The art of newspaper design

By Andrew Vowles

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  Photo Credit:  Lindsay Lapchuk

Photo Credit:  Lindsay Lapchuk

Matt French tells stories not with words but with design.

An award-winning page designer and assistant art director for The Globe and Mail newspaper, he aims to create eye-catching page layouts that give readers a clear idea what the story is about before they read a sentence.

“The designer is there to make the message as clear and effective as they can,” says French, adding that a skillful design draws attention to the article rather than to the design elements, including graphics, photos and typography.

Take the Globe’s front-page coverage of last fall’s final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The story was illustrated by oversize numerals that punched out the key points: numbers of victims, witnesses and deaths associated with the country’s former residential schools.

“The story was the numbers, and the numbers are the impact,” says French, B.Comm. ’07. “It’s not about any highfalutin’ image or fancy colour.”

Most days, French, 30, helps design the newspaper’s front page, working with a “cast of many,” including editors, headline writers and the paper’s creative director. Over the past year, he’s designed more than 300 front pages and thousands more inside.

French’s design skills are self-taught, but his career path started at U of G. Always driven to do creative work, he pursued a commerce degree thinking he could “make a living doing something creative in business” such as working for a marketing agency.

During a summer job in a marketing department, French took a stab at creating promotional material for trade publications. Back on campus during third and fourth year, he then worked at Guelph’s student newspaper, The Ontarion, as photo and graphics editor, and layout editor. Recalling those days, he says, “You were able to cut your teeth doing what you wanted. Learning from your mistakes gave you the freedom to make mistakes.”

Following graduation, he worked at the Woolwich Observer. After three years there, he worked for 24 Hours, a Toronto commuter newspaper, and the Toronto Sun, among others.

French got called up to the “big leagues” in 2011. Up to 400,000 people read The Globe and Mail’s weekend edition.

Among his notable Globe projects, he points to an “Unremembered” series of articles last year about the suicides of Canadian soldiers and veterans who fought in Afghanistan, as well as the 11th-hour package of reports covering the 2015 federal election that vaulted Justin Trudeau’s Liberals into power.

Another favourite was the 2012 Remembrance Day cover, with the word “Remember” stamped over a soldier’s image. “It did what it was intended to do: cause the reader to pause and reflect.”

A fan of the Washington Post and the Guardian, French brings what he calls a simple and subtle but graphic approach to his work, as well as a refined sense of visual literacy — all without getting in the way of the story.

Sitting down to assemble a page, he knows that reporters and editors might have put months of work and passion into the article. “At the end, I’m the person responsible for taking it over the finish line, making it sing so that people connect with it.”


This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in The University of Guelph’s Portico Magazine. 

Alumni Husband-and-Wife Collaboration A Success

By Jennifer Ammoscato

Everything in life is a process.  Just ask University of Windsor grads Tristan Boutros BComm ’06 & Jennifer Cardella BA ’06

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  Photo credit: Steve Biro

Photo credit: Steve Biro

Boutros, who majored in business, and Cardella, who focused on psychology, not only collaborated on their book, The Basics of Process Improvement—they even applied its principles to planning their wedding.

“Life is full of processes, whether you’re talking about how a business functions, or how to make sure your wedding goes off without a hitch,” says Boutros. “The idea of process improvement is something that goes far beyond the corporate world.”

When it comes to business, Boutros suggests thinking about every company as an ecosystem where everything is interconnected to a wide variety of touch points, both inside and out.

“Process connects it all. How a company operates from day to day within itself and with its suppliers and customers, including people, process and technology, he says. “For example, how an order is placed, right through the entire order to cash process. My job is to make sure things are being handled as efficiently as possible.”

Boutros serves as chief operating officer, Product, Technology & Design, for The New York Times. In that role, he spends his days considering ways to optimize how the 165-year-old news organization operates, and develop solutions which allow it to maintain its high-quality, well- respected product while saving costs.

Boutros, who began in the position in January 2016, brought to it more than 10 years of business, technology, and management consulting experience at such companies as DTE Energy, IAC, BlackBerry, and Warner Music Group. He also holds more than 10 professional designations.

“I’ve always been a process-oriented person,” says Boutros. “Very analytical and organized. It’s in my DNA.”

In university, he focused on marketing and advertising with a minor in computer science.” As a student, he ran his own e-commerce business selling DVDs, Books and CDs. He says that experience was the basis for where he is now.

“I learned all about business processes. I dealt with orders, kept track of revenues, and learned how to automate. I was learning about process management without knowing it.”

In his current role, Boutros focuses on the digital side of The New York Times—its robust website and the consumer products it offers, as well as its internal systems. It must compete in a difficult environment in which most newspapers are undergoing large, digital transformations in the wake of declining ad revenues and increasing market pressures.

“My specialty is to come into those difficult transitions, where companies want to be excellent and efficient, and find a way to increase quality while increasing agility and efficiency.”

Jennifer Cardella says her “passion” for process management was ignited courtesy of UWindsor psychology professor Ted Vokes.

“He was a phenomenal professor,” she says. “I took one ofhis courses and we had a great conversation about organizational psychology. I immediately connected to it. I saw how psychology and business go hand-in-hand. He had a large influence over where I am today.”

Post-graduation, Cardella held positions at some of the same places as Boutros, including Pernod Ricard, IAC and Blackberry. Her roles evolved from the accounting department, recruitment and business analysis to project and process management.

Today, she is Vice President, Strategic Vendor Management, and Project Management Office for Viacom, an American media conglomerate that’s home to such brands as MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, CMT and Comedy Central. She joined the company almost two years ago.

In her role, Cardella is responsible for the vendor management and project management offices. On a day-to-day basis, that might mean making sure that the departments within Technology have the process, tools and services available to execute their projects whether that be internal initiatives or an award show.

“I’m not the project manager delivering the solution,” she explains. “I’m making sure they have the right agile project management tools for both planning and execution. I oversee the greater portfolio.”

Cardella considers herself “in love” with “agile methodology”—a disciplined, project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability, a set of engineering best practices to allow for rapid delivery of high-quality software, and a business approach that aligns development with customer needs and company goals.

There are several different software methodologies thatcan achieve this. Cardella is an ardent fan of Lean Six Sigma,a methodology that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing waste. The training for Lean Six Sigma is provided through the belt-based training system—white belts, yellow belts, green belts, black belts and master black belts— similar to judo.

