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How to find a
better job and
boost your income
Boost your income
There are two ways to earn more: get promoted or switch careers. Which is the right
choice for you?
Where the jobs are
Want a career where you’ll be treated and paid well? Engineers, pharmacists and even
librarians are in high demand
Who’s hiring now
Canada’s top 10 jobs by demand and pay
Ten fascinating jobs
Ever wonder what it’s really like to be a supermodel, celebrity chef, astronaut or
stuntman? We tracked down 10 people with fascinating jobs to give us the inside story
How to get ahead at work
Want to ace your annual employee evaluation, learn to schmooze your way up the
ladder and generally advance your career? We’ll show you how
How to ace your yearly review
Had a successful year? You may be in for a shock if your boss’s performance yardstick
varies from yours
An introvert’s guide to schmoozing
Just because you’re lunching- and networking-averse doesn’t mean your career options
are limited
The quickest way to the top? Stay where
you are
Research shows that job-hopping isn’t actually the best way to climb the corporate
How to overcome ‘imposter syndrome’
If you’re convinced you’re not as good as everyone thinks you are, give yourself kudos—
and fake it
No raises in sight? Load up on perks
How to boost your compensation package when salary budgets are frozen solid
There are two ways to earn more: get promoted or switch
careers. Which is the right choice for you?
Sick of working for peanuts in a dead-end job? Don’t think your boss understands your
true potential? You have two choices: you can stay in your current career and boost
your income through a promotion within your organization, or you can increase your
earning prospects by switching jobs, or even careers, midstream. There are pros and
cons to either scenario, and no shortage of advice on which way to go. Read on to find
out which is the best move for you.
STICKING WITH YOUR CAREER. Perhaps the most compelling argument for staying the
vocational course is: it’s hard to change. “The longer you’ve been in a profession, the
more difficult it is to switch,” says Carleton University labour market specialist Linda
Duxbury. “If you’re in your 40s or older, it’s especially tough, because you usually
have a lot of financial obligations, and attempting to switch careers will often disrupt
your income, at least temporarily.”
That said, rising within a company requires considerable investment as well. Duxbury
notes that these days, continuous learning is a necessity for everyone. “It’s not about
moving up the ranks. It’s about keeping your job. You often have to obtain an MBA to
win promotions, and you will almost certainly have to take additional training.”
Of course, even with additional education, office politics can derail advancement.
Toil away long enough and you will eventually encounter backstabbing co-workers,
insecure supervisors and hyper-ambitious underlings. The best advice is to tune out
that background noise and concentrate on being the best version of yourself. Getting
caught up in the drama, experts say, will lower your superiors’ estimation of you.
That said, you can’t be a wallflower, either. You need to find out what you’re great at
and play to your strengths; the boss can’t help but notice. The potential downside is
that if you get pegged as, say, the go-to numbers guy, your superior may resist promoting you for fear no one could take your place. For that reason, Duxbury suggests volunteering for additional projects and responsibilities outside your area of expertise,
to show the breadth of your skills.
If you can make it work, there are distinct benefits to sticking with one employer.
Forty-eight-year-old Paul Dresch has worked at Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies, an industry association, for 23 years, starting as a financial officer
and working his way up to a VP. Being a lifer, he says, offers the advantage of job and
income security. “I’ve never had a disruption in my earnings, I’m getting paid more
than I ever thought I would, and I’m looking at retiring at 55.”
He’s had a simple career formula: proving himself through his performance. “There’s
a lot of change [in the organization], and I was able to accept it, anticipate it and move
with it,” he says. “So when senior positions opened, it was felt I could handle the
increased responsibility and workload.”
CHANGING TRACKS IN MID-CAREER. The great-job-for-life environment Dresch has been
lucky to enjoy is increasingly rare, however. Ottawa career coach Judith Thomas says
being good at your job is no longer enough. “If your particular skill set or expertise is
made redundant by new technology, what are you left with?” she says. She argues that
switching careers is a better way to advance than staying in the same job. “It allows
you to add skills and experience to your career portfolio. And the more you switch
careers, the more you have to offer.” But choose your new path very carefully, based
not just on your skills but your values. “If you have strong social, environmental or
family values, and your prospective employer values the profit line above all, you might
not want to work there,” says Thomas.
Graham Green began his career as a newspaper writer, then joined the diplomatic
corps, moved on to become executive editor of the Ottawa Citizen and now serves as
vice-president of public affairs at Hill & Knowlton Canada. The key to successfully
switching careers, he says, is to figure out what you both enjoy and are good at. “If the
opportunity comes along to build upon what you’ve done before, you seize it. If your
chemistry matches the DNA of the job, and you’re passionate about it, that’s what differentiates the successful applicant from others who on paper have similar skill sets.”
And it’s up to you to identify the capabilities that make you a great fit for a new opportunity, says Jack Shand, a Toronto executive recruiter. For example, he says, “management skills are highly transferable, so there’s no reason you can’t jump from working
as a financial officer in a manufacturing company to marketing manager of a charitable
Of course, compensation is a key factor in the career-switch equation. “Sometimes,
if you’re unhappy in your current job, you will be willing to take a pay cut,” says Green.
But he recommends not compromising on salary at the outset or you may end up bitter about your decision. “You want to have both sides—the employer and the employee—
happy with the arrangement, or your relationship won’t start on a positive footing.”
Before you decide to switch, research the compensation: it’ll enable you to enter negotiations with realistic expectations, says Shand. “There’s a lot of information out there
on compensation for every sector of the economy, and it gets quite detailed and granular.” Through websites like Payscale and Glassdoor, as well as industry surveys, you
can learn—often at no cost—what pay comes with various jobs across the country.
To ease a prospective employer’s concern about your fit for a job that differs from
your past experience, Shand suggests offering to structure an employment contract
with built-in pay-for-performance metrics. “It mitigates the risk to the new employer,”
he says. “Virtually everything can be quantified, so it’s relatively easy to ascertain
whether you’ve hit the targets in the contract.”
WHEN YOU’RE STARTING OUT. For students entering the workforce for the first time,
finding the right career launch pad can be especially daunting. Career coach Thomas,
though, says lack of experience need not be insurmountable. “You have to sell what
you have,” she says. Students, for example, will likely have excellent computer and
problem-solving skills, can work to tight deadlines and are innovative and enthusiastic
because nothing has jaded them yet.
Joe Banks, head of the journalism program at Algonquin College, has graduated hundreds of students into a difficult job market, and finds the most successful are those
who aggressively network—“actually use their feet to get out and have coffee with
potential bosses.” Above all, he says, students should take full advantage of schoolrelated internship programs or job placements. “An internship…is where that first reference gets written which will lead to that first paid job, and the launch of a career.”
Many of Canada’s labour markets are thriving. So nail that promotion. Find something you’re good at. Because it’s not just business; it’s personal.
Want a career where you’ll be treated and paid well?
Engineers, pharmacists and even librarians are in high demand
We surveyed hundreds of occupations tracked by Statistics Canada, and identified the
50 best-paying, highest-demand career choices today. If you already have one of these
jobs, you’ll want to hold on to it like grim death, and start strategizing how you can
rise through the ranks and maximize your earning potential. If you don’t, and aren’t
thrilled with the one you do have, it may be time to consider a career change—despite
the stress, retraining and income disruption such decisions invariably entail.
There are myriad paths to higher earnings, but the surest one these days leads through
Alberta. The No. 1 job on our list is petroleum engineer: the person who figures out
how to get the oil out of the oilsands. This is both the fastest-growing occupation in
Canada, with employment increasing by 85% between 2006 and 2011, and the secondhighest in pay. Perhaps that shouldn’t surprise, given that the oilpatch is far and away
Canada’s largest driver of employment and economic activity. And the people it employs
face a challenging mission. “Canada’s oilsands and natural gas fields are both considered unconventional resources, which means they require more knowledge and skill
to exploit than traditional fossil fuels,” says Cheryl Knight, executive director of the
Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada. “That’s why petroleum engineers
are in such demand and are paid so well.”
They aren’t the only ones making a killing off the black sticky stuff. Our list contains
many other professions that feed off, and into, oilsands development, from chemical
and civil engineers to environmental and occupational safety inspectors.
Another group in hot demand out west, as elsewhere across the country, is construction managers. “There’s a chronic shortage of construction trade workers throughout
Canada,” says Carleton University labour-market specialist Linda Duxbury. “The baby
boomers for decades have been pushing their kids into universities instead of colleges,
and the construction industry has treated the apprenticeship programs shamefully.
They only want to hire people who already have their papers; they don’t want to pay
to train them.”
Interestingly, none of the jobs in the Top 10 on our list rank first in either median
wage or five-year wage growth. The best-paying job category on our list, with a median
income of $93,600, belongs to pharmacists, thanks to a combination of high educational requirements and a persistent shortage that drives up salaries. “Pharmacists
now have to go through five years of university training, and entry into schools of
pharmacy is highly competitive,” notes Jeff Poston, executive director of the Canadian
Pharmacists Association. Only a small fraction of applicants get in, he says, and many
of those already have degrees in related fields like health sciences. That said, wages
for pharmacists may already have peaked, as the supply bottleneck eases. “Three or
four years ago there was a bit of a crisis, with a shortage of pharmacists, but that’s
starting to correct after universities increased their intake of pharmacy students, and
a new pharmacy school opened at Waterloo, [Ont.]” says Poston.
