Ryan Paulson, “Finding That Perfect Fit”
“I studied political science for my undergrad degree. I had a lot of interest in the political field, the public sector, and after working on an election campaign and for political parties for a while, ended up getting a role with a large non-profit organization. My role was more generalist with some communications functions. Did that for a couple of years and then was transitioned in to a role where I was consulting, essentially, doing community engagement on behalf of the government but for a partnership of non-profits.
I’d been doing that for about five or six months when we began planning an event to invite community in to one of the new employment centre facilities that we were launching, and just inviting all the stakeholders out to showcase the facility. Part of my role was managing that process and putting on the event. And there was one point where I was in a one-on-one meeting with my manager. I had secured three quotes from three different vendors for the balloons that they were going to put up for the event. We’re talking about maybe 500 balloons. And my boss had a whole bunch of follow-up questions about the quotes, requesting that I go back to the vendors and get clarification.
I remember sitting there looking at her, wondering, ‘Really? I have to return to do follow up work to secure more info on what I considered a fairly straightforward part of the program?’ I was just looking at her and it struck me that my career path in this field would see me elevated to her position, or one like hers. And I thought to myself, if they offered me this job at this very moment, here and now, I wouldn’t want to take it. That was just an ‘Ah ha’ moment, that clearly this wasn’t right. If I can’t see myself progressing or I have no ambition to take my career to the next level, I’ve got shake things up and start trying something else. And figure out where it was I actually wanted to go.
I had a pretty good understanding, by that time, that I wanted to move to the private sector. But I knew I was going to have to broaden my abilities and diversify the skills I brought to the table and marketplace. So knowing that, that was the point where I decided I need to join an association. I did some research and IABC/BC seemed to fit what I was looking for because of the diversity of the membership. This was great because I knew I needed to meet people from all these different walks of the industry in order to better understand where I fit in.
So I bought a membership and proceeded to volunteer on various committees, focusing on doing projects that I didn’t typically get to do in my day-to-day work. Writing was pretty prominent in my job so I focused more on technology, digital and media. I got to do a video project, in a managing role, which was great because that’s something we never did at work. And with every marketing and promotion-related project I took on, I really started to like it. The other thing was that I was lucky enough to join the IABC mentorship program and connect with my mentor regularly, just to talk about some of the challenges I was facing and what I thought my personal career brand was and where I wanted it to be.
Eventually, I transitioned in to the sponsorship function, becoming the sponsorship director on the board. The sponsorship piece was completely new to me. It was just such a great learning experience, to understand how partnerships are formed and having different organizations collaborate for the benefit of both. Primarily through that experience, I really started to hone in on marketing communications as an area of focus. It was just what I found I really enjoyed, having more of the person-to-person interaction within the regular work. That was important to me, the relationship-building aspect, the negotiating deals aspect, just trying to find innovative and creative ways to bring brands together and work on programs to help both succeed.
So I just started, slowly but surely, focusing in on marketing communications. I have an interest in business as well, so that felt like it would be a nice fit. I started thinking about what type of companies I’d be interested in working for, what types of products I would have an interest in promoting on a day-to-day basis. Started proactively seeking out my next opportunity that way, as opposed to waiting until something came along. Certainly my IABC mentor was pivotal in helping me understand how to go to the opportunities, rather than waiting for them to come to you.
I was still working for the public sector while doing the IABC volunteer work. But then I took a temporary leave of absence from my role for four months, and did some actual public relations training. I knew I needed some communications-focused training in addition to the volunteer experience I was gaining. It was all happening at once. I’d say it was probably about a year, or a year and a half coming through that process. And once I came out of school, I did an entry-level job in the sports and entertainment field, to give me that private sector experience that I was lacking.
At that point I just thought about which industry sectors I find interesting, even from just a consumer standpoint, being a customer of businesses. I knew I wanted to market and promote a physical product. Service marketing, which is what I was doing in the public sector, was a little bit vague, difficult to communicate, so something that people could actually purchase and walk away with. I’ve always had an interest in restaurants and food service so, between that and the sports industry, those were my top two.
Through my networking and consistently keeping my finger on the pulse of what was happening in the industry, I had a connection to an opportunity at Blenz Coffee. I was actually able to get a reference for the role from an IABC member that I knew, who had led one of the committees I volunteered on. And luckily the company took a chance on me even though I didn’t have the exact skill set they were looking for. So I took on the role and spent three great years there. It turned out to be a phenomenal experience. And I’ve since moved on to my new role at Boston Pizza, which has been another great experience.”
Some facts about Ryan
Current position: Regional Marketing Manager, Western Canada, Boston Pizza
IABC member since: 2011
Professional Goal: I’m a big golf fan, so my fantasy job would be marketing manager for one of the really big golf clubs. But I love what I’m doing with Boston Pizza and would like to advance within their ranks.
LinkedIn: Ryan Paulson