Meet Misha and Dave: From Forest and Field

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

“From Forest and Field” (FFAF) is described by one of its co-founders, Misha Radojkovic as “a very long term musical collaboration between Dave Beverly-Foster and I”. Performing together since they were teenagers, From Forest and Field is the culmination of several years of practice, performances and friendship between Misha and Dave. As Misha explained it, “We're both music writers, and over the years [we] seem to have developed a method of mixing and sharing our music…. It's very easy to get together to make or discuss music. Back in high school, it was common to randomly break into percussive jams and I don't think that's changed much”.

More recently, Misha and Dave began to branch out from the comfort zone of their regular jam sessions and are now playing in public with more frequency. Currently they are looking forward to their Earth Day performance-- April 22, 2016 --  at The Garafraxa Café in Durham, ON which will celebrate the café’s one year anniversary.

In addition to performing, both musicians are also very passionate about the environment. While attending the University of Waterloo for Environmental Studies in April 2014, Dave embarked on a 12-day journey home near Chesley, ON. Usually this trip would take a few hours by car, but Dave camped and walked the entire way by himself! “I left on a Monday morning and I arrived the Friday after the next.  In those twelve days I traversed 200km.  It was quite a journey. Sleeping in whatever forest cover I could find (usually cedar swamp), I lived through every element that Southern Ontario could cook up: floods, rains, snows, winds, extreme heat, and bugs. I walked over rail, trail, and hard road.  Through forest, field and town, I got to know the land and the people like never before.” Dave has written a travelogue of his adventures which is currently being edited. The hope is that one day it will be a book!

Misha has been working away at seasonal jobs repairing barns in the warmer months and repairing instruments in the winter. He picked up this skill in Tugaske, Saskatchewan where he took “a course on constructing flat top guitars”.

Whether they are performing together or with others, Dave and Misha are always musically tied together. “We have a weekly jam with about ten neighbours, and the music we play there is very fun and interesting” Dave explained.  “There tend to be more traditional songs there, and the older average age of the group definitely reflects in the repertoire.  FFAF is different in that we've played different music in different groups, but the two of us have been the one constant that entire time, for about a decade now. Our musical styles have grown in complement to one another.”

“FFAF has always been my focus” Misha added. “I spent the last few winters out in BC and found some folks to jam with and performed the odd show, but that time was also used to write songs I intended to record with Dave.”

“Personally, I have never quite taken the plunge of using music as my single method of making money, but what is amazing about getting paid for music is that we would be making music either way” Misha continued. “…. Fair wages for musicians are very important. Some people have the idea that musicians should volunteer and getting paid is a bonus, but that's just not fair.” 

In addition to unfair wages, other challenges can sometimes include a lack of inspiration and a lack of listeners. “Sometimes the music isn't just meant to be. In some situations, people will try to force it to happen and it just doesn't come out good.  There's been a fair number of occasions where [we] have met up to jam but … we just end up shooting the breeze, and it's okay!” said Dave. In the times where spectators seem to be disengaged, Dave takes the opportunity to talk to the audience as well. “It seems to have become my role to do some loud fast-talking to help the audience hear the more important details, like where they can buy our album.” (You can do so by contacting them on Facebook.)

When asked for advice, Misha noted that making music with others is the most important while Dave actually recommended for others to not follow in his footsteps. Then he added, “But if I can't convince you otherwise, busking is key.  It helps you develop the careless abandon required to make yourself publicly vulnerable, and it gives you long stretches of practice to improve your musical stamina.  And, to emphasize what Misha said, play with others.  There's a certain type of rhythmic synergy you can only develop by playing with others, and learning to hear others is essential to becoming a better musician.”

If you can, please support these local musicians by attending their Earth Day show in Durham or at a future event near you!

Plans Change, Opportunities Arise: Kerstin’s StarTech.com 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 StarTech.com 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 StarTech.com 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. 

Contact Lenses: More than better vision!

Harry Gandhi is a recent grad from University of Waterloo’s  Biotechnology/Economics program.  With an interest in the link between health and technology and the support of the UW’s Velocity  program he co-founded Medella Health .  

The goal?  To develop contact lens that help diabetics by monitoring glucose levels and sending the info to a mobile device…a healthcare wearable.

Read on as Douglas Soltys and Peter Kenter share more of this inspiring health startup’s story!