The fastest-growing wage, meanwhile, belongs to librarians, whose salaries have
increased on average by 39% over the past five years, due, in part, to the changing
nature of their work. “It’s no longer a sweet old lady pushing a trolley of books,” notes
Duxbury. “It’s information and data management. It’s knowledge-based.”
Karen Adams, president of the executive council for the Canadian Libraries Association, says she’s pleasantly surprised her steadfastly pink-collar profession tops the list
of fastest-growing earners. “Librarians are mostly women, and it’s nice to see them
finally catching up in terms of pay,” she says, adding that it’s a great time to get into
the library information sciences. “A lot of university libraries were built during the
baby boom, and that cohort is now retiring, so there’s lots of opportunity. There’s also
more work outside traditional libraries, in areas like health care and as part of research
teams. The skills are very portable.”
Rank Occupation
Growth in # of
Median annual
salary (2011)
Change in salary
Petroleum engineer
Nursing supervisor
Electrical & telecommunications contractor
Data analyst
Chemist & chemical engineer
Health policy specialist
Construction manager
Transport industry manager
Police officer
Respiratory therapist
Economic development specialist
Health, environmental & occupational safety inspector
Electrical power line and cable worker
Mechanical engineer
Health-care manager
Information systems analyst
Dental hygienist
Civil engineer
School counsellor
Education policy specialist
Financial analyst
Construction inspector
Human resources specialist
Computer programmer
University professor
Software engineer
Medical radiation technologist
School principal
Social worker
Elementary school & kindergarten teacher
Purchasing manager
College instructor
High-school teacher
Occupational therapist
Financial manager
Telecommunications industry manager
Banking & investment manager
Electrical and electronics engineer
Sales & marketing manager
*Electrical contractors saw huge growth in demand over the past five years, second only to petroleum engineers. Architects rounded out the top three.
*Pharmacists enjoy the highest median wage, followed by petroleum engineers and school principals.
*Working in a library has become much more lucrative in the past five years: the near 40% salary
spike is the biggest of the Top 50 professions, followed by school counsellors and economists.
Methodology We obtained Statistics Canada data on employment and wage levels for more than 600 occupations.
From those, we selected jobs with at least 10,000 employed individuals and ones that experienced employment
growth between 2006 and 2011. We eliminated jobs with median salaries below $60,000, and ranked the rest based
on three criteria: job growth from 2006 to 2011, median compensation (based on a 40-hour work week) in 2011, and
the change in median compensation from 2006 to 2011. The final rank is based on a weighting of 50% to job growth,
40% to median compensation and 10% to change in compensation. A few broad or non-specific occupation categories were eliminated.
Canada’s top 10 jobs by demand and pay
If you want a good salary and recruiters fighting over you, you’d be smart to take up one
of these careers. Out of more than 600 jobs tracked by Statscan, the 10 professions below
had the best combination of high wages and employment growth over the past five years.
For each one, we’ll tell you the median salary, how high your salary can go, the training
you need to get the job, and much more.
1. Petroleum engineer
As a petroleum engineer, you plan and oversee energy exploration and drilling, including testing and refurbishing wells. Most are employed by energy multinationals, but
many also work for industry suppliers and government agencies, or as independent
consultants. It can be dirty work, but it requires brains and plenty of certification: you
need an engineering degree (typically with a petroleum specialty), and the professional
P.Eng. licence (which takes two to four years of experience and a written exam). Additionally, you may need certification in safety protocols like blowout prevention and
well control. However, oil companies tend to value hands-on over textbook learning,
so a co-op program (which usually adds a year to a four-year degree) may provide the
best launch pad.
Money: Petro engineers start at about $60,000 (more in Alberta) and senior specialists get as much as $300,000. There’s a premium for work in dangerous or remote
places, like an offshore rig or in Africa. You also earn more in the U.S.: the median salary there is US$120,000. But while the quickest path to high wages is foreign experience, soaring domestic demand makes that no longer necessary.
Opportunity: In a word, huge. Even during the recession, 71% of oilpatch employers
were seeking petro engineers. With Canada’s oil production expected to jump from
2.8 to 4.2 million barrels a day by 2020, the industry will be a jobs gusher, both in the
West and Newfoundland. For drilling supervisors alone, Ottawa predicts there will be
less than half the people needed to fill almost 13,000 openings over the next decade.
Still, beware the vagaries of the market: if energy prices fall, companies may put projects on hold.
What it’s like: The job requires a mechanical aptitude and an ability to quickly
resolve problems. Even the smallest hiccup in well operation can mean big costs.
“Every hole is different,” says Dean Lynn, an independent drilling supervisor with 25
years of experience. “I’ll get calls at 2 a.m. You need to keep people safe and make
million-dollar decisions in a heartbeat.”
For Jerry Kennedy-Bissah, a stint working for an oil company in Libya led to other
foreign opportunities. He’s now on a five-year contract overseeing the development of
a refinery in Saudi Arabia, returning home to Brampton, Ont., every few months. He
finds the biggest challenge is navigating the dangers on site. “There are lots of gasses
in confined spaces. You always have to be educating your construction and contractor
Jerry Kennedy-Bissah, petroleum engineer ‘Safety is a big challenge for us. That responsibility adds to
the pressure of this job’ (PHOTOGRAPH BY ABDULLAH MOHIUDDIN)
The oilpatch is booming, and several of our Top 50 jobs are related to the energy sector, including two
in the Top 10. What’s more, these jobs are among the highest-paying: a rig worker can make up to
$1,500 a day.
The industry already employs about 130,000 people in Canada, but those numbers are about to
surge. A recent study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute projects that in 25 years, the oilsands
alone will support about 480,000 jobs, adding $2.3 trillion to our GDP.
Who’s getting hired? Drilling site managers, who oversee exploration projects, are in huge demand,
with both number of employees and salaries up by more than a third over five years. Geoscientists who
opt to work in oil and gas can make up to $200,000 a year.
The industry is also competing for staff in support functions, from marine services in offshore operations to IT and tradespeople, such as crane operators and welders. Civil engineers are needed to oversee construction of plants, and the technicians who support engineers are fetching six-figure
2. Nursing supervisor
As a supervisor, you manage the nursing staff at a hospital, clinic or nursing home. A
four-year nursing degree is the price of entry into the sector, and you must register
with the provincial body. Rising to supervisor requires both clinical experience (at
least five years) and management training—part-time courses used to be enough, but
increasingly you need an MBA or master’s in health administration.
Money: These managers can make more than $90,000 in base pay, with premiums
for post-graduate education or working evenings and weekends. To reach top earning
levels, it helps to volunteer on hospital committees, says Stephanie Laivenieks, a clinical manager at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. “You’ll meet other leaders and
gain a perspective on how the organization works.”
Opportunity: Ottawa projects a 30% shortage of RNs and nurse supervisors by 2020.
Filling the gap in management may require newcomers. “Few [of my staff] seem interested in getting into leadership,” says Laivenieks.
What it’s like: You must balance the need for quality care with the operational side
of running an efficient hospital. You’re also managing a budget. And the hours can be
tough: 12-hour shifts, sometimes through the night.
Stephanie Laivenieks, nursing supervisor ‘Health-care resources are always a challenge, and nurses can
make a huge difference in deciding how they should be used’ (PHOTOGRAPH BY JAIME HOGGE)
In 10 years, Canada will make demographic history when the senior citizen population tips to outnumber children. Those seniors will need a lot of health care: at age 80, the expenditure on each Canadian’s
health care is almost $19,000 a year. No wonder there are 12 health-care-related jobs on our Top 50
list. Beyond nurses and health policy planners, the two biggest beneficiary groups to date, pharmacists
and the broader pharma sector, stand to see spikes in demand. Drugs already account for 16% of
Canadian health spending, and that will rise as more of us start popping Lipitor, calcitonin and Viagra.
Between 1998 and 2008, there was a 51% increase in the number of home-care recipients in Canada,
raising the need for home health assistants—projected to be the third-fastest-growing profession in
the U.S. over the next decade. The need for specialized care for aging bodies and the expansion of
services covered by health insurance are also fuelling rising demand for respiratory therapists, physiotherapists and several other health occupations.
3. Electrical contractor
As a senior electrician or cable technician, you oversee crews of installers and repairmen, or technicians working on power and telecommunications lines. To get certified,
you must complete an apprenticeship (typically four years, but you earn while you
learn) and several weeks of in-class training.
Money: Almost half this group is self-employed, which gives you more control over
your income. Top-level power-line and cable workers can make $74,000 a year (more
if they own their own business). The challenge for an independent is bill-collecting.
