Putting It All Together: Michelle’s Public Relations Story

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Michelle Praymayer is the Public Relations and Promotional Events Assistant at Home Hardware Stores Limited for the head office in St. Jacobs, Ontario. With previous employment in the radio and television industries, and as a former student of both Conestoga and Fanshawe College, Michelle has used her promotional and media experiences to excel as a member of the Home Hardware team.

Michelle says that she loves “the variety” that her job brings: “Every day is unique and I get to be a part of so many neat things.” Along with variety, Michelle loves the atmosphere surrounding her workplace: “It’s a family business. It’s a small town environment and most people know each other and are very friendly.... It adds to the charm.”

 On a typical day,  Michelle can be found phoning store owners and customers, picking products to donate to fundraisers, answering emails, creating and editing press releases or newsletter articles, as well as creating product lists. On the not-so typical days, Michelle’s variety of tasks increases! For example, earlier this year, she organized the entertainment for Home Hardware Canada's national Dealer Market event, which included a circus act called, “The Aerial Angels” and she was chosen to coordinate the Lieutenant Governor’s visit to the Home Hardware distribution centre as well. In addition, Michelle has suited up as the mascot, “Handy the Helpful Hound” for Thanksgiving and Christmas parades. Through her work, she was also able to attend the 2014 International Plowing Match which took place in Alliston, ON. Michelle has even worked alongside the experts seen in the Home Hardware commercials, Mark Cullen and Anna Olson!

 Initially, Michelle wasn’t expecting to get the job: “My mom worked there first and brought home the posting. I applied in March... and didn’t get a call until end of May. They hired me in that interview.” Michelle began working at Home Hardware in June 2014 and credits her previous experiences, including volunteer work, for helping her acquire this position. “Say yes to every opportunity” says Praymayer. “Volunteer in the field or a related field early to gain the competitive edge and make you more appealing to the employer.”

 Michelle studied at Conestoga College in her hometown of Kitchener for a career in Broadcasting; This led to appearances on television and radio and many other opportunities. After one year, she changed directions and continued her education at Fanshawe College in London with the Music Industry Arts program. After graduating, Michelle took some time off and returned to Conestoga to become an Event Planner. Michelle says that she is still figuring out what to do with her life. However, she has been able to successfully apply aspects from all of her programs as a Public Relations and Promotional Events Assistant for Home Hardware:

 “It’s really neat to see things from my past coming up” Praymayer explains. Michelle worked on entertainment contracts while in school, which is something she has to do at work when booking the entertainment for various events. “I created training videos here [and] I used previous knowledge from my writing skills [I] developed [as a writer for] SportsXpress magazines”. Michelle also had previous work experience in the food industry which has helped her to create menus for other special events. Although Michelle Praymayer may be unclear on what her future holds, it is certain that she will continue to excel at what she does, thanks to her hard work and determination, in whatever field she chooses.

Not Just a Dirty Trade

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

Shawn Sellon's path started at Saunders Secondary School in London, ON where he spent two years learning the art of welding. The Grade 11 and 12 classroom introduction lit the flame of passion. He continued on to take a Welder/Fitter program at Conestoga College. After completing this program, Shawn attained all his welding certifications and started working at Tigercat Industries in Cambridge. However, he wasn't done with Conestoga yet and went on to tackle the Welding Engineering Technician program. This led him into robotic welding and to learn the science behind it.

 All these experiences changed Shawn's perspective of what he thought was a smoke filled and messy job: "it showed me that there was more than just what was thought of as a dirty, Red Seal trade. It was now something more..and interesting!"

 Shawn shared the experiences that have stayed with him throughout his career: "Everything I ever did with my time at Conestoga. All the professors involved in the welding programs have industry experience. They know what is required from graduates as they move into the workforce and I think this is a critical factor in why these poly-technical programs have a good history. The skills I have found most useful would be working in groups, good communication, and report/memo writing. It is critical in manufacturing environments to be able to work effectively in a group. Writing reports and detailed emails are important for Technical/Technologist's positions. All of these skills were attained from my educational experience at Conestoga, and have helped me tremendously "

 A day on the job for Shawn is full of high temperatures and lots of responsibility: "I'm in charge of the robotic welding operations, and all welding applications that are done at our two facilities in Stoney Creek. Jayne Industries, where I work now, is a refractory hardware and fabrication company for the oil, gas, and steel industry. Refractory is a ceramic compound that is lined on the inside of furnaces that operate at a high temperature above 1500F. If the refractory was not in place, the steel structure of the vessel would deform with the high heat. To anchor this refractory material on the furnace wall, stainless and Inconel fabricated materials are used. These procedures are completed at Jayne. To weld exotic alloys like these, it has to be done properly. Most of these fabrications are done robotically in a controlled environment, using the right processes and consumables. I am in charge of developing the procedure to weld the materials, program the fabrication, and supervise production afterwards. I train and teach employees to use the new technology involved in our facility, and provide any technical information to customers.  Customers such as Exxon Mobile, which is the largest energy company in the world. Our anchoring systems are used on shut-downs when they are replacing refractory material on a refinery."

