Digital Marketing at Ellipsis Digital: Rachel’s Multi-Faceted Story

By Veerta Singh, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Besides being a tri-athlete, a yogi, a traveler, a writer, and a gamer, Rachel Berdan is also the Chief Marketing Officer of rTraction Canada, Inc.  Rachel got into sales and marketing relatively slowly and somewhat by accident and today she is also  VP of Sales for Ellipsis Digital, a division of rTraction Canada, Inc. located in London, Ontario. She loves working within an organization that encourages creativity, openness, entrepreneurial thinking, and attracts people who value those things. “I have fun, I am challenged, and I get to bring new ideas to life pretty regularly.”

Rachel attended the University of Toronto, where she earned her Honors Bachelor of Arts degree in Semiotics & Communication Theory and Equity Studies in 2005.

Working at Ellipsis Digital inspires Rachel every day. “As a bonus, we were just certified as a B Corp, which was an initiative that I led within the organization and was happy to see finally reach a happy conclusion. It’s a big commitment on the part of our company to look out for the needs of our employees, our clients, our community, and the environment. It’s an initiative and a movement that I’m very proud to be part of.”

Rachel definitely did not always know this was what she wanted to do. Sort of.  She always wanted to be a writer. “I also wanted to be a lawyer and a psychologist and a forensic accountant, but writing was always in the back of my mind. I don’t write novels and poetry for a living, but every part of my job revolves around communication in one way or another, so in a way…I suppose I did end up where I always wanted to.”

The long-term goal for Ellipsis Digital is to be the agency that the arts and culture world looks to when they need help telling their stories. “That goes for our other two verticals, as well: mental health and community engagers (creative cities, specific community engagement initiatives, etc.)”

When asked if she had any volunteer experiences that helped her become successful, Rachel answered “Probably. If you pay attention as you go, you can always look for ways that your experiences connect and create a richer story of your value.”

“When I was in university, I interned at CHUM television (Bravo!, Space: The Imagination Station, and Drive-In Classics). I also worked part-time with a woman who ran her own business, and my job was basically to keep the business running while she travelled and did her thing. I learned all of the moving parts that a business owner has to consider, which set me up for success in the business world.”

A common day at Ellipsis Digital is rare. “I wear quite a few hats, so I don’t know that there’s such a thing as a common day. Some days are heavier in sales, some are more about creating our marketing messaging or sorting out our tactics, some are more about creating good process and improving client engagement. Every day begins with a 10-minute standing meeting with our whole team to hear what everyone’s working on and adapt priorities if needed.”

To be successful in the field, Rachel says empathy is an important quality. “The ability to understand where people are coming from is critical in any communications role, but also in any environment where you have to work with other humans (i.e., all of them). Empathy helps me understand what our clients need. It also helps me understand what my team needs to know to serve those clients. It helps me to understand what the people who reports to me need in order to do their best work and grow to their full potential.

Curiosity and an open mind are also valued. “I do not know everything and never will. Asking questions even when I think I know the answer opens me up to new ideas, and those new ideas create new connections that help me do my best work.”

Last but not least, dedication. “I have a lot of flexibility in my work. People listen to me. I can work in a way that works for me. All of those things are great, but they’ve been earned, because I also demonstrate that when things get tough, I get into the weeds and do what’s needed to make things better. I do it because I care about the people I work with and I care about the collective success of our business, but there are perks.”

When asked what she loves about her work... “I love that I get my brain working every day. I love that I get to try new things. I love that I work with incredible people who care about making a positive difference in the world. I love that I actually feel like I’m part of something bigger than me. I was inspired by the people I get to work with and the culture we have. I wanted to be a part of the group, and didn’t really care what I did (within reason). I ended up landing in work that suits my strengths, and I love being a part of building our messaging and connecting with people who can be a part of our community (as clients, employees, partners, etc.). I cannot imagine doing what I do anywhere else. I do love coaching people to find their best selves, so if I were ever do anything different, it would be along those lines.”

