Welcome to this month’s reader Q&A, which has turned out to be a bit of a lengthy one. I’ve been going through all the questions you submitted via the ask me anything form, and this month decided to tackle the ones that have to do with work – as in, my day job. Quite a few of you wanted to know about how I got to where I am and what it is I actually do when I’m not blogging. My answers are going to take us down a path that’s a bit of a tangent from health and fitness, but we’ll get back to recipe and workouts later this week.
Let’s get right into it!
Do you get to wear your lululemon clothes to work every day?
We sure do. There are a few people who tend to wear mostly ‘regular’ clothes, but I’d say the majority of people have at least a few lululemon pieces on every day. My closet has sort of evolved to a point where it’s half work workout clothes, and half sweaty workout clothes. You can never have too many pairs of black tights. 😉
What’s your education and career background?
I went to a British private school when I lived in Bahrain (over in the Middle East), and throughout the North American equivalent of high school, I started studying business as soon as it became available. During my A-Levels (which British kids do in their final 2 years of school), I took math, business studies, physics and physical education (which was more like kinesiology than doing sweaty things).
Then when I came back to Canada for university, I did by Bachelor of Business Administration at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. My concentration was on Brand Communication and I minored in psychology because what I was really interested in (and very much still am today) is consumer behaviour and why people buy things. At the time I thought I’d end up working for a big consumer packaged goods company like Unilever or Nestle as a brand manager of a toothpaste or chocolate bar or something, but obviously that didn’t turn out to be the case!
My final co-op placement in my final year of my undergrad was a product marketing position at a local tech company. When I graduated, I really didn’t want to have to move to Toronto because I had a lot of friends in Waterloo, loved the fitness community, and just wasn’t into the big city grind. As luck would have it, I ended up being offered a different job at that same tech company as a Marketing Automation Specialist.
When I think back to my childhood, I remember my dad having one of those jobs that I never quite new how to describe. I knew he was in sales, but had no idea what he was selling. I decided that when I grew up, I’d be sure that my job was one people actually understood…. and then I went and got a title like Marketing Automation Specialist. If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry because I didn’t either. I soon learned that this was all about building triggered email marketing programs for customers and the company’s prospects. It was way more technical a role than I anticipated myself being in, but before I knew it I was learning HTML, helping out with making this beast of a marketing platform sync with a customer relationship management system, and slowly discovering that there was quite the nerd inside of me.
After that job, I moved to another tech company doing something similar, then got asked if I’d like to work at a local digital agency that was making quite the name for itself in the responsive email space. In case you’re unfamiliar, responsive email means that the format of the email is determined by the size of the screen it’s being read on. The desktop version might look very different to the version you read on your phone, but either way, what you see is the best possible user experience for the screen you’re using. For example, text and buttons might be bigger on your phone, and some content might be be hidden so that you don’t have to scroll as much with your thumbs. All of this happens with only a single email – there’s no need to code a desktop version, a mobile version, an iPad version etc – because that would be totally exhausting. It’s becoming the norm in the email industry these days, so my job at this agency was building emails, creating strategies and managing automated marketing programs for clients. Again, super nerdy stuff!
About half way into that agency role, I started coming out here to Vancouver to run the lululemon Seawheeze Half Marathon every year. That’s where my love affair with the west coast began, and it just got stronger every summer when I returned.
I applied to jobs at a couple of companies, but in November of 2014 decided to stick it out in Waterloo for another year, then start looking again. I’d just signed a lease with my bestie Jess for a beautiful condo and was pretty content where I was at.
2015 arrived and as luck would have it, in February I got a call from a recruiter at Hootsuite (a company I’d been crushing on) about a job opening that fit my skill set. Things moved really quickly, their offer was a great one, and that was it – I moved to Vancouver. I still remember the dead silence on the phone when I told my mum I’d accepted the job, and I felt terrible about stressing Jess out with our living situation (breaking a lease is not a fun situation!), but I knew that timing is never perfect for stuff like this.
My job at Hootsuite was again, very similar to what I’d been doing at the agency – only this time on the client side. The company was undergoing some major growth and I nearly made it to my 1-year anniversary there, but about 1 month prior, the phone just happened to ring again. This time it was lululemon with an opportunity to join as an Email Marketing Strategist.
