Airplanes and Other Musings

Somewhere over Lake Superior – August 15, 2015, 2:45pm EST

Photo 2015-08-09, 3 49 56 PM

Returning home after an incredible 8 months in Toronto. I can’t believe how fast it’s flown by, but I’m absolutely gutted that it’s come to an end.

Time after time, I keep finding myself returning to this amazing city. In 2014, I lived there for 4 months, and visited two separate times. This year, it’s been home base for the entire year thus far, and I’ve just been constantly flying in and out. I’m likely set to return in October briefly for a work project.

The places I’ve seen, people I’ve met, new experiences that I’ve had – I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else. I am endlessly grateful for every new friend and acquaintance that I’ve met, for my colleagues for making my work term a wonderful learning experience, for a new place I could call home.

Home.

After a year of living out East cumulatively, referring to Toronto as home doesn’t feel strange on my tongue anymore. Each time I move and leave, it’s always so challenging as I struggle to adjust and to build up a network all over again. But it’s worth it every time.

I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without the people that I’ve met. Thank you, truly, for embracing this west coaster into your lives and for making my time here so special. I promise that this isn’t goodbye – I’ll be back. 🙂

At the same time, I’m excited to go back to my hometown for at least 4 months. I’m excited to be somewhere that I know I will always belong, to be reunited with my beloved family and friends, to breathe in that amazing west coast fresh air and eat delicious sushi. I’m excited for a break from that busy, fast-paced work lifestyle and just take a moment to focus on myself.

The last 4 months before “real life” begins.

Lucky that I have a head start on how to properly adult – although seriously, does anyone ever really know what they’re doing?

I’m excited to see where this semester takes me.

– J

Advertisements

The Lessons I’ve Learned

It’s recently occurred to me that my year spent taking the road less traveled is ending in a matter of weeks, and life as I know it will change all over again.

I get asked questions a lot – from people at home, and people here. Why did you choose it? Which do you like more? What’s it like on the other side? To put it into perspective, I tell my friends here: “Imagine you pack your bags and move to Vancouver at a moment’s notice, where you don’t know a single person. You have to start from scratch. You are fully responsible for yourself. What would you do?”

What I don’t get asked is what I’ve learned. I’m nowhere close to being the same person I was when I arrived. And the life lessons you only learn from experience are arguably more game-changing than any career advice one could offer. I wanted to get a few of these things down on paper, as my viewpoint at age 21:

The notion of “doing it all” is possibly the worst expectation I could set for myself. I put so much unnecessary pressure on myself, and I try to be superwoman and hit the nail on the head in every single aspect for my life, and get frustrated when I can’t achieve it to those standards. This year I’ve learned that you CAN’T do every single thing perfectly all at once, and that’s 100% okay. There are only 24 hours in a day, and when you devote time and energy into one area, another will undoubtedly suffer. It’s all a balancing act, and it’s okay when the scales tip in a way that it shouldn’t.

I wear many hats – I’m a friend, daughter, sister, employee, marketer, ultimately a young adult trying to find her way in life – and sometimes one of them will require more attention.

Don’t sell yourself short. In anything in life. You have so much potential and so much to offer. Comparison is the thief of joy – be the best that you can be, and aim to keep topping your own standards. When you stop looking around and focus on bettering yourself, things just fall into place.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Being an organized person by nature, I love to plan and coordinate and colour-code. I own two Moleskines, I create to-do lists like its my job, and nothing makes me happier than crossing things off.

Historically, it doesn’t matter who you are – if I hang out with you, you go into the calendar so that I remember and can plan around it. But this year, I’ve learned that some most of the best moments I’ve had are spontaneous and unplanned. I used to need to plan my evenings/weekends in advance, and now I just roll with whatever comes up and it ends up being a great time. When you live life on the go, things change at a moment’s notice and whatever you had down on paper is now irrelevant. The key is to learn how to just go with the flow (as cheesy as that sounds).

Quality definitely trumps quantity in the company you keep.

If you love someone, tell them, and remind them often. You never know when it may be too late, and you could scream it at the top of your lungs and they would never hear you.

Trying to be anyone other than yourself is a waste of your time. Don’t apologize for who you inherently are. Surround yourself with people who love and accept you the way you are. Kick to the curb anyone who tries to change the basis of who you are to fit their idea of “perfection”.

