Goals & Assists

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Jemma Young first hit the ice in Lindsay, Ontario.

“I started in boys’ hockey, then switched to girls until I went away to school,” she says.

Growing up admiring the likes of Canadian hockey legends Hayley Wickenheiser and Cassie Campbell gave Young role-models who understood perseverance in practice and gold-medal achievement.

As the Manager of Social Media with Hockey Canada, this life-long learner values her MRU teammates’ support , and still tries to, “get on the ice at least a couple times a week.”

Before she landed her current position, Young chalked up many assists. She worked at MRU in the careers office as the Work Experience Coordinator finding placements for MRU students, and then as Marketing Coordinator who supported those providing these work terms. She strategized, “One of the perks of being an employee is getting access to some of the courses.” So, she thought she’d take a shot at it. After all, as the Great One, Wayne Gretzky noted, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Young recounts, “I enrolled in the Social Media for Business Certificate and I also completed the Public Relations Extension Certificate as well.” Completing the coursework as fast as she could, she finished both certifications within two years. Like any good hockey game, her future success came down to the final push.

“In the final project,” she says, “I was randomly paired with Hockey Canada which, for me, was awesome because I played hockey when I was young.” Each of the students was to create a social media strategy for their non-profit partners. Hockey Canada wanted to promote their grassroots hockey and so Young and her team ‘dug down deep’ and set to work.

It seemed the timing was right. “I was able to showcase some of my skills and build some relationships there.” She stated, “They were looking for somebody to work with their social media and…” it seems like, with her off-ice performance, she became Hockey Canada’s first round draft pick.

Young now manages 56 social media accounts for the organization. Like a true professional, she acknowledges the team effort, “Because we’re managed by the government, we have bilingual accounts. I oversee daily posting and working with sponsors on co-branded campaigns. I’m not bilingual, but I work with a translation team.”

What are the 3-stars in her education experience? She’s quick to decide, “I think the flexibility of the timing for any full-time working professional, it’s great to have that.

Another major benefit is being surrounded by other working professionals; people generally working in the industry.” And finally, “All of our instructors were knowledgeable and working in the industry, so they not only had the academic knowledge, but real-life work experience as well.”

Her work supports all of Hockey Canada’s events from the grassroots level to the Olympics and the World Cup. Many of hockey’s greats have gone on to become community leaders, role-models and coaches. Young is no different. She has recently been added to MRU Continuing Education’s faculty roster.

“I am that ‘model student’” she says, counting herself among the MVPs that have gone right from the farm team to the big leagues. Now that much of her strategic work is being done from the bench, she says “It’s funny being on the other side… so to speak. But having been there (as a student) before is a definite benefit.”

A grassroots success story for MRU.

A gold-medal achievement for Hockey Canada.

Whatever side Young is on, she’s winning.


-by JLove

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Education: A Renewable Resource

Farah Kaleem, Project Coordinator – Stakeholder Relations, The Talent Pool


It’s all too familiar a story; someone is laid off from the energy sector and scrambles to find a job in a climate where there are fewer and fewer opportunities in their industry.  The body of the story is a montage of trials, interviews and realizations that a change needs to be made to achieve success. The end of that story has yet to be written for some, but for some proactive others like Farah Kaleem, the next chapter has begun.

Farah moved to Calgary two years ago from Pakistan. “I was working with CAPPA (Canadian Association of Petroleum Production Accounting) as an Events Coordinator.  With the economic downturn, our sponsorships were drying out and we didn’t have budget to do events.” She admits that the writing was, indeed, on the wall, “After the annual conference, they decided to let me go.”

“It was my first winter in Calgary,” she says. That foreign chill embodied her internal struggle.

Like many who were let go late last October and afterwards, she had to make use of her new found time, “For the first few months, I was too busy looking for work, but the market was brutal. It took me a while to realize I had to do something constructive.”

So, she enrolled at MRU Continuing Education.