“The average homeowner will pay you as soon as they can, but some small businesses
never pay,” says Jeff Small, a master electrician in Kingston, Ont.
Opportunity: While demand for construction trades isn’t expected to reach prerecession peaks for some time, lots of work remains. Small, for one, is hiring, but is
having little luck finding certified electricians. Ottawa projects shortages of qualified
workers by 2020, especially those with experience: almost 40% of the workforce is
expected to be recent graduates.
What it’s like: You need to be good at reading blueprints, and you’ll need to keep
up with changes to electrical standards. You should also be fit, because a lot of the
work is done standing or in cramped spaces. And be prepared for long days. Small gets
up at 4 a.m. to do invoicing and estimates, then meets up with his crew at 7:30 a.m.
At the end of the day, there is more paperwork that often takes until 9 p.m. On the
plus side, there are many avenues for expansion. Small is getting into street light installation, and solar may be his next niche.
4. Data analyst
As a data analyst, you collect and crunch data, and design systems to help your employer
or client forecast trends and monitor performance. You may work at a tech consultancy or in the IT department of a large organization. You need a computer science or
math degree (or at least a diploma), and programming experience is a major asset. If
you want to do corporate strategic planning, consider an MBA.
Money: Salaries range from $62,00 to $76,000 in Canada, StatsCan reports, but can
reach over US$115,660 in the U.S. Financial, HR and other service companies tend to
be the most lucrative employers. Experienced data analysts have growing consulting
and freelance opportunities.
Opportunity: “Big data” is the buzzword driving demand in this field. It refers to
files so large they’re difficult to store and analyze, and they bedevil sectors from finance
to meteorology. In the U.S., where the profession is among the fastest growing, the
federal government is investing billions in crunching gluts of data. Employers are particularly keen on staff who get social media and analyze Internet data.
What it’s like: The demands vary widely. Bridget Warner used to work for a Calgary
investment bank, pulling 80-hour weeks. Now, she consults for a non-profit. The hours
are better, but the job takes more than number-crunching skills. “You paint a picture
for executives.” Interpretive skills are also required to figure out what data clients
Ontarians may think of the Waterloo area, home to Research In Motion, as Canada’s high-tech hub,
but increasingly, the West rules. Today Alberta is the base for the largest number of technology startups per capita.
As mobile and web technologies transform culture and business, tech workers in many specialties
are seeing their salaries go up. In addition to the four computer-related professions on our Top 50 list,
mobile app developers are enjoying sharp wage spikes, seeing an 8.2% salary increase within the past
year alone, according to the annual Robert Half salary guide. Typical incomes now range from $72,500
to $102,700, and overall, tech workers’ base compensation is projected to rise 4.4% in the next year.
For those working in corporate IT and consulting, a survey co-sponsored by IBM Canada shows the
skills in highest demand are project management, computer security and architecture design. Both
large and small companies also report a growing need for staff to provide infrastructure and wireless
5. Chemistry specialist
Chemists research how chemicals interact with each other. The end goal can be anything from developing more efficient pain killers, to seeking out new sources of energy.
If you get a chemical engineering degree, you’ll focus on the chemical processes and
equipment used in the manufacturing of everything from plastics to fertilizers.
Money: Salaries tend to vary by industry, but a new chemical engineer can expect
to start around $50,000 (one study found that among the major cities, Edmonton is
the most lucrative and Montreal the least for newcomers). The oil and gas, and metals
and mining sectors pay chemical engineers the highest, but they employ only about
7% of the profession. A chemist with a B.Sc. is looking at $40,000 to start. In academia
and pure research, salaries range from $100,000 to well above $200,000.
Opportunity: The majority—about 70%—of chemical engineers work in manufacturing and so-called scientific services, which include waste management, pharmaceuticals and food. For chemists, there’s growing demand in the environment and water
arena, and workplace safety and health.
What it’s like: Chemistry covers a lot of subjects. “The economy is dependant on
new materials—from active molecules for drug development to agricultural products—
all these things lead to chemistry,” says Sergey Krylov, a York University chemistry
professor. He believes curiosity and perseverance are chemists’ most important assets,
since they may work on complex projects for decades. “I compare it to running a marathon” says Krylov.
Sergey Krylov, chemistry specialist ‘The economy is dependent on new materials, from active molecules for
drug development to agricultural products. All these things lead to chemistry’ (PHOTOGRAPH BY JAIME HOGGE)
6. Health policy consultant
As a health policy consultant or researcher you investigate health-care trends, and
design policies and programs to help with issues such as medical record sharing. The
field employs 63,000, most of whom work for clinics, drug companies or Health Canada. Degrees in management or health informatics, plus an MBA or CMA with a health
focus help. Karen Born, a researcher at a Toronto hospital who began with a master’s
in international health policy, says some of her colleagues even have backgrounds in
criminology and the arts.
Money: While pay in the field starts low—research assistants with BAs make less than
$35,000—those with graduate degrees can earn over $80,000, and senior advisers
crack six figures. Those with specialized skills, such as experience with informatics
software, can exceed $150,000.
Opportunity: An aging population, the need for integration among health providers and rapid technological development has fuelled the need for health policy specialists. In a belt-tightening era, the job calls for skills in data analysis and management
science are particularly in demand.
What it’s like: Karen Born finds a lot of flexibility in her role as a researcher and
academic. While specialists at think-tanks or associations can travel a lot, nine-to-five
work is the norm for those at government agencies. The field encompasses everything
from data analysis to outreach and project management.
7. Construction manager
Construction managers are responsible for soup-to-nuts planning, estimating, negotiating and overseeing building projects. Anyone can start as a home renovator, but the
fastest way to get ahead is an engineering degree, says Calvin Hollings, a project manager in Edmonton. His background spans carpentry, engineer training and ongoing
leadership courses. “You first learn building, then you learn how to talk with consultants and architects. It’s understanding how to get the work done,” he says.
Money: Salaries start around $33,000, but experienced managers with engineering
degrees or certificates can see up to $95,000 in base pay, with the higher ranges found
in the west and Ontario. Managers on major projects with large-scale engineering can
earn more in completion bonuses, stock options and remote-site premiums.
Opportunity: Some of the fire has come out of residential building, but industrial
construction is still lucrative. Almost every province will need people overseeing big
projects—potash and mining in Saskatchewan, petroleum in Alberta and B.C., and
hydro dams in Manitoba and Quebec—with job demand for most of these projects
peaking around 2015.
What it’s like: You should be analytical, organized and good at math. Days on the
job cycle between the job sites and the office, where you might be co-ordinating with
foremen on more than 30 projects. Days are 10 hours or more and revolve around
managing relationships with sub-trades, clients, suppliers and bureaucrats.
Calvin Hollings, construction manager ‘You first learn building, then you learn how to talk with
consultants and architects. It’s understanding how to get the work done’ (PHOTOGRAPH BY JASON
8. Lawyer
As a lawyer, you’ll advise and represent people or organizations by interpreting Canadian law. But you’ll rack up lots of student loans first: after a four-year BA, you must
invest in three years of law school, then spend a year articling before taking the bar
exam. Within seven years at a firm you may be eligible for income partnership and
eventually full partnership.
Money: “Class-action lawyers can get huge numbers when they hit, but big gulfs
when they don’t. Successful ones combine it with something certain, like litigation or
personal injury,” says Warren Smith of recruiting firm The Counsel Network. Smith’s
company found that in-house corporate counsel earned an average base salary of
$146,000, about 20% more than government positions. The highest wages are in the
energy sector, and in Calgary and Toronto.
Opportunity: While some in the industry are concerned the 2009 slowdown may
lead businesses to scale back on lawyers, Smith says companies will need lawyers as
long as they’re going to try new things. “Clients go to a law firm because they don’t
have answers. They have to get them from someone who has spent 20 years thinking
about it.” Specializations in demand include mergers and acquisitions, and intellectual
What it’s like: With an average retirement age of 78, this is a profession for people
who love the work. “It’s an intellectual challenge,” says Emily MacKinnon, a recent
UBC graduate who is set to article at the Supreme Court of Canada. “Life is fluid, and
you’re trying to apply this framework to it.”
9. Transport manager
As a transport manager, you supervise the day-to-day activities of drivers—it could be
trucking, buses, deliveries, taxis or public transit. Or you might be the one who controls subway trains by manning signals and operating track switches. You work for
motor-transport companies or transit authorities.
Money: Starting pay for a supervisor in 2011 was between $17.30 and $40 an hour,
according to the Government of Alberta. Top earners made around $60, and 44% of
employees make $50,000 a year or more. Depending on where you live, a high-earning
trucking supervisor could earn as much as $120,000 a year. In Alberta, where companies compete with the oilsands for workers, wages are higher.
Opportunity: Supervisory jobs at transport firms are plentiful in every province
and territory, but there are more in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.
Training: Transport managers don’t need a degree or diploma (although 44% do
have some post-secondary schooling). More important is having experience in transportation as a driver. Who gets the top jobs? “People who have great communication
skills, who make decisions quickly, are the kind of people who move up to supervisor
roles,” says Wayne Pederson, who runs a trucking company.