Outside of work?  “I adore my family, so time with them (my husband, our son, and our extended family) is my favourite extracurricular.”

For those about to enter the workforce, Rachel shares some valuable insights….

 “Knowing what you want is great, but even greater is paying attention to what you enjoy. I have met many people who felt they knew what they wanted and were shaken when they started doing it and didn’t feel like it was working. I know many people (myself included) who didn’t know for sure, but instead started building experiences that felt good and found a way to pull the pieces together into a vision. In either case, paying attention to what was working and what wasn’t made a huge difference in building a career.  Start with what feels good (whether that’s job security, good pay, the mail room at your dream company, or a service job that lets you create what you want) and pay attention to whether it actually feels good while you’re there, what doesn’t feel good, and what’s missing. Keep filling in what’s missing, and letting go of what’s not working. Trust that the puzzle comes together.”

The Girl with a Passion for Fashion: Nicole Snobelen

By Veerta Singh, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

nicole.jpg

When Nicole Snobelen was 8 years old, her Nanny gave her a designer game where she could draw and color outfits. Nicole knew right then and there that this was something she wanted to do with the rest of her life and she made her dream a reality!  Nicole Snobelen is the owner and designer of Evelynn by Nicole Snobelen and the Founder of the Abby Girl Fund. She studied Fashion Design at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario during the years of 2009 – 2012.

Evelynn is a Canadian fashion line based in London. The collection is targeted towards young women who love to stand out in a crowd! Nicole also founded The Abby Girl Fund, a fundraiser that started in 2015 to help lift the spirits of girls suffering from illness. Volunteers with the Abby Girl Fund visit girls in the hospital and work with them to design and colour their dream dress. In the days that follow, they secretly fabricate the identical design and make the young girl’s dream dress come to life. A few days later, they surprise each girl with her very own custom dress!

Prior to seeing her dreams come to fruition, Nicole indulged herself in many different experiences that really gave her a better sense of the fashion world and helped her get to where she is today. She was the marketing captain at The London Tap house, where she was put in charge of customer relations, marketing the business, running Friday nights, planning events and getting people involved with the company. She also trained new employees – both servers and members of the marketing team. 

Nicole also assisted fashion designers at Toronto Fashion Week, where she furthered her knowledge in the fashion industry. And as if that isn’t impressive enough, Nicole put together over 23 fashion shows to raise money for charity organizations like The Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Diabetes, Lupus Canada, Cystic Fibrosis, and MS Research.

So what does a day in the life of Nicole Snobelen look like? “Being an entrepreneur, I typically start working when I open my eyes and, until I close them, I am never really not working—I am my business. I start my day off by checking and replying to emails, followed by updating social media outlets. This usually includes updating my website, prepping orders to be sent out and mailing them. I try to get in 3 to 5 hours of sewing—new inventory or custom work. Some days I schedule trips to the fabric stores. I like to set aside an hour a day to spend time on the Abby Girl Fund submissions—whether that would be patterns, making the design they came up with or actually putting it into production to sew”.

Nicole says that four things are very important when working in this field. “Passion is so important. If you’re going to run your own business, you need to love and be passionate about what you are doing”. She stresses that patience is also key because you cannot expect to be successful right away—things take time to grow. Dedication is also important. “It not only takes a lot of work to create a job where there wasn’t one, but to actually wear every “hat“ (run and control every part) in your business from the start can take a lot out of you. I have sacrificed a lot of things in my journey, like having a fixed income. When I first started Evelynn, I was living dress to dress in order to get where I am today”. Last, but not least, creativity. The fashion industry is very competitive and you need to be able to find inspiration easily.

The reason Nicole is involved with fashion design is because her favourite thing to do is brighten people’s days or bring them out of their situation. “I am very passionate about what I am doing and who I have become in the process. I wanted to use my talents to help people, which is why I started the Abby Girl Fund. I use my gift to brighten the days of little children going through a hard time. To not only see, but be a part of putting a smile on the children’s face, it fills me with so much joy. I can honestly say I have the best job I could ever imagine. I get to wake up every day and live my dream, choose the people I want to work with and be a part of something amazing that I created”.