“I was referred to MRU Cont. Ed. by a friend doing his Supply Chain Management Certificate,” she admits. “He said why don’t you look at their courses. They have really good instructors and the class sizes are small, so you get adequate level of attention from the instructors.”

On this recommendation, she signed up for an introductory course on Marketing and Strategic Communication. While taking the course, she says, “I really enjoyed my experience. The teacher was very focused and open in terms of sharing ideas and listening to our ideas and experiences.”

As she delved further into the certification from late February through July, the perks only got better, “I got exposure to professors from different industries doing similar types of work I was doing,” she explains. This allowed her to reach into these different industries for employment.

Just this week, Farah Kaleem started her new job as a Project Coordinator – Stakeholder Relations at The Talent Pool, which supports businesses in search of skilled professionals. She is optimistic about this role, which reports to a supervisor Farah describes as, “very accomplished, cooperative and I am looking forward to learning a lot from her.

Having successfully navigated the waters of career change during an economic downturn, it seems like she’s the perfect person to assist others in their transitions. She chimes, “It’s exactly what I wanted and needed.”

And so, the story’s conclusion is a new beginning, a continued new life in Calgary with an exciting new opportunity. “I love it here.” She says of her new hometown. With the transitional help of MRU Continuing Education, things are looking up for Farah.

– by JLove

Amazing Grace Under Fire

Kara Solecki, Police Studies


If being part of a police force means being calm in the face of chaos then Kara Solecki has selected the right program.

Currently enrolled in the Police Studies Extension Certificate at MRU Continuing Education, Kara and her family were forced to show grace under fire when they were among the 88,000 residents evacuated from Fort McMurray this summer.

“I was at work,” Solecki remembers, “and reports started coming in that specific neighbourhoods had mandatory evacuation orders, and pictures started surfacing of the fire in full tilt in town.” That was the time that her ‘serve and protect’ instincts kicked in. “It wasn’t so much shock at that point as it was fear; worry about all of my friends and family, and then a sort of surreal calm; it was time to plan what the next step was.”

That next step was gathering with her family (mother, father, two sisters, aunt and uncle) and leaving their home in the Timberlea neighbourhood at the mercy of the spreading wildfire.

“We didn’t know where we’d end up so I was planning for the worst and getting any supplies that may be necessary.” She says. Among the short list of items she was able to grab were her textbooks. She recalls, “For whatever reason, at the time I didn’t think I could part with them… It was exam time!”

Despite a nail-biting drive out of town on a quarter tank of gas, an evacuation plane ride into Edmonton by Westjet and the community of Rocky Mountain House rallying to support her family as they stayed temporarily with friends, Kara kept up with her studies. “I got through that month away through the help and support from my professor Doug King and keeping busy. There was so much emotional turmoil at that time, but staying busy with school work was just so normal, and it felt like it grounded me.” In hindsight, she reflects that, “I needed this sense of normal so desperately, when everything else was anything but normal.”

She remains appreciative that Doug King and other staff at MRU suggested and supported any extensions she might need, and let her know that told her to focus on her safety and well being. That support, Kara admits, “allowed me to put my worry elsewhere.”

“The flexibility of MRU’s online Police Studies Extension Certificate has always been important to me, as when I signed up, I decided to continue working full time as well as pursue other studies.” Now back with family and friends in her hometown she’s grateful to be immersed in her studies while dealing with her new normal, “During the time I was evacuated, this flexibility obviously showed it’s benefits once again.”

As for what’s next, she realizes that the unexpected happens, but it’s a good idea to have a plan. “It is my hope to attend MRU‘s Bachelor of Arts – criminal justice degree program in the fall of 2017, then I plan to pursue a career in probation or parole; hoping to be one of the first people of contact in the road to rehabilitation for criminal offenders.”

Kara concludes, “Taking this course helped clarify what a huge portion of my future will look like and made me realize that I never want to stop learning.”

