Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Thanks Canada!

On this Canada Day I want to reflect, take a step back and look at my professional life in this country so far; it’s been a great ride.

I moved here from England in 2000 after getting frustrated at paying 800 pounds a month for a shoebox in North London. Now, I can afford a beautiful condo in Toronto, and am writing this as I sit in the sun on my patio. The summers here are fantastic, the winters are horrible! Still can’t get used to the cold after nine years. And I hate wearing toques, which doesn’t help much.

Before leaving England, I sent my resume to around 10 editors at Rogers Publishing, asking if there were any jobs available. I was lucky enough to get a meeting with HR when I arrived in Canada, and the lady produced 10 of my resumes, which could be classed as spam I suppose. But I was the first content manager in an innovative new department called Bizlink. We helped the trade publications set up their websites, e-newsletters and engaged with readers to drive them to the websites. My Bizlink colleagues were some of the best people I’ve ever worked with, and I still keep in touch with them to this day.

That was followed by my first Canadian editorship of a technology newspaper: Silicon Valley NORTH. It was a great chance to steer my own ship, and I made a lot of very cool contacts in the Canadian tech industry, including the venture capital community. Smart people who invest in the superstars of tomorrow.

Managing editor of was the next step of my adventure. That was party time (how many jobs let you hang out with the Girls?) and helped me grasp the responsibilities of handling a very large portal. Canada? Beer? Come on! It was a “roll my sleeves up” job, and I got to learn about content management, creating blogs and e-newsletters from scratch, and also writing copy for the podcast. We recorded that in the back of the office, most of it ad-libbed, and we reached the Top 10 U.S. Comedy Podcasts on iTunes within a few weeks, which the team was very proud of.

After that, I started my Make Johnny Cash blog as an outlet for finding more work. As a writer and trained journalist, I will always strive to find an outlet for words, in whatever form they may take. It’s my way of communicating.

My next role as acting communications manager at Upper Canada College was one of the most enjoyable working experiences I’ve had in Canada so far. The whole UCC community is one I was proud to be a part of, and I still feel invested in the place and continue to do some freelance work for them from time to time. That was also when I started to apply some social media concepts and proved to myself that if an establishment from 1829 can be successful in online engagement, then anyone can. They just need to start doing it. [That was a plug for my services by the way, had to squeeze that in.]

GCI Canada was my next stop, and I worked with a lot of very committed colleagues to help clients with their social media strategies. I got the entrepreneurial urge then to start freelancing and try to make a go of it myself.

That’s where I stand today. Freelancing is not easy, but the rewards are excellent when you can teach a client how to better their company and brand by using social media. I was actually on a pitch yesterday and it was very rewarding to see the “Aha!” moment as the person I was talking to started to understand more about how they can immerse themselves in this online world, and take the next step into this brave new arena of marketing.

I have to mention Greenscroll too. That is a side project (with two others) that we hope will make people think more about the impact on the environment that the Internet is having. We all use it; it’s time to balance that out and put something back. I am very excited about this project -- it’s a green non-profit that we hope people will want to join up with. Coming very soon!

So, that’s about it. I love the media landscape in Canada, especially Toronto, as I’ve gotten to know a LOT of very smart -- and fun! -- people, and feel like this is the best place to be at this stage of my life.

Thanks Canada.

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