By: Nina Rakic

There is something so exciting about packing your bags and embarking to a new world. It is as exciting as it is nerve wracking-the uncertainty that follows such a shift is fundamental.  Though with a vision, strategy and diligent execution the international lifestyle can be a rewarding and transformational experience, influencing how a person conducts themselves in business.

Born in Beijing and raised in Vancouver, Lucy learned early on that identity is contextual. She braided together social psychology, cultural anthropology and urban geography in understanding the power of the individual experience. She has applied this lesson to to entrepreneurship and innovation as she evolved in her marketing and tech career.

Q: Tell us about your background and your career so far.

My career has been diverse, that’s for sure. I started off marketing in various fields touching on areas from consumer packaged goods to forensic consulting. Forensic consulting, by the way, is kind of like CSI … except the accident scenes don’t look like they do on TV. Though, the lawyers and the cops are very similar. After that I started volunteering with Out On Bay Street which definitely inspired me to pursue entrepreneurship and a whirlwind of travel. I moved to Beijing where I completed a MBA program, then to Massachusetts for an MSc at MIT and eventually found myself in San Francisco working in Silicon Valley.  Initially, life outside of work didn’t exist – I worked 18 hour days with little sleep or exercise. Luckily, my start up became profitable within a year and a half and life balanced itself out again. The growth of the company was addictive and being the only marketing person gave me a serious sense of agency. My hard work paid off and I was able to build my own international team in India. Soon, I found myself on the hunt for more adventure and moved to Berlin with my girlfriend where we both currently work in the tech space. Though, Toronto is exploding and I might find myself back in Canada.  

Q: In learning about your past, I noticed that you started your career off in Marketing and Retail. What motivated you to make the transition into tech?

The opportunity of problem solving. Sure, emerging technology is invaluable but there is a lot of already existing tech that can solve many problems and I wanted to be involved with communicating that. Now I’m back in marketing, and I have plans to start another start up. But stay tuned for that… I can’t give away all of my cards.

Q: Your career has been very international so far, having worked in Canada, the US, and China. How has this influenced you and how you do business?

Toronto, Beijing, San Fran, Berlin, Boston, Bangalore.

Now that I’ve gotten a taste of all of these different cultures and work settings, the importance of intrapersonal relationships has definitely been underscored.  So is transparency – it’s important to be in a place where you can create transparency of business or it already exists. A strong legal system is so important. Copyright infringement, patent infringement or good old fashioned plagiarism can completely derail your business plans. In places like China you can’t really sue for stuff like that and it’s kind of difficult for you to say that you’re the first one that did it and for the government to back you.  

Q: What was it about the US market that motivated you to transition from the Canadian market?

I really wanted to go to MIT because of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists on campus. MIT is so vibrant and the business school there is so supportive of entrepreneurship which helped in building my network. Moving to San Francisco was also a very specific move. The startup revival was coming up again and I wanted a piece of that pie. The amount of venture capital money being thrown around was unprecedented – who could resist that temptation?

Q: What advice do you wish you had when you were finishing your first of three degrees?

After UofT? I’d say, “don’t stress about your major.” I was a psychology major and took courses that I just wanted to… it ended up working to my favour and diversifying my portfolio. That said, if you want to become a doctor or something, prerequisites are important. If you’re going into business, keep taking classes that expand your perspective because you can always make up for knowledge gaps in other ways… embrace being a student forever, outside or inside the classroom.

Diversity wise.. I was very out when I was in Toronto and when I moved to Beijing I was really reluctant to be out. After the second semester everyone I knew I was gay and no one cared which is great. Same as in India. Same as in San Francisco. I mean, Berlin is the most open place. Ever.  I’ve been really lucky with that, because there are people that have lived in the same places that have been really negatively affected by their queerness.

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This has been an Out On Bay Street Sneak Peek into the Speaker Series for the 2017 conference. If you’d like to learn more about Lucy and her international career click here and buy your ticket now. Lucy will be speaking at the Networking Lunch on Saturday September 16th.

An Interview with Ken Aber – an Innovator, a Marketer, a Trailblazer

Aug 01, 2017

By: Nina Rakic

Ken Aber, the founder of Blueprint Business Architecture and marketer extraordinaire, is widely praised for his ingenuity, out-of-the-box thinking and seeming ability to be one step ahead of you, your boss and your boss’s boss. I had the pleasure of working with Ken when he consulted with my company on a couple of large-scale projects. He brought interesting perspectives to the table, and beyond that, saw our ideas in a different light that opened up possibilities we had not yet begun to identify. Considering the variety of projects he’s led, it’s really no wonder that he has such a unique perspective.

He’s spent his entire career creating innovative marketing campaigns, programs and media partnerships.  When working with Omnicom he led the marketing and communications at Labatt, he dabbled with Cara – the makers of Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s, and American Express to name a few. Ken loves to create and build. In fact, Blueprint Business Architecture isn’t the first company he brought to life. He can be credited with developing the Hero Certified Burger chain, which he sold to John Lettieri the current president.