-by JLove

Fire in Solecki’s neighbourhood
Evacuation Road in Ft. McMurray

Box Springs Eternal

IMG_8057Shawn Cable has always been a team player.

Cable – Calgary Roughneck

The former Calgary Roughneck professional lacrosse player describes himself as always having had, “and entrepreneurial type spirit.” But he admits, “I’d be lying if I told you ten years ago that I’d be the owner of a mattress recycling business.”
His company Re-Matt began in 2014. Cable describes it as, “a mattress recycling business intent on eliminating all disposal of mattresses in city landfills across Alberta.” The idea came from a field trip his Mount Royal University Continuing Education Supply Chain Management course took to a Sears factory. “At the time, I was working in Oil and gas,” he explains, “but like many people, I didn’t know how secure my future was.” So, he pitched the idea of mattress recycling to, “a group of buddies I met for breakfasts to bring new ideas to the table so we could all work for ourselves one day.” The group approved.

Cable did some research and found out that there was no one else in this environmental and much needed niche market. “People are paying to take mattresses to the landfill already,” he gleaned, “the landfill is charging a $20 minimum. We charge $15. So, you’re saving money and keeping it green.”

Business seems to be good. In May 2016, Cable touts that, “we had our best month to date. Over 3000 mattresses.” That’s 3000 mattresses that won’t clutter Alberta landfills! Instead, Re-Matt recycles up to 95% of the materials from them. Mattresses are broken down into their original components like fabric, steel and wood. “We find places for materials to go that have a better end use.”Re-Matt-+Calgary+Mattress+Recycling+(Sleep+On+Latex)

Existing businesses are looking for his service. He has signed partnership contracts with the likes of mattress retailers like The Brick, Sleep Country and Sears who are all trying to service their customers with a greener solution. Cable and his team just signed an agreement with Fort McMurray to bring their used mattresses down to his Calgary warehouse.

From an early analysis, “The biggest obstacle is transportation,” he says, “It can be costly.” This is merely a pothole on the road to success for Cable who summarizes the landfill landscape, “Landfills don’t like mattresses. They don’t bury well. They take up space. Now that there’s a solution, everyone’s trying to find a budget to do it (recycle).”

Speaking to his experience with Supply Chain Management at MRU, he reports, “It helped tremendously. It’s a logistics-based business. There was a lot of valuable information that I learned from the program.”

The secret to Re-Matt’s early success is something that he doesn’t lose a lot of sleep over. “It’s a little bit of craziness mixed in with doing your homework…and putting your money where your mouth is.”

Spoken like a true innovator.

-by JLove

Project Management in Construction Builds Needed Skills


When Valentyna Naboka came to Canada from Ukraine ten years ago, one of her first stops was Mount Royal’s Languages Institute for the ESL program.

“When I came I didn’t know English at all – I didn’t even know the alphabet. It was a great program, great teachers,” Valentyna says. “Within two months I started to talk a little bit. I studied very hard.”

Valentyna took the year-long piping drafting course at SAIT. “Once I graduated I got myself into oil and gas. I started as a draftsperson first and then I moved into design, doing 3D modelling. It was mostly gas plants or well sites.”

ce_blog_pm_construc_valyentia_group_2015In 2012 she had the opportunity to put her skills to practice on a construction site. “I thought it was a lifetime opportunity because I was part of the project on the design side and then I got an opportunity to go in the field and actually build what I designed,” she says. She remembers the thrill of seeing her designs come to life. “The very first time I was allowed to step on the ladder and walk on the platform, it was just unforgettable. It was really cool to actually touch what you used to see on the screen or on drawings.”

She had found her passion. “I enjoyed construction a lot. With the designer experience and now field knowledge, I thought companies can benefit from such a wide range of skills. After I finished the construction I started as a project manager, but I had no education in project management. I felt like my field experience and the variety of knowledge helped, but I still had these missing holes that I didn’t know anything about. I spent a lot of time searching for a program that is specific to construction. MRU’s Project Management in Construction program came up. What caught my attention was the subjects that were chosen for the program.”

