COMM0014 – Blog #6 – Photography was my plan B.

Sego Basic Training

Basic Training portrait taken by the base photographer, 2002.

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to wear a uniform. As a teenager I wanted to become an Infantry soldier. But I wanted a plan B in case that did not work or I change my mind. I made sure to complete my High School and went to CEGEP (College in Quebec) in order to get a diploma in something else. This is where I started photography in a Photo club and I loved it so much that I chose to study it at La cite Collegiale in Ottawa.

Perfect timing: about a month before I graduated, a Military recruiter came to our class with openings in the dream job I did not even know existed: Imagery technician in the Canadian Armed Forces. “Where do I sign?” was my question when I raised my hand at the end of the presentation.

Sgt Serge Gouin

Portrait of me before I retired from the military in 2012. Photo by MCpl Pierre Thériault, DND.

Fast forward 11 years in my career as an Image-tech, it was time for us to make some tough choices and decided that we did not want our family to move anymore. I had to be realistic: photography is not a trade that offers a lot of permanent openings. As a plan B, I registered my business and started getting equipment and taking small jobs on the side. This way, even if I did not find work in my field, I could continue to work my art (and pay the bills).

Once again, I was lucky and I managed to score a position, as a photographer, within our federal government where I have been working for 6 more years now.

sego silhouette

Silhouette of me working in 2017. Photo by Rick Millette.

As the saying goes: “Timing is everything”, and if you have a Plan B, you increase your chances to be happy in life. At least it worked for me.

Do you have a plan B?

True story: How I found my dream job using Facebook

Growing up I had always dreamt of wearing the uniform. Later I developed a passion for photography. Upon graduating college, I scored my ultimate dream job: I was a military photographer.

I had been working up the ranks in the military for about 10 years and my next promotion meant that I would need to move and become a manager. That also meant I would not do what I enjoyed the most in my job anymore; taking pictures. Our family was now well established in Gatineau/Ottawa and we had no desire to move. Conclusion: I had to transition to civilian life and find myself a job. Easier said than done in my field.

Sgt Serge Gouin

Portrait of myself before I retired. Photo credit: DND

I started my process by taking a course offered by the military called “career transition workshop”. They taught us how to build our resume, use our network and how to explore the hidden job market.

Our instructor was fantastic. The one thing he told us that struck me the most was about using our network:

“The biggest mistake people tend to do is hiding that they are looking for a job, by fear of having their current employer finding out or to have opportunities taken away from you by a friend or colleagues also looking out”.

I decided I would give Facebook a try and publish a post with my intentions. I wanted to do it in a manner that would open the discussion, be respectful and most of all would not break the relationship I had with my employer in case I would change my mind or the process would take a while.

Screen Shot Facebook

Screen capture from my Facebook post to activate my network

I was nervous and excited at the same time to reveal this news to the world. It really felt like a coming out.

At first, people were curious and asked questions, which is totally normal. Then about a day later, I received a private message from a friend I had gone to photography school with. I had not seen/talked to for almost 10 years! She was going on maternity leave and said she could get me in touch with her manager to see if I could take over her spot while she was away. Perfect timing! Awesome!

Two interviews and a security clearance process later, I finally retired from the stability of a 20 year contract for a 9 month adventure in a temporary position. I was committed to this transition and even if that was a huge risk on my end, this was the first step in the direction I wanted to be going. A few months later they posted my dream job internally and as a temporary employee, I was allowed to apply for it. I landed my second permanent photographer’s position of my career within the federal government, but this time as a civilian. This meant no more moves or promotion, unless I apply for them, and I would still be taking pictures in a federal government organization.

That was exactly what our teacher had told us. Not all job are posted and this one was definitely hidden. Obviously, there is a lot more than Facebook involved in this process, but to this day I still feel that it was the one thing that made it all work.

Taking a selfie during the North American Leaders' Summit (NALS)

Photo by Chris Roussakis

Since then Facebook now has a job search feature that might help, but the real power of Facebook comes from your network.

What would your dream job be? What kind of risk would you be ready to face to get it?



Facebook Logo    True story: How I found my dream job using Facebook


Twitter Symbol    True story: How I found my dream job using Facebook

COM0015: Blog #2 – Social Media and the Political Process

Social media is an excellent way to involve citizens in the political process. By keeping them well-informed and engaged, they will not only be educated about what is happening but also more motivated to want to be a part of it. That means stating their opinions, making their voices heard, and ultimately, turning up at the ballot box.

The Senate of Canada has taken a big leap forward in employing social media as a way of keeping Canadians engaged in the governance of the Red Chamber. In March they partnered with Twitter, an agreement which will see select committee meetings live streamed on Periscope. The Senate also live-tweets events procedural events and votes. And all senators are identified by their Twitter handles.


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This is a significant evolution in the parliamentary process – particularly from an institution typically viewed as being, well, behind the times. Using Twitter allows the Senate to reach out to a younger audience, one who might not know much about what they do or how it may affect their lives. And using a senator’s handle to identify them also gives the public a way to communicate directly with them, automatically making them more personable and approachable. It democratizes the upper chamber which has typically been viewed as the most undemocratic branch of our government.

The next best thing to having our political institutions utilizing social media is having our, well, media use social media. The New York Times has done an excellent job of making their Facebook page a destination for news lovers – not only in the United States, but everywhere.

The NY Times posts stories frequently on their Facebook page and on Twitter, but they also actively involve their followers in story creation. They use their audience as a resource. Often, when covering a topic they will solicit their Facebook followers feedback. For example, if they are writing a story about gender discrimination in the workplace, they will post on their Facebook page asking for people to share their own experiences. They make the news feel less like a reporter-reader relationship and more like a community sharing of information.