What it’s like: “You might start at 6 a.m., and it’s definitely a 12 hour day,” says Pederson. Supervisors spend much of the day problem-solving. Challenges include rescheduling shipments and dealing with equipment breakdowns, bad weather or
10. Economist
Economists analyze, forecast and advise on all things related to money, from finance
and commodities to trade and industry.
Money: Compensation for Canadian economists ranges from $35,000 to $150,000
and up. Those in the lucrative arena of investment banking can earn $300,000 or
more—but at a price. “Some young economists get starry-eyed about the income scales
in investment banking,” says Craig Alexander, chief economist of TD Bank. “But you’re
going to have a sharply lower quality of life.” Public-sector economists generally get
paid less than those in banks.
Opportunity: An era of fiscal austerity in the public sector can be a boon for economics employment there, as federal and provincial departments such as Finance,
Industry, Foreign Affairs and the Bank of Canada seek analysts who can work the data.
In the 1990s, many companies began outsourcing economics work to the banks, so
applied economics jobs in the private sphere is now mostly found in financial and
insurance firms.
Training: A BA in economics can open doors in general business, but it’s not enough
to get into the economics field. For a job with Statistics Canada, for example, you need
a graduate degree, and a career in academia will require a PhD.
What it’s like: Many public-sector jobs have standard eight-hour days, while in the
private sector it is common to work 10 hours or more. And in investment banking?
“You start at 4:30 a.m. and take the 6:30 p.m. train home. Then, at 8 p.m. you have a
conference call,” Alexander says. Successful economists are those who follow their
passions, whether it be the environment or education, and use that to direct their
Craig Alexander, economist ‘Some economists get starry-eyed about the income scales in investment
banking—but you’re going to have a sharply lower quality of life’ (PHOTOGRAPH BY DANIEL
Ever wonder what it’s really like to be a supermodel, celebrity
chef, astronaut or stuntman? We tracked down 10 people with
fascinating jobs to give us the inside story
Charles P. Butler
On the importance of discretion, expecting the
unexpected and the real definition of luxury
When Charles P. MacPherson left the catering business to become a butler for a prominent Toronto family, all he knew about the profession was what he’d learned from pop
culture. He soon realized that there was more to the job than answering the door. After
10 years as a major-domo (the head of a household staff), MacPherson launched his
own concierge business and became an international household-management consultant. He has since opened an academy in Toronto, currently North America’s only
registered school for butlers and household managers. He spoke with Jacqueline
How does the role of the modern-day butler differ from the archetype?
Many people think a butler is an elitist thing, because of the cost. But I think that a
good butler is a lot like an executive assistant. Thinking someone is “just the secretary”
is the biggest mistake anyone could make in business, because the executive assistant
not only has the power to get you an appointment, she has her employer’s ear. The
butler is the same thing in the household. A professional butler is such a good facilitator, and makes everything happen so seamlessly, that his presence is less noticeable
when he’s in the room then when he’s absent.
What’s a butler’s most important trait?
At my school, I teach that it’s the ability to anticipate, but the butler who is curious and
who has the thirst for knowledge is the butler who has a great career. You need to know
a little about everything, so that when someone turns to you and says, “Charles, where’s
Nigeria?” you can tell him. You don’t need to know the specifics, but you need to know
basic geography, language and protocol. You need to have an understanding of life.
You didn’t go to a butler school, so why start one?
I felt that I had a method that was very different. Too many of the schools out there
today are focused on the glamour of the job. While other schools are housed in old
mansions or castles, I built mine in a warehouse that can be set up for a dining table
or a place to iron. I wanted to offer a foundation in the basic skills that can be translated into any household. If you don’t know how to vacuum or make a bed at least as
well or better than the housekeeper, then no one will respect you as a manager. And
how can you supervise a housekeeper if you don’t know what she’s supposed to be
doing, or how she’s supposed to be doing it?
There is some glamour to the job, though, right?
I’ve sat and had tea with the prime minister. I’ve seen celebrities, presidents and captains of industry. It’s exciting to participate in that. There is no royal family, no head
of government or movie star that can survive without us running their private lives.
To be in the White House or Buckingham Palace and to watch history unfold is an
incredible privilege. But you must keep your mouth shut, or you won’t be a butler for
Are there any jobs you’d refuse to do?
The only thing a butler should say no to is anything illegal. If the housekeeper has a
cold and can’t come to work, you must be able to step in. And I respect those people
and what they do. A good housekeeper in a professional family may be taking care of
artifacts that are of museum quality, and she’s worth her weight in gold. Not everyone
can clean.
What’s a common mistake you see new butlers make?
There are three things that must be done every day: the toilets have to be washed, the
beds have to be made and dinner must be served on time. Doesn’t matter if you catalogue the library and wash the car, if you can’t get those three things done every day
then you don’t have a job. The unprofessional butler forgets the basics.
I see myself as a professional, and I’m proud of what I do. I make a good living, and I
employ people, and I know there are people who can’t survive without me. As Oscar
de la Renta once taught me, we think of luxury as something with a dollar value, but
that isn’t really luxury. Luxury is a feeling. You could be on a beach in a hut with a tiny
cup of coffee, but I could make you feel that it was the most luxurious cup of coffee
you’d ever had in your life. I try to pass that on to my students. It’s not the thread count
of the bed sheets, or whether it’s a Picasso on the wall, it’s about how we make you
What’s the most challenging part of the job?
There are two things. When problems hit the fan, it can be hard to prioritize what’s
important. But I think the most challenging part is the solitude. Often, you’re in the
house by yourself, or the other staff are all busy working. There aren’t necessarily
other colleagues to interact with, so it can be lonely.
How did you stay motivated through that?
You see incredible things. I’ve served afternoon tea to the heads of two corporations
and thought, “Hmm, this seems strange”—and then two weeks later there’s a merger
between the two companies. You could never ask about it, but you were a part of history. It’s exciting and a great privilege, and I focused on that.
A butler must deal with a lot of stressful situations.
It’s the butler’s job to solve problems before they become problems for the employer,
but sometimes that can be stressful. I’m not a wedding planner, but I had one client
who asked me to plan her daughter’s wedding. On the big day, the bishop asked what
was on the dinner menu. When I told him, he said, “I’ll be there.” I stood on the steps
of the cathedral and thought, “My God, what have I done?” We had no space for him.
But at the appropriate moment, I approached the mother of the bride and said, “Not
to worry, I’ll have him seated to your right, and I’ll make the place setting fit.” She was
relieved and went on with the day. By evening, it was as if it has always been planned.
It’s important not to pass your stress on to your employer.
Do you ever feel pressured to offer emotional guidance or support?
It happens, but a good butler gets himself out of it by quickly changing the direction
of the conversation, while still making the employer feel you were there for them.
We’re not trained psychologists. There’s a line, and employers will cross it, and that’s
OK—you deal with it—but you can never cross the line the other way. It’s unprofessional.
It’s like the United Nations—you need to make everyone feel like they’ve won while
keeping the peace.
On his personal brand, his new show and
what he really does on his days off
When Chuck Hughes opened his first 40-seat restaurant in Old Montreal in 2006, he
never imagined it would be the start of a personal culinary empire. Young, tattooed
and dimple-cheeked, the chef has made a career of biting off as much as he can possibly chew. In addition to running two of the hottest restaurants in Montreal (Garde
Manger and Le Bremner), he’s starring in two Food Network shows (Chuck’s Day Off
and the upcoming Chuck’s Week Off: Mexico) and celebrating the English-language
release of his bestselling Garde Manger cookbook. Oh, did we mention he also found
time to beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America last year? Hughes may have built his
empire on his knack for taking time off, but as he tells Nancy Won, behind the laidback veneer lies a hardcore workaholic who’s more likely to measure his downtime in
hours than days.
You’ve made a name for yourself by taking days off, but from the looks of it I’d
say you’ve had a pretty busy year.
Yeah, I’ve been lucky and blessed that everything has gone so well. But honestly, I’m
the kind of guy that needs to be constantly doing something, so it works great. We’re
just starting work on a new cookbook based on the Chuck’s Day Off series, and next
week I start filming for a new show coming out in the U.S. called Chuck Eats the Street.
It’s basically me travelling through the States, checking out iconic streets and discovering American cuisine, from street food to markets to old places that have been around
for 150 years. So yeah, it never stops.
How do you keep track of it all? Do you have an assistant? An entourage? Are you
addicted to your BlackBerry?
You know what? It’s a lot of lists and a lot of organizing. For me, it’s all about having a
really good schedule. I do have a manager and a publicist, but no assistant. Eventually,
I might need somebody but, to be honest, I’m constantly moving at 100 miles an hour,
so it would be kind of hard to have anybody following me around. For now, I just need
my schedule and I’m good to go.
These lists and schedules, are they of the pen-and-paper variety or are you a
digital kind of guy?