“I got into the program and so far finished three courses. Three more to go and then I’ll get my certificate,” she says. “My long-term goal is project management or construction management. I think what I’m learning right now, it’s filling up the gaps that I had before.”

Valentyna is taking a mix of classroom and online courses. “The first one I did in the classroom. I found there was a huge amount of information to process so I thought I’ll give online a try. I loved the online course a lot because I’m not from Calgary, so for me to travel is a lot of inconvenience. And then I can study at my own pace. If I didn’t get something I can read it over again until I actually get it,” she notes.

She lives in a small village near Sylvan Lake in central Alberta. “It takes me about 2 ½ hours from Sylvan Lake. And from the town it’s another 15 minutes north,” she says. “I’m doing my house on my own. It’s funny, when you start your own project you learn a lot. The renovation I’m doing is a huge project – I ripped everything apart and now I’m redoing everything including the bathrooms. I learned a lot, how to purchase materials, how to plan, how to schedule.”

— by Karen McCarthy
— photos by Krystal Hurt and Tracy Elliott

Second Career and Second Chance for PFT Student

Paul Gray_Student Spotlight blog

At age 54, Paul Gray recently graduated from Mount Royal’s Personal Fitness Trainer Diploma. Many of his fellow graduates, who have become close friends, are in their 20s and 30s. Paul came to the program after working for more than 25 years in the oil and gas sector.

When his father passed away several years ago, Paul began working with a personal trainer to improve his health and find an outlet for his grief. He became interested in personal training as a new career. “I saw how fitness can complement daily life,” he says.

Life threw Paul a curve ball in 2012 at the beginning of his first year in the PFT program. During the August long weekend, he found a golf ball-sized lump in his thigh while putting on sunscreen. It had not been there only a few weeks earlier. He went to the doctor the next day, had an ultrasound in September and a biopsy in November.

Paul was diagnosed with a rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the connective tissue, in December. “The tumour just missed my femoral artery, which could have caused it to spread more widely. I feel incredibly lucky and extremely grateful for our health care system,” he says.

“My sister is a nurse and told me that this is a cancer that usually affects children,” he notes. “It’s extremely rare in adults. But that’s what I had. I had to fall back a year in the PFT program, and not graduate with my group. I had amazing support and love from my original classmates and my new ones, as well as the program administration and the instructors. The program has been phenomenal. I can’t speak highly enough of it.”

He underwent surgery and intensive radiation treatment in early 2013. He is now 2 years and 4 months out of treatment. He will be followed closely for 5 years, having MRIs every year and chest x-rays every 6 months.

“The two-year mark is big for sarcoma,” Paul says. “I lost a hunk of my medial quadriceps, which wraps around the knee, so it’s still sore. I got back on a bike a year ago, which gave me huge joy.”

Paul came back to the program last fall and graduated in June. “I graduated exactly 30 years after the first time,” he says.

He has worked with seniors at the Westside Recreation Centre. “Some of them have never exercised in their life,” he says. “I want to work with older people and show them that the average person can still get fit. Especially my generation, the Baby Boomers, who have been sitting at a desk for over 25 years. Fewer than 14 percent of Canadians get regular exercise.”

Paul’s first degree was from the University of Arizona, where he developed a passion for the canyon lands. One of the first things Paul did after he had begun to recover was to run to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, 3500 feet down, and back out again. He did it in 4 hours.

Paul Gray 2_Student Spotlight blogHe is starting an adventure fitness business, where he lead groups of mature adults on hiking, skiing or climbing adventures with the assistance of local guides. He hopes to demonstrate the all-encompassing nature of fitness, from the physical to the mental to the spiritual. “You can shock your brain into learning new things. Keep those neurons firing,” Paul says.

He recently led a biking trip on Utah’s White Rim Trail and is planning a hot springs tour in Idaho.

Inspired by the Hopi nation in the American southwest, descendants of the ancient cliff-dwelling Anasazi, Paul’s business is called Kachina Fitness. “My slogan is, I’ll help you find your spirit,” he says.

— by Karen McCarthy
— photos courtesy of Paul Gray

Student Completes CAPPA Certificate in Record Time

(l-r)  Dale, Lavinia, Breanne and Brayden Wolkowski
Brayden on a family visit home to Saskatchewan. (l-r) Dale, Lavinia, Breanne and Brayden Wolkowski

Brayden Wolkowski completed the 244-hour CAPPA Certificate (Canadian Association of Petroleum Production Accountants) in just 8 weeks this spring. He attributes this land speed record to mindful goal setting combined with previous experience in production accounting in the field and in an office setting.

Brayden, 22, is a University of Regina business student now working in Calgary at Newalta Corp., an energy services company.

He started the first course of the CAPPA program on April 14 and completed the fifth course on June 8. He took the program through independent study, completing course work on his own and arranging to write exams through MRU.

“I set a goal to be done by mid-June,” Brayden says. “I did, and finished with a 91 percent average.”

Students normally complete the program within a minimum of 2 semesters. They have up to 5 years to complete the 5 courses.

“Working with numbers just came naturally to me,” says Brayden. “I had experience as a field operator where I would gather numbers for the production accountants. That experience helped me understand that it’s not just a number, it’s a way to bring a concept into reality.”

Brayden discovered his interest in petroleum production accounting on the job. “My mentor got me excited to take the program,” he says. “She has 30 years of experience in the field. If I had questions about any of the courses I could discuss them with her.”

Brayden thrived in the program’s online environment. “The information was very self-explanatory,” he notes. “I liked the process and being able to work at my own pace.”

“The people in Continuing Education were extremely helpful. They were willing to accommodate me and set up a different exam schedule so I could complete the program quickly,” Brayden says.

“Brayden’s accomplishment is nothing short of amazing!” says MRU Oil and Gas Program Coordinator Diana Lundine. “He sprinted through the entire CAPPA program in less than 3 months and earned exceptional grades at each level — all of which was unprecedented. He’ll be holding onto this record for quite some time, I’m sure.”

In his spare time, Brayden enjoys playing sports and being active. He coaches volleyball with a Calgary club from December through May.

Brayden plans to continue working in Calgary and will complete his business degree. His family back home in Saskatchewan have been Brayden’s biggest fans. “Without the support of my family I would not even be in Alberta today,” he says.

— by Karen McCarthy

Contracts Analyst Negotiates Success in the Oil Patch

Kristi Peterson_PLA

Kristi Peterson has experienced steady growth in her career with the Land Department at the Pengrowth Energy Corporation over the past 15 years. She is now a Contracts Analyst. “I’m working my way up into actually drafting the agreements. I’m working with the partners and working with precedents, but I’m actually negotiating and doing the various agreements within Land. I’m not just reading them anymore, I’m writing them,” she says. She is a graduate of MRU’s Petroleum Land Administration: Land Contracts Extension Certificate as well as a previous certificate, Petroleum Land Administration: Foundation.

Kristi started at Pengrowth in 1999 as the office clerk. “I saw the Land Department and it looked like they were having fun. So I talked to the supervisor Diane Scott – she’s still my supervisor – and she got me going to the Mount Royal courses. And I got promoted to be the Land Assistant, then Mineral Land Administrator, and then Contracts Analyst, working in contract land. I love it,” she says.

Kristi completed her certificate programs while working at Pengrowth. “It took me about ten years to do the Foundation certificate [the previous Land Administration program]. Having kids and being pregnant, I’d take one course a year and try to keep going,” she says. “I was able to be promoted even before I finished the certificate.”

Kristi’s role revolves around working with partners. “If we want to drill a well, we have to acquire the lands, whether they’re Crown or freehold. We do a Joint Operating Agreement (JOA). If you have a partner with whom you’re going to drill that well, then you need an agreement to govern those working interests. If it’s a gas well, you have to pool it, and then there’d be a pooling agreement. There can be multiple partners – the main role in contracts being working with partners,” she notes.