Nicole has some great advice for people who are relatively new in the workforce. “Don’t give up on your dream! Things will get tough and you will feel discouraged but if this is your dream, fight for it! Listen to people; you can learn something from everyone you meet. Be a good person and help people when you can”.

To see some of Nicole’s fantastic work from Evelynn, visit her Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/EvelynnByNicoleSnobelen/

To get more information on the Abby Girl Fund, visit:

https://www.facebook.com/abbygirlF/

 

The Love and Art of Baking: Elizabeth’s Story

By Emma Kushnir, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Elizabeth Hodgins’ adventure in baking started at Niagara College in the Baking and Pastry Arts program.  There, she learned how to make everything from wedding cakes to French macarons. While going to school, she also worked in the pastry department of Queen’s Landing an award-winning hotel in Niagara-On-The-Lake.   After finishing her program, she returned to her hometown of Perth, Ontario to work at the Fieldhouse Bakery & Takeaway. She has also started doing private pastry work in her own business called Elizabeth’s Pastries.

At the Fieldhouse. Elizabeth works nights as a baker -- making cookies, squares and pastries.  She explains that “Fieldhouse has an emphasis on supporting local farmers, and using natural ingredients in their baking. I personally feel that a product can only ever be as good as the ingredients you use to make it. Therefore the opportunity to work in an environment with people who have a similar philosophy about food is very satisfying. Despite being in the early days of my job here, I already feel right at home and am happy to go to work every day.” As for her future goals, while working at Fieldhouse she hopes to continue to learn and absorb everything she can, as well as be involved  through the next year’s wedding season in the newly launched wedding cakes part of the business.  

There are many special skills involved in the profession of baking.  A crucial one is organization. According to Elizabeth “If you are messy, unorganized, or careless you will not succeed in the pastry industry. Attention to detail is a must. For my current job I think the eagerness to learn and absorb information is also vital.  Multitasking.  Creativity.  And an  understanding of the science of baking…all crucial.”

When asked why she loves baking and her job, Elizabeth explains that it is the perfect combination of art, skill and science. “Pastry is much more than throwing everything in a bowl and turning on the mixer. The order that ingredients are combined and react together, the way you handle your mixture, the final baking or decorating procedure…they all contribute to the finished product. I love the satisfaction of taking raw, basic, ingredients and creating something beautiful, both to taste and to look at! There is a magical world of pastry that most people don’t know exists!”

What inspired Elizabeth to pursue this career?   Family!  Elizabeth grew up in a family with talented baking women and she was by amazed by their ability to make cookies from memory or make beautiful homemade cakes from scratch.  She recalls that she first got really interested in the career at a young age while baking with her grandma and making mini pies from her leftover crust scraps. “Like many have said before me, food is one of the most powerful triggers of memory. Specific smells and tastes often remind us of the most special times that bring family and friends together.  I feel that baking is a timeless art that will only continue to bring people together. I wanted to be the next generation of bringing people together, just with an elevated artistic twist.”

The biggest decision Elizabeth had to make was where her schooling adventure was to begin. She explains, “Nothing in life comes without a few challenges. I think the only real challenge I would say I faced would be my doubt in myself, or my confidence in the ability to make a career from baking cookies. After high school I took two years to travel and decide what I really wanted to do. When some people would ask what I had decided to go to school to study, and I would reply baking, I wasn’t always greeted with complete enthusiasm or confidence that I would succeed. But I decided to prove these people wrong!”                                

Elizabeth’s career advice?   “I think the only thing there is to be said to anyone figuring out what to do, career-wise, is to do what makes you truly happy!  My mom has always been a strong advocate of the ‘do what you love and you will never work a day in your life’ idea. I think that when I sat down and thought about what I loved to do most in my spare time, baking was the answer time and time again. Do what makes you happy, because with happiness comes passion, and with passion you will succeed.” 

