Noah, Students “Go-to Guy” for Tech Support

By Craig Leonard, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University 

Noah Giunta is a Library Services Support Technician at Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology. As a support technician Noah’s responsibility is to facilitate student learning, either through one-on-one assistance or various online resources.

Prior to becoming involved in technical support Noah was working in a fiberglass factory to pay for his training as a tattoo artist apprentice. After completing his apprenticeship, Noah started working as a tattoo artist in a shop in Toronto. Noah had always wanted to be a tattoo artist, and was happy with his job when one day he was involved in an accident that injured his hip, rendering him unable to continue practicing tattoo artistry. Noah was now forced to consider new directions in which to to take his career.

Having always been a technologically inclined individual, Noah began looking into fields related to computers and technology. Knowing full-well that technology is the way of the future, Noah set his sights on the Network Systems Technician program, a two-year program offered at Mohawk College. Noah enrolled in the program unsure of which area of technology he wished to pursue. A requirement of the program was to complete a co-op position. This would provide Noah with some insight and an idea of the field of technology he was interested in. He was given the opportunity to complete a four-month co-op position within the Mohawk Library. There he performed tier one technical support, involving basic computer setup and trouble-shooting, Wi-Fi and networking assistance, and other technology-related help. Upon completion of the co-op contract, Noah applied to a second co-op position at the library and went back to fulfill his second co-op component. 

Noah is thankful for his time as a co-op student at the library because it revealed to him his passion for working with students and for helping people. If you were to ask Noah if he had ever considered himself working in a college library providing technical support, he would have laughed. Noah had wanted to do tattoos for as long as he could remember, but after 3 months of his co-op he quickly realized that he had a passion for working in an academic setting and interacting with people. While earning his diploma, coincidentally a full-time position opened up at the library.

Noah’s average day consists of many of the same activities performed during his time as a co-op student, and also includes working on some of the online resources available at the college and holding workshops for students. In these workshops students are given the opportunity to learn about various online resources, such as Microsoft Suite, ePortfolios, and learning management systems. Noah especially enjoys holding the workshops, as it gives him an opportunity to sit down one-on-one with students and interact with them. He says that, “in many jobs you are not given the opportunity to teach people things in a casual and fun manner, and this is one part of my job that I always look forward to”.

According to Noah, skills in communication, thinking on your feet, troubleshooting, and research are crucial to be successful as a Library Support Technician. “There are times when you might not be sure about the answer to a question, at which point you have to do your own research or communicate with other members of the library to find a suitable solution”.  Noah’s advice to others? “Reach for job opportunities and put yourself out there! The technology industry is booming right now and there are lots of job opportunities, but there are also a lot of people who are looking for jobs.” He also tells people to “think of information technology as more than just a person typing away on a computer keyboard, there is a whole other aspect of it that involves human interaction and interpersonal skills”. 

No “Usual Days” for this Publicist: Meghan’s story

By Abigayle Walker, WorkStory Ambassador at University of Ottawa

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   Meghan holding a baby python while hosting a press junket for a show called Python Hunters.      

Meghan holding a baby python while hosting a press junket for a show called Python Hunters.

 

Meghan Hardy works as a publicist at Proper Television, one of Canada’s largest production companies.  Proper Television is responsible for producing numerous television series including Master Chef Canada, Storage Wars Canada, Four Weddings Canada, and Canada’s Worst Driver, to name a few.

For Meghan, no day is a usual day. Every day is different, which is exactly why she says she loves her job. The majority of her days are spent on the sets themselves –taking the press on set visits, facilitating media interviews, overseeing photo shoots, doing media training with the stars and ensuring that shows she is working on are receiving the most and best publicity possible.  When she isn’t on set, Meghan is in the office creating communication and social media plans, writing cast biographies, setting up photo shoots, and pitching interviews to the media. She explains that even though every day is fun, the job can also be also stressful and challenging. It forces her to think quickly on her feet, but she says that it makes her job that much more interesting.  She says she is constantly learning. 

Not only does Meghan love what she does, she also loves the people with whom she works, describing them as “some of the most creative and brilliant people in the entertainment industry”.  Meghan says she looks forward to work every day with people she loves being around.