Earlier in her career, she acquired her Green Belt and then continued to earn more certifications. “It was really important to me and I paid for it on my own.”

She brought the green belt course to Viacom. “I want people to recognize that we want to invest in them. At the end of the day, it’s the people who make the company.”

Cardella volunteers as a mentor to young women today and is looking forward to volunteering in co-ordination with Viacom as a part of Girls Who Code, a national mentoring program in the US meant to encourage young women to consider technology as a career.

“Tech jobs are part of the fastest-growing in the country but girls are being left behind,” she says. “The job is to close the gender gap in technology. I want to help women succeed and to be fully integrated into that.”

The decision for husband and wife to collaborate on a book about process management was a natural one for them. But it wasn’t Boutros’ first book on the subject.

In 2013, Boutros and his mentor, Tim Purdie, published the award-winning book, The Process Improvement Handbook:A Blueprint for Managing Change and Increasing Organizational Performance with McGraw Hill. “It was much more of a textbook about process management,” he explains.

The second, The Basics of Process Improvement, in collaboration with Cardella, came out in 2016. “It’s much more of a practical read. The feedback we’ve received is that it is very easy to use in day-to- day jobs,” says Boutros. This book has also received critical praise, and has been a finalist in both the USA Best Book Awards, and Book Viral Awards, while being nominated for several others.

Working together had its challenges, the largest being how to divide family responsibilities while writing. “Some days I was largely with the kids and other days Jennifer took the lead,” says Boutros. “I think the toughest thing was dealing with the amount of timeit took to write the book with a young family, as we had deadlinesto meet.”

The Basics of Process Improvement was featured at a January 2017 conference with the Process Excellence Network in Orlando, Fla. The couple gave the keynote address. Cardella is also slated to be a panel speaker in April at The Workfront 2017 Leap Conference.

They plan to launch a new book in summer 2017, Agile Process Management. “It won’t be focused on process improvement as much as how a company can be agile—more responsive to needs and changing situations,” says Boutros. “It will be for people who want more innovative and newer methods of product delivery.”

So devoted is the couple to the value of process management that they incorporated it into their wedding planning.

Says Boutros, “We planned a destination wedding in three or four hours. We prioritized, assigned duties, and largely completed any needed tasks within a four-week period.”

“We had sticky notes all over the walls,” says Cardella. “It was our wedding war room.” The wedding went off without a hitch.

This approach has continued into their marriage and daily lives. “We look at every aspect of our family and assess if and how we could improve it. Things like, outsourcing certain household chores such as having groceries delivered directly to buy us more time as a family together. We also use visual management, like having a family board with chores and tasks on it.”

Although Boutros and Cardella are in the same field, Boutros admits that they differ on how rigorous to be about planning. “Jen is more relaxed. She’s accepts shifts and evolution more so than me.I push execution a bit much sometimes.”

“I know when to slack off a little,” adds Cardella. “But, he’sthe one who gets us back on the right path. He’s definitely had an excellent influence over my path and I attribute a lot of my success to him.”

The Basics of Process Improvement (CRC Press 2016)  Agile Process Management (CRC Press 2017)  Available on Amazon

This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of VIEW, the University of Windsor Alumni Magazine

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.”

Media Maven, Aicha Cisse

By Abigayle Walker, WorkStory Ambassador at University of Ottawa


Aicha Cisse is the Web Editor of MSN Canada, in charge of the Entertainment and Sports pages. Aicha is also responsible for the marketing of the Microsoft online store on MSN. She decides which Microsoft electronics or merchandise the site will promote and how it will be promoted. She likens her job to that of an Editor of an online magazine.

On a regular day, Aicha prioritizes any advertising campaigns that are running on the site. She works directly with advertisers on campaigns in order to generate a certain amount of clicks. If a campaign isn’t running, she focusses on keeping the site up to date with content, especially for the Entertainment and Sports pages. She sorts through the latest news stories from content providers like TMZ, Vanity Fair, and Vogue feeds and decides which source and content to feature on the site.

At Concordia University, Aicha originally majored in Biology. She soon discovered that the sciences were not the best fit for her; so she decided to seek assistance from her university’s career centre. The councillor gave Aicha a personality test, which revealed that she was well-suited to a career in Communications.  With this information in hand, Aicha transferred into the Communications program at Concordia University. After her program change, she found her passion for media and journalism. Beginning to work in newsrooms, Aicha learned that her niches were magazines and television.

Aicha started out as a writer for a start-up magazine, in the entertainment and lifestyle section. There she was able to build her portfolio and gain experience in the field. Due to the harsh competitive market, the magazine folded after the publication’s first issue. Being the go-getter that she is, Aicha pushed forward and found an internship at the CTV as a reporter for E-talk. Since this internship was unpaid, she searched online for work and stumbled across a positing for a Community Manager at Yahoo Canada.  Her responsibilities for this job were to moderate, screen spam comments, and to report abusive language that she found on the Yahoo Answer website. She developed an interest in further responsibilities whilst she was learning from her senior management team at Yahoo.  As people eventually left the company, Aicha was able to apply for an opening as a News Editor. From here, she gained a deeper interest in online news, social media, and  new technology.  She eventually got laid off from Yahoo, but through her strong networking abilities and experience in the flied, Aicha was soon hired at her position at Microsoft.

Aicha stresses that the industry she is in is extremely competitive. Her advice?  Work hard and hustle.  Be persistent. Develop impeccable writing and communication skills.  And above all else, know how to sell yourself! 

Building Relationships at Ellipsis Digital

By  Veerta Singh, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Brett McKenzie is the Relationship Manager at Ellipsis Digital, located in London, Ontario. This job title encompasses various aspects such as sales, post-project support, technical support but mainly client relations and project management.

Ellipsis Digital is a growing agency and is constantly trying to figure out in which direction to grow.  When asked what about working at Ellipsis Digital inspires Brett he said “The people. This is a really great team and they’re all very interesting and smart people. We work on projects that excite us and interest us as well. Our clients are interesting as well. People in the mental health or addictions field, people in the arts, people in the non-profit sector. and so on. But it’s the people we work with and our clients that excite us. They all care about this community and each other, they care about the families. They care and that’s really inspiring to be around.”