Q: Word on the street is that you got accepted into Harvard at 14. What a feat. How did you accomplish that and were you nervous?

A: I was 16 when I was accepted into Harvard. Nervous? No. I completed grades 2, 4 and 6 in public school and home schooled for grades 7 – 12 which I finished by the time I was 16.  I was too young to know what nervous was way too young to really grasp the magnitude of what I had achieved. It was my normal.

Q: Did accomplishing so much at such an early age change your perception of success?  

A: Yes. Until the age of 35 I was hungry to succeed and be a leader. I achieved my goal at 35 and was a CEO until I was 40. At that time, I realized that my definition of success, the way I had imagined it,  was really lonely. I realized at that time that that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to be in the trenches and work on a multitude of different and exciting projects, not managing people. Doing work instead of sitting at the top and doing lunch.

Q: What advice do you wish had when you were an undergraduate student?

A: The advice I wish I had is this: You don’t have to take unversity so seriously. Truly learn something and get your money’s worth, but once you’re done no one is going to know if you got a A or C.

Q: What was your worst job and did it ever cloud your vision of achieving your dreams?

A: I once worked in a fish factory making sure that all the fish were Kosher. It was smelly and rotten. After that, I only had cool jobs, like a dickie dee ice cream boy. I worked at Ontario place for many years. These jobs only fueled my drive to succeed because it made me realize I didn’t want to be at the fish plant for my entire life.

Q: Was is difficult to come out at work the first time you did it? Has it gotten any easier?

A: It was tough to come out the first time I did. The people who I thought were my friends no longer showed up after that. I was 37 and my world was divided. People hated me and people respected me. I had people calling me a liar because “how could you lie about that for so many years?” I didn’t want to be gay and I wanted to be like everyone else. Has it got easier? I think society as a whole has been more accepting and corporate brand world has definitely got on board, however, there are still many people in smaller communities with no support system who may fear for their life if there were to come out. So the answer to that question is yes and no.

Q: How have you seen the LGBT community change and develop within the professional space?

A: In my 35 year career, I’ve seen sponsors go from not wanting to touch the LGBT community to companies literally pouring millions and millions into getting their brands associated and in front of the the LGBT community. The Mental Health conversation has gone through a similar adoption and transition, just as I think Cannabis is going through now.

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This has been an Out On Bay Street Sneak Peek into the Speaker Series for the 2017 conference. If you’d like to learn more about Ken, his robust work experience within marketing and the challenges he’s overcome as an out LGBTQ+ professional click here and buy your ticket now. Ken will be speaking at the Gala Dinner on September 16th.  

What the Press has Said About Our Third Keynote

Sep 03, 2017

Outside the Oval Office is a small rectangular room with two side-by-side, nondescript wooden desks. In one sits President Obama’s personal secretary. In the other is Brian Mosteller, the man who sweats the small stuff so that the president doesn’t have to.

Few have even heard of Mosteller, but if you look closely at photographs taken inside the White House, you can often glimpse him at the edge of the frame, omnipresent. From his chair, he is the only person in the White House with a direct view of the president at his desk. No one gets in the Oval Office without going past him.

Mosteller’s official title is director of Oval Office operations, although a more apt name might be anticipator in chief. When Obama is in Washington, every move the president makes, every person he meets and every meeting he attends has been carefully orchestrated by Mosteller.

READ MORE

Obama’s legacy will be much greater than it now appears

He knows where Obama likes his water glass placed on the table at meetings and whom he’d want to sit beside. He knows how he prefers the height of a lectern. He researches a head of state’s favorite drink so that the president can offer it. He readies Obama’s remarks and sets them, open to the first page, wherever the president will be speaking. He tells Obama when a sock is bunched at his ankle or his shirt is wrinkled, before an interview.

The president returned to Illinois last week to commemorate nine years since he announced his long-shot bid for the White House, a history-making moment of proportions few could have known then. There remain just a few people who were there in those early days.

Unlike some staffers close to the president who have enjoyed their own moments in the limelight, Mosteller, who first met Obama in Chicago after his famous speech in Springfield, Ill., to start his campaign, has intentionally stayed in the background.

Admiring colleagues refer to him as an unsung hero of the administration — the man behind the man, without whom Obama arguably would not have such a universal reputation for cool.

The low profile suits Mosteller — he needs to stay focused. The entire West Wing relies on him, and no one more than the president.

Mosteller “knows the president very well. He pays attention to everything,” said Valerie Jarrett, the president’s longtime senior adviser. “The president knows how much Brian cares about him and that it isn’t ‘I care about you from afar,’ it’s ‘I’m going to ensure the nitty-gritty details of your life from large to small are attended to.’ The president trusts him completely.”

A fascination with logistics

Mosteller brings out the president’s speech before the start of a news conference in the East Room of the White House in 2010. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Disarmingly humble, Mosteller, 40, never had much interest in politics as a blood sport. Instead, as a little boy, he would watch, captivated, as President Ronald Reagan would stride up the red carpet to the podium in the East Hall to address the nation. Who is cuing the president as he speaks, he recalls wondering. What work happened behind the scenes to prepare for such an important event?