As awesome as Meghan’s job is, it did not come to her without years of hard work.  Meghan began with an undergraduate degree in Media Studies/Public Relations and a Diploma in Public Relations from University of Guelph-Humber.  After graduating, she accepted an internship at Rogers Media with the publicity team under their television umbrella which includes City, OMNI Television, OLN, and FX Canada. Eventually, Rogers hired her as a public relations coordinator. From there, Meaghan was able to move into her current position at Proper. Meghan says that it was the combination of her 10 years of experience in the entertainment industry, networking, and creating good working relationships that helped land her current role at Proper Television. 

Although Meghan says she learned a lot of fundamentals from her post-secondary education, it was her experience that taught her much of what she knows about public relations. Her advice to others is to network, intern, and volunteer as much as possible!  She also advises those entering the communication industry to try to get a taste of several different sectors (government, entertainment, corporate, non-profit) before deciding which one seems the best fit.

Marketing Communications Specialist: “Very Chaotic…In a Good way!”

By Michelle Doyle, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

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Susan Mutterback is Marketing Communications Specialist at StarTech.com, a manufacturer of products for IT professionals. The company extends beyond the headquarters in London, Ontario to 14 countries worldwide!

As a Marketing Communications Specialist, Susan handles social media, public relations and general marketing communication such as ads and catalogues. This is a new role and is “very chaotic…in a good way!”  Because it is new, Susan’s responsibilities were built from the ground up which she finds an exciting challenge. Her favourite part of the job?   Susan emphasized her admiration for the people she works with…she really enjoys the collaboration and brainstorming processes that occur day-to-day at the office. 

Susan’s work journey began at the University of Guelph where she studied Psychology in her first year.  She didn’t really have a solid idea of what she wanted to do, just a vague interest in the field. After that year, she knew it wasn’t a perfect fit for her and decided to take a year off to figure things out.  She moved back home and took courses at the University of Windsor to keep her average up. The following year, Susan transferred to Western University and started thinking about public relations and marketing.  She graduated from Western in political science and sociology and then applied to Western’s public relations program. Of all her formal education, Susan found public relations the most interesting area of study. The final four months of the program involved an internship position. Susan particularly enjoyed this and found it extremely valuable in helping her gain real-world experience in the field.

After the internship, Susan had completed her education, but had received no job offers. She moved back home and worked at an unpaid internship for about 9 months. During this time, she remained persistent and applied to job after job, not receiving any replies. Finally, Susan was thrilled to receive a call from StarTech.com!  She moved right back to London, joined the company, and hasn’t looked back since.

Susan started out in a marketing role that was mainly sales focused. She enjoyed it, but was particularly interested in getting a position in her field.  When the Marketing Communications Specialist job opened up, she applied!

Susan has nothing but positive comments about working for StarTech.com, and is thrilled to be at such a wonderful company and working with such collaborative and supportive coworkers.   When asked what advice she’d give to those entering the job market,  Susan’s first words were “It’s hard”.  Then she highlighted the importance of taking jobs that aren’t necessarily in your specific desired field for the experience you will get from working.  She emphasized the “foot in the door” approach, the importance of starting off somewhere, and getting your name out there.  Lastly, she noted that unpaid internships can be good experiences. Susan was thankful for hers and believes that students entering the job field should not underestimate them.


Making Connections! Erika Faust’s Communication Story

By Erin Annis, WorkStory Ambassador at University of Guelph

One of the most inspiring quotes I have heard in regards to careers is “You’re most powerful where your passion is.” Erika Faust has followed this guiding light to grasp her personal career success.

Erika is currently the Corporate and Internal Communications Assistant at Toronto Community Housing.  She is also a freelance writer and editor.  The path to follow her dreams began with her love for reading and writing.  Throughout school – at the University of Guelph-Humber – she had recognized her passion for writing and began editing her friend’s papers (even later on, editing her friend’s university thesis!).   Recognizing her love for editing, Erika became the go-to editor for her friends and family for whom she reviewed reports, resumes and more.

