Brianna Bergeron – Communication Strategist at Saskatchewan Polytechnic
A few months ago, I talked to Brianna Bergeron at an interesting point in her career. When we spoke in September, she had been in her role as Communication Strategist at Saskatchewan Polytechnic (a post-secondary institution akin to BCIT) for six months. As I transition from full time student to full time employee with my first co-op, it’s reassuring to know that professionals like Brianna also have to navigate a steep learning curve when starting a new role. Nobody starts a new job knowing exactly what to do or what is coming next. There is always more to learn. And there are certainly things you can do to get the most out of your experiences.
Brianna, for one, has kept in touch with her SFU peers and co-op colleagues. They offered her help and support in unexpected ways over the past seven years, from sharing press release templates, to moral support, to proofreading resumes and cover letters. In fact, I was connected to Brianna by her friends Jocelyn and Andrea, whom she met during her time as President at SFU’s very own CMNSU. (Check out their interviews here and here!)
When I originally interviewed Brianna, she was in the midst of working on Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s annual report, a report that shares important activities and financial performance with stakeholders and interested members of the public. What may sound to be a dry tomb of stats and numbers is in fact a vital document reporting on the strategies and initiatives that the organization has implemented over the year, as well as its successes and areas for improvement. Below, Brianna talks a bit more on that, as well as her whopping five co-op terms and her passion for volunteer work.
(Tip from Brianna: before your co-op interviews, always read the company’s annual report!)
So what’s your role on Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s annual report?
I get this question a lot. I’m the annual report’s editor or project manager. I do a little bit of everything. Writing and strategy is a very important part of the role. I have some input over design and branding. As the project manager, I have to ensure the report is finished on time and meets our deadlines. You’ll find a lot of good communicators are really good project managers; they’re able to work with a team and bring a vision to life.
What do you enjoy the most about working on big projects like the annual report?
I really love the process and the planning. Writing a communications plan, thinking of a theme, deciding if there are special stories you want to share, collecting photos to help tell those stories. The most exciting part is when you have all these different pieces – the reporting, the storytelling, the photography, the infographics – and see them come together. In the end you have a beautiful publication to share and a great portfolio piece. It’s nice to be able to hold something tangible and say, “I made this happen.”
Do you have a particular leadership style?
I’m a big fan of collaboration! The best results come from when you give everyone a chance to share their expertise to get the best final product possible. For our annual report, we may all have different opinions, but we’re all working towards the same goal. We all want an award winning report for our stakeholders.
What’s been challenging about your new job?
It’s a pretty steep learning curve. All my career changes – from BC Hydro, to working with an international accounting firm, to a post-secondary educational institution – they’re all incredibly different sectors. It’s definitely a challenge and I had to put in a lot of hours to get up to speed.
I can see from your Twitter you’re passionate about volunteering! What are the benefits of that?
I can say without a doubt I would not be where I am in my career without volunteering. The experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve worked with have made such a huge impact on my career. One of the benefits of volunteering is you might find yourself in a position where you are the expert. People are depending on you for your leadership and expertise in marketing or communications. You get a unique chance to make decisions and be responsible in a way you might not get to in the workplace.
What have you been involved in?
I’m currently the president of the Saskatchewan Professional Marketing Association and past-chair of FUZE conference. I’m also the past-chair of READ Saskatoon’s annual fundraiser, LIT UP. It’s stressful at times, but incredibly rewarding. For example, with FUZE conference we bring world-class speakers to Saskatoon for local marketing professionals. A lot of marketing and communication professionals don’t have the budgets to go to New York or San Francisco for professional development conferences. Knowing I can bring incredible speakers to Saskatchewan through an event like FUZE Conference is something I’m really proud to be a part of.
How did you come to join communications?
I’m from a very small town in Saskatchewan, about 2,500 people. When I was 18 I made the big move to Vancouver. I got a good scholarship from SFU but I didn’t know what I was going to study. At the time I was young and wanted to live on the west coast near the ocean! In second year I declared my major. I stumbled across it; there wasn’t any grand plan. I ended up loving communications. I couldn’t imagine having studied anything else.
Can you tell me about your co-ops?
I tried for my first co-op in my second year, for the spring semester. The Fall seeking semester came and went and for whatever reason, I didn’t get placed for a January co-op term. I was devastated – I remember crying in Marcia’s office [laughs]. I was placed at Accenture (an international IT consulting firm) for January, but it wasn’t on the typical timeline. I do believe things tend to work out the way they’re supposed to. Once you get that first co-op, everything else is so much easier the next time around.
My next co-op was with the Rotary Club of North Vancouver; we planned the North Vancouver Canada Day celebrations and summer concerts. Last, I did 8 months with BC Hydro in community consultation. The best part was the people I met. It’s important to recognize and appreciate the people who help you out along the way. Even now, I keep in touch with past employers and colleagues; they love to hear about where I am with my career.
Any advice for students going through their degree right now?
The experience I received through the co-op program and support I received from the co-op advisors is invaluable. Go to the co-op workshops on resumes and cover letters and take in what they tell you! Accept the help.
If you don’t want to do co-op, find a way to get relevant communications/marketing work experience. A degree is not good enough. It’s so competitive in Vancouver. New graduates are competing against their peers and business and marketing students from all the other post secondary institutions. You have a big pool of students to compete against after graduation, and any working experience is going to set you apart.
I have one more question for you: is there a life philosophy you have?
I don’t have a philosophy but I love this quote: life tends to give us what we want, but never how we expect it. I’m happy with my life choices. I never had a grand plan for my education or career, even if I did there’s no way I’d have known 10 years ago I’d be working as the Communication Strategist for Saskatchewan Polytechnic. If you’re not where you want to be, or you thought things might end up differently, remember that quote. In a year, things could be totally different.
– Kasia Cookson, Features Editor