It’s funny, because if I’m at home I’ll write my lists out on paper, but then I’ll transfer
everything to digital afterward—I’m kind of old-school like that. I like to scribble, I like
to write things down, but I have to have everything organized in my phone and in my
Dropbox. All digitized!
Of all the hats you wear—entrepreneur, chef, TV host, author—which one do you
enjoy the most?
It’s hard to pick a favourite because I really enjoy all the jobs I have. The beauty for
me, and why I love it so much, is that every day is different. It’s kind of why I got into
the restaurant business: I wanted to travel, meet people and experience new things.
When you go to cooking school, you learn a craft that follows you wherever you go—it
allows you to see the world. But ultimately for me, the most rewarding and fulfilling
job is cooking at the restaurant. It’s my first love. No matter how many things I do, or
how many amazing things I get to experience, in the end the most gratifying for me,
the most fulfilling, is just to see someone take that one bite that might change their
night or make their evening. That’s still the most important thing to me.
Are you able to be in the kitchen as much as you’d like with so much else going on
in your life?
Well, according to my schedule, if I’m in Montreal, I’m at the restaurant, that’s 100%
guaranteed. I was there last night, and I’m working there again tonight on the line—I’ll
be a chef, a cook, a dishwasher, whatever I need to be. I try to work as much as I possibly can. It’s what started it all, so it’s very important for me to keep in touch with that.
It looks like you’ve given up most of your so-called days off to filming. Do you even
get any real days off?
Not really! I try to take at least two weeks off a year, but I’ll be honest, I don’t really
want to relax. It’s not something that’s super important to me. I’d rather take minibreaks every day, like go to the gym or play hockey. I think that’s the better balance
for me. Sports are a big part of my life, so I try to stay active on my off hours. I hit the
gym every day, maybe go for a run, do Hip Hop Abs, anything.
So in reality, we’re talking more like “Chuck’s One Hour Off.”
Exactly! And somehow that works well for me. I’m happy that way. You know, after
five or six days on vacation, I start to get nervous. I feel like I should be doing something. I don’t do so well by just sitting down and not doing much.
Should we expect to see Chuck Hughes salad dressing at the supermarket anytime soon?
At this point, I’m not saying yes or no to anything, but we’ve built our brand and our
business around being honest and authentic and real, so for me, as long as we can find
those things within that world, then yes we can make it happen. But when you talk to
these big companies, they need certain things in their product line. Do I want a Chuck
Hughes electric wine opener? Probably not. We’ve been approached many times by
different people, and everybody’s been very nice, but the underlying tone is pretty
much “Sign on the dotted line and you’ll be rich,” which is not really what I’m all about.
Obviously everybody wants to make money, and so far our businesses have done well.
We’re not at Donald Trump levels, but we’re happy.
Any truth to the rumour that you’re thinking of opening a third restaurant in
I’m always kind of thinking! I love Toronto. I think the food scene is amazing there
right now, and there are lots of great chefs, tons of people and tons of money. It’s a big
city, and it would be fun to be a part of that, but there’s another part of me that wants
to do something else. More and more I want to get out of the city and do something
that’s closer to the earth.
And although I’m pretty busy right now, there is always that space in the back of my
mind that’s thinking about the next step and wanting to take on a new challenge. One
day I’ll wake up and want to open in Hong Kong. The next day I want to go to Toronto.
If we were to do another restaurant, I think I’d want it to change my life. It’s got to be
something that will test my limits and push my boundaries a little bit more, and I don’t
really know where or what that would be, We’ll see!
On jet lag, personal image and what it means
when the product you’re selling is you
Canadian Coco Rocha, the fashion world’s reigning obsession, was famously discovered at an Irish dance competition in 2002 (a skill she later showcased to great fanfare
on Jean Paul Gaultier’s runway). Since then, Rocha, 23, has served as muse to fashion
titans including Karl Lagerfeld. She has appeared in campaigns for Marc Jacobs, Dior
and endless others. Recently, she landed at the centre of a New York fashion-week
battle over models and healthy weight (at a size 4, she was deemed too “healthy” by
some). She talked to Lianne George.
What has been the single most important factor in your career success?
In fashion, a lot of it is who you’ve worked with. I mean, I had done castings and castings in New York and Toronto, and nothing really bit, and then I worked with [renowned
photographer] Steven Meisel, and once he puts his stamp on something and says, “This
model is my muse,” well, that’s when I was put on the map.
But there are millions of pretty girls around. What makes someone a muse?
First, it’s personality. A lot of people can take a good picture, but it’s how your personality shows through. And if you’re meeting a client and you can make them feel comfortable, then people start to say, “Wow, she’s different.” Those are the girls who are
working every day.
What’s an average week like in the life of a supermodel?
It really depends who you’re working with. During show season, maybe it’s going to a
fitting or seeing a client, doing a show and then doing another show or an editorial
shoot. Otherwise, maybe it’s flying to a destination, doing some pictures and flying
back the next day. I work with [cosmetics brand] Rimmel right now, so I do a lot in
London. I fly there for a day or two, fly back to New York to do a shoot, then Rimmel
may phone and say, “We’re ready to do another thing,” and it’s fly back.
Speaking of which, I read your mother was a flight attendant and you spent
much of your childhood in planes. Do you have any secrets for fighting jet lag?
I’m pretty good about jet lag. If I have an overnight flight, I try to sleep it. If I have a
day flight, I try not to sleep it. If I get there and it’s morning, I do not sleep until it’s
night. I mean, I just get into wherever I am and I don’t think about, “Oh, it’s a five-hour
difference.” There’s no such thing. You are in this city, it is now the time, you know?
That’s how my mom has always done it.
How do you cope with the intensity of your schedule?
You have to be disciplined. When agents are telling you this, your parents are telling
you that, and photographers are telling you another thing, you have to think about,
“Who can I trust?” You need to know what you want. A lot of young girls don’t realize
this until the end of their career, and they go, “You know what? I didn’t have to do all
of that.”
What’s “all of that”?
Well, there were always physical sort of things I did not want to do, you know, nude
shoots. I didn’t want to portray myself as that sort of girl right from the start. Although
there were a few pictures that I could say that I’m not so proud of, in the end I have
been able to keep my status as the girl that won’t take her top off when she gets on that
set. I don’t do smoking pictures. I want girls to know you can portray yourself as a
classy lady, and that there’s such a thing still out there.
How do you deal with all of the competition for jobs?
In the fashion industry, it’s always about the new girl, the new clothing. We’re always
a season ahead, so I think a lot of girls feel overwhelmed when there’s a new group of
girls, and then when those girls are established, they get a little nervous when there’s
a new bunch. It’s just the name of the game.
It is the ultimate image-based industry. Does the scrutiny ever faze you?
It’s funny how, when you’re selling a product, you talk about changing that product
so people will want to buy it. With models, our product is us, and people have the
same thoughts about us. They think, “We need to change it, we don’t like it, we need
it this way.” But I think a lot of people forget who they’re dealing with. These are young
girls, not mature adults who know their skin. These are vulnerable young women that
don’t know where they are in life yet. That’s why I’m a big advocate for models and a
healthy body image.
What is your definition of a healthy body image?
I’ve gone really “healthy girl,” where I was working out every day, eating perfectly correct, and it just didn’t feel good. So, for me personally, I’m not into the crazy workouts
every day and eating right all the time. You have to ask, what do you really want to do:
work super super hard to work with all the people in the industry, or be comfortable
with yourself and hopefully they’ll be comfortable with you as well?
The New York Times recently reported that you had become too heavy for some
designers. Is it hard to read that stuff?
Any girl would be upset to hear that, but in this industry you realize you’re going to
get it constantly, and I choose to try to ignore it. And there will be days where I’m like,
“Oh, that was mean,” or, “That was upsetting,” but I just have to stop and think, “What
industry are you in?” and if you don’t like it, you have to just leave the industry.
Lots of models—Heidi Klum, Kate Moss—have extended their brands into other
areas like TV, cosmetics and fragrances. Do you see yourself doing something like
Well, I think every model should think about her future, because modelling is a very
short career. So yeah, a lot of girls brand out from the industry. I think once you’re at
a certain peak in your career, that’s the time to really think about what you want to
do because of your connections with editors and business managers. For me, I really
wanted to start my own clothing line, and I thought, “Well, you have so many people
rooting for you, why not use the chance?” I’m super-excited about that, and it’s a nice
feeling to create something that excites me. When you’re a model, you feel like you’re
just this thing sometimes, whereas now I get to show what I can do and hopefully people will take me seriously.
Jeffery Ong
On timing, adrenalin, and how to fall off a
building and walk away without a scratch
The Taurus World Stunt Awards are a daredevil’s version of the Oscars. The elite of
the stunt industry gathers in Hollywood to honour the year’s top work—Best Fight, Best
Fire Stunt, Best Work With A Vehicle. In 2011, Canadian Jeffery Ong took home a Taurus for Hardest Hit. In the movie Push, he fell 25 feet from a building, crushing a car
with his body. A veteran of more than 50 films, TV shows and video games, Ong also
works as a stunt co-ordinator and choreographer. He spoke with Jordan Timm.