Her writing and editing skills became a key part of Erika’s career journey during her fourth year at Guelph-Humber, where she took Media Studies. During that year, she landed an internship in the Advertising department of her hometown newspaper, the London Free Press.  Her boss recognized such talent in Erika that when she left to start her own communications firm, she hired Erika right away to do freelance writing and editing for her (and has been doing so ever since!)

Prior to working at Toronto Community Housing, Erika worked both as a staff writer for the Fanshawe College newspaper “Interrobang” as well as an Internal Communications Coordinator at Goodlife Fitness.  These roles gave her integral skills pertaining to her career.  Her job as a staff writer allowed her to gain management experience once she was promoted to editor, managing a team of 20 students.  Her experience at Goodlife was a refreshing change as it involved duties such as administering the intranet site and even some event planning. 

The game changer for Erika was the big move from London to Toronto after her husband found employment there.  Although this involved “abandoning” the place she grew up in and jumping into a situation of uncertainty, Erika viewed this experience as a “big adventure”.  During this time, she didn’t lose sight of her passion and continued to do freelance writing as she searched for a new job. 

Periods of unemployment are a major struggle for young people.  As Erika put it “It’s scary not knowing if you’re going to be able to find a job, and it can be really disheartening.”  Here is what she focused on to combat this period of unemployment:

• Networking with people with interesting jobs. “I set up informational interviews to get advice from different people. We chatted about my options and they told me what they thought I could do to shine as a job seeker.”

• Continuing education. “I tried to use the Duolingo app to learn French – I didn’t get very far with it, but I did practice every day during the summer! I also attended several communications-focused webinars and took an online class in WordPress through Udemy.”

• Doing some freelance and part-time work. “It kept my skills sharp, expanded my writing portfolio and gave me something to talk about in interviews.”

• Volunteering. “I signed up to help out at some local events, and I became a regular volunteer at a local museum. Volunteering helped me get acquainted with my new city, and I got to meet lots of like-minded people – people who just like to help out and get involved.”

Starting September 2015, Erika began her current communications role with Toronto Community Housing.  One of the most rewarding parts of her job is the non-profit environment.  “Toronto Community Housing serves about 6 percent of the population in Toronto.  I really like knowing I am part of an organization that helps so many people.”

Erika’s key to success?  Making connections!

“My boss during my London Free Press internship gave me my first paid writing and editing gig. Connections I made while working at Fanshawe College have hooked me up with freelance work. A reporter I met while attending an event in 2013 eventually became a managing editor at Metro newspaper in Toronto and gave me a part-time copy editor job. My mom – who is truly a master networker – has introduced me to some really fabulous people who gave me a ton of insight and helped prepare me for future job interviews.”

Reaching out can be the most difficult, yet beneficial, move that you can make to enhance your career- but it is 100% recommended.

“If you see someone on LinkedIn who works at a company you admire in a role you’d love, reach out to them! It may seem a little awkward at first, but I promise, it gets easier every time you do it. People are usually flattered when you ask them for advice, and they often want to help you out – maybe their company isn’t hiring, but maybe they know another great place that needs someone with your exact skill set. Even if the connection doesn’t help you find a job, it can be a really valuable learning opportunity.”

The ability to put yourself out there is integral for making the best out of your career journey.  Erika is an exemplary model having followed her passion, staying open minded and continually making important career connections. 

Twists and Turns to a Dream Job: Sabrina’s Story

By Michelle Doyle, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

If I told you that Sabrina Silveira is the Alumni Coordinator in the Advancement & Alumni Relations office at Humber College would you have the faintest idea what that means?   

As Sabrina told me “I know many people don’t know what alumni means, nor would they know what the role of an Alumni Coordinator would entail. It’s not an insult…it’s one of the many reasons I have a job!  For those who are unfamiliar with what ‘alumni’ is, it’s just a fancy Latin word for graduate.  In short, I act as the middleman that connects Humber back to our grads.” 

Sabrina’s role varies from day-to-day.  She describes her daily tasks as a set of on-going projects “from graphic design, social media management, copy writing and editing, to event planning and relationship building”.  Sabrina is always “kept on her toes and is able to tap into her creativity” with such a varying, multifaceted job. This is also the reason she cannot pinpoint a favourite part of her job.

