Leading a Customer Advisory Team: David’s Story

By Michelle Doyle, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



Amanda Stark is The Friendly Visitor

By Emma Kushnir, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Amanda Stark has worked for her own self-started business The Friendly Visitor, in London, for fourteen months. After attending Emmanuel Bible College in Kitchener, she realized there was a lack of support for those with Parkinson’s Disease and other seniors’ needs. As The Friendly Visitor, she provides companionship, helping-hand services, and life-skills coaching, in order to facilitate clients’ independence at home and to connect them with other resources.  Her goal is to help her clients live as well, and as independently, as possible.  

As the owner of The Friendly Visitor, Amanda manages all of the administrative tasks, and all marketing initiatives, including advertising, social media, community networking and the website. She first became interested in this type of work when she was living with her uncle who has Parkinson’s Disease.  Amanda used to help him around the house, drive him to appointments, and go on weekly movie dates. This, as well as her experience and visits with her grandmother, inspired Amanda to venture into this line of work.

Amanda has a counselling degree from Emmanuel Bible College, and many years of administrative assistant and customer service work. In addition to these skills, she explains that “this job takes a certain personality to connect with clients and to build rapport.”  The job also involves conflict management, facilitating group discussion and awareness of mental health concerns. She notes that “given the general nature of the helping hands component, it also requires a willingness to get our hands dirty and do whatever is needed. In some cases the skill of resourcefulness has been my best asset, by helping with pets, making meals, and doing laundry, among other things.”  Also important for anyone who is self-employed are time management skills -- knowing how to prioritize tasks and optimize time in the schedule.   Having a general knowledge of the operational side of business, Amanda also knows where she should hire out, so she can focus on the things she’s good at.  For example?  “I enjoy coordinating and customer service, but I am not great with numbers so that’s why I have a bookkeeper. Networking is another strength that fits well with running a business. Making connections in the business community as well as in the public is what goes the extra mile to spread the word about a small business.”

When asked why she loves her work, Amanda has a long list!  “I love my clients – I think my seniors are my favorites. I don’t have any grandparents, so I love hearing their stories and getting their advice on life. It’s the relationships in general that are my favorite – whether learning from other business owners, connecting with people in the community, or staying in touch with the families of the people I serve. I also love the variety, the fact one day I’m gardening, the next day I’m moving furniture and the next I’m having a conversation about life skills.” Speaking of a particular 93-year-old client, Amanda loves hearing her old stories about London many years ago, and that she considers Amanda family. Similarly, she enjoyed working with an 83-year old client who shared many stories about growing up in Greece, moving to Canada and making a life there.

Making the decision to go into business for herself was the biggest decision that Amanda has ever made. She could have worked for someone else, but because of a physical injury she also needs specific prioritizing. So working for herself seemed best.  Another hard decision involved whether to follow the advice of others or do what she felt was right. Amanda explains that “many well-meaning people had advice about the different aspects of getting started, but not all advice was helpful or fruitful. Along with that, knowing who I could trust was a big challenge.” Her branding was also critically important, so she did a lot of research before her business name and logo were created.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the biggest challenge Amanda faced was finances. It was difficult starting a business when there wasn’t much money coming in at the beginning. She was lucky enough to go through the Ontario Self-Employment Benefit program before its recent cancellation.  Getting attention for her business was also challenging since her advertising budget was focused on word-of-mouth marketing.   Amanda acknowledges that she had her moments of doubt wondering if this was “the right path” for her, but quickly adds that “I absolutely know 100% that it is…no good thing is accomplished without a little struggle.”

Amanda’s advice for others?  “Be honest with yourself. If you are not a self-starter, you probably shouldn’t start your own business!  But trust yourself. You know what you know – be confident in that. Reflect on what you’re good at and choose a career that focuses on your strengths. Don’t just go where someone tells you to go – if I had done that, I would still be sitting at a receptionist desk somewhere.”

Find out more at The Friendly Visitor website: http://www.thefriendlyvisitor.ca

 

Science Career Development Coordinator: Kristen’s Story

By Mariana Hernández-Hernández, WorkStory Ambassador at Memorial University

Kristen’s work story, like many others, teaches us that “careers are not linear.” She, who pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Education thinking that she would be a K-6 teacher, is now a Science Career Development Coordinator.

As a Science Career Development Coordinator, Kristen helps university students, especially science students, with their job search, resumes and mock interviews. She also connects science students with alumni and employers working in the industry by creating and hosting networking events on campus.

On a normal day, she holds one-on-one career consultations, she plans, organizes and facilitates career networking events for science students, Science Career Talks (science alumni present to science students about how they navigated their job search and landed their careers), weekly career development workshops for science students, and she also helps her co-workers with other on-campus events, such as the Career Fair.

What she loves about her job is that it’s the perfect balance between counselling (helping/ guiding) and teaching, and she enjoys very much meeting with students in a one-on-one setting.

How did she get to this position?

After gaining her Education degree, she had difficulty in finding a permanent position as a teacher. So, for four years she had to hold various part-time positions such as substitute teacher for K-6, various tutoring/teaching positions, ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) Therapist and housekeeper.

Still uncertain about what to choose as a career path and aware of the job hunting skills that she had lacked as a new graduate, Kristen decided to go back to school. She knew now that teaching in a classroom setting wasn’t her passion after all and that perhaps she preferred working more one- on- one with individuals. She knew she loved helping others and working with students, so she thought that pursuing a Master of Education (Counselling Psychology) would take her to the right professional path, which still remained unknown to her.

Kristen started her master’s program without still having a clear idea of what she was going to do with her degree when she finished. During her master’s degree, Kristen completed a Career Counselling course. Since she had struggled with finding a job after her Education degree and also with deciding what to choose as a career path, the idea of helping people as a career counsellor seemed very attractive. Wanting to know more about this career path and hoping to be selected, she applied to a four-month internship position at the university Career Centre (Career Development and Experiential Learning).

Upon a successful application, for four months, she had the opportunity to experience what it would be like to be a Career Coach. During her internship, she provided career advice to students and she assisted them with the preparation of resumes and cover letters as well as with mock interviews. She also helped at career and experiential learning events organized by the Career Development and Experiential Learning Centre.

After this four-month experience, which she really enjoyed, she knew that it was her calling. In the meantime, Kristen had to look for other options. She was able to find an alternative job on campus in Human Resources, and although Kristen liked many aspects of this other positon, her heart had stayed at the Career Centre… Luckily, after five months of working in Human Resources, one day, she noticed a job opening for a Science Career Development Coordinator at the Career Centre and applied for it. She ended up gaining an interview and landed the job. Kristen couldn’t be happier.

Now, after one year working at the Career Centre, Kristen still loves what she does and hopes to continue working there.

Finally, Kristen leaves us with some career advice:

Research reveals that the average person changes their career SEVEN times in their lifetime! Therefore, people shouldn’t become discouraged just because they change their mind about what to do in life. It is “normal” to have many interests and have various jobs in our lifetime. Besides, we live in a contractual society, so it’s becoming more and more common for people not to work “permanently” in the same job. What is ‘essential’ in our society is to know how to ‘transfer’ the skills that you gain in one job to lead you to the next one.

Be proactive in finding your career (finding a job can be a full-time job!) Learn how to best articulate your skills to employers. If you are at Memorial University, come visit the Career Development and Experiential Learning Centre to gain knowledge of your own career interests and what career opportunities there are for you.  Not at Memorial?  Take advantage of similar services – while you are a student – at your college or university! It will help you in the long run.