Alumnus of the Month - Julie Rickward
Julie Rickward is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries (NATI). In her role, she is responsible for planning and overseeing the successful management of NATI's lead promotions and events to accelerate growth, build capacity and connect key players in the thriving technology industry. In doing so, Julie collaborates with government, industry, and community partners, and prepares regular communications on matters that impact the sector.
In the past, Julie was the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at the St. John’s Board of Trade, a solutions-based organization that advocates on the behalf of local business in St. John’s.
Julie holds a BA degree from Memorial University with a double major in communication studies and English. She is a strong believer in continuous education and is currently completing a digital strategy and communications management certificate through the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies.
How and why did you decide to attend Memorial for your degree?
Growing up close to St. John’s made the decision to attend Memorial University easy. I always knew I wanted to go to university, so I applied right after high school. With the support of my teachers and the staff at Memorial, the application process was straight forward which made the transition effortless.
What drew you to do an undergraduate degree in communications studies?
Like many students, I didn’t begin university intending on completing the degree that I graduated with. During the first two years of my studies I pursued a bachelor of science. After my second year, I realized that I wanted to change my academic focus, so I began researching different degree programs. I came across communication studies and realized that the program complimented my academic strengths and personal interests which led me to apply.
Do any particular memories stand out from your time here as a student?
The moment I decided to switch my academic focus will always be a prominent memory. I debated for months whether or not I wanted to keep pursuing behavioral neuroscience. I thought that if I switched programs it would mean that I was a quitter. Finally, after finishing my second year, I was ready to start something new, something that complemented my strengths, and most importantly something I enjoyed. I took the summer to explore new programs and landed on communications. Through this experience I learned that just because you stop doing something doesn’t mean you’re a quitter. Trying new things can help you learn about yourself and you might even find something that you’re passionate about.
If you could do any course over again, what would it be?
My favorite classes exposed me to different perspectives and theories. Two courses that I would love to take again are Philosophy 2582 - Media Ethics and Sociology 2120 - Technology and Society. To this day, I still reflect back on what I learned and see the relevance and importance of the material. These courses taught me to think critically about information and the sources it comes from, which is extremely important during this age of information and technology.
How did you move from undergraduate to employed professional?
During my last year of university, I registered for Art Works, a program offered through the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences designed to help prepare arts students for their careers. The program taught me how to recognize my transferable skills and showed me how they can be applied to a variety of jobs. This helped me realize how valuable my skills are and gave me confidence during interviews. After graduation, I accepted an internship which empowered me to ask questions and put my skills to use in a business environment. During that time, I also volunteered and attended networking events which pushed me out of my comfort zone and further developed my skill set. Eventually, I was hired by the same organization where I completed my internship.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Typically, I start my day listening to a podcast while I get ready for work. I like to do this as a sort of mental warm up. When I arrive at the office for 8:30, I usually spend the first half hour replying to emails then I touch base with my team to ensure we’re all up to date. Throughout the day I take part in meetings with partners, provide project support to senior leaders and promote NATI’s programs and services in a variety of ways. My work day usually ends at 4:30 which leaves my evenings open for personal activities.
How did your arts/HSS degree prepare you for your life and career?
My arts degree prepared me for my life and career by providing me with the ability to research, analyze information critically, and clearly communicate ideas. It taught me about different cultures and theories, which has enabled me to better develop creative solutions, build meaningful relationships, and bring multiple perspectives to decision-making. My skill set and knowledge in tandem have created a solid foundation that supports me in my everyday life and will also prepare me for the different stages of my career regardless of the type of industry.
What in your opinion is something the province of NL can do right now to improve the situation for people under 30?
I think the technology sector offers tremendous opportunity for the province; tech can help enable innovation across all sectors and diversify the economy. But there needs to be a greater focus on building awareness and capacity. In particular, we must teach youth about technology and the different career options it offers. The beauty of tech jobs is that they are often well paying and are not usually tied to a physical location which means more young people can stay and work in the province.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
As much as I love having a good plan, I think it’s important to keep your mind open to new possibilities and opportunities because you never know what will come your way. With that being said, I don’t really have a detailed vision of what my life will look like in five years. I plan to keep pursuing opportunities that will advance my career and I would like to gain some international work experience.
What do you say to those who question the value of an arts degree?
I would say that with the right attitude and preparation an arts degree can support people in many different roles. Employers are constantly seeking individuals with the transferable skills that arts students have. Through their studies they build a foundation of knowledge in areas such as sociology, history, and literature which enables them to develop an understanding of different human behaviors. They also develop critical thinking and interpersonal skills such as communication and collaboration which empowers them to make informed decisions and develop new ideas. The adaptability of arts students is what makes them an asset in a world that is focused on innovation and social change.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
I love to travel! I’ve visited nine different countries so far.
What advice would you give a student who is unsure of what to study?
Coming from someone who went through a period of time not knowing what to study, I’d recommend trying new things. Maybe that means completing a new course or starting a different hobby. You’ll never know what you’re interested in or what you’re good at until you learn more about it and try it. I’d also recommend asking yourself what type of environment you’d like to work in, how much money you’d like to earn, and what jobs are in demand. These details could highlight what careers to consider.
What’s your favorite place to visit?
I love traveling to new places, especially in Europe. As of right now, I would say my favorite place to visit is Nice, France. It was the first city I explored in Europe so it’ll always have a special place in my heart.
What are you reading and listening to these days?
I usually gravitate towards reading memoirs, in particular, stories of survival. Most recently, I read “The Last Girl” by Nadia Murad, who was taken captive by ISIS and escaped. I’m also a huge fan of podcasts. They are a great way to learn new things while you’re on the go. My top picks are “How I Built This” which features interviews with entrepreneurs who explain how they built successful companies and “Stuff You Should Know” which goes into detail about different random topics each week.
What are you most looking forward to within the next year?
I’m looking forward to continuing to be a part of the important work that NATI is doing in the tech sector and growing my professional network. In my spare time, I’m excited to work on new personal projects and do more travelling.