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.”

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. 

Making a Career Change for the Better

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Ashlyn Joyce works as a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) in a Long-Term Care Facility, which is a job she loves because “it is never dull or boring”, especially since she primarily works in the “locked dementia unit”. There are a wide variety of behaviours that are exhibited by the residents and because they  are battling an unpredictable disease, they can also become unpredictable themselves. It is important to realize that they cannot help the way they are and it takes a special person like Ashlyn to take care of them.

Being a Registered Practical Nurse can be very rewarding, but also incredibly sad, so Ashlyn advises others to “laugh every day”.  Unfortunately, she acknowledges that “you'll have hard days when your favourite resident will pass away, but you need to be able to get through the hard times.... I find that laughing is one of the best ways to get through those rough times.”

One of Ashlyn’s most rewarding moments came when a resident told her that she was good at her job and that she “will go far in life”, thanks to her kind and caring nature. Ashlyn finds that by taking a few minutes out of her day to talk with her residents, it helps build a “therapeutic connection” while getting to know them “on a personal level”.

Throughout her academic career, Ashlyn realized that healthcare was her “destined field”, but not before she went down a different path in hopes of becoming a teacher. Initially her studies began at Brock University: “I started out gearing my life towards teaching math and French, but after I finished my first year of that, I knew it wasn't for me. So, on a whim... I signed up for the Personal Support Worker (PSW) course and loved it.” Ashlyn graduated as a PSW from Niagara College. She then took a year off to work and save enough money in order to continue her studies as an RPN at Fanshawe College and “hasn’t regretted a day since”.

When teaching didn’t work out as planned for Ashlyn, she feared that her parents may never speak to her again. She was very open with her parents about needing to make a change, and they knew how she felt: “...when I dropped out of university I was terrified my parents would disown me” she said. So, this fear motivated Ashlyn to come up with a back-up plan geared towards nursing in order to stay in school. “[I] ended up loving my decision to change programs” and, as she puts it, “you'll never know what you enjoy doing if you're living in fear of pleasing others.”

Ashlyn hopes that if others can relate to her situation, that they do what makes them happy in terms of living their own life. Today, she and her parents have a more positive relationship, now that they’ve seen Ashlyn pursue something that she loves: “They're proud of me” she remarked, “and [they] said I'm good at what I do and I obviously enjoy doing it. So as long as I'm happy, they are too.”

  Ashlyn made the most of attending various schools and encourages others to “take every opportunity they can to keep learning and expanding their knowledge base” wherever they are. She advised that “You never know what lies ahead, so keep asking questions and taking everything in, because one day it will all come to use.”

Although Ashlyn’s career path didn’t lead her to a classroom, her residents are much like students. They require the adequate attention and emotional support she provides: “It always keeps me on my toes because anything could happen” she explained. Whether the residents are going through a medical or emotional issue, she has to be there, “to assess them quickly and provide the necessary support to them.”

Also like many teachers, Ashlyn loves that she is able to make a difference in people’s lives, “no matter how small that difference is”. Every day, whether it is through helping others, getting to know someone, or taking the time to laugh, Ashlyn Joyce finds validation that she has made a career change for the better.

“Because I love working with the kids”: A Supply Teacher’s Story

As told to Abigail Kong, WorkStory Ambassador

My name is Karen Kong.  I am currently working as a supply teacher with the Toronto District School Board in the Elementary panel. Some people may think that being a supply teacher is an easy job, going into different classrooms everyday with no major responsibilities. I can tell you now, it can be tough job, especially if you want to be good at your job! A typical day starts at 6:00 a.m., when the dispatcher system starts calling teachers to fill in jobs. Once you receive the call, you have to get ready as quickly as possible and dash out of the house. Since you are sent to a new place almost every time, it is important to leave early in to find where it is and arrive before school starts and to get prepared. Once you arrive at the school, you will receive your assignment at the office.  If you are lucky, the teacher has left a day plan for you to follow, but if you are not, you need to have back-up lessons to engage the students for the whole day. The toughest part about this job is classroom management. Some students take this as the perfect opportunity to rebel and not do their work. But, if you're willing to side with them, there is always a group of students in the class that loves to offer tips about their daily drills and to help out. I tend to remind them that I will leave a note for their teacher and I pretend to put names down when they are not on-task or are being disruptive, which usually works. No matter if the class went well or not, as a substitute teacher, you should always leave a note letting the homeroom teacher know what happened during the day.    

To become a teacher, besides getting a degree in education, it is very important to do lots of volunteering, especially in the classroom. Not only do you get first-hand experience in teaching, you get to network and get resources and tips from working teachers. I started volunteering back in my first year of university, at my former high school, and I really did enjoy working with students. I applied to the Concurrent Education program in my second year and got in during third year, when I started doing my placements. It was very exciting and daunting at the same time to handle a class on my own. The teaching part was the best part, but besides what you actually see, I learned that there is a lot of additional work behind the scenes - writing lesson plans, supervising extracurricular activities, marking assignments/tests, and so on. Taking the full load of a teacher, while attending university, wasn't exactly a fun experience. It was very difficult to balance both course work from school and work from my placement. In terms of school, in addition to the education courses, I also had to take courses from my first degree - double major in visual arts and mathematics. It was almost triple the work. It is amazing that I survived when I think about it now.

Doing well school was only part of the struggle, the real challenge was finding work after I graduated. Like most recent graduates, I didn't find a job right away, and I didn't expect to after talking to some alumni and friends in the same field. However, I didn't lose hope. I continued to volunteer, but I widened my scope a little bit. I had tons of experience working with high school students, but I also wanted a taste of what it would be like working with younger students, so I volunteered with both a high school and elementary school for about a year. I enjoyed both my experiences, so I decided to apply for teaching in the high school and elementary level. Another thing I believed that helped me get the job was my dedication to learning. During that year, I also enrolled in graduate studies (Masters of Math for Teachers) and took additional qualifications (Special Education, Part 1 & Junior Basic). These courses continued to fuel me with theoretical and practical knowledge to work with a wide range students in the classroom.

