Finding Her Voice: Rachael Courtemanche’s WorkStory

By Erica Pulling, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University & Rachael Courtemanche


Rachael Courtemanche is the Communications Coordinator at the London Economic Development Corporation (LEDC). LEDC is the lead economic development agency for the city of London, Canada. Rachael’s role focuses on content creation for the LEDC and local small-to-medium businesses to help tell their stories, as well as implementing communications, marketing, and social media strategies.

With a strong desire to help others, Rachael completed the Social Service Worker (SSW) program at Fanshawe College (2011-13). During the program, however, she realized the hands-on, high stress environment an SSW can face was not the right fit for her. Rachael was up for a challenge, but felt this wasn’t the kind she was looking for. It wasn’t until Rachael took a step back and re-evaluated exactly what she wanted to study and what she felt she could excel at that she realized what her calling was: writing.

At the time, Western University was one of the only nearby educational institutions that offered degrees in Creative Writing. With a love for living in London, it was a clear choice for Rachael. From 2013 until graduation in 2016, she studied English Language and Literature and Creative Writing at Western. While at first Rachael  didn’t know exactly where the program would take her career-wise, she knew pursuing her passion for writing was worthwhile.

During her time at Western, Rachael took part in the work-study program where she worked as a Copywriter for the Faculty of Science. In this role, she interviewed faculty, alumni, and current students and created articles about their research and initiatives. With no science background, it was a true test for Rachael to take complex, scientific information, and boil it down to what mattered most: why what they were doing is so important.

It was this opportunity that opened her eyes to the field of Communications and Marketing, which to her was the perfect fit for leveraging her writing talents and helping others better share their stories. It’s where she found her voice and discovered how it could be used to help others.

Following her work-study role, Rachael began her current role as Communications Coordinator at the LEDC during the summer of 2015. The role was a summer student position and Rachael had one final year of school left, so she knew her job search wasn’t over yet. However, the skills gained from her work and educational experiences proved valuable to the corporation, and they wanted to keep her on the team. Rachael continued her role in a part-time capacity during the school year which evolved into full-time upon graduation.

Just over two years later, Rachael continues leveraging her writing, editing, communications, and creative skills every day at the LEDC. A typical day for Rachael starts with a media scan for interesting stories about local businesses in London to share and promote.  She also spends her mornings focusing on any big, on-going projects or high priority items. Her day changes often, which keeps things interesting and keeps Rachael on her toes. 

One of Rachael’s favourite parts of the job is that she has learned so much about London, the businesses here, and can help many different companies share their stories within and beyond London. It has reignited her love for the city in which she lives and makes her appreciate the innovations grown right here in London.

Rachael’s advice for current students is to start thinking about what you want to do as soon as you can!  Once you know, you can start gaining relevant experience in the field you are interested in pursuing, which will help you find a job after graduation. Whether it be through work or volunteer experience, Rachael recommends getting involved through school programs and faculties.

“Seek volunteer, work-study, or committee experiences that will build your resume and give you hands-on skills you may not gain in your program. And of course, study what you love and love what you study – and let that approach spill over into your career choices too” said Rachael.

Building Relationships at Ellipsis Digital

By  Veerta Singh, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Brett McKenzie is the Relationship Manager at Ellipsis Digital, located in London, Ontario. This job title encompasses various aspects such as sales, post-project support, technical support but mainly client relations and project management.

Ellipsis Digital is a growing agency and is constantly trying to figure out in which direction to grow.  When asked what about working at Ellipsis Digital inspires Brett he said “The people. This is a really great team and they’re all very interesting and smart people. We work on projects that excite us and interest us as well. Our clients are interesting as well. People in the mental health or addictions field, people in the arts, people in the non-profit sector. and so on. But it’s the people we work with and our clients that excite us. They all care about this community and each other, they care about the families. They care and that’s really inspiring to be around.”

