Natalie Pecile…Making the world a better place

By Danila Di Croce

Photo by Giulio Muratori

Photo by Giulio Muratori

When Natalie Pecile decided to study science throughout high school, she was planning to follow in her father’s footsteps and become an engineer. However, that all changed when she realized that her extroverted personality was far better suited for the business world. 

Her decision was definitely the right one as this recent alumnus of York University’s Schulich School of Business has flourished with the opportunities her program provided her. At 21, this native of Toronto has already garnered a pretty impressive résumé. She spent a semester abroad in Bangkok, Thailand, developed a literacy program at her old elementary school, competed in Dubai for the Hult Prize, held the title of VP of Operations of Schulich’s Undergraduate Business Society, and she was just recently hired for a full-time position with the Tim Hortons Leadership Development Program. “I’ve always been interested in how to apply myself to benefit society,” she says. “Originally, I specialized in accounting and the non-profit business sector; however, I then switched to focus on marketing and entrepreneurship.”

That switch is what led her to Dubai. In her fourth year at Schulich, Pecile directed her focus on social entrepreneurship and social business. This resulted in her, along with three of her classmates, entering a local competition organized by the Hult Prize Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to launching the world’s next wave of social entrepreneurs. The competition invites students to develop new ideas for sustainable start-up enterprises that will help to solve the planet’s biggest challenges. Although Pecile and her team did not win, she points out that the experience was definitely worthwhile. “It was very empowering; it allowed me to use everything I had learned at school up until that point and apply it to a global challenge that I am really passionate about. It helped me to look at our issues with new perspectives and taught me to be more flexible and open to change, which I think will be very helpful moving forward.”

Pecile’s experience in Bangkok, Thailand, also left her with a positive impression. “Meeting people, discussing career options with them, and observing individuals who were pursing entrepreneurship was a great career influence.”

 Nowadays, Pecile is focusing on her new position at the Tim Hortons Leadership Development Program, which allows individuals to train in different areas of the business before deciding on which sector to commit to. “I am excited about the program as it gives me the opportunity to try out new things; most especially to experience marketing in ‘the real world,’ outside of school.”

When she isn’t busy trying out new ventures in the business world, Pecile occupies her time with organizing and overseeing events at York University. She also devotes time to the arts. As a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music, Pecile enjoys playing the piano. When asked how she balances it all, Pecile credits her family for their support. “My parents have always let me make my decisions freely. They have always been supportive and helpful with their advice.”

She also credits her strong family ties for helping shape the person she has become. “We are close; for each special occasion we all gather at my grandparents’ house, and I really appreciate that because I know that not everyone has that.” She acknowledges both sets of grandparents, who hail from the Friuli and Lazio regions of Italy, for helping keep her connected to her Italian roots. “A lot of my Italian influence comes from food and speaking the language. Initially I learned Italian was I was little, and then I switched to English. My grandparents have always shown us traditions such as making sausages, wine and pasta sauce.”

In regards to continuing traditions, Pecile explains, “I definitely want to put more time into the Italian culture and concentrate on it more. I would love to improve in my speaking and continue the language with future generations of my family.”

When asked where she sees herself in the near future, Pecile says, “I want to learn everything about the business and hopefully one day become a successful entrepreneur. Having all parts of your life balanced and working hard at something, while improving the lives of others – that would be ideal.”

Reprinted with permission from Panoram Italia    

 

Leading a Customer Advisory Team: David’s Story

By Michelle Doyle, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

David Ennett is the supervisor of the customer advisory team at StarTech.com, a manufacturer of hard-to-find IT parts. The focus of the company is to make it easy for IT professionals to identify, find, and use the parts they require for their tech solutions. StarTech.com is a well-established international company, operating 24 hours a day, 5 days a week, in 8 different languages!  “It’s great to be part of a London company that has become a global business,” David says.  

David works with a team of 20 advisors who service customers via phone, webchat and e-mail. The majority of his time is spent working with the members of his team to provide them with the support necessary to help them be successful in their roles.

His day-to-day work consists of coaching the team and being readily available for assistance. David is very passionate about what makes exceptional customer service and makes an effort to put this at the forefront of how the team operates, “I believe that the best manufacturers not only create excellent products but also provide stellar service. I spend a lot of my time thinking about how we can do continue to enhance the experience for our customers.”

David says what he enjoys most about his job is “working with incredible people across the entire organization”. He explains that it is motivating to work in an environment where people enjoy what they do and work together to support one another. Everyone at StarTech.com is dedicated to their customers and is committed to succeeding in their work.  Along with this incredible commitment to customer service, the team also has a lot of fun.  “We celebrate Halloween like no other employer in the country (seriously it’s a big deal around here) and have employees who volunteer as fun ambassadors (that role is exactly as it sounds) who plan various events and activities throughout the year.”

Most of the fun, however, is experienced in the daily atmosphere of the organization.  StarTech.com is a place where everyone cares for each other and enjoys being part of the team. This supportive attitude creates a great sense of community – “the passion that everyone has for the business and one another is palpable”. The team appreciates that collaboration is not only the key to being successful, but is also essential for creating this meaningful, rewarding and fun workplace.


How did David find his way to StarTech.com?  He explains that his career path was not exactly “planned”. He, like many other students, was not sure what he wanted to do professionally.  As he sees it, however, this confusion and uncertainty, while at times uncomfortable, is actually very healthy. It forces you to really understand yourself better and come to understand what you are passionate about.

David pursued a B.A. in Political Science and M.A. in Canadian-American Relations at Western University. He says that the liberal arts and social sciences are valuable as they teach students to “think critically, problem solve, write well and engage with a diverse set of ideas and people”. He argues that these are essential skills that are transferable to almost any workplace.

During his university career, David also took on various leadership opportunities, including president of his students’ council, where he learned to enjoy responsibility for projects and leading others. “I quickly found that the best leaders are consultative in nature and strive to empower and enable team members to play a large role in making decisions and sharing in success,” he says.

After completing school, David worked at Staples as a supervisor for a year, where he oversaw the service departments of his store, along with leading a team of 10 associates. It was here where he saw firsthand how great customer service can significantly impact the growth of a business. He has brought this passion for great service with him to StarTech.com.

David’s advice for new graduates is to not fear entering the workforce and to take on roles that may not link directly to your education. University can only prepare you for so much. Wherever you end up, take it very seriously, work hard, and embrace the idea that “no task is too small”. These are the skills he believes are most important for his generation.  “As millennials we need to show other generations that we are capable of working with humility and respect. If we can do this I think we will succeed.”



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. 

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.