Alumni Interview: Monica Hartanto – Senior Communications Specialist – ICBC

If you have your drivers license in British Columbia, you probably had to go through ICBC, which is the provincial crown corporation responsible for all things vehicle related in our province.  We often do not think of what types of planning takes place behind the scenes, and who develops the communicaton strategies or does media relations for ICBC. Monica Hartanto, SFU Communication alumni, is a Senior Communications Specialist for ICBC. Her responsibilities include rolling out initiatives, and developing necessary communication tools for government, stakeholders, or the public. ICBC can be very complex but read on to learn about Monica’s role, experiences, and challenges as a Senior Communications Specialist thus far!

monica

CMNSU: What is your job title?
Monica: I am a Senior Communications Specialist for ICBC.

CMNSU: What are your responsibilities?
Monica: I develop communication strategies and help roll out initiatives for projects or businesses. I develop necessary communications tools such as briefing notes, government/stakeholder notes, or notes for staff. My position has mostly to do with external communications and I support media relations.

CMNSU: How would you describe a regular day?
Monica: It depends on what happens that day. I act reactively- if there is an issue that arises, I help manage and prepare the communication material. A big part of my position also has to do with liaising with different business areas at ICBC. These areas include marketing, claims, government relation, and stakeholder engagement.

CMNSU: What is the most challenging part of your job?
Monica: I would say taking complex, technical information and distilling it down into simple, clear communication that our customers can understand.

CMNSU: What is your favourite part of the job?
Monica: The diversity of the role. I have a great team that I work with. I also love how it’s fast paced.

CMNSU: How did you find this job position?
Monica: I saw a job posting online. One of my co-mentors works for ICBC and I was put in touch with the hiring manager.

CMNSU: What was your first impression of the job?
Monica: I thought that insurance is a complicated subject. ICBC is a big organization and there are a lot of different people to connect and work with.

CMNSU: What has been the highlight of your position so far?
Monica: The highlight of my position so far is working through lots of challenging issues with some really great people from different lines of business, such as marketing, legal, human resources and operations. However, if I had to pick one project, it would be leading the communication strategy for an information campaign we launched to help educate customers about the claims process. It involved setting the approach on how we were going to launch the campaign to employees and the public, and preparing all the materials to support it, including planning a media event with government involvement.

CMNSU: How has your education at SFU contributed to your current position?
Monica: My education at SFU taught me how to think critically. Co-op played a huge role in finding my position. To me, co-op is invaluable and I wouldn’t know where I would be if I didn’t finish their program.

CMNSU: What is something you have learned about yourself in this position?
Monica: I learned that I really love issues management and developing communications strategies. I find it really challenging and exciting to take a business change or issue and figure out the best way to communicate it to various audiences in a way that minimizes negative reaction and reputations risk.

CMNSU: What were you like as a student?
Monica: I felt a bit lost as a student. My first two years were pretty challenging for me as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I took a lot of science and business classes but didn’t feel that it was the right fit for me. It wasn’t really until the third year that things clicked for me and I knew that I wanted to pursue communications as a career. Once I made that decision, everything just fell into place!

CMNSU: What were some of your favourite courses?
Monica: I did exchange in Australia for a semester, and took a course on managerial communications that I really liked. I also really enjoyed CMNS 473 which was a graphic design course.

CMNSU: What was your most memorable moment at SFU?
Monica: Getting accepted to do exchange in Australia, at Monash University. I remember I was doing a co-op position for SFU, and I received my acceptance letter then. It was really exciting for me!

CMNSU: If you could have done something differently in your university career, what would it have been?
Monica: I would have definitely taken some language courses! I think that would have been really fun and interesting to learn another language. I also would have taken communications earlier in my degree. As I mentioned earlier, I was in my third year when I decided I wanted to pursue communications as a career.

CMNSU: What is a piece of advice that you would like to give students?
Monica: Do co-op because it will teach you skills such as how to network, proper interviewing skills, and work experience that you need to launch your career.

-Carmen Chen
Alumni Relations

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