COM0015 – Assignment #5 – Professional development in the Government of Canada

A promising opportunity

Back in January, I participated in a webinar called “Audience Personas: A Day in the Life of your ‘Digital’ Audience”. I learned about it through a mailing list that I am on at work. It was a free, internal-to-government professional development opportunity organized by the Department of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), and hosted by a gentleman from Environics Analytics. I had watched a few of PSPC’s previous webinars on different issues related to marketing policies and practices for government, and, based on the title of this session, I thought it would be a good complement to my COM0015 readings, and good fodder for this assignment.

Proof that I was there

Here are a few screenshots from the webinar:

Echo…echo…echo…

Unfortunately, the experience proved to be very disappointing. The room was not equipped with microphones so that people asking questions in the room could be heard by the people participating online. Coupled with this, the presenter was clearly not used to presenting to an audience that is simultaneously in the room and online, so he did not think to repeat back the questions he was hearing for the benefit of the people online, nor did he or anyone else appear to be manning to online chat, where I and others were asking for help hearing the proceedings. The result: I interacted with no one. So much for the digital audience!

It was also disappointing from a content perspective, as the presentation talked about digital audience demographics only at a high level. Instead the presenter talked at length about the benefits of a new Environics Analytics tool that, if purchased, would provide departments with greater audience insights. Since my department has a contract with a different analytics platform, this presentation was not of much use to me.

What did I learn?

What I DID get out of this experience, was a reminder that online professional development experiences can be useful, but only if the people or organization behind it are fully committed to their online audience.

Take two

I had a much more positive professional development experience a few weeks later, in the form of a reunion of sorts with a small group of my current and former colleagues. My former director, a woman named Julie, inspired a great deal of loyalty among the people that she hired. About six years ago she moved on to a different department in government, and we, her team, have mostly gone our separate ways. But once or twice a year, someone in the group will propose an “Équipe à Julie” (Julie’s team) get-together over drinks.

Beerocracy

Part of Julie’s team at a pub in February, 2018 – Nicole, me, Edith, Claudine, Ian, Tina. Julie was kept late at the office, so we started without her.

I’m not normally one for small talk with colleagues, but gatherings of Julie’s team are usually pretty lively, and a great way to get the inside scoop on what is happening in other departments, so I decided to go.

What did I learn from the interaction?

What I learned was that, while the federal government is huge, Ottawa is still a small town – everyone knows everyone. I was also reminded that it’s wise to keep in touch with people you have enjoyed working with, because someone is always recruiting or looking to be recruited. Edith has now followed Julie to three different departments, and Julie had just recruited Nicole to join her communications shop; Nicole, in turn, promised to share her insights into that department with me once she gets settled. My contribution to the evening was to encourage others to tell their stories, share some of the things I have learned about social media and branding through my Algonquin studies, and provide ready laughter as the drinks increased and the stories around the table got sillier.

Notable quotable

There wasn’t particular quote from the evening that I remember, but there was one piece of information that was shared at the table that was noteworthy. Edith informed us that another person that we had all worked with when we were a team had very recently learned that he has Stage IV cancer; that he was about to undergo experimental treatment, but that his cancer was very likely terminal. It was very sobering, and, while it in no way compares to whatever he and his partner must be going through, it was a good reminder that, as satisfying as work itself can be, it’s the relationships we build that matter most. Everyone agreed that another get-together with a more expansive invitation list needed to be arranged soon.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely I would meet with this group again. This is a team that seems to genuinely enjoy each other’s company, and from what I have seen, is always ready to offer support, be it through personal challenges, professional dilemmas, or talent evolution. I would be lucky to continue to be remembered as a part of Julie’s team.

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