Brett didn’t even realize this job existed previously and he doesn’t expect to be doing it forever either. “That’s not the way things are anymore.” He earned his Honors degree in English from Huron College in 1999 as well as his Bachelor of Education after that. He was originally planning on being an English and Social Studies teacher. “I taught for about five years, but there are a lot more teachers than there are jobs right now. So after struggling with it for a long time, I gave up on it for a while and started working in the non-profit sector. I was doing campaign, office and project management in that I was planning events, although I didn’t think of myself as a project manager at the time. I worked for the Liver Foundation and after he moved to the Arts Project, which is a small art gallery and theatre downtown. I loved that job, I was working with writers, poets, actors, directors and other people who were passionate about the arts. But the money wasn’t there and I had a family at the time so it was time to move on.”

When Brett was in the non-profit sector, he spent a long time looking for jobs and new work. After 3 years at the Arts Project he found a job he worked as a letter carrier. “With a job like that though, once you learn the route, the job never gets any easier or harder, it only gets more tedious.” But after a few years, Brett found an opening at Ellipsis Digital and he knew it was an interesting job.

Brett has been working at Ellipsis Digital for over a year and a half now and a common day at Ellipsis Digital begins bright and early for him. “I’m usually one of the first ones here. They tend to start a little late, we’re pretty flexible. We have a meeting at 9:30 a.m. and then I go through my inbox and deal with client requests. I make sure everyone has everything they need, and talking to clients to make sure we have approval on prototypes and decisions.”

During his downtime, Brett reads a lot and consumes a lot of pop culture (movies, Netflix). He also enjoys working out, running and doing karate. He’s constantly checking social media and reading. “When I look at Facebook it’s because people share articles. I pay attention to economics, psychology and other sociology aspects”.

Staying engaged and paying attention are two things Brett considers important to be successful in your field of work. “We build websites and applications, but for us those are tools to help people engage with other people. If we build a website for a theatre, it’s to encourage ticket sales. But we want to encourage ticket sales because we want people to experience live theatre and stay engaged. We deal with pixels all day, but we’re moving those pixels around to help people find people.”

When asked about advice for entering the workforce, Brett says “keep your eyes open. It used to be work hard, study hard. I’ve come to believe people aren’t lazy, they’re just disengaged. I say this as a teacher, when I had a student who didn’t show up to class it wasn’t because they were lazy it was because they weren’t interested in school. School isn’t always for everybody. When you’re passionate about what you do, you become interested. Know there is a lot more out there that engages you and appreciate as much as you can. Try new things, work hard and have a good time. Prioritize but don’t discard something. Also, listen to other advice, but evaluate it. And there are some things you won’t be able to do. There are books you won’t be able to read, people you won’t be able to meet, and you just have to accept it.”

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

By Michelle Doyle, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University


Susan Mutterback is Marketing Communications Specialist at, 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!  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, 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.

Children’s Dreams Made Real: The Story of The Enchanted Cottage

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Caleigh Allen is the creator of Ever After Entertainment in Atlanta, Georgia. Together with Jenna Bell and several other actors and artists in Atlanta, Caleigh’s company creates an entertainment experience like no other. The goal is to create “The Enchanted Cottage” a fairy tale venue where children and their families can enjoy a magical experience with their favourite characters, without the high costs of a theme park. Currently, actors involved with the company spend much of their time in character and on the road driving to birthday parties, meet-and-greets and charitable events. After two successful years in business, they are ready to find a physical venue where children visit The Snow Queen and her sister or even a mermaid! Pirates, princes and superheroes are also part of the company where they strive to have “Children’s Dreams Made Real.”

Recently, Jenna participated in an “AMA – Ask me Anything” on Reddit to describe what it’s like to work as a princess. It snowballed to other websites including the Facebook page of fitness guru, Richard Simmons. “That was such a cool moment!” Jenna laughed, “Caleigh sent me a screen shot and I just couldn’t believe it. Even more amazing was that he posted an article, based off another article, based off my Reddit and I realized, ‘Wow…This is really spreading. People are actually interested in what we are trying to do here!’ I was afraid when I offered to do the AMA that I would get no questions at all, so to see the support has been so uplifting.”

“This project is very near and dear to our hearts,” both women explained. “…We realized there really isn’t a ‘home’ for this industry. People work out of rented office buildings, or their houses, and we thought, ‘what if we made a place where we can all come together, as a co-op and benefit?’ Everyone can be involved with events… and whatever fantastical things we think of, at a lower cost, to help cross promote and allow these small businesses to get exposure and grow.” Part of their mission also includes working with sick children and their families.

Essentially, the idea for Ever After Entertainment came from Caleigh’s childhood love of fairy tales and her father’s success as an entrepreneur.   “I have a degree in Musical Theatre and a love for all fairy tales …. Add those two together, and you get an adult who started a princess entertainment company! ….My father was always a role model for entrepreneurship. He [made] his own company that eventually was dissolved into Technicolor and Sony with him near the top. …When I was younger I didn’t realize he set the stage for me to succeed. His advice for me [was] ‘Don’t stop believing, never stop growing, and love what you do.’” she explained. As her dream becomes a reality, Caleigh finds it most rewarding that she can share the experience with her dad, and that she is able to represent women in the workforce.

“… As a woman especially, it’s so much harder for us in the world of business to be taken seriously and to succeed. The fact that I have been successful in this cutthroat world with a princess company means the world to me; and to have my father support me is everything. In addition to being a “full-time princess”, Caleigh also makes and sells her own flower crowns.

Jenna joined the company on a whim and describes herself as a “part-time princess” because her character work only takes place on weekends.  “During the week I work as a digital artist, doing graphic design and computer animation. On the weekends I am usually spending my time as The Snow Queen-- and sometimes as a few other princess favourites as well. I graduated with my BFA in animation, with an obvious interest in fairy tales, and a desire to be a Disney animator. I ended up moving to Atlanta to work for Turner Broadcasting, and during a huge Halloween parade I decided to dress up as The Snow Queen. Well, I couldn’t walk ten feet without people stopping me for pictures, and was eventually approached by someone holding children’s events at a nearby ice-rink. They needed a Snow Queen character for the parties. At first I was timid about it all. I’ve never acted in my life.and  kept asking my friends, ‘Is this weird? Do people do this?’ Finally my good friend Kyle urged me to give it a try, and I thank him for that push…I met Caleigh and other wonderful people in this industry and it’s become a part of my life [that] I don’t think I can live without now.”