She is also a busy mom with two children aged 6 and 9. They are busy with after-school activities including soccer, hockey and gymnastics. Kristi is coaching soccer this year. “I volunteer a lot at school,” she says. “Actually I’m able to work four days a week so I’m very involved in the school.”

Kristi’s husband works at Shaw and was a great support as she went through the certificate programs. “It’s good to have one of us out of oil and gas with it being so volatile,” she says.

Curt Hamrell
Curt Hamrell

Calgary’s oil patch can be a small world. Kristi’s instructor for the MRU Land Agreements course, which she took while pregnant with her second child, was Curt Hamrell, a 30-year veteran of the industry. “In that class we taught the most used document in the industry, the NOA (Notice of Assignment).”

When Kristi returned to Pengrowth from her maternity leave, she found that Curt had joined Pengrowth as a consultant in Acquisitions and Divestitures.

“Occasionally we’ll do a little work together,” Curt says. “I’m A&D and she’s day-to-day, so if her area’s affected by a sale she will be contacted and kept in the loop.”

“Curt’s always there, too, to answer questions if you need him to, for his contractual needs,” Kristi notes.

Curt has been teaching at Mount Royal for ten years, starting when he was volunteering with a leading energy industry association, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Land Administration (CAPLA).

“Once you get into Land you realize how much there is to learn,” Curt says. “I’ve been at it for 30 years and I’m still learning every day. I find teaching is the best way to learn because I have to know the answers.”

Kristi Peterson

“The students at Mount Royal usually already have experience — from one or two years to ten or even twenty years — and they want to get that certificate and add to their education. There’s a lot of people who have taken the same certificate and have it posted on their wall,” Curt says.

“Both mine are on my wall,” Kristi says. “In oil and gas, when it’s good it’s really good. And when it’s bad it’s really bad. So far I’ve made it through every recession, able to keep my job and just hope for the best. We know there’s going to be an upswing, you just kind of hang on and wait it out,” Kristi notes. “It’s a good time to dig into those agreements you just haven’t been able to get to.”

“We all know that it’s going to come back. It’s just a matter of when,” says Curt.

— by Karen McCarthy
— photos by Karen McCarthy

Interior Designer Creates Perfect Work/Life Balance

Jocelyn Haroldson

With the help of MRU’s Interior Decorating Extension Certificate, Jocelyn Haroldson transitioned from stay-at-home-mom with a home-based consulting business to featured designer at Calgary’s Rochelle Cote Interior Design firm.

Jocelyn completed the MRU residential decorating program in 2012 and has been working in her current position for the past two years.

“We cover everything residential,” Jocelyn says. “That includes everything from private client homes to working with builders on their selections and decorating their show homes.”

Jocelyn has been working in the field for many years. She started a home furnishing retail store in Inglewood in 1996, shortly after arriving in Calgary from Saskatchewan.

“I would go down to Mexico, fill up a big container of folk art products and bring it back to sell in the store. It progressed to a point where we wanted to be able to add new lines without having to go down to Mexico for artisan buys,” she says.

“I found wholesale companies I wanted to work with. We implemented upholstery lines and furniture lines, but still worked with local artisans, so we would have a well-rounded offering for our clients,” she says. “With that came the need to hire interior designers to help our clients make selections. Sometimes choosing the perfect fabric for a sofa opened up a whole new avenue for what they’d like to do with their homes. And I didn’t have the skill set at the time to do that.”

“I didn’t get into the interior design side of things myself until I stepped in when the interior designer wasn’t there for a client meeting one day. The client was happy with what I put together. I started to do more and more of that,” Jocelyn says.

Once she started her family, Jocelyn sold her successful business to focus on raising her two children.