 Shawn is extremely satisfied with what he's accomplished so far. He is always learning about new technology and information. He has accepted a leadership role as a floor supervisor, which has improved  his skill set. He has learn what he and his team are capable of and how to deal with conflict among employees.

When asked what the most rewarding part of pursuing welding was, Shawn said that seeing how much his educational background is acknowledged in the industry is a bonus.

He also doesn't mind the fact that he is 21 and doing ok for himself. The starting salary for a Welding Technologist is about $55,000 yearly. Along with the nice pay, Shawn says he appreciates that the learning possibilities are endless.

  As for advice, Shawn says that the more education you have the better. The more aspects of any trade that you know, the more opportunities and skills you will gain.

A “Patch of Uncertainty” Fuelled This Career Counsellor’s Career Change

By Jodi Lastman

In my current Career Counselling practice I ask people: “When you were young, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?”

My answer to that question is interesting. I said that I wanted to create female mannequins that more accurately depicted real women.  I’m not exactly sure where I got the idea (I think I saw a news piece on someone who was doing this). What I glean from this early answer is that I wanted to do something meaningful and disrupt the status quo.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the interest in women’s representation, I ended up majoring in Women’s Studies and English at University of Western Ontario. I liked Women’s Studies so much that I ended up doing a Master’s at The Ohio State University.

My Master’s was the greatest two years of my life. But this blissful period came to an abrupt end as soon as I started to consider my “real world” options. The end of my Master’s was quickly approaching and I didn’t know what to do next. 

So, I did what any respectable person in my position would do...I went to Law School. Wait, I should rephrase that. I went to Law School for one semester. I left in a blur of anxiety, disappointment and utter confusion. What followed was a three year period in which I did the following:

  • Worked at The Volunteer Centre of Metro Toronto
  • Completed a certificate in Arts Management (including 2 internships)
  • Completed two years of a PhD in Film Studies in Pittsburgh
  • Quit the PhD and came home to Toronto

Behind all of the bouncing-around was a longing to do something good and meaningful in a world that seemed to be all about selling consumer goods that I had no interest in peddling. I had an existential angst that I couldn’t shake. I wanted to contribute but didn’t know how.

I articulated this to a Head-Hunter who specialized in the ad agency world. I plainly told him “I think I want to be in advertising, but I don’t want to sell soap.” His eyes lit up. That’s when I first discovered how powerful it can be when you can clearly articulate what you want. If you can’t say it, how can you hope to get it? A new path opened up and I’ve followed it for the last ten years.

The Head-Hunter helped me land a job at Manifest Communications, a Social Marketing agency that works with non-profit clients in Toronto. After my second daughter was born, my husband coaxed me into joining his marketing company, Hypenotic,  as General Manager.  I’ve been at Hypenotic for the past five years. Together with our awesome team, my husband and I have developed a really robust client base of incredible people from places like MaRS Discovery District, The Gladstone Hotel, Toronto Public Health, Fiesta Farms and others. I lead research and strategy with these values-based clients and project manage both on and offline projects that help them amplify and spread the important issues they represent. Hypenotic is also a B Corp. That means we’re certified as a “good company” based on how we treat the environment, community and our employees. In short, it’s a company I’m proud to be part of.

Two years ago, however, I circled back to the perennial question everyone asks themselves; “What kind of work would I find most meaningful?” In thinking about this I considered what I liked best about the last ten years in marketing. I realized that it is meeting clients and helping them transform information into insights. I also revisited that painful three-year period in which I struggled to find work that I found meaningful. Finally I thought about my brother and other people who I’d known who’d experienced painful struggles to be happy in their careers. And, I decided to make a change.

I’m now in the final stages of becoming certified as a Career Development Practitioner or what's more commonly known as a Career Counsellor. I’ve taken one day a week away from Hypenotic to do my coursework at Conestoga College and I’ll be a Certified Career Counsellor in January. I’m at the tail end of my practicum which has confirmed that this is a great line of work for me.

Working one on one with clients to make sense of their career and life stories is a great use of the skills I honed working in marketing for the past ten years and it’s meaningful work that makes a tangible difference in the lives of others.

It turns out that three-year patch of uncertainty had a much bigger impact on my life than I could have ever imagined. It was a difficult time but it would have been much easier had I realized that something so good would come out of it. Career change is an interesting process. When you’re calm and clear headed enough to articulate what you want for your career, and life, pathways start to open up. This is what I hope to help my future clients understand.

In the meantime my career and life continue to be a living experiment in what can happen if you face uncertainty with courage. I believe that the trick is taking a little bit of time (it only takes a few hours to get clarity on this stuff and we spend 8 hours A DAY at our jobs) to articulate what you want for your career so you can courageously move in that direction. My work is a work in progress, but I kind of figure it’s a process that won’t ever end. And I’m starting to get used to that idea.