How does somebody get started as a stunt performer? You didn’t go to school for
I actually came in through the world of dance. I was studying business at university,
and hating it. Then I met this girl—it always starts with a girl—who suggested I try some
dance. I grew up doing martial arts but had never studied anything artistic. So I started
with modern dance, and from there I was adopted into a dance family at the Canadian
Dance Company, and travelled and competed. That was how I realized that I wanted
to get into big-stage performance.
So you did have a martial-arts background to call on.
When I was six years old, my dad started training me in karate in the house. He wanted
me to get my black belt because he had never gotten his, so I went to a bunch of karate
schools and got to my second degree. Then I stopped getting belts, and just wanted to
learn stuff. Capoeira, jiu-jitsu, judo, akido, kung fu...
Is it normal for somebody to study so many different disciplines?
A lot of people like to just stick to one. Me, I like variety. But that’s helped make me a
good stuntman, too. Martial artists have a big barrier to entry in the stunt world,
because when a director says, “Throw a punch,” they’re like, “Kyah!” They’re very
rigid and formal. But I had this bridge between martial arts and dance, so I understood
changing movement. With the Canadian Dance Company, I learned not just one style.
We’d learn ballet for technique, then apply it everywhere else—hip hop, jazz, whatever.
So when I took that to film, I understood how to translate my martial arts into whatever looked best on camera.
How long do you see yourself doing this?
Oh, I’d love to do this my whole life.
Is that possible, with the toll it takes on your body?
I started making a documentary on Alex Green, who was the founder of Stunts Canada, an elite group of stunt guys. He passed away this year, but he was performing
right up until three years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer. He loved doing it,
loved being part of shows. You’re not doing the big gags anymore, but you know, you’re
the old dude that falls down in the grocery store, or has to get out of the way of the
car. I think everyone hopes for a long career. Whether that’s a reality or not has a lot
to do with luck, and also with taking care of yourself.
The stunt for which you won the Taurus—you actually fell through the air onto a
car. How do you prepare for that?
There are so many different elements that go into it. The special effects guys, they’re
the ones that blew the windows and prepared the car. The stunt riggers made sure we
could get up there safely. Your first step is communicating with those groups of people,
making sure that everything is prepped and that as few things as possible can go wrong,
so that you have a fighting chance to do it well, and be able to repeat it—because I had
to do it twice. Stunt performers don’t always understand how important communication is. In a situation like this, you want to make sure it’s the best possible scenario,
even though it might suck. I talked to the special-effects guys and looked inside the
car. They had cleaned out the inside and tried to make it so that it would collapse when
I hit it and cushion my fall as much as possible. But I double-checked that the vital
things were taken care of. When you fall, you want to make sure you’re not exposing
something, like a limb, or your neck. For instance, even if cars don’t have sunroofs,
they’re precut in the frame. So I asked the special effects guys, “Do we need to reinforce that?” They said, “No, no, it’s fine.” So I used my arm to support my neck and to
bash through the frame as hard as I could. I actually punched through the sunroof.
Had I not, looking back, my head would have stuck through the hole. It would have
scalped me.
You must have been pretty beaten up afterwards.
No, I actually came out of it pretty awesome. A little jarred, but I was wearing body
armour under my wardrobe. Girls have it worse. My girlfriend is actually a stunt double, too, and, you know, sexy outfits, you can’t wear as much protective gear. When
she was doubling Megan Fox, she was wearing next to nothing.
So was that the most difficult stunt you’ve done?
Well in that one, I was just falling. There’s not much I can do other than fall. It’s funny,
because I guess difficulty can be gauged in different ways. On Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,
a sword went into my mouth and took out my tooth. Nothing was cut, fortunately, it
just took out the tooth. Fight sequences are all timing. It’s a dance. And we were rushing, and the timing was just a bit off. You can get hurt anywhere.
What about mental preparation?
You definitely have to be a certain kind of person to be a stunt performer. You have to
like adrenalin and be able to deal with it.
Do you get scared?
Yeah, you get scared, you get anxiety, but you have to like that. I think we come from
the same group of people that like to skydive. I think every stunt person I know would
probably suffer in an office. If you find yourself thinking “Why am I doing this?” it’s
probably not the right job for you. And it’s contract work, so it’s not like you have a
guaranteed paycheque. You have to hustle, you have to make sure you’re putting yourself out there to get work.
What’s the worst you’ve hurt yourself on a shoot?
A twisted ankle.
You’re kidding. You’re lucky. Or very good.
I’m one of the few stunt people I know who’s never broken a bone.
Flight Attendant
On teamwork, dealing with bozos and how to stay
healthy when your schedule’s up in the air
Do you remember the golden age of airline travel? Being served caviar and champagne
free of charge? Probably not—but Jennifer O’Neil does. The U.K. native has worked as
a flight attendant for more than 39 years, most of that with Canadian Pacific, which
merged with Air Canada in 2000. In O’Neil’s career, she has served the glamorous and
the not-so-glamorous, and borne witness to airline mergers, downsizings and the past
decade’s dramatic tightening of security. The 62-year-old has kept up with the changes,
still working regular long-haul flights to Sydney and Maui. She spoke about her career
with Angelina Chapin.
Your schedule is literally so up in the air: London one week, Japan the next. I’m
surprised I caught you at home in Vancouver.
I’ve actually been off for the past five months with a work injury. I was opening a sparkling wine bottle—something I have done many times in my career—but it was at the
wrong angle and had a very dry cork, and did something to my thumb and wrist.
Interesting occupational hazard. It’s not often I see someone ordering sparkling
wine on a plane. Is it because I’m sitting in economy class?
The style of flying when I first started was more glamorous—and the travelling public
was far more respectful of flight attendants. Everybody was served a hot meal, and if
the flight was international, you didn’t have to pay for drinks. The big offer back then
was steak and champagne. First class was really first class, and you did things like
carve a roast in front of passengers. Executive class is still nice, but not as fancy as it
used to be.
Sounds like flight attendants had a different job description back then. How have
you dealt with the changes?
Because of the economy, the industry has had to tighten its belt in different ways so,
sadly, the flight attendant’s main duty on aircraft is to ensure safety. I’m old school
and still like to give good service. I’ve found it hard to change my mentality, but to not
wear myself thin I have to work smarter, not harder. I’m constantly reminding myself
there’s only one of me for all these wonderful people in the seats, and I have to do the
best I can with that.
How do you do stay healthy when you’re constantly travelling?
I take all my own food on flights. I don’t eat airline food because it’s full of too much
salt and preservatives. I drink lots of fluids. I don’t do these big long sleeps. When I
land in a destination, I get two hours sleep and get out and do things on that time zone.
If I come home early in the morning, I’ll go to bed for a few hours, and still get up very
early and go to the gym. I go to the gym most days. For me, it kicks the jet lag—or as I
say to my friends, “I just have to dust the cobwebs.”
But sometimes you’re working flights to Sydney that span 15 hours, and you’re
coming back the next day. The schedule must start to grate on you.
I have more stamina than a lot of people. In fact, most of us that started when I did
went through such rigorous training, we learned the work ethic and [developed] the
backbone to deal with long hours because we didn’t always get sleep breaks. We were
more primed for it than some of my contemporaries.
Do you get sleep breaks now?
On long-haul flights, we have bunks, and there is enough crew that we have a decent
[amount of] time for sleep. Whether you can or not is the key, but at least you’re resting. On those flights to Sydney, I prefer the second sleep break after our passengers
have been fed. Some of the crew are so tired they want a break first, whereas I always
manage to sleep before the flight. There are things like severe turbulence that can
make it hard, particularly on Sydney flights at certain times of the year. I’m fairly good
at sleeping through that. I’ve never taken a sleeping pill—ever—and on flights we’re not
permitted to. I just have some camomile tea and try to relax.
Unlike most professions, you’re physically stuck with your customers. How do
you deal with someone who’s being obnoxious?
It’s an art. Sometimes, it’s difficult when the jet lag hits and you haven’t had the best
sleep. You have to keep apologizing as best you can. My line is usually, “I understand
how you feel,” or “How can I make this better for you?”
On any given flight, you’re working with a different flight team. How do you
adapt to and work with so many different personalities?
I like to keep a fresh attitude. Even if I look at the crew list and see I’m not so crazy
about flying with that person, I say, “Perhaps they can teach me something today.” I
know how that sounds, but that’s how I live life. I believe in teamwork, and I know not
everyone is a team player, but you need to be flexible. If anything happens, you have
to look out for each other, because your job is to get passengers off the aircraft.
Can you describe some of those emergency situations where you’ve had to pull
together as a team?
We’ve had people die on the flight, and a lot of medical emergencies where we’ve had
to land somewhere because of the situation. We had an incident where a passenger
was rather disruptive, and we had to make a detour and land. I happened to be in the
bunk sleeping at the time, and the flight attendant in charge came upstairs and woke
everyone up. She said, “We’re landing in Honolulu in 20 minutes.” Everyone had to
pull together and come back to our stations and be ready for landing.