Check out Elizabeth’s Pastries Page on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/Elizabeths-Pastries-1479999805659906

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 

 

Make Some Noise with Transistor!

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

Formed in 2007, and based out of Barrie, Ontario. Transistor is a four member, award-nominated band. They have released two full length albums and are about to release their yet-to-be-named third in 2015, fusing a power-chord rock sound together with blends of blues, punk and country.

 The band's recipe is simple. A hard driving focus and power-filled songs, combine with intricate lyrics, to reveal music that ranges from melodic to heavy. Steve Wishart's vocals twist and turn throughout the songs, weaving an energy of rich harmonies with lead guitarist and backing vocalist Chris Nunes. The group's nucleus is held together by Joel Schonewille's steady rhythms on drums. Bass player Don Lindsay intertwines unorthodox bass lines to bring the songs together. Transistor has performed many shows and appeared at Earth Hour Music Festival, Barrie New Music Fest and Music on Main.

 Behind their unique sound, is a unique career path chosen by each band member. As Steve recounts "All of us have really taken different courses and schooling to get to where we are today. Being an honours graduate of the Georgian College Graphic Design program I have found that my career path has helped to give our band an identity, overall look and appearance. Because of my education, we have merchandise to sell and a website to promote ourselves and a visual presence that we can take pride in.  From an artistic point of view, I can utilize my training to think creatively and outside of the norms to not only brand us, but apply it to other forms of the group such as songwriting or making videos. It's the creativity that allows me to write lyrics to a song or help structure a guitar part. Music is much like design or any kind of art...everyone starts with a blank canvas and as an artist it's up to us to fill it with a picture that others can connect with on whatever level. But in this case our medium is our instruments".

 The band's drummer Joel took Radio Television Arts at Ryerson University. This gave him some audio training in a broadcast domain and an idea of the process radio stations use to select music for their playlists.  Guitarist and backing vocalist, Chris tried out Computer Programming, but never quite finished.  It was in his free time that he learned the art of guitar.

 When asked which school experiences helped the most, lead singer Steve said that he never really excelled in music in school. He didn't like the structure of music teachers assigning the roles played in a band. He wanted to be an individual.  Steve took private music lessons which boosted his confidence. This experience inspired him to learn independently and to decide for himself what role he would play.  Although Chris did not finish his post-secondary program, he notes that the time he spent there was worthwhile: "For the three of us school was our experience that helped define us. It's where we met, forged a friendship and started the roots of our band. Joel, Steve and myself have played together for many years in various bands. In a way, you can consider that a career, as most bands don't last even a quarter of that time together."

 A day on the job can vary, depending on whether the band members are performing or recording.  If they are performing, they have to incorporate extra time to travel, set up equipment, and make sure the instruments are working and sounding right; and then there is the work and effort that comes with putting on a good show.

Recording is a different story, because the band can either work together, or separately. They can work on their sound in the comfort of their own homes, and then come together to make the whole masterpiece. Practices happen once a month, and can last anywhere from 5 to 10 hours. Recording gives the band more time for sleep, and family; but for Chris there is nothing better then when they come over to his place for a jam session, and create new music. 

 There are many rewarding things about being in a band, including the fans, and seeing a song come to life. Steve explains the best part for him: "From a body of work perspective we are about to release our third album, and I always find that fulfilling and exciting...so first and foremost I would say writing the music tops the list. This is followed closely by the atmosphere of being in a band. It's truly like a family at times. Sharing ideas and creative moments right to traveling and performing live and having people listen to your music and like it."

 They admit that they would like to "make it big" with Transistor, but they know the industry is not what it used to be. Nonetheless they will continue making music because it's what they love. When asked for advice for those who may be interested in entering the industry, the band collectively agreed that you can't expect to "get rich quick".  You should make music because you love it; and stay away from today's talent shows that ultimately try to seize creative control.

You can find out more about Transistor at their website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube.