What has been the focus of your professional life in Communications?
My professional life has mainly been in Canada, where I’m from, and in the financial services sector. I started as a Communications Assistant for a public sector pension plan. I then moved into consulting when I took a position with an actuarial firm and worked on communicating programs for HR benefits, salary and compensation plans, for the next eight years. I then joined one of our clients, the third largest bank in Canada, first in a corporate HR communication role, then in the global risk management division. I joined that division just as the credit crisis was starting which was fortuitous. I was tasked with creating the communication function almost from scratch.
As I worked at the bank throughout a time of fiscal restraint, I did a lot in-house using very little money, Microsoft Publisher, a digital camera, and email. I created a quarterly update for the division’s executives to report on their activities, launched an employee intranet, and re-purposed the town hall meetings. This was in addition to the regular communication cycle related to performance appraisals, career development and training. The bank is known for charitable giving, so I also supported the employees in raising money for the United Way and diabetes research, as well as food and clothing drives.
Is there a difference between practicing Communications in Canada and the United States?
Toronto is very much a head office city, so all the top companies have their headquarters located there. In the U.S., headquarters are often regionalized – finance in New York or education in Boston. Having all the companies’ hubs in one area gives access to a network of many people.
How do your Communications studies now compare to when you originally studied Communications?
After my undergraduate degree, I did a community college post-diploma in corporate communications which was very skills-focused. The program at Northeastern provides more theoretical background – organizational culture, as well as crisis, internet and social media communications. The university has a large number of international students which also provides an interesting global dimension to the class discussions.
How did you become involved with IABC?
Roberta Resnick, ABC, MC, IABC Fellow, was a professor of mine. She started the local Toronto chapter and frequently talked about the importance of joining IABC, so many of her students joined the IABC Toronto chapter. I went on to volunteer on the Board in numerous portfolios including volunteer recruitment, and advertising and sponsorship. When I moved to the U.S., I looked up the Boston IABC chapter and met Jeanne Brady (President Emeritus) at a Dine Around.
What motivated you to become an Accredited Business Communicator?
When I was working at the bank, it was very important to have a professional accreditation in your field; it garnered respect from your colleagues. I found it very valuable, and I found the process of obtaining accreditation valuable. It distinguishes you as a professional. The IABC accreditation process will be changing, but I think it will still provide value individually and professionally.
What ideas do you have as VP of membership this year?
I see opportunities to increase student membership, given the number of colleges in the region. We will also be working on ways to help members see the value of their membership, so that they remain members and become more active in their chapter.
Do you have outside interests that enhance your communications creativity?
I am very much a film buff. I love the Toronto international Film Festival; I’d take time off work and see as many as 30 to 50 films over a 10-day period. I like foreign language films and documentaries, and I hope to find many here.