How do you stay calm in the face of chaos?
We have to rely on our safety training, and let that kick into action. The adrenalin
starts running, and it just happens. I pull on everything I have inside me and have faith
that I’ll be safe and everything will work out as it should.
It can’t be easy. How much longer do you want to do this?
I’ve always said I’ll retire when I feel incapable of doing it anymore. I’ve been lucky.
I’ve met movie stars, and I did have those golden years of flying. I don’t regret anything—and if I had to leave tomorrow, I would consider myself a lucky woman.
On motivation, morale and how to work
with your spouse and stay happily married
The headlines read like something out of Jurassic Park: in September 2011, a team of
researchers discovered chunks of tree resin that contained 80-million-year-old feathers, offering valuable new insight into the evolutionary links between dinosaurs and
birds. For Philip J. Currie, it was just the latest success in a lifetime of discovery. A former curator of what’s now the Royal Alberta Museum, Currie also helped found the
Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alta.; in fact, the latter museum was launched
in part because Currie was digging up more dinosaur bones than the Royal Alberta
could store. In 2012, he was awarded the prestigious Explorers Club Medal. Currently
a professor at the University of Alberta and research chair in dinosaur paleobiology,
he spoke with Josephine Lim.
How did you get into paleontology?
It started when I was six. I opened a box of Rice Krispies, and there was a plastic dinosaur inside. I spent the next five years doing whatever I could with dinosaurs. But when
I was 11, I read a book called All About Dinosaurs, which was by Roy Chapman Andrews
[the American explorer and naturalist thought to have inspired the creation of Indiana
Jones], and it was a pretty influential book in many ways. The thing is that it wasn’t
just about dinosaurs, per se—it was about being a paleontologist. He made it sound so
exciting that the day I read the book was the day I decided to be a dinosaur
What about that book inspired you?
To a large extent, I’ve styled myself after Andrews. Not in the sense of being Indiana
Jones in the middle of the desert or anything like that, but in the sense that what he
believed in was public education and multi-disciplinary programs where you’re working with many different groups of scientists, doing expeditions to exotic places, and
so on. And I think he was very perceptive.
Your work takes you to some unsettled parts of the world. What’s the scariest
situation you’ve been in?
Once, when we’d applied to go into this particular area in China up near the Mongolian
border, the army had said no, because it was a demilitarized zone. I don’t know whether
they considered it unsafe or what, but we’d reapplied to the central government and
they’d said yes. The only problem was that they didn’t bother telling the army.
So the army walked in [to our dig site], and basically put us under house arrest while
they were sorting out the permits and trying to figure out what went on. Suddenly,
they took us by the arm and marched us out, and essentially took us to the centre of
that particular town, in the middle of the desert, and stood us in front of a wall. You
can imagine the things we were thinking. But then the general stood beside us and
had his picture taken with us, and everything was fine. For a moment there, it was
pretty scary because we had no idea what was going on.
On an expedition, you can spend long hours searching without finding anything.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
When we worked up in the Arctic for the first time, we spent three weeks working 10to 12-hour days with lots of walking, tough conditions and mosquitoes like you wouldn’t
believe. At the end of it all, we had one piece of bone about the size of a thimble, and
we thought it might be a dinosaur, but we weren’t sure. It turned out it wasn’t even a
dinosaur, so a lot of work and a lot of effort was put into that. That’s not unusual when
you try new sites. Very often, they aren’t as productive as you’d like them to be. But
once you do find something, you get so charged that it makes it all worthwhile.
So how do you keep up the morale of your team when you’re in a situation like
that, not having success?
We have various ways to keep people’s minds occupied when they’re not finding anything. For example, what we can do in some cases is get people to work on papers. We
give lectures in the evening sometimes. We discuss papers that we’re working on. So
at the end of it all we don’t feel like we’re coming out of this having accomplished
Generally speaking, when we run programs, they tend to be multi-part programs
where, for example, we’ll go into an area which we know has lots of bones. We’ll have
a good chance of success there, and then we’ll spend part of the time exploring another
area where we haven’t got the research but think that the resources might be there.
And so at end of it all, even if the second place turns out to be unsuccessful, you’ve
still got the first part where you did succeed.
Is it delicate managing a research team?
It’s always a little bit of give and take. Normally, we make it pretty clear who’s in charge,
and there’s a good reason for it. If I’m working in China, my Chinese colleague would
be in charge officially, so any final decisions remain with him. You have to be able to
What does success mean to you?
To me, success means that when you get there, you can predict where you’re going to
go next. And that can certainly take on many forms. For me, the funny thing is that
in a way I succeeded in what I wanted to do when I got my job in Alberta. Almost
everything since then has been gravy, with the different international projects, with
the creation of the Royal Tyrrell and so on.
But you do set yourself all these little goals in between, and being able to attain those
is what keeps me happy. They may be as simple as getting a scientific paper published,
or finishing the preparation of a fossil, or going in the field and being able to say that
you were lucky and you found something there. And in the bigger picture, well, to me
it’s also a matter of being able to make other people happy.
Your wife is a paleobotanist, and you two often work together. How do you manage to do that and still have a happy marriage?
It works very well for us because of course my job is one that requires a lot of travelling,
and luckily my wife likes travelling too. It’s a good match because she works on fossil
plants and I work on fossil animals, and that means we can go to the same area but still
have some independence in terms of what we’re looking for and what we’re working on.
She’s very flexible, so a lot of times she’ll end up helping with the dinosaur stuff instead
of working on plants. And she’s a whiz with organization and administration—which
I don’t particularly like doing. So that works out very well too.
Horse Trainer
On intuition, professional rivalries and
needing to win to pay the bills
It’s called the sport of kings for a reason. The thoroughbreds in Mark Casse’s care
belong to an elite few: oil tycoons, advisers to American presidents and the megabucks
owner of a National Hockey League team. It’s a group accustomed to success, and that’s
what Casse delivers. For the past six years, horses trained at his stable have had the
highest winnings at Woodbine Racetrack, the jewel of Canadian racing. Casse juggles
the demands of his owners, jockeys and horses in a game where you have to win to
get paid. He spoke with Canadian Business contributor Laura Cameron.
When you were 12 years old, you saw Secretariat win the Kentucky Derby. Did
that experience influence your career choice?
My father had a horse vanning [transportation] company, and I rode with him from
Florida to Churchill Downs to see the Kentucky Derby. I can still remember watching
Secretariat run. I was on the first floor, and when those horses ran by, it felt like an
earthquake—it gave me chills all over. I had wanted to be a horse trainer since I was
about 10, but Secretariat was what put it over the top.
There are a lot of gamblers who would love to be able to see what you see when
you look at a horse. How did you develop the intuition for picking
As my dad says, if it doesn’t whinny, I don’t know a whole lot about it. When you focus
on one thing and one thing only, usually you can be pretty good at it. When a horse is
sold, they have the horse’s family history on a piece of paper. So that’s one part of it,
being able to read a catalogue page, and I’ve been doing that since I was about 10.
Then, you have to look at the horse physically, because if the horse doesn’t have the
ability to stay sound, he won’t be competitive. You look at its conformation [its bone
and muscle structure and the proportions of its body], you look at its athletic ability.
You can be the best trainer, but if your horse can’t run, it’s not going to do you a lot of
How do you manage your relationships with your clients, who actually own the
horses you’re training?
Each owner is an individual with different demands. One of my clients is Eugene Melnyk, who owns the Ottawa Senators. Another one of my biggest owners is an oil tycoon
named John Oxley. These people have been very successful in their business, and they
love racing. Part of my job is to decide what kind of communication is needed, and
hopefully, if I do a good job, they are my client for a long time. All that being said, the
bottom line is you have to win.
Is there a lot of competition among the horse trainers to work with particular
Yes, you compete for the riders. The rider has an agent who goes out and books mounts
for them. Their job is to get the best horse for each race, so if you are winning, you
have a better shot at getting the best riders.
I was very fortunate. About 10 years ago, a man who was working for me asked me
to watch his brother ride. He had just come to Canada from Barbados. I had been the
general manager of a farm that sold horses, and I was starting to train for the owner.
He had a lot of bad-acting horses, but this rider could get along with anything. His
name is Patrick Husbands, and he has won seven Sovereign Awards for Canada’s Outstanding Rider. He’s won about 750 races for me.
Jockeys have a reputation for being pretty intense characters. What’s it like dealing with them?
As far as the riders go, there really isn’t a problem. I feel bad for them, for one thing:
they don’t hardly get to eat, and they’re going out and riding a 1,000-pound animal
going 40 miles per hour without a lot of steering. I’ve never ridden a race, but when I
was younger I used to gallop and breeze horses, so I know how difficult it is. I try to
respect the rider, and the rider respects me. That’s kind of how I get through life.
Does all of your income come from your horses’ winnings?