Jenna even took her role as The Snow Queen to Thailand, which is also how the cottage came about. “I had planned to go to an underprivileged school to deliver school supplies, but when my guide found out what I did on the weekends she was ecstatic.… I put on a blue dress from my backpack, and she wrote ‘The Snow Queen’ in Thai on my name tag. The kids were shy at first, but soon as she told them ‘who I was’ they all came running toward me and basically tackled me with hugs and kisses. It was just wonderful. I wasn’t there long, but by the end of it our guide brought over the principal and translated his thank you to me. He bowed and told me those kids will never have a day like this again, and that I brought them an experience they will never forget. It meant the world to them. It was such an interesting perspective for me because I’m just me you know? [I’m] just playing this character. It’s amazing how you can bring hope in the simplest ways, and after that I was inspired to do more. I came home … and reached out to Caleigh and said ‘So I have this idea for a cottage….’ We’ve been working towards that dream ever since.”

Despite what seem to be very magical jobs and goals, there are many challenges as well. Caleigh notes that “Making magic for children is usually great [but] every so often, it’s not. Sometimes you have crazy parents or clients who try to make your job harder, but you can’t let them! I love to perform and I love entertaining kids, so that’s definitely not the hard part. Usually the scheduling and dealing with fussy clients is a lot worse than the children.”

Jenna finds that her biggest challenge is “commanding a room full of strangers” because “Some kids believe, some don’t. But if you can convince the non-believers that you’re ‘real’, then you’ll be leaving on a high note…and in the good graces of the guests, which means recommendations for more events.”

 “… Many parents ask for us to just come in with this grand entrance of singing and dancing, but we have to explain, even though we are the child’s ‘favourite character’ that will still scare them.... It’s better to ease into it, because the kids can be nervous too! From there we read stories, sing songs, take pictures, and participate in games. ….We may be there for anywhere from an hour to four hours, and we have to always be in character and make sure each family walks away with a smile” Bell continued.

Despite the challenges, most of their days end happily ever after, making it all worth it for Caleigh Allen and Jenna Bell.  For more information you can visit their website and like their Facebook page. You can also follow them on Twitter (Caleigh / Jenna) on Twitter and for updates on The Enchanted Cottage.

Putting It All Together: Michelle’s Public Relations Story

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Michelle Praymayer is the Public Relations and Promotional Events Assistant at Home Hardware Stores Limited for the head office in St. Jacobs, Ontario. With previous employment in the radio and television industries, and as a former student of both Conestoga and Fanshawe College, Michelle has used her promotional and media experiences to excel as a member of the Home Hardware team.

Michelle says that she loves “the variety” that her job brings: “Every day is unique and I get to be a part of so many neat things.” Along with variety, Michelle loves the atmosphere surrounding her workplace: “It’s a family business. It’s a small town environment and most people know each other and are very friendly.... It adds to the charm.”

 On a typical day,  Michelle can be found phoning store owners and customers, picking products to donate to fundraisers, answering emails, creating and editing press releases or newsletter articles, as well as creating product lists. On the not-so typical days, Michelle’s variety of tasks increases! For example, earlier this year, she organized the entertainment for Home Hardware Canada's national Dealer Market event, which included a circus act called, “The Aerial Angels” and she was chosen to coordinate the Lieutenant Governor’s visit to the Home Hardware distribution centre as well. In addition, Michelle has suited up as the mascot, “Handy the Helpful Hound” for Thanksgiving and Christmas parades. Through her work, she was also able to attend the 2014 International Plowing Match which took place in Alliston, ON. Michelle has even worked alongside the experts seen in the Home Hardware commercials, Mark Cullen and Anna Olson!

 Initially, Michelle wasn’t expecting to get the job: “My mom worked there first and brought home the posting. I applied in March... and didn’t get a call until end of May. They hired me in that interview.” Michelle began working at Home Hardware in June 2014 and credits her previous experiences, including volunteer work, for helping her acquire this position. “Say yes to every opportunity” says Praymayer. “Volunteer in the field or a related field early to gain the competitive edge and make you more appealing to the employer.”

 Michelle studied at Conestoga College in her hometown of Kitchener for a career in Broadcasting; This led to appearances on television and radio and many other opportunities. After one year, she changed directions and continued her education at Fanshawe College in London with the Music Industry Arts program. After graduating, Michelle took some time off and returned to Conestoga to become an Event Planner. Michelle says that she is still figuring out what to do with her life. However, she has been able to successfully apply aspects from all of her programs as a Public Relations and Promotional Events Assistant for Home Hardware:

 “It’s really neat to see things from my past coming up” Praymayer explains. Michelle worked on entertainment contracts while in school, which is something she has to do at work when booking the entertainment for various events. “I created training videos here [and] I used previous knowledge from my writing skills [I] developed [as a writer for] SportsXpress magazines”. Michelle also had previous work experience in the food industry which has helped her to create menus for other special events. Although Michelle Praymayer may be unclear on what her future holds, it is certain that she will continue to excel at what she does, thanks to her hard work and determination, in whatever field she chooses.

The Meal Deal: A new social enterprise is providing innovative hunger relief

by Carol Crenna 

Taking their parents’ dictum “Don’t waste food on your plate; there is someone less fortunate” to heart, Derek Juno (BCom ’11), Jeremy Bryant and Andrew Hall (BCom ’11) left their lucrative jobs to launch Mealshare, a social enterprise that partners with restaurants to help feed the homeless.

“At age 24, we considered whether we wanted to continue our current careers for the next 20 years or try something unique that’s in keeping with our values,” says Hall. “We considered opening a restaurant and giving away unused perishable food, but our expertise is in creating partnerships, not running a restaurant.”

Mealshare makes it easy for the public to give not just spare change to a homeless person for food, but a hot, nourishing meal. When dining at a restaurant, you simply choose a Mealshare - branded menu item and the restaurant then provides a meal to someone in need. The innovative concept, which combines corporate social responsibility with the “buy-one-get-one-free” model, has Mealshare covering the food costs of the charities’ donated meals.