“I wanted to still work casually,” she says. “So I started to do interior decorating projects out of my home. Requests came in from family and friends and former clients.”

Wanting to take her interior decorating skills to the next level, Jocelyn began researching educational options. “I was figuring out how I was going to make this happen while raising my young family – balancing being able to go to school, go to work and be at home. The MRU program spoke [to that] and the flexibility of it worked really well for my family. I could work hard when I needed to and pull back when I needed to.”

“I think that the MRU program gave me some skills that I was lacking,” Jocelyn notes. “My favourite courses were Perspective Drawing and Interiors Past & Present. I could not sketch well and that was always something that bothered me. The Perspective Drawing classes gave me the confidence to be able to sketch something out for a client. I seem to have a natural knack for space planning and making things work well together, but I didn’t know why. The Interiors Past and Present course filled in the why – to know what eras and lines worked together.”

Jocelyn’s interior decorating career fits well with raising a family. “There are times that are busier than others. When you’re doing an install, that might be an incredibly long day. But not every day is an install day so you can  pace yourself. We work with clients who are working full-time as well. It can be difficult to schedule in those meetings and get those selections done so occasionally you do need to work after regular business hours,” she says.

Her children are now 10 and 12. “I spend my out-of-work time now with them and their activities. Driving everywhere, non-stop,” she laughs. “We love Calgary. We’re happy to raise our family here. It’s home.”

See more of Jocelyn’s story.

— by Karen McCarthy
— photo by Michael Poon

“Accidental” Project Manager has Flourishing Career


When Melanie Zens enrolled in the first Project Management program offered at Mount Royal in 1999, she realized “that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wasn’t quite sure until I went there. I’m kind of like the accidental project manager.”

Melanie was working at a small tech start-up at the time and doing the work of a project manager without the training. She had just landed back in Calgary after travelling to South Korea as an ESL teacher following her time at UofC.

“I wasn’t sure what to to with my humanities degree. I knew I didn’t want to teach ESL for the rest of my life. That’s when I connected with a programmer friend of mine,” she says.

“Because it was a start-up company, I was wearing a lot of different hats. My mentor could see the organizational skills. He did some research and found the Mount Royal Project Management program, developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI). He thought that would be a really good fit for me, to take me to a more official project management level and more of a lead role in the organization.”

Melanie completed the certificate and started a career in project management with increasing levels of responsibility over the years. She occasionally returned to Mount Royal for refresher courses in project management and then courses in business analysis. She earned her Project Management Professional (PMP) designation in 2012.

Melanie is currently working for a large technology business on a company-wide project management framework. “It’s really exciting to be in front of an enterprise-wide initiative where you’re the evangelist for project management for your organization,” she says.

S15_blog_melanie_couch_600x458Most recently, Melanie took the Leaders, Culture and Change course in the Leadership Development program.

“I took the Leadership course because, as I grew my career, I advanced into more senior roles. I was leading a team through a lot of change and I wanted to learn more about organizational change management,” she says. “I was finding it very stressful to lead through change. The course really helped me to take a step back and analyze my leadership style and realize that I was already doing a lot of the right things, I just needed to recognize it.”

“It was good to be in a room and talk to other leaders and find out that they value the same leadership traits that I did, like leading with integrity and leading from the heart. And I learned that people are writing about this and it’s actually a best practice,” she says.

“I think the best leaders in project management are the ones that have the soft skills. You get the hard skills through the Project Management courses at Mount Royal. They teach you all of the knowledge areas, all of the skills that you need. But you also need the communication and leadership skills,” Melanie notes.

“I’m really enjoying project management as a practice and I’m always looking for ways to improve,” Melanie says. “As a principal project manager I’m helping the company roll out a new project management framework. I do a lot of training and setting up a community of practice. It’s a really great fit for me right now, so I’m going to see where that takes me.”

Not bad for someone who started out in project management almost by accident.

Watch more of Melanie’s story here.

— by Karen McCarthy
— photos by Mike Poon