“It was something that transcended Akron, Ohio, or my small neighborhood,” he said of his fascination with protocol. The possibility of playing a behind-the-scenes role like that “was bigger than me and had the ability to affect something bigger than me.”

In college, Mosteller applied for a summer internship in the Clinton White House. He got a slot working with the advance team and ended up staying for the final two years of the administration.

He completed his last college credits remotely as he staffed the president and the first lady for domestic and international trips. He loved the exposure to the world, but he didn’t want a career in politics. He turned down a job working on Al Gore’s campaign and moved west to help prepare Salt Lake City for the 2002 Olympics.

After several years of doing logistical planning around the world for the Olympics, Mosteller settled down in Chicago in 2007. He bought a home. He was ready to put down roots.

A Former Recruiter’s Resume Faux Paus

Aug 10, 2017

By Nina Rakic

It’s official. The walls have been painted, the boxes unpacked – we’ve moved into a digital age. Does that mean that we’ve also moved past the resume and onto the Linkedin profile? In part, yes. Your potential employer will certainly check you out online and cross reference what you publish with what you print. They will also expect you to present a crisp resume in a neat folder on which they can take notes during your interview.

Considering how important resumes continue to be, I suggest  you take a preventative approach and make sure that your resume is on point at the time of submission. It’s likely that your potential employer has not met you yet, so their impression of you starts to form through reading your resume. Below are 6 tips to keep in mind this recruitment cycle that will help you help your interviewer form the right image about you.

Making grammatical errors and typos.

“Let’s eat grandma!”

“Let’s eat, grandma.”  

Need we say more? Perhaps, though we shouldn’t have to. We live in an age where online, free services are accessible to anyone with a computer or a library card. These mistakes are avoidable and indicate to your interviewer that you don’t really care about the application. Which isn’t true. Arguably, it is hard to catch your own mistakes, especially after having reviewed your resume for the zillionth time. Reach out to a friend or attend our Pre-Conference Workshop for some extra help.  

Submitting incorrect information.

“Well, duh.” You might be thinking, and you’re right: this does seem obvious. We aren’t talking about including wild stories of fabricated world travel and the four languages you don’t speak  (though you shouldn’t include those points if they’re not true either). We’re talking about that 3.0 GPA that’s actually a 2.8 or a job title that doesn’t quite match the description.  

Little mistakes like that are the best way to show your employer that you are not detail oriented. Luckily, this mistake is easy to mitigate. Read, edit and repeat.

Not using keywords that are found in the job description.

A lot of the time a hiring manager or recruiter has dedicated a time block for reading resumes. This means that yours could be the 1st, or the 251st resume under review. At this point your resume is getting a scan, at best, until it truly catches the viewer’s eye.

Looking at the “requirements” or “qualifications” section of the job description you’re applying for and other similar ones will give you a good place to start. The jargon that’s repeated is the jargon you should use and use often (so long as it’s grammatically correct). Be wary of just copy and pasting from the job descriptions as well – it will be noticed and could undermine the hard work you’ve actually done. The same should stand for your cover letter, though, that’s a topic for another article.

Actually, writing things that don’t relate to the job in general is a bad idea.

Yes, this does mean that you’re likely going to be writing unique resumes for each job you’d like to apply to. We never said that recruiting was easy, but the hard work pays off. Hiring managers and recruiters have likely been hiring for a long while and can spot a clone from a mile away. Recycling a resume used for one job might also mean keeping information in it that is not relevant to another job.

Not writing enough

There is a fine line between too much information and not enough. While there is no universal definition of where this line in, here are some things to keep these things in mind and you should be all right:

  1. Don’t underplay your responsibilities. It’s okay, you’ve done a lot and there is no shame in that. Just save some for the interview too.
  2. Be specific. The problem/idea was XX I did XX to solve/implement it and XX were the results. Checkmate.
  3. Quantify as often as possible. This is a good way of showing evidence of your work without being too verbose.

Getting out of hand with formatting.

Simply put, a flashy resume get’s you the wrong kind of attention. It takes away from the content and make it seem like you’re overcompensating. If you are overcompensating, the hiring manager or recruiter will catch on soon enough and your efforts will be for naught. There are ways to beef up your resume like participating in competitions (like our Case or Moot Competitions), volunteering outside of work (OOBS recruitment opens this September!) or taking job-specific training or workshops. Basically, if you’re not there yet, you can be. Even if you’re applying for a marketing or media role, it’s good to err on the side of caution while keeping in mind your audience. The manager will request to see your portfolio anyways meaning your creative mind will have a place to shine.

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These are just a few tips and tricks from a former recruiter, a Out On Bay Street volunteer and a successful hire from the conference. Though, there is so much more to learn! Those that bought tickets prior to August 1st are welcome to do so at our Pre-Conference Workshop taking place on Saturday August 19th.