It was a long road getting to where I am today, but hard work really does pay off. Although the road of a supply teacher is still slippery and tough, I will persevere because I love working with the kids! 

Achieving one’s childhood dream…

By Alexandria Friesen, WorkStory Ambassador

Do you know any people who have achieved their childhood dreams? I am being honest when I say that I don’t know many  who are in that boat. But to make all of us feel better, I’m going to tell you the story of a girl who has done just that.

Meet Mlle. Catherine Peraino – a Grade 3 and 4 French Immersion teacher at Gregory A. Hogan Elementary School in Sarnia where she has worked for three years. Inspired by her kindergarten teacher to fulfill her wish of having “a great impact on someone’s life” as she did on hers, Catherine pursued her post-secondary education immediately following high school.  

While she has always wanted to be a teacher, Catherine can say for certain that it was not always the easiest of paths!   After high school Catherine attended the University of Windsor and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in French Honors and a Bachelor of Education. In addition to her University of Windsor education, she participated in a summer exchange at Université Québec à Trois Rivières and a third year exchange at Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis.   She says her first year of university was the hardest as her marks were not where she hoped they would be. While she may have been fluent in French, she was not prepared for the level of French she needed to study in University. “I was almost ready to drop out of my program after I had received a C on my first French test”, she says, “...but with the support of my parents, I had decided I was going to continue working hard to finish my first year.” And she is very thankful she did!

As I’m sure you know, obtaining a teaching job is not always the easiest of tasks. In fact, after graduating Catherine  had planned on moving to Alberta with her brother, where lots of jobs were available. She explored the career fair at the University of Windsor while applying to various school boards in other counties. Catherine was very lucky to be hired quite soon after she began applying for jobs, but her fear of the unknown made her nervous for when she would secure something permanent. Her determination to find a permanent job within the school board she had applied to paid off and she finally got one and has been working there ever since! Catherine adores her job and says that it is “a career I will definitely have for the rest of my life; it truly makes me happy. It’s great when you can go to work and love what you do so much that it doesn’t even feel like work”.   

Interested in being a teacher? Mlle. Peraino’s advice is definitely valuable. Open-mindedness is important in any career, especially teaching. “It is necessary to stay open to the idea of moving”. Catherine works two hours away from her home, but says that if she had decided to only stay local, she most likely wouldn’t have a job yet. “If you really want to be a teacher, you need to be willing to move,” she says, “because there are jobs, just not necessarily in ideal places”. She encourages you to always remain hopeful and to not give up – always try to better yourself as an educator so you can become noticed. Her best advice - “Stay positive and don’t give up!”

To Teach is to Nurture Passion

By Vanessa Grillone, WorkStory Contributor

 A great teacher can nurture their students’  passions and help them reach their full potential.

 At least that is what Katrina DiFeo – Early Childhood Educator –  believes. Katrina works in the Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program with Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board. I’ve known Katrina for many years and know that she has the patience, passion, and determination to turn a kindergarten classroom into a place where children can learn and grow.

Katrina’s journey began at a young age. From babysitting and helping out in classrooms, she knew that she wanted to be an educator. In Grade 12, she tried out a co-op program at an elementary school close to home. This gave her a chance to be in the classroom and gain some amazing experience. After high school she enrolled in a two-year diploma program in Early Childhood Education at Seneca College. Katrina enjoyed all classes and loved learning about the ways a child absorbs information. She enjoyed coming up with teaching plans and spent much of spare time researching new ways to get children involved in their lessons. After getting her diploma she applied to the school board, hoping for a full-time position. Katrina admits that it “can be difficult to get a job with the school board but if you’re passionate, dedicated, and patient your time will come”.  Many people have to start with supply teaching before they find a full-time position. The supply teaching phase is an important one because it allows you to network, to engage with students and faculty members, and to prove yourself.

 When asked about a day-in-the-life of Ms DiFeo, Katrina said it’s busy but fun.

“In order to be successful I need to be 100% attentive to the students. Keeping an open ear allows me to document the children’s conversations and interactions, then develop invitations for learning based on their interests. An invitation for learning can be as simple as a blank piece of paper and pencil or as much as random, loose materials from the outdoors. We are sure to bring clipboards, pencils and the camera everywhere we go! I have to be prepared and on point every minute of the day in order to cover every area of inquiry the students may have. It’s important to help guide the children by offering conversations with open-ended questions to help take the learning to a whole new level”.

Katrina loves the spontaneity of her job. There is a lot of planning involved, but she also leaves a lot of things up to her students. This gives them a chance to discover their passions and learn what is required. She enjoys seeing eagerness and excitement in her students. Their enthusiasm when they see a centre of interest makes her feel rewarded. Her goal is to see her students grow socially, emotionally, and cognitively during the school year.

Katrina has worked in a classroom for three years and hopes to work at the board level and be an itinerant for the full day kindergarten program. She would like the opportunity to visit a number of different schools and full day early learning classrooms and assist in the presentation of the classroom layout and program development. She wants to be able to share her ideas and for the program based on what she’s learned through the experiences in her own classroom. 

For all of those future teachers out there, Katrina says, “Be prepared for a lot of planning and even taking some work home with you. Remember that patience goes a long way. It’s important to be loving, open, and kind to all of your students. Be a good role model, be the kind of person you hope your students will grow into. And don’t forget to have a little fun. Learning is fun.”