Dignitas International dramatically increases access to effective HIV/AIDS-related prevention, treatment, care and support in resource-limited settings through medical programs and health systems strengthening.
What does a typical Thursday look like for you, starting from when you wake up – to heading to bed?
I typically go into the office early on Thursday mornings, so I may skip my morning run or Wii Fit routine in favour of a large cup of tea and CP24 Breakfast. I always listen to Metro Morning while I shower and get ready for work. Before I leave my apartment, I make sure that my cat (named Sam, after Sam Seaborn, the Deputy White House Communications Director – and Rob Lowe’s character – on The West Wing) is fed and happy. Depending on my cash flow, I’ll pop into Starbucks for a soy latte or Tim Horton’s for an extra large coffee – I rarely have a chance to take lunch, so this is usually my one treat for the day. In the morning, I focus on responding to emails, returning phone calls, liaising with my colleagues in Malawi, facilitating interview requests, tracking media coverage, and tracking and responding to activity on our social networking sites. I work in the Development department, which includes both fundraising and communications. We often find time over coffee to discuss important issues related to HIV/AIDS, global health or government policy, and opportunities for the organization to raise its profile. In the afternoon, I focus on whatever project presents itself – developing and writing content for our newsletter or website, liaising with vendors or our creative agency on print projects, working on a proposal or briefing document, meeting with staff to strategize fundraising initiatives, coordinating advocacy campaigns, or preparing information packages for media or donors. Depending on the Thursday, I might need to leave the office to meet with a volunteer or partner, or to give a presentation. After work, if I have no appointments or classes, and I’m not tutoring or heading to a volunteer meeting, I’ll meet friends for dinner or drinks or a movie. Otherwise, I’ll either make dinner (when I’m feeling energetic) or order in sushi or Thai, then curl up on the couch to watch The Office and 30 Rock before heading to bed with a good book (or episodes of The O.C. on DVD and a book of Sudoku puzzles – definite guilty pleasures).
What was your first job out of school?
My first job out of school was Director of Communications & Member Relations for the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, a not-for-profit lobby organization that advocates to the provincial government on post-secondary issues like tuition and student financial aid. We represented and worked with students at universities across Ontario. There were three of us on staff, and we were all “directors”.
What are the 3 skills you require most to do your job well?
Definitely the ability to communicate messages accurately, concisely and persuasively through various media to various audiences. Also, the ability to multi-task – very important when working in the not-for-profit sector! I also really need to be able to work independently and to learn quickly.
What do you love most about your career?
I love the storytelling – really, communications is about storytelling – telling a story about an organization or issue in order to inspire a particular action. I also love engaging people who want to make a difference with an action that has a direct impact on people’s lives. Making those connections is inspiring!
Do you have any warnings?
You need to be patient and flexible – and you need to be prepared to wear a lot of different hats. At small not-for-profits, you will attend high-level meetings and stuff envelopes and be responsible for everything in between. You will, of course, learn a lot, but you will also be expected to work long hours. Change doesn’t happen between 9AM and 5PM, but, when it does happen, being a part of that change is incredibly rewarding.
If you could try a different career on for a year, what would it be?
Definitely a social worker. I’ve also always fantasized about working on a major political campaign. Or I would want to be a filmmaker. I studied Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto, and filmmaking is another type of storytelling that would be fantastic to try.