Brett didn’t even realize this job existed previously and he doesn’t expect to be doing it forever either. “That’s not the way things are anymore.” He earned his Honors degree in English from Huron College in 1999 as well as his Bachelor of Education after that. He was originally planning on being an English and Social Studies teacher. “I taught for about five years, but there are a lot more teachers than there are jobs right now. So after struggling with it for a long time, I gave up on it for a while and started working in the non-profit sector. I was doing campaign, office and project management in that I was planning events, although I didn’t think of myself as a project manager at the time. I worked for the Liver Foundation and after he moved to the Arts Project, which is a small art gallery and theatre downtown. I loved that job, I was working with writers, poets, actors, directors and other people who were passionate about the arts. But the money wasn’t there and I had a family at the time so it was time to move on.”

When Brett was in the non-profit sector, he spent a long time looking for jobs and new work. After 3 years at the Arts Project he found a job he worked as a letter carrier. “With a job like that though, once you learn the route, the job never gets any easier or harder, it only gets more tedious.” But after a few years, Brett found an opening at Ellipsis Digital and he knew it was an interesting job.

Brett has been working at Ellipsis Digital for over a year and a half now and a common day at Ellipsis Digital begins bright and early for him. “I’m usually one of the first ones here. They tend to start a little late, we’re pretty flexible. We have a meeting at 9:30 a.m. and then I go through my inbox and deal with client requests. I make sure everyone has everything they need, and talking to clients to make sure we have approval on prototypes and decisions.”

During his downtime, Brett reads a lot and consumes a lot of pop culture (movies, Netflix). He also enjoys working out, running and doing karate. He’s constantly checking social media and reading. “When I look at Facebook it’s because people share articles. I pay attention to economics, psychology and other sociology aspects”.

Staying engaged and paying attention are two things Brett considers important to be successful in your field of work. “We build websites and applications, but for us those are tools to help people engage with other people. If we build a website for a theatre, it’s to encourage ticket sales. But we want to encourage ticket sales because we want people to experience live theatre and stay engaged. We deal with pixels all day, but we’re moving those pixels around to help people find people.”

When asked about advice for entering the workforce, Brett says “keep your eyes open. It used to be work hard, study hard. I’ve come to believe people aren’t lazy, they’re just disengaged. I say this as a teacher, when I had a student who didn’t show up to class it wasn’t because they were lazy it was because they weren’t interested in school. School isn’t always for everybody. When you’re passionate about what you do, you become interested. Know there is a lot more out there that engages you and appreciate as much as you can. Try new things, work hard and have a good time. Prioritize but don’t discard something. Also, listen to other advice, but evaluate it. And there are some things you won’t be able to do. There are books you won’t be able to read, people you won’t be able to meet, and you just have to accept it.”

Plans Change, Opportunities Arise: Kerstin’s Story

Facilitated by Devin Gordon, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

My name is Kerstin Newman and I am 27 years old. I am German and spent the first 22 years of my life in Germany. Growing up, I always wanted a job where I could help people…in what way, I didn’t really care at the time. I used to envy people who knew exactly what they wanted to become and what they had to do to get there as I never had any specific plans. I was never confident in my abilities and didn’t know what career I wanted to pursue. I just knew I wanted to work with people my age or kids. So after graduating high school, I went to university to study German and English in the teaching program for German high schools (Grades 5-12).

During those university years, I went on an exchange and spent a year at the University of Waterloo, in Canada, where I completed my Master’s degree in German Studies. While everybody thought it was kind of strange that I left Germany to do an M.A. in German Studies in an English speaking country, I loved the experience of living in a different country, speaking English on a regular basis, but still studying German on the same level I would have back home.

I went back to Germany for 2 years after the exchange and completed my teaching degree at the University of Mannheim.  I knew at the time that I wanted to come back to Canada, especially since I had met my now husband (he is Canadian) in the German program at Waterloo. I knew the teaching job situation in Ontario was not great.  Also, the schools would not recognize my German teaching degree but would make me go back to teacher’s college, so I decided to switch careers while I was still in Germany. I did an internship at a John Deere facility in Mannheim, in the HR department for training and development. While the job was challenging at times (I had not really worked in office environments before), I loved what I did there, being exposed to people from all over the world, working with different people on different projects, being creative in scheduling, training or making materials available for people. My boss at the time was very supportive and connected me with the John Deere office in Brantford, Ontario, to see if they potentially had room for me. Since the office deals with all the finances, this didn’t work out, but the support of my boss encouraged me to pursue a career where I could do similar things to what I did at John Deere.