Setting Thursday happy hour as a weekly recurring meeting on Outlook is probably the best idea known to mankind.

Just relax. Everything is going to be okay.

Objectively speaking, time you enjoy “wasting” is not actually wasted.

One Big Scary Adventure

…that my life has become.

Photo 2015-04-11, 2 10 48 PM

I’ve come to the realization that I’m more than halfway through my time in Toronto- and that’s crazy. It feels like just yesterday that I set my suitcases down in my apartment, took a deep breath, and thought, “Well. This is life for the next 7 months.” 

Looking back at the last 4 months, it’s incredible how much I’ve experienced- things that I would’ve never imagined in my wildest dreams. Just putting myself out there, continually being uncomfortable (and admittedly a little scared at times), and always taking risks has changed my life in ways I never thought possible.

Photo 2015-02-16, 11 26 06 AM

When things feel stagnant and you start feeling complacent, my number one remedy is to switch things up and try something new. I can actually count the number of times I’ve gone to an event or walked into a room not knowing a single person, and came out of the experience feeling endlessly glad that I took the plunge.

Yes, it’s scary. As you make your way there, every cell in your body will scream at you to turn back. Why deliberately put yourself in such a potentially uncomfortable and awkward position?

Because there’s not been a single time where I’ve regretted putting myself out there. That’s the only way you grow as an individual. Life can’t be the adventure you want it to be without taking risks. And the people you meet just might be people you now can’t imagine living without.

Photo 2015-04-19, 7 54 57 PM (1)

I’ve also grown so much at work and career-wise. I was compiling an interim report for my co-op office last week and while writing, found it difficult to fit all the things I’ve done during my time here into the one-pager. I’ve dived into an area of Marketing that is 100% net new to me- it’s never been taught in my undergrad classes- and I’m spending every day just learning and absorbing as much as I can.

In the 4 months that I’ve been here, I spent a week back in Vancouver. I spent a week in South Carolina. I’ll be going up North this long weekend for my first-ever cottage experience. I’ll be flying to Edmonton next month for a weekend. And I’m looking to make a New York trip sometime during the summer months.

Photo 2015-04-15, 2 56 18 PM

I’ve also learned many things about myself along the way. Like the fact that while I love being around friends, I also can’t go too long without getting in some quality me-time. That it’s important to stay connected with the people you love, no matter where you go in life, and to not forget your roots. And that I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself to do everything perfectly, all at once, when it’s simply impossible to do so.

It’s been a great year so far- of learning, growing, and experiencing. I’m really excited to see what adventures the summer will bring!

One Of My Biggest Flaws

It has felt like an eternity since I moved into this massive refrigerator they call a “city” (it’s more like an igloo with skyscrapers)- but it’s only been half a month. So far, I’d say things are pretty good. I’m slowly settling into a rhythm at work, and at home living on my own yet again.

“Home” feels more like home as each week passes, although I will never fully get used to the cold. My Vancouver friends Snapchat me complaining about 6 degrees and I just want to throw my phone out the window, except you don’t want to open it when it’s -20 outside.

Something that I noticed about myself when I moved last year was that I expected everything to be perfect immediately. I expected myself to be fully acclimatized in the new city and my new job right away. I tried to buy EVERY SINGLE THING I needed to live (as I arrived mostly empty handed) in one day. And of course, that doesn’t happen. You just don’t settle in overnight. And I was very frustrated with myself for not reaching this unattainable ideal right away.

Slowly I learned that it takes time to get used to your surroundings, to build up a network, to settle in. It’s just like when you’re moving- you will not unpack all your boxes and have everything looking Ikea catalogue perfect in a day, in a week, or even in a month. Throw in an entirely new environment and it just makes it ten times harder.

This time I thought it would be easier. And it was. But the frustration returned the first week when I started my job- when I struggled to adjust to work life again, to take care of myself, and the expectation of immediate perfection came back.

Have all the things I need to live on a day-to-day basis, a fitness regimen down pat, a packed calendar (not from work) and thriving social life, get over jetlag and get plenty of sleep, kill it at work, eat healthy, be totally immune to the freezing cold, be on top of my game in the kitchen and around the house, AND save as much money as possible. Right away. All at the same time.

It’s evident that the Type A personality doesn’t just apply to work and school- it spills over into all aspects of your life. This year, I am working hard on being okay with disarray and imperfection, with letting go of unattainable ideals, and to simply just be easier on myself.