As part of the partnership agreement with its restaurants, Mealshare completes all marketing including designing, printing and delivering collateral material, event promotions, and traditional and social media campaigns. The resulting promotion and community relations can translate into financial and community profile gains for the restaurant.

Three years ago, Hall, formerly a tech strategy consultant, and Juno, a retail development manager, completed their BCom specializing in Entrepreneurship from UVic and now share these tasks in Vancouver for the BC market. Bryant, an accountant and UAlberta BCom grad living in Edmonton, directs operations in Alberta.

Launched in late 2013, Mealshare today “shares” approximately 8,000 meals per month—1,000 each in Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary and Edmonton, and 4,000 internationally (half of the meals are distributed through a Third World charity). By summer this number is expected to double with six new restaurant partners already slated in BC and Alberta.

Mealshare currently works with 40 restaurants: 15 in Victoria, 12 in Calgary, eight in Vancouver and five in Edmonton. The non-profit organization chooses non-denominational, solution-oriented charity partners. “Someone comes in the door for a meal, but then has the opportunity to get job training, counselling or just a shower to help get their life back on a better track,” explains Hall. “If we help support meal costs, charities can spend more time and money on these initiatives.”

For example, The Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre found that after only seven months, Mealshare’s donation covers a day’s worth of meals and made a significant difference in its fundraising budget. 

“Approximately one-million Canadians get food support each month and eight-million Canadians dine out each day. If we can turn some of that dining out into helping out, there is an incredible opportunity ahead of us.”

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

PS…Mealshare is also now in Toronto!

From Graduation to Career: Madeleine’s (Scary & Exciting!) Story

My name is Madeleine Laforest. In January of this year, less than two years after my graduation from the Media Studies program at the University of Guelph-Humber, I secured a position as the newest and youngest member of Scholastic Canada’s Marketing Division, as the Marketing and Publicity Coordinator. Working in a four-person marketing team at the national level, my responsibilities include the creation of catalogues, securing events and publicity for our authors, and taking care of our promotional materials.  I am both honoured and excited beyond belief to embark in a role I love and for a company that shares my values in education and the promotion of creative expression.

My journey between graduation and full-time career was one of the scariest and most exciting times yet! It is a tough job market out there and discouraging at times, especially in an era of social media that seems to focus on highlights of peoples’ lives and seldom their struggles and self-doubts. 

I am hoping that by sharing my experiences, I can help you set your own expectations and prepare you for what is in store.

Securing the first job in your field is a combination of hard work, perseverance and luck.  

My journey began in my final year as I started sending out resumes to potential employers for my co-op and hopefully, a full-time position afterwards.  For every 10+ applications I sent out, I was lucky if I heard back from one.  I found that an interface with today’s social media could be an advantage, or disadvantage for you.  It is critical that you stand out from the rest, add a personal element to your portfolio to increase your chances of being seen, and don’t allow yourself to be swallowed up by it.  

You want to get that interview and meet with the employer to convince them in person that you are the right person for the job.  I was one of the fortunate students who received a few responses to my applications and was given an opportunity to be interviewed by more than one company.  In the end, I was able to secure internships at Scholastic and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Both of my internships at Scholastic and at TIFF were the result of me seeking out a direct contact at the company, and explaining my school requirement for co-op and my desire to work for them. 

I first came to Scholastic as an unpaid intern during my co-op in my fourth year. At the time I was working as a Junior Graphic Designer in the Creative Services Department. When my term ended, I did not want to leave as I had grown madly in love with the company and had formed many valuable relationships. At the end of my co-op I was told not to get my hopes too high for a full-time position, as they were on a hiring freeze, but I made myself a personal vow that I would not let this dissuade me. 

Fast-forward almost a year later, I came back in the role of receptionist after being tipped off of an opening by one of my co-workers who I kept in touch with. The opening was for a 4-month contract due to an internal change. At the time I was still working part-time as a Parks and Recreation Youth Program Leader, but when I received this message, I jumped on the opportunity with no hesitation.

I was interviewed on the Friday and was asked to start the following Monday. I said yes, knowing that my contract may or may not go longer than the promised four months, but regardless it was a foot in the door.

After four months, my contract was extended, and I was offered a transfer to Scholastic’s Trade Department as Trade Sales and Marketing Assistant that I held for 8 months prior to securing my full-time position as Scholastic’s new Marketing and Publicity Coordinator. I was the fastest turnover from receptionist to an internal position.  

How did this happen? During my four months as receptionist, I showed my eagerness to learn and worked hard by taking on as much overflow from departments as possible. Hence, in the fourth month, I was whisked away by one of the departments and my contract was extended! 

It is important that you never give up and that you continue to pursue your dream. Before securing a full-time position, I had applied to more than five internal positions; many of which I had come so close to acquiring. Despite the crushing disappointment of not getting one of these positions, I continued to apply as opportunities became available. I also agreed to take on more responsibilities to gain as much experience as possible. Then one day an unexpected resignation occurred, and there I was, the most qualified and eager person ready to fill the role! In the end, this marketing role was the best fit for me.

Don’t worry if you don’t get where you want to be right away, everything worthwhile takes time.

As you can see, even within my current place of employment it was quite a journey to get to where I am now. Since graduating I went from being unemployed, to being partially employed, to freelance, to finally securing my current position. So many times I could have thrown in the towel, but instead, I continued to strive forward and prove my abilities above and beyond everyone’s expectations, even my own.

You learn that you can’t take it personally when things don’t work out.  More often than not, you are competing with people who are equally or more qualified, or the position just isn’t the right fit for you. 

One of the biggest challenges I had to learn was to be patient with myself.

It can be easy to lose confidence in yourself when things don’t fall into place right away. While I was looking for a full-time job, I was able to work part-time and at the same time, work on several other projects to gain additional experience.  

As anyone who knows me knows, I have a passion for the video world. As part of the very first Emerge Conference, I was the head of the unit that won the first-place prize for best video for my sizzler reel. During the summer I also took on a position as a Videographer for the Georgian Bay Land Trust.  When the end of summer (post graduation) came around, I quickly realized I was not going to land a job in my field right away. I knew I needed to create work that would keep my resume current.