I decided to go to Fanshawe College for International Business Management to have better chances of finding a job with an international business. The program was only 8 months long and a post-graduate degree. While I was still a student at Fanshawe, they held a job fair in February and I talked to some people that represented businesses in London. One of the people I talked to ended up hiring me as a bilingual customer service advisor for after my graduation in April 2014. I started working in July 2014 and after completing the job training, I answered phones, chats, and emails for German and English speaking customers.

While customer service was never on my radar, I actually really enjoyed working with the team to help customers, talking to tons of different people all day, and learning new things every day. In April 2015, I was promoted to the role of team lead, meaning that I now am part of the leadership team for the customer service department. While I still talk to customers occasionally, I am now more involved in the operational reports, coaching people, and several projects designed to improve systems and processes.

My typical day is hard to describe as there are never two days that are the same. My main responsibility is to do some reporting on the teams’ performance the previous day in the morning, and then just be available for whatever questions the customer service advisors may have throughout the day. These might be process related, content questions, or system related, so most of the time, I function as a subject matter expert on anything regarding customer service. I approve one-off exceptions we might make for customers, I help advisors help customers in the best way possible, I try to help advisors succeed in their roles, and I am a point of contact for other departments that might have questions about customer service.

I love that every day is different. I love working with the people on the team.  I love being able to help people (the advisors and other departments within the company, and customers that buy our products). I love the challenges I encounter every day (figuring out an Excel formula, pulling meaningful statistics out of a mess of data, talking to people about odd customer situations that we need to figure out, etc.). I love being involved in cross-functional projects that will eventually help our customers have a better experience dealing with as a company. I love the support and encouragement I get from my colleagues and superiors, and I love the company in general for its culture and work environment.

While this is not at all the career (or the life – for that matter) that I ever thought I would have, I really enjoy working and living in Canada. When I was starting university at the age of 19, I was sure I would be a teacher for German and English at a high school somewhere in Germany by the age of 25. Instead, I am the team lead of a customer service team at a tech company in Canada at 27. Plans change and opportunities will come up that we never thought we would consider. I am absolutely happy with my career so far and I am sure there will be more planned and unplanned changes in the future.  I have learned to embrace change and unforeseen circumstances and to make the best of any situation not only in regards to my work life, but also as it relates to my personal life. 

Karli Steen Comes Full Circle as a Freelance Writer

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Not everyone’s first job involves something that they are passionate about, but Karli Steen is one of the lucky ones! Karli is a freelance writer for, a website based out of London, ON. At the beginning of each month, Karli is assigned a wide range of topics to research and then she compiles list-based articles that are then edited and published on her Diply profile.

Karli’s position as a freelance writer allows her to work at her own pace from the comfort of her own home and her pajamas, which is enough incentive for Karli to go above and beyond her monthly submission requirements:

“The best part about working from home is that I can spend the day in my pajamas if I feel so inclined (99.9% of the time). I spend a good portion of my day on Pinterest, looking up the latest recipes, home decor ideas, and any other subject they need a piece on. My favorite pieces to do are the recipe ones, because although they make me hungry, a lot of them inspire me to actually make the food. When I am finished an article I put the link in my section of a Google spreadsheet and mark it green to let my boss know it can be edited and then published. If I've got extra time before the end-of-the month deadline, I try to put forth some of my own ideas.”

Initially Karli applied for a full-time job with Diply that would have required her to work in a downtown office, but she admitted that she “wasn’t exactly qualified”. Despite this, Karli’s passion for writing shone through in her interview which landed her the job she has now. “I was lucky because they saw my love for writing, and gave me the freelance position as an opportunity to grow and gain more experience”, Steen explained.

