It’s been a while since we profiled alumni, so I reached out to a few to see if they might be willing to answer some questions about their time at Waterloo and their subsequent careers. Without hesitation, everyone I contacted said yes. I love how Lisa Kember maps her career trajectory, and encourages current students to do the same. –JLH
JLH: What is your degree?
Honours English – Rhetoric and Professional Writing. Minor – Sociology. Following Waterloo, I did a post-grad diploma in Resource Development Management at Sheridan College.
JLH: What has been your professional history?
I started out as a technical writer, which I discovered I did not enjoy, so I moved into the marketing department as a copywriter. Thanks to a combination of the support of a great mentor and being in the right place at the right time, I was able to move fairly quickly into a management role in the marketing department for Kasten Chase. They went public through an acquisition, so I took on the role of managing investor communications and public relations. I later moved to a small digital marketing company, Devlin Applied Design, as Manager of Sales and Marketing. In 1999, I decided to launch my own agency, Hyperactive Communications, which I built up to 11 staff and more than 25 long-term accounts before exiting from the business in 2009.
JLH: What is your current job title, and what responsibilities does it include?
I am now Regional Development Director, Eastern Canada at Constant Contact. This is a rather unique role – it has elements of PR, sales and field marketing. The majority of my days are spent at events targeting small businesses and non-profits, where I present keynotes and seminars as a brand-building activity; I manage a team of people who also do speaking to a bit smaller groups. I am also responsible for media interviews, organizing learning events, and ensuring we are meeting sales targets in the region (leveraging a call centre at our corporate office in Boston to follow up on leads we develop in the field).
JLH: What made you choose Waterloo?
I chose Waterloo because I wanted to have an exceptional education, but also develop practical skills along the way. I benefited from the co-operative education program; the roles I took on as a co-op student later led to full-time employment opportunities because I leveraged the connections I made.
JLH: What has stayed with you from your time at Waterloo studying English?
The one thing that has stayed with me is the understanding that there are many ways to spin a story. The facts may be X, but they can be interpreted differently according to different perspectives. This has been an important understanding for every role I have had.
JLH: What advice do you have for current students?
Your education is the foundation for learning. But you will never stop learning – every job, every conversation, every connection you make will add to the knowledge that you have. So stay open, stay willing to learn. No matter how far you progress in your career, there will always be more you can learn.
JLH: What do you wish you’d known right after graduating?
I wish I had known how important it was to stay connected with everyone I met along the way. I still get job offers and consulting projects through people I met a decade or more ago. That is the power of leverage. Every opportunity, every connection, can lead to your next one. Do the best work you can and handle each opportunity as critically important. Because it is.
JLH: What are you currently reading?
For pleasure, I am reading Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed. But I also always have a business book on the go – right now that is The Power of Why, by Amanda Lang.