Our Family Scrapbook

Gloria’s Career

Angie, you said you wanted to know everything, so here is the story of my career–the short version! I also have a scrapbook of all my certificates and awards.

In January 1986, I applied to Algonquin College for entry into the Public Relations Program, a full-time two-year diploma course. I received my letter of acceptance in April and boy, was I thrilled!

As life sometimes goes, my husband and I legally separated during the last week of Augst, the same week that I started back to college. It was a tough time, adjusting to full-time classes, travelling from Arnprior to Ottawa every day, and managing life at home in a “living together and apart” situation. But life goes on, I say cavalierly.

During my two years in school, I studied very hard and gave 100 percent of my energy to my assignments and projects. I graduated first in my class with a 4.0-grade average.

During the summer between my first and second years of school, I worked at the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, setting up a Legal Surveys Library. I didn’t want that particular job, but my name was already in the government listings in the librarian category. So, I set up their library, creating classifications and categories for all of their books and maps.

Back at school in September, the first semester was all in class, and the second semester was working for real clients. My job was to organize a one-day conference for Not-for-Profit Organizations in Eastern Ontario. It went very well, and it gave me the confidence to take on more projects.

Next, I got a job at the Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (CAPHER), the organization that is responsible for all of the athletic and health and recreation programs for Ontario schools. My job was to publish two 56-page journals. I had no idea what I was getting into, but between my two years of schooling, my love of writing and my common sense, I succeeded in publishing the two journals. That job was not permanent; I was just filling in until the permanent employee was in place.

So, I was in need of a full-time job… I started by going through the yellow pages and calling every association that sounded like it might suit me. I asked for the name of the person who did the hiring, and then I sent them a resumé. I wrote each contact’s name in a book (which I still have) and followed up with a phone call to them one week later. I recorded the date of every phone call and what I should do next.

I was registered in the government’s communications database, and shortly after I graduated I got a call from Agriculture Canada to apply for a job in their Communications Department. My interview was scheduled for a Monday afternoon, so on the Friday before, I went in to ask for some reading material about the department, its mandate, activities, initiatives, policies and programs. Well, as it turned out, the man who was hiring and his boss, the director, had just come back from a liquid Friday lunch, and they decided now was a good time for the interview. Yikes!! I told them I was not prepared, but they told me not to worry–but I was worried. So, we went into the director’s office, and they asked me questions like what does Canada grow? I answered, wheat. “Great, you’re hired,” they told me and said I could start Monday morning. That was good for me, but I would never take that approach to hiring a new employee.

So, on the blistering hot Monday morning, I was in the bathroom of my apartment on Baseline Road, blow-drying my hair, when I took a fainting spell. I had to call in sick on my first day. Great start!

I joined Agriculture as an IS-02 Communications Officer, and a couple of months later, my supervisor discovered that I was doing the work of an IS-03 Communications Officer, so I got promoted and got a raise. A couple of years later, I tried competitions for an IS-04 Communications Advisor and an IS-05 Communications Chief. I won both and chose to accept the IS-05 Chief position.

While I was in Agriculture, I received an Excellence in Communications Strategies award. I also got a job from a freelance communications expert to write a 2,000-word article on the feeding habits of migratory shore birds. I was to interview Canada’s leading authority on the subject via telephone on Saturday morning. The interview went well, and I wrote the article and submitted it on time. And that’s how a single girl spends her weekends.

The six years I spent at Agriculture Canada were busy ones. I worked like a demon, volunteered for everything and made myself known. My job was doing internal communications at both the branch and the corporate levels. However, internal communications was a new area of expertise, and I was certain there were “internal communications specialists” in other government departments who were also struggling. I enlisted my assistant to contact every government department and the special agencies (Privy Council Office, Treasury Board and Department of Finance) to determine the level of interest in an internal communications network. The response was quite encouraging, with 40 communications officers/advisors/directors responding positively. I set a date for the first meeting, sent out invitations and prepared a presentation on an IBM ThinkPad that I had on loan from Peter. I planned to demonstrate my Department’s new electronic communications system. The meeting went well, and everyone was impressed with the work my colleagues and I were doing.

The next day, I got a call from the Director of Media Relations at Transport Canada (TC), who had been at the meeting. She asked if I would be agreeable to a telephone meeting with herself and her Director General to give them an overview of my communications strategies and activities. I was, of course, ready to help! The meeting was set for the next day and, to my surprise, on the other end of the line was the director who set up the meeting, the Director General of Communications and the Assistant Deputy Minister of Human Resources. I spent about an hour on the phone with them, outlining the whole internal communications program that I had set up. The next day, I got an invitation to join their Department. Transport Canada was going through a huge downsizing (they called it “right-sizing”) and it would require massive amounts of internal communications across the entire Department, at HQ and in every region in Canada.