Prior to her work with Diply, Karli had been writing her own blog for some time, which now has over 7000 views! She also volunteered as a “WorkStory Ambassador” and wrote for this website, interviewing people who loved their jobs. Now things have come full-circle for Karli as she has found a job she loves as well. Karli relates her own WorkStory to the old saying, “no path is ever straight and narrow” and believes that “nothing could be more true” about her path:

“I had taken on an English degree at Kings University College, with the intent of going forward into a Masters of Journalism. After two attempts to get in the masters program, I knew I needed more experience. I started working alongside LEADS Employment Services to try and find work with the qualifications I already had.” Through LEADS, Karli came into contact with Dr. Natalie Allen, one of the co-creators of While working on her Masters application, Karli also wrote an autobiography and posted it on her blog which explains more about her path here.

Steen says that she is grateful for the opportunities that her previous writing outlets have provided her: “Both WorkStory and my blog were useful to me because I was able to show I was passionate about writing; in sharing my story, as well as others'.... My time with WorkStory still gives me encouragement, as a lot of the stories I wrote seemed to point out that one path often led to another that you might not have necessarily seen yourself going down before. I can't wait to see where mine goes.” Currently, Karli’s path continues at Fanshawe College where she is studying to teach English as a second language, but Karli Steen will always be a writer no matter where her path takes her.

“If I could give new writers some advice,” said Steen, “I would stress the importance of starting a blog about something that shows your passion. If you're not much of a blogger, you might even try poetry-- just something where others can see what makes you tick. Also, even if you feel like you might not be the best fit for a certain position, don't be afraid to apply, because it could lead to another great opportunity!”

To keep up with Karli, you can follow her on Twitter and like her Facebook page.

How I came to be an ESL editor

By Allison Whalen

My ESL editing career came to life by accident, inextricably linked to the recession, coconuts and rock ‘n’ roll music. I’d obtained an MA from Carleton U and found that the cozy, bookshelved world of the grad student was nothing like real life, otherwise known as Ottawa in an economic recession.

What did they mean, the government wasn’t really hiring? Students of the double-cohort demographic were finally filtering out of the school system and into a local job market that couldn’t accommodate them. And yes, I’d looked on; we all had, evidently. It seemed like half the city was out of work.

 Fortunately, my husband was working as an ESL teacher-trainer with United TESOL at the time, and had the opportunity to pilot a teacher’s training program in Costa Rica. Did I mention it was winter? I happily ditched my resume obsessing for this “once-in-a-lifetime,” seasonal opportunity.  We packed our swimsuits and hoped for the best.

I taught English in small communities for a local eco-tourism organization, Peninsula Papagayo, where I was eventually hired to edit brochures, newsletters, press releases and web material. There wasn’t much competition for editing work there — I had the best English skills in town. And oh, the beaches and the coconuts! (For more on my ESL teacher experience in Costa Rica:

When we returned to Ottawa and got over the reverse-culture-shock, the job market hadn’t changed much. I was back where I’d started. It was when I was sniffing out editing work at Carleton that I got hired as an editorial assistant for submissions to The Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. This job married two of my great loves: modern music and the written word, but the real emphasis should have been on the word World.  In short, my job was to tidy up each article while maintaining the foreign author’s voice. I learned about everything from German Krautrock to Greek bouzoukis in many variations of ESL English. Common error patterns in sentence structure began to reveal themselves, and I learned to coax a unique voice out of a mess of misused words. Working on my own time at a location of my choosing proved to  be wonderfully addictive, too. 

When I moved to the health administration sector, I began to take on independent clients as a second job, editing graduate theses in an ESL context. The patience, time and methods required to carve messages out of miscommunications were challenging, but because I had already gained some unique skills in the area, it seemed logical to continue.

More recently as a full-time freelancer, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many ESL writers from Asia and the Middle East. Meeting with Chinese and Arabic speakers has helped me understand a given culture that influences the writer, right down to the order in which they present their ideas. Having a sense for my client’s background has definitely made my work easier, and sometimes bonuses come in the form of exotic food! (I actually have sugar dates all the way from Al Qassim, Saudi Arabia, in my fridge right now. You’re not getting those from a client in Ottawa!)