Always take advantage of slow periods by seeking out more experiences.This was about the time I started talking to an old collaborator about joining him and his co-director for a short film they were creating: Michael Was Here.  After meeting for coffee and hearing the story pitch, I was sold on it and I left the meeting agreeing to come onboard as the film’s producer.

This was a role I had never been in before, but I was convinced it fit my skillset. I discovered just how exhilarating, and how many months of hard work making a film could be! I was there from the initial stages, script revisions, scheduling and casting, creating Kick-starter pages for funding the project, and finally, shooting a film that was predominately filmed outdoors in what was one of the coldest Canadian winters yet! The people I met and the experiences I gained through this project kept me involved in this industry.  In addition to this I volunteered at various film festivals while searching for full-time employment. 

Then, TIFF 2014 rolled around. I took the entire week off to attend industry press conferences and screenings. Also, by keeping in touch with the team I worked with during my internship at TIFF, I was able to get a job as a videographer during the 2014 film festival. This year I plan on submitting Michael Was Here ( to the 2015 TIFF short film selection. There’s no reason why you can’t pursue more than one of your dreams at a time. Every experience builds on another! 

I have made great friends and connections through my projects as a volunteer. I also found great solace in reaching out to professors; they are mentors who know the field.  I always found them more than willing to give advice and guidance. Don’t ever underestimate the connections you’ve made at Guelph-Humber. The intimacy that you have in a small university community is a bonus. Network and connect with people! These are the stepping-stones to a successful career.

With that said, be sure to take full advantage of every opportunity!

Invest your time and effort in your internship and learn as much as you can. Take every opportunity that comes your way to gain and apply the experience. Put yourself out there and try new things, meet new people and network, because every connection made is an opportunity in the making!

With permission of the University of Guelph-Humber

Painting a Different Path

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador 

Self-employed artist Alicia Wishart always knew her career path would be one that accented her creativity. Her original interest was Animation, so she started her journey with the Art Fundamentals program at Sheridan College, in order to prepare. After finding that the program wasn't for her after all, she took time to re-evaluate, and then pursued Graphic Design.

Though Graphic Design is not a main focus, Alicia says the techniques taught are still very useful: "I can do many of the things that cost people a lot of money. Steve (her husband), designed my website, but I maintain it and do any changes. I do all my own promotional materials, can scan and prepare all my art for reproduction for many other products. I am also able to layout large projects like my book and make it print ready. I tend to follow colour trends that I think people would enjoy in their art."

Alicia had never really considered turning her love for art into a profession, in spite of loving it since high school. She recalls being told that making a living as an artist was an impossible feat,  but she decided to take a chance and try it after she knew her position at the time,  in graphics, was coming to a close.

For Alicia, there are two types of work days - days at home and days at art shows. Days at home usually involve being fully immersed in painting, with a current show of interest playing in the background. Up to 7 to 8 hours can be spent painting; and the process can get so intense, that needs like showering can easily be forgotten.

Alicia described the various elements of a show day: "When I'm at a show, I have to drive to the show and set up my tent. Good situation will mean I can drive up to my spot and unload there. Bad situation means I have to find a parking spot, unload my stuff into my wagon, drag it two blocks and then down a ravine to my spot. Repeat about 5-6 times until all is unloaded and then set up the tent. Takes about two hours to make the tent nice. On show day, I get up and put on comfy clothes that are also decent looking. I'm usually set up in my tent in a park so I have to consider the weather will I be cold, is it raining, will I be sweating like a pig and likely get heat stroke again? It's not much different than working retail I talk to tons of people and sell my gear. When the show is done, I have to take everything down, pack it up and drive to wherever I'm sleeping. It can be a very tiring end to an already long and tiring day."

When asked what she found most rewarding about being an artist, Alicia had this to say: "The most rewarding thing is seeing how much I can accomplish. I did 6 paintings in a 6 month period for school and I thought that was insane. I worked so hard! Now I have done somewhere around 225 paintings in 7 years and feel like I need to work harder. I've made some really great friends from being on the show circuit and feel like I've gained an extended family. Everyone wants to help each other succeed so having that community is very helpful when you need advice. Most people have no idea what our life is like other than fellow show people. I have also had opportunities to do things that I wouldn't have had the chance to do if not for meeting my fans. They treat me well and send me greetings or come to see me whenever I'm in town. I got a behind the scenes tour at the Calgary Zoo and got to pet my favourite hippo, Sparky."

Although Alicia is happy in her work, she admits she does well when the economy does. She will continue painting, but also hopes to expand her artistic talent with cake making. Aside from artwork, Alicia has a fur/shell family, consisting of two dogs, a cat, and two tortoises. They keep her life just as colourful and busy as painting does; and she hopes to one day establish a tortoise sanctuary.

For those interested in the world of art, Alicia stresses the importance of being able to adapt. Art is always evolving and, if you can't evolve with it, it will be hard to last. If you plan to be a self-employed artist, Alicia recommends taking some marketing and business courses, as they will teach you how to sell the art you produce. She also has some advice on art in particular: "As for producing art, go with your own voice and not what others tell you. You have to make it, not them. Art doesn't have to be overly introspective and deep. It can be fun or beautiful or just something awesome. When you follow your own voice, it will show in your work and others will see your passion too.

Check out Alicia Wisharts work here:

Meet Waffles & Mango






Marketing Assistant Makes it in Music Industry

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Kendra Sauder is a Marketing Assistant for Audio Blood, an artist and brand development company based out of Toronto, Ontario. With the Audio Blood team, Kendra is able to work in her “dream field”, which is the Music Industry. Kendra has worked very hard to be where she is today. Coming from the small town of St. Jacobs, she moved to the big city of London, Ontario where she spent seven years. She currently lives in St. Catharine’s and commutes to the even bigger city of Toronto. She says it’s been difficult, but “hands down, [it was] worth it!” Something that has helped Kendra on her journey is the support she receives from the people she works with:

“My co-workers and the Audio Blood team are all amazing individuals and work together amazingly! They are always supportive of each other and willing to help anyone else out on the team in any way they can. I love that the Audio Blood team is more like a family!” (She even has a furry co-worker, “Dug the Pug” and he gives out advice to bands on the Audio Blood blog!)