Courtesy of

The New York Times also utilizes the Facebook Live platform frequently, for everything from exclusive musical performances to discussions about topical issues. Their weekly discussion series #RaceNYT is a half-hour live broadcast on Facebook that looks at race relations in the US. Often these conversations involve readers sharing their own experiences. The videos are hosted by a New York Times journalist and they take questions from readers in the comments section. They are giving their audience a role to play in the news, not just telling them what is happening.

While there are organizations that are clearly adept at moving the conversation forward using social media, others have not quite caught up. iPoliticsLive is the live journalism branch of iPolitics – an online political news publication based in Ottawa. It provides a new and inventive way to deliver the news to Canadians, but it’s social media outreach certainly needs some work.

In some ways, it is very advanced. iPoliticsLive presents events around a specific issue with a journalist interviewing a panel of experts live in front of an audience. Broadcast free on Facebook Live, the events are available for anyone to watch. They use a new technology called Slido which allows users to enter the event hashtag, ask questions and vote on questions they like. The audience then becomes the interviewer.

Where iPoliticsLive does a poor job of utilizing social media is in promotion for itself. Twitter is used infrequently and then only to live-tweet during events. And Facebook is used only to post links to an upcoming event page on Eventbrite. But they could be doing so much more.

Their social media should be engaging their audience, and reaching out to potential followers who would be interested in their upcoming events. By starting to post more frequently, and asking questions about what new topics should be covered, they will get a better feel for what is important to Canadian citizens.


Democracy Comes to Social Media (COM0011 – Blog Post #5)

2015 is election time in Canada. Anyone who follows the back-and-forth in Ottawa already knows that this year’s campaign is gearing up to be one of the most exciting—and one of the longest—in recent memory. What’s emerging are very clear—and very different—visions for this country.

But most Canadians don’t follow the back-and-forth. Most Canadians find our politics boring at best and irrelevant at worst. Nearly 40% of Canadians didn’t bother to vote in the 2011 election. Explanations aside (that’s another topic for another blog), this time around, political parties will be looking for new ways to engage voters. They all know that the right combination of engagement and inspiration will be key to forming the next government.

BRITAIN-G8-SUMMIT-CANADA-PRESSEREnter social media. As Brad Lavigne recently wrote, the 2015 election will be the first election in our history to fully harness the power of social media. From recruiting volunteers and mobilizing supporters, this year—like never before—democracy is coming to your smart phone or tablet.

I worked a central campaign in the 2011 election and I don’t remember social media playing nearly the role it’s expected to this time. It was there, of course, and we used it regularly. But this time, it could be a difference-maker. We’ve already read in this course how Barack Obama’s campaigns have used social media in new and brilliant ways. It’s no surprise, then, that both the New Democrats and the Liberals have hired Obama’s social media experts for their own campaigns.

Social media isn’t a fad, either. It’s going to fundamentally change how parties fight elections. There was a time when reaching out to voters was timely and costly. Maybe it meant a pricey television ad. Maybe it meant holding a press conference and hoping that journalists write what you want them to write. Maybe it meant mobilizing hundreds of volunteers to go door-to-door. Now, in addition to all that, parties can reach millions of Canadians on Facebook and Twitter—directly and without filter—with little or no cost at all. And they can do it from their Ottawa offices.

Like advertisers, political parties will be able to use social media to paint a pretty accurate picture of Canadians. Where you are, who you are and what you care about are all there for the taking. As Lavigne writes, political parties will be able to use social media to reach out and engage in a very personalized way.

Of course, none of this is meant to replace traditional campaign tools. Instead, social media will supplement and enhance a party’s strengths and weaknesses. Parties will still need good ideas and messages that resonate. And they’ll still need to avoid costly missteps. Today, even the smallest mistake can go viral and make national headlines.

Considering the dismal voter turnout we have in Canada, I’m all for anything that engages. None of the problems that exist in our politics today can be fixed if Canadians don’t care—if they don’t demand better. So the question is, will social media make you more engaged in the 2015 federal election?

COM0015: Blog Post 4 – Get Out of the Box!

shutterstock_123899473Social media is the latest and greatest way to reach people. This may be on a personal level, giving you access to photos and information on family and friends but can also be used as part of a marketing strategy. Over the course of the last year, I have made a real shift to the see the value on the business side of things. I have always used social media as a personal tool but did not completely understand the true value of it in a business setting. I have seen a slow implementation at my place of employment as we begin to incorporate social media into our plan for online marketing.

Looking externally, I was surprised to see how active the government and politicians are on social media. This summer I stumbled upon this very interesting article that discusses “7 weird and wonderful ways that governments around the world are using social media.” I was shocked. Social media is helping to keep our streets cleaner and to detect earthquakes before they happen? Wow! I hadn’t thought about it that way. The police are also using social media to help solve crimes. The information that they can gain from someone’s Twitter-feed or Facebook page is substantial. Although I do not know the legalities around using that information, once again, pretty cool stuff.

On a more personal note, I recently noticed Facebook really ramping up their advertising. Now, when you visit the login screen, you will see a wonderful ad for a dating website. Although these ads are consistently changing, add it to the list of things that make me go hmmm. A dating website, really? I hope these ads are customized for my account because my 16 year old cousin does not need to see that.

Bottom line, the world is changing, the shock factor is a huge strategy right not as it is assumed the greater the shock, the greater the impact. Expected  is boring, unexpected is interesting and gets people talking. A lot has changed in such a short amount of time and I can’t wait to see what new applications and online marketing strategies the future will bring. Never a dull moment when it comes to social media, that’s for sure!

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