I don’t want to be stuck in that cycle of setting unachievable standards for myself, and then berating myself when I don’t reach them. All of these things hinder your happiness and overall quality of life, and life is too short to always be so harsh on yourself.

I’m excited to see what’s to come! It may be freezing, but the atmosphere of spontaneity and the fast-paced lifestyle is year round. It’s going to be an amazing 7 months ahead of me 🙂

Bittersweet Goodbye

In a few days’ time, I will be hopping on a plane back out East for my new job. Which I guess by this point is not really news, or a surprise, given the nature of my blog posts from the past year.

I think it’s been evident that I’ve loved working and living there, and I am excited to continue my journey there for the next 7 months. Moving is always a struggle, a challenge, but the payoff and the lessons that you learn are just so rewarding.

What makes this time different from the last time I moved was that my summer gig was a very last-minute, rushed, whirlwind-type of affair. Between my offer date and my start date, I had 13 days to find a place to live, plow through stacks of paperwork, and physically move myself over. Less than 2 weeks’ notice to pack up and rebuild my life! It was insanity, but the kind that made me excited to get up in the morning.

This time, I received my offer 2 months in advance. There was plenty of time for me to absorb the information, find a place to live, and slowly start to tell friends, family, and people in my social circles about me leaving. And in the last month, I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of people in my life who have reached out to me. Who I have been able to spend time with, re-connect with, and remind me all over again about why I love this city so much and the people in it.

I’ve been so touched by the kind and encouraging words, messages, and Christmas cards. This has hands-down been the best winter break/holiday season ever, and I honestly cannot believe that I am leaving in 3 days- it just isn’t really sinking in. The past month has been kind to me, and I have been very happy.

It also just makes it that much more difficult to leave it all behind. The more time I spend with loved ones, the more I admire my beautiful hometown with that gorgeous backdrop of nature, the more reluctant I am to leave.

But the fact that it is so hard for me to leave this time is a huge blessing. Thank you for giving me so many reasons that make it difficult for me to leave, that make me miss Vancouver before I’ve even left. I’m truly lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life who I will dearly miss. And I am lucky to have a piece of my heart in each city.

All the best for the new year, my friends. May it be filled with realized dreams, accomplished goals, and a sense of joy and wonder. This isn’t goodbye- just a “see you later”.

(Literally, because I have to finish my degree this year. And who knows- I may be back to visit sooner than you think 😉 keep in touch!)

My First Corporate Event Planning Experience

This blog post was originally published to the RBC Meetings & Events Connect page on July 10th, 2014. It details my RBC experience up to that point in my internship (about mid-way), and I thought it would be interesting to share on my own blog as well.

How do I even begin to describe the past 7 weeks of my time with the Meetings & Events team?

As someone who is relatively new to event planning, having only planned fundraisers and conferences for up to 250 people prior to this role, events in the corporate world were an entirely brand new experience. 2 months ago, I had no idea how to manage a webcast, had never worn a comm headset, seen a BEO (Banquet Event Order), gotten up at 5:00am for a 15-hour work day, or written a creative brief.

It has been my richest learning experience yet. And I know most summer students would say the same thing about their role, but I mean it in every sense of the phrase.

Starting at a new company always comes with a steep learning curve as you try to feel out the corporate culture and put faces to names, but in my client-facing role, I was whisked past dozens of new faces everyday, both in and outside of the office. Strong communication and interpersonal skills are mandatory for the job as you interact with so many different contacts for even just one single event, and they play a large role in facilitating clear, effective working relationships.

Through my role, I got to visit so many cool venues, and work on-site in completely new environments outside of the office. I helped organize countless town halls and other events- some in RBC buildings, and others in venues such as the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, TIFF Bell Lightbox, and the CBC Glenn Gould Studio. I am originally from Vancouver, so I got to do some “sightseeing” (sort of) while on the job.

If there’s one thing I could say about my job, it’s that it keeps me on my toes. One day I would be at my desk in the office, and the next I would be backstage at the MTCC in complete darkness, managing a webcast with a crew of audio-visual professionals, or doing a site visit and meeting at a hotel. I’ve never felt bored in this role because there’s always something new and exciting to take on.

Learning how to negotiate with venues and suppliers, identify key objectives, and think critically and logistically down to the smallest detail has given me a whole new perspective into the event planning world. Event planners have the sharpest attention to detail– there is so much thought that goes into every single step of the process, but the smooth execution makes it seem effortless.