Compared with other languages, English is pretty wordy and complex, so to understand where a writer is coming from (literally!) is crucial to understanding their meaning. Getting lost in specific words tends to be beside the point and can add extra hours to a difficult project. It’s often necessary to read an entire sentence, or paragraph, to distinguish between important and useless or misused words.

See? ESL editors do exist! I may have had unconventional experience, but it led to a lucrative and interesting position. What started with a frustrated response to an economic recession turned into a career, and I’m pretty excited to see where it will take me next.


Originally appeared in  
Reposted with permission.



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.

I am a Writer

I am a Writer. Always have been and always will be, but I also dream of finding a career in publishing. I am currently working as a Publicity Intern at Random House of Canada and I LOVE it. I love tagging along on author excursions, I enjoy ordering and mailing out books, and I enjoy taking part in events. Thanks to this internship I’ve had a chance to see what different departments do and I finally know what department I want to pursue: Online Marketing. I love the idea of working and connecting with people on a daily basis. I love the idea of spending my days making online marketing plans for great books and getting a wonderful book noticed. It also helps that I’m quite in love with blogging, tweeting, and social media.   


But where am I now and how did I get “here” -- to a place on the brink of my future, on the path to getting my dream job. Well, I guess it started with getting a three-year B.A in English from York University. After which I wasn’t sure what to do. I was working at a local pizza place and was lucky enough to get full-time hours there in order to save a little money. While serving piping hot pizza, I also worked on my writing, and hunted tirelessly for a job. I quickly learned that an English degree and NO experience would NOT get me a job in publishing. I still applied for jobs and wasn’t surprised when I didn’t receive any callbacks. I then spoke with my parents and we decided it might be a good idea to go back to school and get my publishing certificate. I found Chang’s School of Continuing Education and applied to for their publishing program. In order to qualify, you must already have a B.A from a recognized University. The great thing about this program is that you can complete the courses online or in class and you have up to six years to complete it. 


Another great thing about the Chang School program is that as a student you receive emails of upcoming internships and positions available. Most of which are from the top publishing houses in Toronto. One thing I realized from these emails was that all of them required the applicant to be enrolled in a publishing certificate. YOU NEED A PUBLISHING DEGREE OR CERTIFICATE TO GET INTO PUBLISHING. I also realized that I (obviously) wasn’t the only person to receive these emails. Every single student in my program receives them and most apply for them: publishing is a very competitive industry. 


About a week after enrolling in my first class I got a call from a children’s educational book publishing company asking me to come in for an interview. After two separate hour-long interviews I was hired as an editor and put my schooling on the back-burner. I stayed on as editor for about nine months before realizing that editing wasn’t something I wanted to pursue. So back to the pizza place I went, and back to school as well. 


I applied to Random House a few times before I got a callback. I went for two interviews for their Winter internship and was heartbroken when I didn’t get it. BUT when it came time for them to conduct interviews for the Spring, I applied and (obviously) got the internship and I lived happily ever after....


Okay, so my story hasn’t ended. In fact, it’s just getting started but I have learned some amazing things during my internship that will (hopefully) help me land a job. Firstly, publishing is a very small industry, everybody knows everybody, so it’s important to get yourself out there, to get to know people, to attend events, and to work your butt off so that people remember you! Having a blog, a twitter account, and an online presence has really helped. Thanks to my blog I was contacted by one of the online marketing coordinators at Random House and asked if I wanted to review books for them! I truly believe that having that on my resume and already having a connection with someone on their team really helped get the internship there. 


Secondly, it’s up to you to ask questions. It’s up to you to show interest and to make the MOST of your 12 weeks! I’ve kept a little internship journal on my blog that you can check out if you’re interested in learning more about what a publicity internship at Random House is like:


You’ll notice that I’m nearly finished my internship and pretty soon I’ll get to start a new chapter in my life. Hopefully this chapter ends with the job of my dreams but even if it doesn’t I still have my writing. I still have my blog, and I can still contribute to other blogs, and that’s perfectly fine by me. 


Vanessa Grillone