I was promoted to Director of Corporate Strategic Internal Communications. I liked that because it gave me a nice raise and I would receive annual bonuses from the Deputy Minister.

The department ultimately downsized from 20,000 employees to 3,500. We did this by devolving parts of TC into other Departments. For example, TC’s Oceans Group devolved to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (they nicknamed it Fish and Ships), and we gave up ownership of all the airports and seaports. TC would continue to set policies for air, surface, rail and water. Early retirement packages further decreased the number of employees. All of these initiatives required ongoing communications with staff at HQ and in the regions, as well as with supervisors, managers and the Senior Management Team. In the end, we accomplished what we set out to do, and our Deputy Minister, who had been hired specifically to reduce the number of employees and right-size the Department, decided we should have a huge party to celebrate TC’s 60th anniversary, which coincidentally, fell at the same time as the end of the downsizing. (It was really his last hurrah before leaving the Department).

So…my next job was to organize a party for 1,500 people in the ballroom of the Crown Plaza Hotel. I had a big team, with researchers to pull up TC’s history, media experts to create a 16-screen slide show, monitors for the lobby of the hotel so those who couldn’t be accommodated in the ballroom could see what was going on, music, cakes, displays, photographers, and we tracked down one retired employee from 1936 and hosted him in Ottawa for the big event, and on and on. The Deputy Minister opened the gala event by thanking me for my good job, but I was stuck at the back of the ballroom ensuring that the cakes would all have their candles lit on time, and I couldn’t get through the crowd to get up on the stage. But, I wasn’t worried about that, I just wanted to be sure the candles got lit! At just the right time, 20 people, each one holding a cake with lighted candles high above their shoulders, marched into the darkened ballroom to the theme song of Chariots of Fire being played on a grand piano that we scrounged up from somewhere. I was awarded the Deputy Minister’s Commendation of Excellence for my role in this event.

I was very much a hands-on manager, so if there was something to do that no one else had time for, I would just jump in and do it. Of course, my first priority was corporate communications, and we served our clients well. We developed corporate communications strategies for department-wide initiatives, policies and so on.

Throughout my TC work, I continued to manage my Internal Communications Network (ICN), which, at the time of my retirement, had over 400 members. My staff helped me with the administrative tasks, and I chaired the meetings and invited high-level speakers from various areas of the Government to give presentations to the audience. I received a second Deputy Minister’s Commendation for Excellence in Government Communications for my work with the ICN. I can’t remember the details of how I came into contact with a Deputy Minister from the Communications Communications Group (the Prime Minister had established this group, and it was responsible for providing support to communications professionals across the federal government). Anyway, I was invited to attend one of their meetings to give a presentation on how the ICN came about. (The story goes like this: I wanted to establish an internal communications network, but my manager wouldn’t give me the green light–she said I should talk to our Director General, which I did, and he said in an off-handed manner, “Sure, go ahead.” So I did.) There’s more to the story, but that’s the gist of it. In the end, the Communications Community Office established an award for Leadership, and I received the first one to receive it. I was immensely honoured and very proud.

A couple of years before I retired (November 2017) the World Health Organization advised of a possible pandemic. We had to be ready with communications strategies within and between government departments as well as with provincial and municipal governments. I developed a communications strategy that included communications within and between government departments and levels of government with the medical community, including the World Health Organization and a number of other entities that were integral to the initiative. I sat on a government-wide pandemic communications planning committee that included communications specialists from various government departments, including Health Canada and other relevant organizations. In the end, the pandemic didn’t happen, and our strategies were filed away. When the 2020-22 pandemic hit, one of my former employees told me that the strategy was pulled out and updated. So, my work wasn’t for nothing. I retired shortly after completing this strategy.

After I retired from the federal government, I continued to work on a contract basis. I had contracts with the Treasury Board, Privy Council Office (I managed their outreach program), Human Resources Canada, Elections Canada and a couple of others, which I can’t remember at the moment. I did everything from creating a competition for an IS-06 position to writing an elaborate internal communications strategy for a department that was building a “green” building and moving employees to a new and unfamiliar environment. It was all interesting…until I wasn’t. I officially retired on my 65th birthday.

It was a pretty good run for a former housewife who was told that she couldn’t survive without a man to pay her way. Well, I guess I can! That said, I believe that the Hand of God touched me the day I got accepted to Algonquin and again when I got hired at Agriculture and then at TC. I didn’t do anything by myself; it was all God’s plan, and I just followed His lead.

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