Of course, there is also a technical component to the job as I learned how to navigate and monitor WebEx and Webcast sessions, set up recording devices, work with the audio-visual crew, and set-up/tear-down for the actual event.

Another thing that I absolutely love about my job is how much I get to learn that is NOT related to my job. Because I sit in so many different town halls from all lines of business, I gain so much insight into what’s going on not just in my department, but across the entire organization. I learn about each group’s strengths and weaknesses, and their strategies for the upcoming quarter- things that I would never have known otherwise.

The past 2 months have been exhilarating, exhausting, and amazing at the same time. I could not have asked for a more fulfilling summer work experience, or a more supportive and dedicated team to work with. I am excited to see what the rest of the summer will bring!

“The Entire Neighbourhood In Your Back Pocket” – A Yellow Pages Comeback Story

A week or two after I arrived in Toronto, I noticed that my closest TTC subway station was splattered with yellow overnight.

Photo 6-12-2014, 6 19 52 AM

Upon closer inspection, it turned out that Yellow Pages had completely taken over the station- every possible advertising spot and even places that probably weren’t intended for any media were splashed with yellow. As I go through this station every day, I’ve had countless opportunities to view and analyze the ads- normal people probably wouldn’t pay as much attention as a marketer such as myself, but I was just so captivated by the ads.

Photo 6-12-2014, 6 20 12 AM

Photo 6-12-2014, 6 20 25 AM

I found the campaign to be quirky, engaging, relatable, and actually useful. It presented useful information about each station in a humorous, down-to-earth way that anyone could relate to, and the large media buy ensured that you wouldn’t miss it. For a newcomer like myself, it allowed me to get a better sense of the different neighbourhoods in the city, and brightened up a normally mundane task of waiting for my train.

It is no secret that Yellow Pages and phone books in general have become extinct in recent years. With online and mobile directories, search engine optimization, as well as consumer review websites such as Yelp, Yellow Pages has found itself decreasing in relevance to business owners and consumers alike. Why thumb through a heavy phone book when you can simply type in what you’re looking for and get instant results on your smartphone? And why spend money advertising in a place that no longer reaches your target audience?

Photo 6-13-2014, 1 50 42 PM

Photo 6-13-2014, 1 51 18 PM

However, I think Yellow Pages is taking good measures to increase its relevancy in this day and age, and stay top-of-mind for customers. Yellow Pages is now highly digitized- with mobile apps ranging from its original purpose of finding and discovering businesses, to getting great deals on Canadian goods. It’s aim is to help Canadians find what they are looking for, quickly, and to help simplify their lives.

As for the campaign itself, I thought that it was well thought out, and overall nicely executed. They chose a great spot to advertise- at St. George station, which is a busy transfer hub and located right at the University of Toronto, which gets a lot of traffic from a young, tech-savvy crowd. They did place similar ads in other stations, but so far the biggest media buy I’ve seen has been at St. George where it just completely occupied the station, leaving no room for other companies to advertise, and capturing even the most passive of customers.

However, the ads urge TTC customers to download the app, and speaking from a personal point of view, I don’t know if this is the most helpful thing seeing as there is no reception down in the subway station and line, so incoming transit users may see the ad and then forget about it by the time they regain mobile reception and reach their destination. I personally did not feel compelled to download the app.

But on the positive side, the communication was very clear, and the ads make it evident that Yellow Pages is a helpful tool to guide you in your everyday life. It is really hard to ignore, and is relatable and attention-grabbing to the masses.

Photo 6-12-2014, 7 33 48 PMPhoto 6-8-2014, 6 00 54 PM

I don’t know how much longer the ads will be up for (it has been a couple of weeks), but I really enjoy looking at them every time I pass by. I think this is a great example of a company that has faced challenges in an increasingly digital world, and is regaining its foothold and relevancy through digitizing its own product, presenting a clear value proposition, and devising clever marketing strategies.

Toronto is an advertising playground, and I love doing short analyses on different campaigns and discussing them with my peers. I hope to see more innovative campaigns like this during the summer!

Photo 6-13-2014, 1 49 38 PM

I couldn’t agree more.

Note: The only way I was able to get photos without hoards of people was to be there at 6AM. Sometimes there are upsides to being awake before the sun comes up 🙂