Sabrina can, however, identify an essential part of her job - her manager, whose continual support has gotten her to where she is today.  She emphasizes the importance of having a superior “who truly cares for you, looks out for you and appreciates all that you do”.  She adds that most of us are working for the majority of our lives and would all have mental breakdowns without a strong support system around us. Sabrina feels that without this healthy, supportive relationship that she has with her manager, she wouldn’t be able to do all the things that she loves working on today. So, however “strange” it may seem to have a manager be one of the primary individuals you lean on for support, those relationships may be the most important ones, not only for your career, but for your happiness.

So how did Sabrina get here – to the job of her dreams?  Well, her journey started at the University of Guelph-Humber, where she studied media and communications.  In her final year of the program, she landed a position with a student travel agency in Toronto as her internship requirement for her program. Sabrina   isn’t exaggerating when she says “this is where I really began my career” as after only a month into the internship, she was offered a full-time position as a Production Designer!  “In this role I focused largely on designing collateral for the company, as well as writing blogs, monitoring social media, and - one of my favourite projects - designing our destination staff uniforms!”  Needless to say, Sabrina really enjoyed working at this agency and felt that she was really excelling at her career.

However, a year and a half into the new job, she was “faced with one of life’s upsets”. This influenced her decision to get a new job. She wanted to work close to home which made job hunting even more of a challenge than it already was. Sabrina describes the job search process as “possibly the worst thing a new graduate can go through”.  She explains that she felt worthless and felt that everything she had worked for was all for nothing in the eyes of potential employers.  She wasn’t even getting callbacks for jobs for which she was sure she was over-qualified.  After over a hundred job applications, Sabrina finally heard back from one.  It was nothing fancy, but it was a paid position related to her field.


“Whether you believe it or not, there will always be one specific experience in your life (if not more!)  that will change your perspective completely. This job was it for me. To say accepting this position was the worst thing I could have done is an understatement. I will tell this story again and again until I lose my voice, because I know there are others out there that may be in the same situation I was in, and I only wish I can provide some hope and encouragement to them.”  Her first week on the job consisted of coffee runs and cleaning up the lunchroom after people ate - all without the presence of her mysterious manager. To make matters worse, she caught a cold after the first few days but - although feeling horrible- she forced herself to come to work.  But that’s not all. Her HR manager actually phoned her explaining how she was disrupting her colleagues by coughing and sneezing. They feared she was contagious, making her feel alienated and as if she “should have been quarantined”.  This dreadful first week was followed by months of crying alone in the car during lunch breaks and feeling “completely disregarded as a human being”.  So why did she go through this? Well, she didn’t want to quit. She felt that she owed it to herself to push through it. In fact, it wasn’t until her parents begged her to quit that she really took a step back and analyzed her life.

On a Tuesday morning last year, Sabrina received an email from her past manager, blaming her for something she had nothing to do with. His words made her choke up until she couldn’t even breathe. She scheduled an emergency meeting with her HR manager who said there was nothing she could do for Sabrina and that the way she was being treated was her own problem.  Sabrina quit right then and there.  I know, I know. Good for her!!

After that experience, Sabrina started seeing life very differently. “I started to realize that there are two types of people in this world – the type of person who will respect you and the type of person who never will. We’re only on this earth for a finite period of time – why sacrifice your life and mental health working for people who – no matter what – only look down on you? I value my life too much to ever let that happen again.”

This time around on the job search, Sabrina was smart about where she applied. She nailed down the positions that she knew she would be happy in, rather than applying everywhere. Of course, still no replies.   So, she reached out to her professors, deans, old managers, her mentors (“which is probably the best piece of advice I can give anyone”, she says). She explains that she finally didn’t feel alone and had a lot of support from these individuals.  Luckily, a position had opened up in her old department -  a position that mimicked exactly what she wanted in a career.  “It was fate! My previous manager called me in for an interview and here I am today.  I’ve never been happier” 

If you’re gong to take anything away from Sabrina’s story, it’s that you should listen to yourself and make sure you are doing what makes you happy.

Also, keep in contact with your mentors!

