Alumni Showcase: CMNSU Interviews Carolyn Baldridge at Metro Vancouver Transit Police

Alumni Showcase: CMNSU Interviews Carolyn Baldridge at Metro Vancouver Transit Police

By: Aninditha Kamaruddin | CMNSU Alumni Relations Coordinator
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This article was originally published on the SFU CMNSU Website on March 15, 2015. View the original article here: Alumni Interview: Carolyn Baldridge – Senior Advisor, Strategic Communications & Stakeholder Relations – Metro Vancouver Transit Police

Crafting a communication strategy takes a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter, an innovative mindset and a great deal of finesse. Carolyn Baldridge, Senior Advisor, Strategic Communications and Stakeholder Relations for Metro Vancouver Transit Police, has cultivated all that by having years of relevant communication related experience under her belt. Professing she had “done life backwards,” Carolyn came to SFU to earn her bachelor’s degree as a mature student. “When I finished my degree, I had over 10 years of experience and pretty much 2 careers. I was into broadcasting from a very young age, and during my time as a student at SFU, I maintained several graphic design contracts,” Carolyn states. By coming to SFU, Carolyn shows that to be able to enter one of those elusive doors requires more than just a bachelor’s degree.

Co-op is a definite step in the right direction. In addition to relevant job experience, Carolyn states the importance of engaging with big picture ideas of who you are, what your edge is and what your interests are, especially when it comes to deciding what kind of job you want to have. Read on to know more about how you can do just that.

 A: Can you tell me about your career and some of your responsibilities?

C: My title is Senior Advisor, Strategic Communications and Stake Holder Relations. In terms of my responsibilities I create communication strategies which strive to improve public perceptions and demonstrate the value of the organization. Part of creating a communication strategy is figuring out how to get the word out and which media we need to inform. For instance, we launched the new OnDuty app that you can use to report non-emergency issues directly to Transit Police Dispatch.

A significant part of my role is building stakeholder relationships, which entails looking for opportunities to partner with other organizations and be responsive to their needs and interests.

A: What’s a typical day at your job like?

C: Let’s just pick say, Tuesday morning. Typically, I get here at about 7:30am, and at 8:00am, I attend an executive team meeting for an hour. That’s when all the areas within Transit Police, which is different from TransLink, discuss issues and share information . After that, I attend the TransLink communications briefing where all the communication leads of the different operating companies within TransLink meet briefly about issues and share information. I come back to my desk and have a quick look at Hootsuite. Using this tool, I get a sense, of what people are saying about us. I also provide timely information to our Operations Department. What I mean by that is, if there is a protest planned anywhere near a transit station, I let Operations know so that they can respond appropriately.

A: When I first heard of your title, I thought that Communications meant marketing and advertising. Do you get to do any of that at all?

C: Because this is such a large organization, we work closely with the TransLink Marketing department. A lot of what we do is not about pretty pictures; a lot of this is about being really strategic and increasing public awareness about a specific issue or inititiave.

A: Can you outline some challenges to your job?

C: There is a lot of scrutiny when you working in a public sector, but you just have to adjust to the circumstances. Our budget is very limited. Leaning to more with less is key. Transit Police is very rank oriented organization. You have to follow protocols and procedures very closely. You have to pay attention to other people’s working styles and adjust accordingly.

A: Can you tell me about one of the most memorable projects you worked on?

C: In my previous job, I worked on a really exciting project for the Provincial Health Services Authority for the new build of the BC Children’s and BC Women’s Hospital. Over a six month period, the health authority leased a warehouse, where they tested patient flows. Using 6 x 8 feet pieces of cardboard, provider teams built entire departments and tested patient flows with the goal of making the new hospital more efficient and family friendly. I learned a great deal about healthcare and hospitals during this period because it was up me to communicate what was going on week to week. You can see the project here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUcI5qLQBHw

The launch of the Transit Police OnDuty mobile app was also pretty pivotal for me. I handled the launch, press conference and media pitching. As a result, in the first three days, we had 5,500 downloads. The app developer even said that this was the most successful launch that he had ever been involved with.

A: How did you know that your area of interest was in the public sector?

C: I know I need to work in the public sector, because for me, the work that I do needs to be related to cause or subject that I am passionate about. I’ve been on a couple ride-alongs with Transit Police, just being a fly on the wall, and I am in awe of what they do. The way they put themselves in harm’s way for the betterment of society– it’s honourable. I am not a doctor, nurse or police officer. I would like to be all of those things but I am none of them. Reducing sexual assault? That’s definitely a cause I can get behind. People shouldn’t be afraid to ride transit.

A: What did you like about the Communication program at SFU?

C: For me, it was all about the professors. I had a couple of really great professors like Terry Neiman, Shane Gunster and Gary McCarron. Being exposed to new ideas and different people was great too.

A: Why did you decide to do Co-op?

C: Although your degree may be in the realm of what you want to work in, getting a bachelor’s degree does not fully prepare you for the job world. This is why it is absolutely essential to do Co-op to get experience, contacts and references. Co-op gives you the chance find out what you’re good at. If you haven’t tried something, how do you know that’s not your thing?

 A: You used Co-op as a time to explore your area of interests and see if it aligned to your skill sets?

C: Yes. I understand that it’s tricky, but you can start by finding out what general topics in life interest you–whether it’s fashion, mechanics, health care, or basket weaving. From there, decide, public or private.

More importantly, think about what kind of person you are. You know whether or not you are detail oriented, a people person, a visual person or a thinker. All those big picture things count. For me, I find math excruciating. I have to work really hard to carefully check the details. I know that I need someone to proofread them. I’ve always known I wanted to be wearing something clean and work in an office. It can literally be as granular as that.

A: Do you have any advice for current Communication students?

C: Co-op, Co-op and Co-op! I cannot stress that enough. Improving your writing skills is very important. The kind of writing you do in a Communication class is very different from writing news releases and creating strategic plans.

Don’t be afraid to make use of the Co-op advisors. When you put your resume package together, ask them, “what do you think, does this hit the mark?” You are marketing yourself, how can you best to that? Ask yourself, why should employers pick you?

 A: What would you say to students hoping to get into this field?

C: Develop your writing skills, pay attention to relevant current events and network. I recommend joining organizations like the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and talk to new people. Embrace a ‘can do’ attitude, and be willing to try anything. Don’t expect to be hand-held and be told what you need to do at all times. Always take initiative, especially when you’re learning a new industry. Remember, Google is your friend.

 

Your first foray into the job world may or may not be at all what you expected it to be, and that’s absolutely okay! That ‘can do’ attitude that Carolyn firmly believes in will be crucial as you go out and explore new horizons. Getting related work experience, whether it be through the Co-op program or not, may just be a chance for you to discover your interests. As recommended by Carolyn, taking the time to figure out what kind company culture best suits who you are and what you want are will definitely benefit you in the long run. Maybe it’s time to stop blindly submitting job applications left and right and take Carolyn’s approach instead. It’s thoughtful, more targeted and might just guide you in a direction that fulfills your values and goals.


 CMNSU LogoThe goal of the Communication Student Union (CMNSU) is to promote and protect the welfare and interests of Communication students within the School of Communication, the Faculty of Communication, Arts & Technology (FCAT), the SFSS, and the University. To identify and promote the academic, intellectual, recreational and career concerns/interests of Communication students. 


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Posted on April 10, 2015