Sarah-Beth Bianchi made the most of the UWaterloo English co-op program. Read on to find out how she went from co-op at RIM to where she is now–Manager, Digital Transformation & Strategy, City of Kitchener–and how her UWaterloo experience helped her along the way. Thanks to Sarah-Beth for contributing to Words in Place!
JLH: I know it’s been a while, but I’m wondering if you can share why you decided on UWaterloo English?
S-BB: English class was always a favorite of mine in high school. So it seemed like the right thing to pursue in university. My Dad always gave me the advice to pursue a marketable skill, to make sure I had strong job prospects after graduation. When I discovered that University of Waterloo had such a strong co-op program, my choice was obvious. I could continue to study something I enjoyed, and also explore how to make a career out of it. It ended up being a perfect combo for me.
JLH: How do you think your degree prepared you for what you are doing now?
S-BB: Once I arrived on campus, I discovered the Rhetoric and Professional Writing stream for English. And the Digital Arts Communications specialization was launched shortly after I arrived, too. I’ve drawn on what I’ve learned time and time again – from argumentation (ethos, logos, pathos!) to information design, to the accounting and computer science foundations – it’s served me well during co-op terms and now in my career. Most of all, the variety and the mix of theory and practical studies have prepared me to be creative, empathetic, and adaptable.
JLH: In what ways did co-op shape your career trajectory?
S-BB: Co-op was critical to helping me launch and shape my career. While it felt overwhelming at times, interviewing a dozen or more times each term made it so much easier to tackle interviews when the stakes were even higher throughout my career. And being able to try out a few types of roles helped me figure out what I enjoyed doing, what I could develop into a career, and what I was really not interested in and wouldn’t succeed at. And not least of all, my first career position came as a direct result of a co-op position. I worked at RIM (what BlackBerry used to be called) and was able to work part-time and eventually take on a full-time position before I graduated. It was the career launchpad that allowed me to put down roots in Kitchener-Waterloo.
JLH: What was the pathway to where you are now? Is this where you imagined yourself?
S-BB: My career has been really varied. When I look back at everything I’ve done, I marvel at all the great opportunities I’ve had and all the ways I’ve been able to grow and challenge myself. I started in the Software Document team at RIM and took on running their single-sourcing content management system – everything from developing and delivering training for writers on the team and writing internal help docs, to troubleshooting the software and performing software upgrades. After several years with a rapidly growing team (we started as a group of about 20 and were over 100 when I moved roles!) I moved to the IT department as a system administrator for the internal social networking site. (Sort of Facebook meets Google Drive for the corporation.) RIM was nearly 20,000 employees, so running the software was no small feat. I quickly realized that software administration wasn’t my thing, so a year later I moved to the Global Learning department as a Program Manager for IT and other technical training. RIM was in the downturn by then, so when I went on maternity leave, I found a new role as a Technical Community Manager for the API Platform at Desire2Learn. I discovered that role thanks to a referral by a friend and former colleague from my Software Documentation days. (Networking and keeping in touch with people you enjoy working with is so important!) I moved positions a few times at D2L, finally becoming Product Manager of the Data & Analytics products. I then discovered a really unique opportunity and made the leap into the public sector doing business relationship management and technology strategy at the City of Kitchener, first as a Digital Transformation Associate and now as the Manager Digital Transformation & Strategy. The work I do now combines my technology aptitude, my IT background, my product & community management experience, and my communication & information design skills – all while making an impact on the community I’m raising my family in!
JLH: Finally, the fun question! Can you share what you are reading now?
S-BB: I just started The Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge. Before that, I finished reading Haben—an autobiography of a woman who shares her experience and insight as a deafblind person navigating her education, career, family, and social life in a sighted world.