Whale of A Time: Katherine Douglas jumps onboard to protect our marine life

By Geoffrey Boyd

Seeing a juvenile humpback whale breach off the coast of Oregon, or multiple blue whales offshore in Nova Scotia would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many. However, for Katherine Douglas breaching whales are just another part of her job. Watching whales, dolphins and sea turtles, shooting stars and sunsets—hardly a typical desk job. 

 When Douglas graduated from the Gustavson School of Business in 2007 she never imagined her degree would take her to the open ocean as a marine mammal observer and passive acoustic monitor.

 After graduation she accepted a position as a marketing and events manager for a technology association in Seattle, Washington. “It was a wonderful position and I gained a lot of knowledge, however, I decided to take a little time off to travel before I jumped into the next thing.”

 In 2010 a good friend introduced Douglas to the idea of becoming a marine mammal observer, a position she previously never knew existed.

In 2012 she jumped at the opportunity with RPS Group—an international consultancy firm providing advice on oil and gas exploration and environmental management—and hasn’t looked back since. “I have always been passionate about our oceans and animals in general, so I thought it would be a great experience short term while I decided what was next,” she says. But short term has since shifted to long term as Douglas has no plans to leave.

Working with people from all over the world, Douglas typically conducts her work on oil and gas exploration vessels for four- to six-week contracts. Her job has taken her through the Pacific Northwest, the Atlantic Northeast and the Gulf of Mexico.

While on board she is responsible for visual and acoustical monitoring of marine mammals and sea turtles. During daylight hours this entails scanning the water for telltale signs of marine mammal life, such as ruffles on the water or the blow of a whale when surfacing for air.

She also conducts acoustic monitoring during low-visibility hours using a hydrophone cable towed behind the vessel. Pamguard software allows Douglas to identify and analyze low-frequency animal vocalizations as well as both high- and low-frequency echolocation clicks. Using this information, she can then estimate the position and range of particular whale or dolphin species and inform the crew of the correct procedures.

Douglas’s work is fueled by her love of the oceans and animals. For her, social responsibility plays a large part as well. “There is an unbelievable amount of noise being emitted into our oceans today,” she says. “Commercial and cruise ship traffic, military sonar, and oil and gas exploration account for a large amount of this.”

 In the case of oil and gas exploration, large “air gun arrays” shoot pressurized air towards the ocean floor to map geological structures, emitting extreme bursts of sound. These bursts are often of the same frequency range as the natural communication frequencies of marine animals. This can seriously disrupt the animals’ communication, causing disorientation or worse.  

Part of Douglas’s job is to ensure there is minimal disturbance for marine mammals in the vicinity. This is all the more important as many of the animals are endangered species. When a mammal is detected, either by the naked eye or through detection software, photos and detailed field notes are taken to document any behaviour changes and to ensure proper identification. “Mitigation is required if certain animals are within a defined zone around the vessel,” says Douglas. It is in these situations that she communicates with the vessel crew to ensure proper protocols are followed.

 At first glance it would seem Douglas’s choice of degree program doesn’t match her work as a marine mammal observer, but she disagrees. “My degree has been invaluable in both opening doors and giving me the confidence to pursue different paths of interest,” she says. The skills she learned in the Business program allow her to successfully complete her work.

When she adds in her leadership, reporting, advising, training and communication aboard the vessels, the Business program at the Gustavson School of Business was a perfect fit for her work.

 This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in Business Class Magazine, a publication of the Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria.

Living a Working Poet’s Life: Holly’s Story

By Holly Painter

Facilitated by Elyse Trudell, WorkStory Ambassador

 If you had asked me as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have answered "teacher". If you had asked me as a teenager what my plans were after high school, I would have answered "teacher's college". If you had asked me as an early twenty-something what my passion and future career was, I would have answered "teaching". So as my 30th birthday approaches, you might naturally assume that I spend my weekdays in a classroom, standing in front of a group of students discussing important topics and curriculum material, preparing them for the next test, essay, exam, grade. If you assumed all of this you'd be half correct, but I bet you'd never guess my job title: I'm a poet.

