on the site. She works directly with advertisers on campaigns in order to generate a certain amount of clicks. If a campaign isn’t running, she focusses on keeping the site up to date with content, especially for the Entertainment and Sports pages. She sorts through the latest news stories from content providers like TMZ, Vanity Fair, and Vogue feeds and decides which source and content to feature on the site.

At Concordia University, Aicha originally majored in Biology. She soon discovered that the sciences were not the best fit for her; so she decided to seek assistance from her university’s career centre. The councillor gave Aicha a personality test, which revealed that she was well-suited to a career in Communications.  With this information in hand, Aicha transferred into the Communications program at Concordia University. After her program change, she found her passion for media and journalism. Beginning to work in newsrooms, Aicha learned that her niches were magazines and television.

Aicha started out as a writer for a start-up magazine, in the entertainment and lifestyle section. There she was able to build her portfolio and gain experience in the field. Due to the harsh competitive market, the magazine folded after the publication’s first issue. Being the go-getter that she is, Aicha pushed forward and found an internship at the CTV as a reporter for E-talk. Since this internship was unpaid, she searched online for work and stumbled across a positing for a Community Manager at Yahoo Canada.  Her responsibilities for this job were to moderate, screen spam comments, and to report abusive language that she found on the Yahoo Answer website. She developed an interest in further responsibilities whilst she was learning from her senior management team at Yahoo.  As people eventually left the company, Aicha was able to apply for an opening as a News Editor. From here, she gained a deeper interest in online news, social media, and  new technology.  She eventually got laid off from Yahoo, but through her strong networking abilities and experience in the flied, Aicha was soon hired at her position at Microsoft.

Aicha stresses that the industry she is in is extremely competitive. Her advice?  Work hard and hustle.  Be persistent. Develop impeccable writing and communication skills.  And above all else, know how to sell yourself! 

Making Connections! Erika Faust’s Communication Story

By Erin Annis, WorkStory Ambassador at University of Guelph

One of the most inspiring quotes I have heard in regards to careers is “You’re most powerful where your passion is.” Erika Faust has followed this guiding light to grasp her personal career success.

Erika is currently the Corporate and Internal Communications Assistant at Toronto Community Housing.  She is also a freelance writer and editor.  The path to follow her dreams began with her love for reading and writing.  Throughout school – at the University of Guelph-Humber – she had recognized her passion for writing and began editing her friend’s papers (even later on, editing her friend’s university thesis!).   Recognizing her love for editing, Erika became the go-to editor for her friends and family for whom she reviewed reports, resumes and more.

Her writing and editing skills became a key part of Erika’s career journey during her fourth year at Guelph-Humber, where she took Media Studies. During that year, she landed an internship in the Advertising department of her hometown newspaper, the London Free Press.  Her boss recognized such talent in Erika that when she left to start her own communications firm, she hired Erika right away to do freelance writing and editing for her (and has been doing so ever since!)

Prior to working at Toronto Community Housing, Erika worked both as a staff writer for the Fanshawe College newspaper “Interrobang” as well as an Internal Communications Coordinator at Goodlife Fitness.  These roles gave her integral skills pertaining to her career.  Her job as a staff writer allowed her to gain management experience once she was promoted to editor, managing a team of 20 students.  Her experience at Goodlife was a refreshing change as it involved duties such as administering the intranet site and even some event planning. 

The game changer for Erika was the big move from London to Toronto after her husband found employment there.  Although this involved “abandoning” the place she grew up in and jumping into a situation of uncertainty, Erika viewed this experience as a “big adventure”.  During this time, she didn’t lose sight of her passion and continued to do freelance writing as she searched for a new job. 

Periods of unemployment are a major struggle for young people.  As Erika put it “It’s scary not knowing if you’re going to be able to find a job, and it can be really disheartening.”  Here is what she focused on to combat this period of unemployment:

• Networking with people with interesting jobs. “I set up informational interviews to get advice from different people. We chatted about my options and they told me what they thought I could do to shine as a job seeker.”

• Continuing education. “I tried to use the Duolingo app to learn French – I didn’t get very far with it, but I did practice every day during the summer! I also attended several communications-focused webinars and took an online class in WordPress through Udemy.”

• Doing some freelance and part-time work. “It kept my skills sharp, expanded my writing portfolio and gave me something to talk about in interviews.”

• Volunteering. “I signed up to help out at some local events, and I became a regular volunteer at a local museum. Volunteering helped me get acquainted with my new city, and I got to meet lots of like-minded people – people who just like to help out and get involved.”

Starting September 2015, Erika began her current communications role with Toronto Community Housing.  One of the most rewarding parts of her job is the non-profit environment.  “Toronto Community Housing serves about 6 percent of the population in Toronto.  I really like knowing I am part of an organization that helps so many people.”

Erika’s key to success?  Making connections!

“My boss during my London Free Press internship gave me my first paid writing and editing gig. Connections I made while working at Fanshawe College have hooked me up with freelance work. A reporter I met while attending an event in 2013 eventually became a managing editor at Metro newspaper in Toronto and gave me a part-time copy editor job. My mom – who is truly a master networker – has introduced me to some really fabulous people who gave me a ton of insight and helped prepare me for future job interviews.”

Reaching out can be the most difficult, yet beneficial, move that you can make to enhance your career- but it is 100% recommended.

“If you see someone on LinkedIn who works at a company you admire in a role you’d love, reach out to them! It may seem a little awkward at first, but I promise, it gets easier every time you do it. People are usually flattered when you ask them for advice, and they often want to help you out – maybe their company isn’t hiring, but maybe they know another great place that needs someone with your exact skill set. Even if the connection doesn’t help you find a job, it can be a really valuable learning opportunity.”

The ability to put yourself out there is integral for making the best out of your career journey.  Erika is an exemplary model having followed her passion, staying open minded and continually making important career connections.