Sauder is not only enthusiastic about her immediate “family” of co-workers, but she also loves helping the entertainers that Audio Blood promotes: “I get to work with artists and musicians and help them accomplish their goals.”  Kendra is also “making it easier and more accessible for music fans to reach amazing artists like HIGHS, Amos the Transparent, Royal Tusk and Jeremy Fisher (just to name a few.)” Audio Blood has also worked with Pat Maloney as well as big-name brands/events like The Juno Awards.

It’s clear that Kendra loves her team but she also loves the job itself: “I love so many things about my job! It’s hard to fit it all into one answer…. I also love the fact that my job is different every day, and that no matter what I am working on, I’m contributing to a larger goal and bigger picture. No two days are the same, and I am constantly learning. It keeps me on my toes and I couldn’t be happier about it.”

Kendra Sauder’s path to the music industry began at Fanshawe College in London, where she was enrolled in the Music Industry Arts Program. While she was in school, she was heavily involved in Student Government and event planning, among other things in order to succeed in her career: “I took part in as many music, branding and industry conferences as I could (which is where I first heard about Audio Blood) and was constantly trying to improve my craft while at school. I took time to learn about different companies and positions within the music industry to hone my skills.”

Once she graduated from the program, Kendra had planned to start her own company with some friends in St. Catharine’s, however she was offered a position with Audio Blood and she “couldn’t turn it down!” Sauder was able to assist them with their work at the events for Canadian Music Week. This opportunity proved to be valuable work experience for Kendra as it lead her to her current position as a Marketing Assistant for the company: “During my one-month contract, I pushed myself to go in early, stay late and do whatever was needed to get the job done. After my contract was up, I was asked to stay on. I guess the short version is, ‘I fought for it.’”

Finally, when asked what advice she had for those interested in working in this field, Kendra Sauder answered, “Play hard. Work harder! The music industry is an amazing place, but it takes determination, drive and a lot of gusto to make it. Work your connections, and fight for your goals.”

If you would like to learn more about Audio Blood, you can visit their website at    

Driving Ambition: Zach’s Golf Story

As told to Brandon Pedersen, WorkStory Ambassador      

Hi. My name is Zach Giusti. Let me begin by giving you a laydown on my personal interests. Since I was young, I always had a profound interest in both sports and money. Working for a local golf course, I quickly became interested in the game that I saw being played on a daily basis. To top it off, I also learned that professional golfers make quite the pay check. Although I began playing the game at age 6, my interest and love for it grew when I worked at the golf course. This led me to become the captain of my high school golf team, and I was awarded MVP in my senior year. Despite my love for the game, I knew the difficulties associated with becoming a professional at arguably the world’s most frustrating sport! That’s when I decided to apply to university.

I attended Wilfrid Laurier University, where I earned an honours degree in business with a marketing specialization. By the time I approached my fourth year, I realized it was time to start thinking about my future. I applied to numerous sales and marketing jobs and decided to write the LSAT during my last year. What would be better than wearing fancy clothes, driving an exotic car, and obviously, making a lot of money? But, despite my time management skills, I wasn’t able to succeed on the LSAT because of a number of other things going on in my life at the time – namely job applications, midterms, social life, etc. 

Luckily, I received multiple interviews from the sales and marketing companies I had applied to. After several interviews with the manager, I was hired by a billion dollar Paint Company to become a part of their Management Training Program. Eventually, after a few months of training, I was awarded the title of Branch Operations Manager. After about a year of commuting and working in my new position, I was becoming tired and unhappy with my choices. I decided this was not the path I wanted to be on the rest of my life. I wanted to work hard at something I loved.

This is when golf came back into my life. I have always been skilled at sports, in particular, golf. So why not become a pro? Easier said than done. I began by getting a full assessment by one of the top golf coaches in North America, and he told me that I had plenty of potential and that I should explore that potential while I still had the opportunity to (I am still young enough where I have a small window of opportunity to make it happen).

So here I am now, pursuing my dream. This past summer, I played in many professional tournaments on what is known as The Great Lakes Tour. However, playing in tournaments is only part of the process.

So yes, my days now are not spent doing “traditional” work. Waking up early, eating a big breakfast and then heading to the course where I will either practice for 6 hours, or practice a little and then play a round. Golf is a game where there is much more than meets the eye. Practice for me includes: stretching (often overlooked), hitting 1000+ golf balls at the range daily, and playing in as many tournaments as possible. Furthermore, the mental aspect of golf has been the toughest to overcome. Yes, I can shoot a very good practice round, but being able to imitate that in a tournament round is the toughest part. Long days, lots of practice, focus and dedication are what it takes to make it to the next level.

My goals are to be on the Canadian Professional Tour within 2 years and to play in events by 2017/2018. With my attitude and mindset, I believe I can do this.

So you might be thinking, “this isn’t your traditional work story.” But here’s the thing. I dropped everything, including a well-paid full time job in order to pursue something I love to do. And I don’t regret it one bit. In fact, I have never been happier – I love waking up early and working on something that I know I can be great at.

Nobody should tell you what you can and cannot do. The craziest thing is the support or lack of support I have received. Many people whom I thought would support me are telling me I’m crazy for doing this, it’s a waste of time, money and my degree. Others, whom I thought would not care one bit, have been extremely motivating in encouraging me to pursue my dream.

So there you have it. Whether you want to be a lawyer, doctor, athlete, astronaut – whatever – make sure you love what you do, because if you don’t, you will only have yourself to blame.

It’s a Jungle Out There: The Jobmanji Story

By Guy Baldwin

Starting a new business from scratch isn't the easiest thing to do, but that's exactly what Jacob Johnson and Guy Baldwin have done with their inspired idea to create a jobs website that pulls all the information from thousands of recruiters into one easy-to-access place.

Jobmanji is the new kid on the block in the online jobs sector and is taking on a market that has been established for many years and is highly competitive. The launch of Jobmanji's Canadian site, following hugely successful launches in the UK and US, marks another milestone in the company's global strategy.

Jacob and Guy knew exactly what they were taking on when they developed the concept of Jobmanji. As Jacob explains: "I had experienced the frustration of both recruiters and job seekers when I was doing IT work for a recruitment agency. Recruiters were having problems getting their information out to where they wanted it to go because there were so many different job sites available, and people looking for jobs either didn't know where to go for information or had to trawl through multiple sites to find what they wanted."