Poet? I can imagine exactly how your forehead is wrinkling at the thought. Poetry, as in the boring stuff studied in school? Who would decide to do that as a job? How is it even possible to make any money? And how is that in any way related to teaching?

I am a spoken word artist. I perform poetry, writing and rehearsing my poems before sharing them on stages (and in classrooms) across the country. I began performing at poetry slams (after battling my fear of public speaking), and eventually my hobby became my job. Correct that; my hobby became my passion that pays the bills.

I run the London Poetry Slam, a space and stage open and welcoming to creative writers and spoken word artists of all ages. Right now, over fifty percent of our performing poets and audience members are youth under the age of 21. Poetry is alive and well, and it's all the things you never knew from English class: it's energetic and engaging, it packs a room once a month on a Friday night with 150 excited people, eager to share their own and listen to each other's stories. And youth love it.

The basic messages of spoken word poetry in London are "Speak Your Truth" and "Show the Love". These messages I carry with me as I speak at schools across the province at assemblies or in classroom workshops. The poetry actually becomes secondary to the themes of being open and willing to share personal experiences, and listening and being respectful and empathetic as people do. You would think high school would be the last place you would see this type of thing happen. But I see it every week. Youth relishing the opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings, experiences, and passions with their peers, to write, create, and speak freely, and to snap their fingers in support and acceptance as they hear and connect with what others are going through.

I may not be a full-time classroom teacher, but I wouldn't trade my job as poet/public speaker/arts educator for the world. What I have learned about youth through listening to their poems are the fundamental things I believed about them when I felt the tug at my heart to be a teacher; young people are artistic, articulate, and altruistic. They are passionate, perceptive, and powerful. They are enthusiastic, empathetic, and engaging. They are artists, advocates, activists, and teachers just as much as they are students when given the chance to open up, speak, and share. Often they just need a way to express all of this and someone to throw them the ropes and listen when they take hold.

If you asked me years ago how to help students become all of the things listed above, I guarantee you I would not have answered poetry. Funny what happens when you try something new, ignore doubts or fears, and encourage young people to realize the power of their words.

For more about Holly’s work check out http://www.hollypainterpoetry.com/

A version of this piece originally appeared in the London Free Press on March 6, 2015 

 

Look for the open doors!

By Rachel Gardner

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Hashtags, Twitter handles, video editing and Facebook posts are a part of my daily job at the Council of Ontario Universities (COU). My path to this career was not straightforward, but I am certainly glad to have ended up where I am today.

COU is a membership organization for the 20 provincially-assisted universities, advocating for policy issues such as research, accessibility, jobs, and graduate studies. As the Communications and Public Affairs Officer with COU in Toronto, I wear multiple hats, doing everything from updating social media to managing the organization’s website and editing news releases, reports and government statements. It is a rare occasion indeed to find some spare time in the day!

The journey to get here has been not been without its twists and turns – I graduated from Mount Allison University in 2012 with an honours bachelor of arts in international relations, and a double minor in economics and environmental studies. I was interested in everything, but especially loved writing, editing and journalism. I had spent two years on staff at my student paper, The Argosy, first as the political beat writer and then as the news editor, and loved the thrill of chasing a story. By the time of my graduation, I had accepted an offer into the master of journalism program at Carleton University.

The summer after the first year of my master’s program, I took an internship with the Council of Ontario Universities, using my journalism skills and knowledge of the CP Style Guide in a role as a communications intern. Though I had originally intended to spend my summer in a newsroom, I had difficulty landing a paid journalism internship and decided to learn more about what a career in communications would be like. My employers gave me a number of projects to spearhead, including the launch of a student career site, creating short videos and managing the organization’s social media. At the end of the summer, they offered me a full-time job with the organization. Despite it being a tough decision, I decided to put my schooling on pause and have now been happily with the organization for just over one year. No regrets!

If I could give one piece of advice to students searching for their own career path, it is to be open to new opportunities. Get involved in student clubs and extra-curriculars to explore the areas where you are most passionate and find the greatest challenge. See where your talents best fit with those of others. Be open to trying something new, and don’t limit yourself.

There are lots of possibilities out there – look for the open doors!