Where and what is your current position?
I cover the education and youth issues beats, and occasionally the housing beat, for TheTyee.ca online magazine. I report using a social justice lens, meaning I report on issues that impact marginalized young people the most, such as the foster care system, poverty, and public education.
Is your current career path as you originally intended?
Yes, though my five-year plan ended when I got a job in journalism that I loved. I'm still working on deciding what the next phase will be.
How does this job relate to your graduate degree?
While I had a journalism background prior to grad school, the most important aspect of my education at the school was both the research I had to do for my thesis and the experience of reporting an in-depth feature like that, and the connections the School of Journalism provided me through my professors and internships at CBC and The Globe and Mail. My longest internship was with Megaphone Magazine, Vancouver's street paper, which I was introduced to via the School of Journalism. I went on to volunteer with Megaphone for seven years, providing me with valuable magazine writing experience, a broad array of sources, expertise in reporting on poverty and low-income housing, as well as mentors and friends. Finally, Tyee co-founder and former editor-in-chief David Beers taught the feature writing class at the School of Journalism, which is how I ended up on his radar for a job at The Tyee.
What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?
I traveled to Vancouver the year before for a conference in January and instantly fell in love with the city and its cupcake stores, view of the mountains, enormous trees, and lack of snow. As for UBC itself, the School of Journalism's professors having recent and current gigs at the BBC, 60 Minutes, CBC, The Tyee, Vancouver Sun, National Post, The Globe and Mail, and other notable media outlets sold me on applying for and then enrolling in the school.
What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?
Working with my colleagues on group projects. I was anxious that it would be a cut-throat, highly competitive program but that was not the case. For the most part, we worked together well and were supportive of each other's individual projects. My favorite was a satirical TV news piece I worked on with four other women from my class about a then-recent book that advised pet owners if they wanted to cut down on their carbon footprint, they must eat their pets when they died. We took our camera to Kits Beach to ask dog walkers whether they would eat their beloved pooches and received some interesting and hilarious replies.
What are key things you did that contributed to your success?
Fear of failure really motivated me to work hard. But to be honest, particularly in a field with scarce opportunities like journalism, luck has almost as much to do with your success as talent and hard work does. There are always other people out there who could have had your job or would take it if you leave.
What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?
Networking is important, but it doesn't have to happen at cocktail parties or business lunches. Choose programs with professors who can help you make connections in your chosen field, and take all the internships you can get, even the ones at less prestigious or well-known publications. It's not the only way to get ahead, but it certainly helps.
Did you have any breaks in your education?
I did not have any breaks, and as much as I enjoyed grad school I do wish I had taken some time to travel and relax between finishing my undergrad and starting my graduate degree.
How did you find out about/obtain your current position?
David Beers emailed me to offer me the position. At the time it was only a part-time contract for 10 months. About a decade later I'm still here, now a full-time staff member.
What challenges did you face in your graduate degree, or in launching your career?
I struggled to hold down a part-time job and keep up with classes and studies. While student loans covered my tuition and rent, to have money for food and any extras meant I had to work. The combined stress of trying to work and do my thesis in the final year of my program had a significant impact on my mental and physical health, which led to me borrowing money from my parents so I could quit my job. That's a privilege not every student has. I'm not sure how I would have done this differently as my parents couldn't offer more than what got me through the last half of my second year.
How are jobs normally posted and filled in your organization or industry?
Through Jeff Gaulin's online journalism job board (https://www.jeffgaulin.com/), LinkedIn, Facebook groups for journalists and School of Journalism alumni, or emails from friends in the business.
What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?
What I like about The Tyee is although my beat is not always the most read, both our readers and my bosses recognize the importance of covering issues impacting kids and youth in the province, particularly the most marginalized ones. I also get to make my own hours, can work from home when I want, and get Christmas off every year. What's challenging is repeatedly hearing heart-wrenching stories of trauma, abuse, and neglect from my sources, often perpetrated by the systems set up to protect kids and youth. Also, any mistake I make is very public, so the job has a way of making sure I stay humble.