To be honest, I figured it was a long shot. Everything I’d done until this point was in tech and business-to-business, and with no experience in e-commerce or business-to-consumer space, I was very skeptical about them seriously considering me. Something clicked inside of me one morning while I was out for a run, and I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try my hardest. I decided to throw myself in completely and give everything possible in the interview process. I prepped harder than I’ve ever done, and 10 days after receiving that call, I’d signed my offer and put in my notice.
Looking backwards and into the future, if I’m not working for myself in the years ahead, I’m not sure there’s many other companies I could work for and have as much fun as I’m having now. When it comes to alignment with my personal values and what I stand for, it would be hard to find anywhere else that’s a closer fit. The people are extraordinary human beings and I’ve never heard of a company that invests as much in the personal development of its employees as lululemon does. The work is intense – don’t get me wrong, we don’t just sit around and savasana all day. But it’s all 100% worth it, and making the job transition was what made Vancouver truly feel like the city I fell in love with during my annual summer trips here.
On a side note, I haven’t talked about my education background in health coaching and nutrition here because this is getting to be a long post. We’ll save that for another day, but in the meantime, feel free to check out my About page.
What do you actually do at your job?
On paper I’m an Email Marketing Strategist, but we don’t put too much emphasis on titles on our team. I work on lululemon’s sister brand, ivivva, which creates super cute activewear for girls size 6-14. (Seriously, if you have little girls in your life, you should check it out!) Working on ivivva is a bit like working in a fast-growing start-up because we’re a smaller team. That means what I end up doing project-wise often extends outside of just email (= more learning, more working with other teams, more fun), and it’s cool because we’re able to move quickly and make more decisions on the fly.
Just like I’m sure most people would say about their jobs, every day is different. The stuff you’d find me doing on a daily basis, however, typically involves:
- Coding emails
- Deciding how email will play a role in all sorts of projects and building the strategies to make it happen
- Working with our creative team on bringing ideas for assets (videos, gifs, images etc) to life
- Collaborating with my digital + e-commerce teammates on how to create amazing online experiences for our guests
- Laughing. Amidst the work we have a lot of fun, not always but sometimes involving Justin Bieber music, bubble machines, giant inflatable creamsicles and snacks. Lots of snacks. 😉
How do you balance blogging with your career?
That’s a great question, and if I’m being honest, it’s a constant challenge. Blogging and my day job are two things I’m really passionate about. They consume a lot of my brainpower, time and energy, but also give me energy so they often don’t feel like work.
Blog-wise, I’ve always been pretty entrepreneurial and there’s no end to the things I want to do to make this blog a better place for all of us to hang out. The danger of this however, is that sometimes I get caught up in both (full-time job) work and blog projects, which means I log far more screen time than I should. I might do a 9-10 hour day if it’s really busy at work, and tick off some blog tasks before and afterwards. That’s definitely not ideal balance!
With all that said, the whole self-care thing is something I’ve really been focusing hard on over the past 6 months. It’s involved lots of reflection and honesty with myself about my goals, and accepting that if I want to live into the life I envision for myself, change is needed. Part of the solution has been actively making plans to connect with people.
Most of my real-life friends here in Vancouver aren’t bloggers, so spending time with them helps me shift out of my blogger brain – that inner voice that likes to narrate every moment my life as if it were a blog post. When I look back, there was a period of time when pretty much all I did was blog and work. That doesn’t make for very interesting stories to tell, nor did it make me a very good friend! Having people to stay accountable to, whether that’s for a coffee date, a run, a yoga class or even just going for a walk, definitely helps me stay more balanced than I have been in the past.
A few other related strategies and routines: I take my bedtime seriously, have been more consistent than ever with my gratitude journaling and meditation practice, and do a heck of a lot more hot yoga and stretching than I used to which my body is responding really well to. Just like time with friends and meetings at work, my best strategy and advice for making sure self care happens is to schedule it and make it something truly enjoyable for you.
Phew. Alright, that’s enough from me. I’d love for you to answer one of my Q’s now, and that’s how do YOU balance work with other areas of your life that are important to you? I’m looking forward to hearing your answers!