Stefanie Costales on Finding a Job That’s Right For You

August 10, 2023

Stefanie, School of Communication alumnus and Co-op program participant, is now the Communications Lead at Foundry BC. During her Co-op program experience she worked for the Vancouver Canucks, PosAbilities, and the Canadian Security Establishment. We chatted with Stefanie about her SFU experience, her career so far and her advice for Communication students and new grads.

Experience at SFU

During her time as a CMNS student, Stefanie made the most out of her Co-op experiences. She first worked in the Community Relations department for the Vancouver Canucks, which involved supporting game night activities, different community programs and events. For example, the Fin’s Friends program provides materials to students and offers school visits. Stefanie would accompany Fin, the Vancouver Canucks’ mascot on these visits; speaking on his behalf. This experience was a bit nerve-wracking, as she describes herself as introverted. This role tested her presentation and improvization skills. Her experience at the Vancouver Canucks provided her with great communication, administration, and event coordination skills.

Her next Co-op job was at the non-profit organization PosAbilities, which supports adults with developmental disabilities. In her role at PosAbilities, Stefanie helped the communications team, the administrative team and the finance team, making it a well-rounded role. She wrote blog posts, created newsletters, and initiated a recruitment campaign, which she describes as being fun and a great environment to learn about what she does and doesn’t like. For example, she learned that finance related tasks were not as exciting to her as the communications projects, which allowed her to be creative with her ideas.

“It was a similar experience to the Canucks in that you got to work with a lot of people with different skillsets, learn about what they do, and be able to shadow them, which was a really great opportunity,” says Stefanie.

After her time at PosAbilities, Stefanie decided to give the government sector a try. She applied for the Canadian Security Establishment (CSE), which involved a lengthy interview process, got the job and moved to Ottawa. The prospect to move away excited her because she had never done an exchange program.

At CSE, Stefanie created a training program that taught new staff about the history of the organization. It was a very different position than previous opportunities, in that she had one project to work on as opposed to having multiple at the same time. It was another opportunity to learn more about herself and the work she enjoys, and she learned that she thrives working in fast paced environments with multiple projects. This helped give her perspective on the type of future work environment she would like to work in.

Her Career So far – Events to Communications

Right after graduating, Stefanie began working at the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. She worked as an Event Assistant and helped with their annual event, RBC Race for the Kids, which is a 2km or 5km run that takes place in Vancouver’s Riley Park. The event raised money for youth oncology and mental health supports. Coincidentally, this is when Stefanie learned about Foundry, as the race was helping fundraise money for the Foundry BC website.

When Stefanie learned that a young person could have access to a variety of free services, including counselling and health care in one place, she recognized how useful this service would have been in her own life. She remembered being so excited by the idea of Foundry that she shared the presentation with her younger sister. The help and support that Foundry provides to youth was a mission that Stefanie genuinely believed in—even before she began working there.

Stefanie continued to work at the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation for another year, continuing to organize and support events, when a Communication Coordinator position at Foundry popped up.

At this point, Stefanie didn’t have extensive communications experience. Through Co-op, she obtained some communications experience, but her first job post-graduation mainly revolved around event planning. She knew that this position at Foundry was her chance to help propel the vision she believed in, learn more and strengthen her communications skillset. Stefanie decided to apply. She got the job and has now been working there for five years.

Foundry provides free and confidential support to BC youth ages 12-24 and their families. At Foundry, youth can access various services in one place; mental health, substance use, physical and sexual health care, peer support and social services. There are sixteen centres currently open across BC, with plans to open thirty-five in the years to come. Foundry also has an app that allows people to access their services virtually.

Stefanie started at Foundry as a Communications Coordinator five years ago, at a time when Foundry was a lot smaller than it is currently. There were only five centres open with no virtual service. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges that young people faced were brought to a head. In this capacity, the pandemic allowed Foundry to get their virtual service up and running. It allowed Stefanie and her team to articulate just how many people would truly benefit from a virtual service, and they finally received the funding they needed to launch their online service and open new centres.

As the organization grew, so did Stefanie’s role in the organization. She went from being a Communications Coordinator to a Communications Officer, then to a Senior Communications Specialist. About a year and a half ago, she entered her current role as the Communications Lead. In this role, she leads the communications team, whose goal is to promote greater awareness to Foundry’s available services to youth and families across BC. She thinks about how Foundry can let people know that these centres exist in their communities and that their virtual service is available province-wide.

Another large part of her role involves collaborating with teams that work at the other centres across the province. This means she has the opportunity to connect with many different people to understand the best ways to communicate and brainstorm how they can promote their services in impactful ways.

“It’s a balance of supporting my team and getting feedback and understanding and creating new ideas for promotion,” she says.

In speaking with Stefanie, she noted that the opportunity to work in various industries, with different people and on a variety of different projects helped her realize the type of work she enjoys.

From a manager perspective, she prioritizes understanding her team members and the best ways that they can be supported. She’s learning how to “lead from behind” by supporting her staff and letting them shine. She appreciates that much of her management style is influenced by the strong female leaders and role models she has had the pleasure to work with throughout her career. Stefanie learned how important it is to have a manager one can trust and rely on—it makes dealing with change and the unknown a lot less scary. She always felt comfortable asking her managers questions and proposing ideas, and most importantly, felt cared for not only as an employee but also as a human. In knowing how beneficial it was for her growth, Stefanie now does her best to make sure she’s creating a safe and comfortable environment for her own team so that they can feel as cared for as she did.

Aligned with this approach to management, and contrary to what many communications experts share, Stefanie believes that success is not always about the numbers you see on social media, or the number of clicks a website gets. Instead, she believes that the richest learning for her and her team comes from listening to the voices of the young people they serve and trying new things, even if that means making mistakes sometimes. By not confining themselves to one measure of success, it gives them courage to try new things that result in some great campaigns and projects.

One of Stefanie’s favourite parts of her job is having the opportunity to support many different communities across BC. Foundry centres are placed in different communities that have their own unique culture and norms. Being able to customize their branding and approach to each centre to best suit the needs of its community is very fulfilling and makes her work feel meaningful.

“Being able to be part of an organization that really values the voices of the folks that we’re supporting is definitely one of my favourite aspects of my position,” she says. “It just feels so much more genuine.”

Her other favourite part of working at Foundry is having the ability to hear the perspectives of the young people they support. It is not only meaningful to hear directly from the people that use their service, but makes working in communications fun and honest, and falls in line with her value system.

She is especially excited to be growing the Foundry communications team to include two SFU Co-op students this fall semester. She is excited to provide an opportunity for students to explore their interests, grow their skills and contribute to the Foundry channels and communications projects!

Advice for Communication Students

The most important piece of advice that Stefanie can give based on her career experience is to not be afraid to try different things. By reflecting on her various Co-op experiences and how it has led her to where she is now, she can confirm that she learned valuable things from each opportunity. She notes that even if you work somewhere that won’t be your “forever” job, taking the

time to reflect on the experience and ask yourself what you liked and didn’t like can help you figure out what you do want to do in the future. If you don’t like a certain aspect of a job, lean into what you do enjoy, and keep that in mind when you apply to future jobs.

“You don’t need to change yourself to do well in a job,” Stefanie reminds us. “I think it’s about knowing yourself well enough to find the jobs that you’ll thrive in.”

If you are 24 years old or under and need support, visit the Foundry BC website or download the app.