Fifteen. That's the number of jobs an average Canadian holds in his/her career according to a recent survey. This figure seems to be on the rise, particularly among younger generations, highlighting a shift in our work landscape. Evidently, the traditional notion of sticking to one career path and skill set for life is quickly fading away. Society is rapidly changing and should we. Perhaps, more important than formal education or natural talent, is the ability to navigate and thrive in an ever-changing environment. If you're feeling anxious or fearful about the twists and turns that lie ahead, allow me to introduce you to Arlene Kelly-Williams. When faced with unexpected circumstances, Arlene chose to confront them head-on and forge a new career path. Transitioning from her role as an editor/assistant at a photography studio to a project management administrator in the emergency management/property restoration industry, it was her courage and determination that made Arlene excel in her new domain.
Interview by Abigail Chung
Part 1: Arlene at ARS / Global Emergency Management
Abigail (Ab): Nice to meet you. First of all, can you give me a brief description of what your role is and how long you've been a member of ARS?
Arlene (Ar): I have been with ARS for a little over 2 years. I started with the company as a receptionist. During the time of being a receptionist, I was trained to enter into the Project Management Administrator role. I have been a Project Manager Administrator for a little over a year now and am enjoying every minute of this position.
Ab: It sounds like you got promoted in such a short period of time. How were you able to achieve such rapid advancement?
Ar: Two things. To begin with, I embrace challenges rather than run away from challenges. As long as I am confident that I am on a good track, I am open to hustling and learning. Taking charge of your own life is essential. Being passive won't lead to positive outcomes for you. Second, you need to be surrounded by people who are willing to help you, invest in you, and walk with you. The Waterloo/Kitchener office has a very unique culture in which mutual support and care are deeply ingrained. If someone has an issue, it becomes everyone's issue. I would have not been here if it weren't for my colleagues who showed me their genuine backing and dedication.
Ab: Tell me more about the corporate culture here in the Waterloo/Kitchener office. What do you think makes this office stand out?
Ar: In numerous instances, companies make claims about caring for their employees' well-being and promoting fair treatment. Unfortunately, these statements often turn out to be misleading marketing campaigns. That's why I was so pleasantly surprised when I joined the company. Here, you are clearly expected to respect and honour one another. Every member of the Waterloo/Kitchener office shares a profound sense of solidarity and unity. When I first joined the company, I had no prior knowledge or experience in this industry. Then people intentionally took the time to teach and train me. Now, I am delighted to extend the same support to others, having experienced it firsthand.
Part 2: Arlene with Her Story & Philosophy
Ab: If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?
Ar: Several quotes pop into my head. To name a few, “Sing like no one’s listening, love as you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, and live like it’s heaven on earth,” or “The past is your lesson; The present is your gift and the future is your motivation." Ab: What is the book(books) that have greatly influenced your life?
Ar: I like reading. For me, reading is a sweet escape. For that, I don't really pick particular genres when choosing books. From true crime, and romance to autobiography, I am an omnivorous reader. That being said, it is very hard to choose one book that's influenced me the most. Recently, I read Michelle Obama's autobiography 'Becoming.' In that book, you get to experience a fraction of what it feels like to be the first lady of the most powerful nation in the world. Everyone, no matter how joyous they seem, carries their own burdens in life. Reading autobiographies teaches us to always be kind to each other because, after all, we are all on our own paths of growth.
Ab: If you can have lunch with someone (alive or deceased), who would it be and why?
Ar: Without hesitation, I would love to have lunch with Dad again, despite his departure to a better place five years ago. He had been struggling with a heart condition and my family knew that he didn't have many days left. However, the thought of him leaving was unimaginable. Throughout my upbringing, my father served as the most significant influence in my life. I was always a "daddy's girl," learning from him things such as sewing, using various tools to drive nails, changing light bulbs, etc. He always encouraged me that I can do and be anything with dedication and effort. Ab: What's the no.1 thing that your dad has taught you?
Ar: That I must always assume an active role in shaping my own life. I can't wait for others to pave the way for me. Even if the road is unpaved and arduous, I must be willing to pave it myself because every moment of life is precious and should not be wasted. When I began working at the photography studio years ago, I began from the lowest rung of the ladder. However, not once I doubted that I would ascend. My dad had ingrained in me the belief that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. As I progressed in the company, I gained expertise in various aspects. When I joined ARS, it was all back to the drawing board again but that didn't intimidate me. Thanks to my dad, I had a strong sense of security and confidence, empowering me to face any challenge I could do it. When you have a strong foundation to stand on, you develop the courage to confront obstacles. Although he is no longer with me, the invaluable lessons he imparted continue to resonate with me.
Ab: I am sorry to hear that you weren't able to be with your dad at his last moment. Drawing from the experiences and memories with him, what do you think is the last word he would have left with you before he said goodbye?
Ar: "Carry on." He has lived a life of goodness and has left behind a meaningful legacy. I believe his deepest wish would be for his beloved children to carry forward the invaluable lessons he taught us.
Part 3: Rapid Fire
Favourite snack: Crunchie candy bar
Favourite ice-cream flavour: Tiger-tail (orange-flavoured ice cream with black licorice swirl)
All-time favourite movie: Grease (the original one with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John)
Most desired place for vacation: Anywhere there is a beach-sand and water
Favourite time of the day: Morning. I love getting up in the morning having my coffee and having a quiet moment before starting my day.
Go-to music to cheer yourself up: Anything with a beat that you can dance to (Pitbull, Daddy Yankee, Shawn Desman, etc.)
One random thing you want to learn: How to fly a plane
Most used app on your phone besides social media: Spotify. I LOVE music!