So the idea was born to create one website to pull together all jobs available on other sites as well as those posted directly by recruiters.

As Jacob says: "What we wanted to do was save job seekers the hassle of searching dozens of websites and making recruiters know that their jobs are easily accessible in the one place. We've put a lot of resources into giving recruiters and those looking for work the information and back-up to be confident that Jobmanji can deliver what they need."

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and Jobmanji has satisfied many appetites since its initial launch at the beginning of 2013.

Guy, Jobmanji's Marketing Director, says: "In our first year we have had 1.2 million unique visits, 7.9 million page views and advertised 3.75 million jobs in the UK alone. That shows that Jobmanji is offering exactly what people want, and our central hub is delivering a really effective service."

So how does a business idea in the sharp, competitive world of online recruitment become a reality? It needs the right people to deliver the vision, and this is where Jobmanji has brought together the ideal team. Combining experience of cutting-edge technology and astute business administration, the company has the expertise to continue developing its concept worldwide and the resources from investors to achieve the vision.

"Make no mistake," says Jacob. "Our goal is to help people who want to find jobs and those who want to attract the best people for their jobs. The process for Jobmanji is simple and that's how we intend to keep it. No more wandering through a maze of other job seeking sites – everything is here."

Jacob's background is in computing and includes the ability to program in several languages, administer Linux servers and work with cloud computing and network security. These skills allowed him to develop the basic site whilst Guy continued research and developing the company. Guy's experience ranges from working for a successful family business doing corporate restructuring and insolvency to managing a variety of enterprises including construction, manufacturing, haulage, marketing and recruitment, skills that have helped build Jobmanji into the successful company it is today.

The idea of one central job search site proved attractive to investors, and with that financial impetus the company took on Marcos Lujan as a core team member. Marcos' background and training is in IT, having studied computer science in the USA, and he has wide ranging knowledge of both hardware and software issues as well as the ability to program in several languages. His experience in online marketing has brought significant added value to Jobmanji, and he is responsible for the company's search engine optimization team.

Jacob is clear about Jobmanji's vision. "Everything starts from an idea, and our idea was to help people who recruit and those looking for work to place and find jobs from a central website'" he says. "We use sophisticated technology to ensure users are able to find jobs quickly, matching their skills and experience to what recruiters are looking for. Our aim is to make it as easy as possible for recruiters to upload information and for job hunters to access it.

" Another important aspect of Jobmanji is our section on tips and advice for jobseekers. We want to share our knowledge of the recruitment business so that people can find and prepare for their dream job.

"It's a jungle out there and if you can't see the wood for the trees you're looking in the wrong place. With Jobmanji you're looking in the right place!"

Since its launch Jobmanji has already proved phenomenally popular both with recruiters and job seekers, and the core trio of Jacob, Guy and Marcos are moving forward with their plans to add more countries to the site.

A “Patch of Uncertainty” Fuelled This Career Counsellor’s Career Change

By Jodi Lastman

In my current Career Counselling practice I ask people: “When you were young, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?”

My answer to that question is interesting. I said that I wanted to create female mannequins that more accurately depicted real women.  I’m not exactly sure where I got the idea (I think I saw a news piece on someone who was doing this). What I glean from this early answer is that I wanted to do something meaningful and disrupt the status quo.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the interest in women’s representation, I ended up majoring in Women’s Studies and English at University of Western Ontario. I liked Women’s Studies so much that I ended up doing a Master’s at The Ohio State University.

My Master’s was the greatest two years of my life. But this blissful period came to an abrupt end as soon as I started to consider my “real world” options. The end of my Master’s was quickly approaching and I didn’t know what to do next. 

So, I did what any respectable person in my position would do...I went to Law School. Wait, I should rephrase that. I went to Law School for one semester. I left in a blur of anxiety, disappointment and utter confusion. What followed was a three year period in which I did the following:

  • Worked at The Volunteer Centre of Metro Toronto
  • Completed a certificate in Arts Management (including 2 internships)
  • Completed two years of a PhD in Film Studies in Pittsburgh
  • Quit the PhD and came home to Toronto

Behind all of the bouncing-around was a longing to do something good and meaningful in a world that seemed to be all about selling consumer goods that I had no interest in peddling. I had an existential angst that I couldn’t shake. I wanted to contribute but didn’t know how.

I articulated this to a Head-Hunter who specialized in the ad agency world. I plainly told him “I think I want to be in advertising, but I don’t want to sell soap.” His eyes lit up. That’s when I first discovered how powerful it can be when you can clearly articulate what you want. If you can’t say it, how can you hope to get it? A new path opened up and I’ve followed it for the last ten years.

The Head-Hunter helped me land a job at Manifest Communications, a Social Marketing agency that works with non-profit clients in Toronto. After my second daughter was born, my husband coaxed me into joining his marketing company, Hypenotic,  as General Manager.  I’ve been at Hypenotic for the past five years. Together with our awesome team, my husband and I have developed a really robust client base of incredible people from places like MaRS Discovery District, The Gladstone Hotel, Toronto Public Health, Fiesta Farms and others. I lead research and strategy with these values-based clients and project manage both on and offline projects that help them amplify and spread the important issues they represent. Hypenotic is also a B Corp. That means we’re certified as a “good company” based on how we treat the environment, community and our employees. In short, it’s a company I’m proud to be part of.

Two years ago, however, I circled back to the perennial question everyone asks themselves; “What kind of work would I find most meaningful?” In thinking about this I considered what I liked best about the last ten years in marketing. I realized that it is meeting clients and helping them transform information into insights. I also revisited that painful three-year period in which I struggled to find work that I found meaningful. Finally I thought about my brother and other people who I’d known who’d experienced painful struggles to be happy in their careers. And, I decided to make a change.

I’m now in the final stages of becoming certified as a Career Development Practitioner or what's more commonly known as a Career Counsellor. I’ve taken one day a week away from Hypenotic to do my coursework at Conestoga College and I’ll be a Certified Career Counsellor in January. I’m at the tail end of my practicum which has confirmed that this is a great line of work for me.

Working one on one with clients to make sense of their career and life stories is a great use of the skills I honed working in marketing for the past ten years and it’s meaningful work that makes a tangible difference in the lives of others.

It turns out that three-year patch of uncertainty had a much bigger impact on my life than I could have ever imagined.