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.”

The People Side of Voices.com: Kaitlyn’s Story

By Michelle Doyle, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Do you ever watch a trailer or hear an ad on the radio and think to yourself “Who is that voice? Where do they get these people from?”  Wouldn’t it be nifty to have a platform for voices and businesses to connect?  Kaitlyn Apfelbeck is the Human Resources Manager for Voices.com in London, Ontario–  a global voice talent company that does exactly that!

In her role, Kaitlyn deals with all the people-related matters of the company – “the hiring, the firing, benefits, payroll, compensation, training and development, health & safety, and many other day to day responsibilities that come up.” She finds the best part of her job is the people with whom she gets to work. Even when her work piles up and gets to be a bit overwhelming, she still loves it simply because she’s working in such a fun and supportive environment.

Kaitlyn began her journey at Western University in 2007, where she entered the Bachelor Management and Organizational Studies (BMOS) Finance Program. After just one year, she knew she didn’t love accounting. This wasn’t a matter of her not doing well in the program; in fact, she was actually doing very well. Rather, it was that the human resources (HR) courses that she was taking really intrigued her. In her third year, Kaitlyn decided to follow her interest and transitioned into the HR stream of BMOS.

Although she graduated in April, 2011, Kaitlyn didn’t land her first job until November of that year. This job took quite a bit of networking to land and she was pleased in at St. Joseph’s Health Care London as an HR Assistant on a 6-month contract.   After that, Kaitlyn moved to auto parts manufacturer Takumi Stamping Canada Inc and eased her way up the manufacturing stream – from HR Assistant to HR Specialist in a short 3 years. She explains that it was during this period of time that she learned the bulk of her HR knowledge.  As she puts it (pro tip alert!) “if you ever want to learn HR inside and out, work in manufacturing. It's a very strict environment, and it helped that my manager was chock-full of HR knowledge and experiences. Some of the biggest pieces of HR info I learned was from conversations with my manager.  I was always interested in the previous situations he had found himself in and what he did about them.”

Kaitlyn knew she wanted to move further up and so she continued on her career hunt. It was then that she connected with Voices.com, and as it seems, she got extremely lucky.  “The stars were aligned for me at that time, because I landed the best job I've had in my entire life!” Kaitlyn explains her love and passion for her job as being a result of truly believing in the industry. She found it much easier to stand behind the company, as well as exert her passion and motivation simply from believing in the company.

Kaitlyn’s advice for those searching for their dream job is to realize that this won’t just happen within the first few years of graduating. “You'll make less money than you thought you would, you'll struggle, and you'll question if you're in the right industry or if you should've taken a different academic path. Trust me–  it's all worth it.”  She also discussed the importance of always trying the best you can, to ensure that previous employers have nothing but good things to say about you.

 “The world is small, and you'll likely run into those previous employers at Costco on more than one occasion – so be pleasant and humble!”

Not Just a Dirty Trade

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

Shawn Sellon's path started at Saunders Secondary School in London, ON where he spent two years learning the art of welding. The Grade 11 and 12 classroom introduction lit the flame of passion. He continued on to take a Welder/Fitter program at Conestoga College. After completing this program, Shawn attained all his welding certifications and started working at Tigercat Industries in Cambridge. However, he wasn't done with Conestoga yet and went on to tackle the Welding Engineering Technician program. This led him into robotic welding and to learn the science behind it.

 All these experiences changed Shawn's perspective of what he thought was a smoke filled and messy job: "it showed me that there was more than just what was thought of as a dirty, Red Seal trade. It was now something more..and interesting!"

 Shawn shared the experiences that have stayed with him throughout his career: "Everything I ever did with my time at Conestoga. All the professors involved in the welding programs have industry experience. They know what is required from graduates as they move into the workforce and I think this is a critical factor in why these poly-technical programs have a good history. The skills I have found most useful would be working in groups, good communication, and report/memo writing. It is critical in manufacturing environments to be able to work effectively in a group. Writing reports and detailed emails are important for Technical/Technologist's positions. All of these skills were attained from my educational experience at Conestoga, and have helped me tremendously "

 A day on the job for Shawn is full of high temperatures and lots of responsibility: "I'm in charge of the robotic welding operations, and all welding applications that are done at our two facilities in Stoney Creek. Jayne Industries, where I work now, is a refractory hardware and fabrication company for the oil, gas, and steel industry. Refractory is a ceramic compound that is lined on the inside of furnaces that operate at a high temperature above 1500F. If the refractory was not in place, the steel structure of the vessel would deform with the high heat. To anchor this refractory material on the furnace wall, stainless and Inconel fabricated materials are used. These procedures are completed at Jayne. To weld exotic alloys like these, it has to be done properly. Most of these fabrications are done robotically in a controlled environment, using the right processes and consumables. I am in charge of developing the procedure to weld the materials, program the fabrication, and supervise production afterwards. I train and teach employees to use the new technology involved in our facility, and provide any technical information to customers.  Customers such as Exxon Mobile, which is the largest energy company in the world. Our anchoring systems are used on shut-downs when they are replacing refractory material on a refinery."

 Shawn is extremely satisfied with what he's accomplished so far. He is always learning about new technology and information. He has accepted a leadership role as a floor supervisor, which has improved  his skill set. He has learn what he and his team are capable of and how to deal with conflict among employees.

When asked what the most rewarding part of pursuing welding was, Shawn said that seeing how much his educational background is acknowledged in the industry is a bonus.

He also doesn't mind the fact that he is 21 and doing ok for himself. The starting salary for a Welding Technologist is about $55,000 yearly. Along with the nice pay, Shawn says he appreciates that the learning possibilities are endless.

  As for advice, Shawn says that the more education you have the better. The more aspects of any trade that you know, the more opportunities and skills you will gain.

Enrich and Endure: Sarah & Lorcan’s Story

Love this story of designer / entrepreneurs, Sarah and Lorcan, the 20-something Irish brother and sister duo who took career path U-turns to revive – and reinvent ­– the production of gorgeous Irish linen in their hometown.  Karl West describes their inspiring journey

“…brother and sister Lorcan and Sarah Quinn aim to breathe new life into the sector with  their fabric firm, Enrich and Endure. They want to carve out a niche at the top end of the market by eschewing the traditional, starched textiles of rivals and wooing a younger generation with snazzy designs and colourful fabrics.”

For more about, Sarah and Lorcan, check out here and here.