A client pays me a certain amount of money per day to take care of their horse, and
the trainer gets a 10% cut if the horse wins a race. Now, it sounds all nice because our
horses won about $5 million last year, so you think Mark made $500,000. It doesn’t
work that way—I wish it did. What we receive to take care of the horse per day does
not pay for the actual cost, so I have to dip into the winnings. If I don’t win, at the end
of the year I’m going to be in the hole.
How do you deal with the pressure of knowing that you have to win to make a
I just never think I’m going to lose. I have a lot of confidence, and I’ve been doing this
for a long time. As much as I love it, it’s a game. I have a great life and a wonderful family, and that’s not going to be taken away from me. I’m happy to do what I do. We do
all right, and I have no complaints. But we don’t just do it for the money—we do it
because it’s an exciting life, and I’m a competitive person. And I love horses.
You say you’re competitive— do you have rivalries with the other trainers?
I have a great respect for [Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame member] Roger Attfield. Roger and I get along very well. I mean, I want to beat him, but it’s not because
he’s Roger Attfield—it’s because he’s the competition. Do we all get along? No. There’s
a lot of jealousy and animosity between the trainers. But we didn’t get where we are
by liking to lose.
How do you personally measure success?
Like I said, it’s nice to win—but I feel even more successful that I can have my family
around me. My wife, Tina, who I’ve been married to for about 10 years, handles the
money and all of the employees. My main assistant trainer is my oldest son, Norman.
He has the same passion for it that I do. It’s funny. His didn’t come until he was a little
older. He got hooked about five years ago when we ran a horse in the Kentucky Derby.
He knew at that time that he wanted to be a trainer.
What do you still want to achieve?
Well, I would like to win the Queen’s Plate. Obviously, my No. 1 goal is to win the Kentucky Derby. The other goal would be if my kids choose to pursue this, to see them go
out and be successful—but mostly, the Kentucky Derby.
Measha Brueggergosman
Opera Singer
The powerhouse diva on loyalty, life after near-death
and the healing powers of Bikram yoga
Acclaimed for her powerful, charismatic solo performances, Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman, 35, has been described as possessing what “may be one of the
great voices of the 21st century.” Since launching her career in 1998, she has performed
with some of the world’s top orchestras in the most prestigious venues in North American and Europe. In 2009, she survived a brush with death after a split aorta sent her
to the hospital for emergency open-heart surgery. Most recently, she appeared as a
judge during the 2011–12 season of Citytv’s competition show Canada’s Got Talent, and
played Bess in the Cincinnati Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess through the summer of 2012. She spoke with Canadian Business contributor Bryan Borzykowski.
What would you say has been the key ingredient in your success?
I think I’m teachable. I’ve always remained quite keen to learn. I can recognize the
gifts of others. I’m not one to refuse help. Some artists either get a huge ego or too
down on themselves. If you don’t find a balance, you’ll eat yourself up inside or find
no one wants to be around you.
So how does one go from Fredericton girl to world-famous opera star?
My family went to a church that had a predominantly classical music tradition. And
at that time, CBC was programming predominately classical. Those two things were
what had me exposed to opera so early. No one in my family is a full-time musician,
but they’re all musical. So I started lessons when I was seven. We were in a small town,
[and people were] very supportive. I’d get hired to sing at funerals and bar and bat
mitzvahs and all that stuff, so I had lots of opportunities to perform and work as a
A lot of young singers turn 16 and want to launch a pop career. But not you. Why?
There was no secular music in my house when I was growing up. One could argue
there are many secular themes in classical music, but I wasn’t exposed to pop culture
until later in life, really until university. For me, the music of my church and Saturday
Afternoons at the Opera, that is my pop music. I hear it as the soundtrack of my youth.
You talk about community being a crucial factor in your development. In what
My parents made it their mandate to discover and apply the gifts we had as kids. They’ve
always been very supportive and encouraged us to be very goal-oriented, which we
all are. My sister was an international gymnast; my brother is a pastor now and has 18
degrees or something crazy. My church, whether providing me with ample opportunities to sing in public or my high schools where I did my first stage role—half the role
of narrator in Joseph and Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. It’s things like that you only
find in smaller communities. My wedding was essentially calling in all the favours from
all the people whose weddings and funerals I sang at. The reception was held at a massive mansion, but I sang at the owner’s daughter’s wedding so he gave us the space.
The ceremony was in a historical chapel they never opened, but they opened it because
I helped promote the refurbishing.
There were two wonderful men in Fredericton, Harry McFarlaine and Sid Grant, who
started the Friends of Measha Fund so I could go to university [to study music]. I did
have a scholarship, but it was the extra fees, staying in dorms and the full meal plan
that needed to be covered. I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. The term is “humble
beginnings.” No one wants to say “poor.” But yeah, we were poor. The fund was a very
integral part of my support system financially. The support to this day continues. Now
the fund is a scholarship at the Fredericton Music Festival. People continue to contribute to it.
When you set out initially, did you have specific goals for yourself?
For me, it was playing Carnegie Hall, getting a major record deal, buying a house and
not be fat anymore by 30. Those were my four goals. I set those when I was 20 and I
hit all those. Having a PhD was one I didn’t get, but now I have two honorary doctorates, and I’m cool with that.
Have you set any new goals for your 30s?
I’m going to become a Bikram yoga instructor. When I was filling out my application
for the teaching training course, one of the questions is why I want to do this. And I
said that when I first started practising, my goal was to lose weight, and Bikram helped
me accomplish that. What I didn’t expect was how my body would realign itself and
how my mind would align itself with my body and with my spirit. There’s a sense of
accomplishment that comes with the end of every class, and I want to share it. It’s
made my technique as a singer a lot more efficient because you learn that there’s an
economy of movement that I think this particular practice hones.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
I tend to lay low for the afternoon. I go to a Bikram yoga class at four, which lasts to
5:30, then I shower and be at hall at 6:30. Then I warm up my voice, then play with
my pianist. We’ll just test a few things and work from the back of program to the front
so we’ll end sound check with the thing we start with. I have no backstage rituals. I’ll
have tea and like to do my own makeup—I find that very relaxing. I’ll also listen to
other music, just put something else on as a palette cleanser.
You had a terrifying health scare in 2009—open-heart surgery. How does this
sort of thing change your life?
You get to a point in your career where things hum along. You get used to that platinum card, all of a sudden there’s this black card. With the open-heart surgery, it was
almost like now I have a bit of perspective, though I haven’t completely figured it out.
I came to my 30s being very satisfied with my 20s, and then I’m here sitting in my
house with cats and scores and binder of all my reviews and articles. I’ve never sat and
looked at them—they just get compiled by assistants and managers and someday maybe
I’ll look at them—but I wonder now, after having almost died, what it would really matter. What would I be most proud of? It really wouldn’t have anything to do with singing. I’m proud I have a good relationship with my parents. I’ve had the same best friend
since kindergarten. I have relationships that are older than my relationship I have with
my voice. These relationships are really more important, more foundational to me in
deciding how I think than any vocal technique.
Brain Surgeon and CEO
On stress, accountability and unlocking the
mysteries of the human brain
Dr. Michael Tymianski is a rarity. Already he is one of the country’s most respected
neurosurgeons and a groundbreaking medical researcher who has made critical discoveries related to how brain damage from strokes can be mitigated. But he’s also a
businessman who has managed to take his science out of the laboratory and into the
marketplace as CEO of NoNO Inc., a biopharmaceutical company he founded to develop
a drug treatment for stroke victims. Tymianski spoke with Steve Maich.
Can you tell me when you first knew you wanted to pursue medicine as a career?
Really near the end of high school. What I wanted was to pursue some kind of profession that would allow me to ask questions. I’ve always been curious. I’ve always liked
to know how things work and why things happen.
What drew you to neurosurgery specifically?
I found very early on that I liked the technical aspect of surgery, and there was no
doubt in my mind that neuroscience was the area where the greatest unanswered
questions remained. Overall, we still have a very rudimentary understanding of how
the brain and the nervous system work. We can still do very little for Alzheimer’s disease, malignant brain cancers and strokes. So these were areas of profound socioeconomic significance that had no good solution.
Are you mostly drawn to the research and teaching or to clinical work?
In my clinical practice, I deal either with stroke or stroke avoidance. In my basic laboratory research, I ask the question: Why is it that brain cells die in a stroke? In 1999,
we discovered a fundamental mechanism of stroke, and this was published in a journal called Science, which is one of the top journals in the world. By 2002, we discovered a medication that targets that particular pathway. When you gave this medication
to rats, it reduced the damaging effects of a stroke. It prevented them from having
brain damage. So then I had a choice: Do I now go back to the drawing board and discover yet a different way to treat stroke, or do I believe that this magic white powder
I’ve created should be developed to the point where it’s given to humans? And that’s
the path that I chose, because I really believe that research has a purpose. I don’t
believe in stargazing. So we founded NoNO Inc., and we are now in the multi-centre
clinical trial testing this drug in humans who are having strokes.
Can you describe what that moment of discovery in the lab feels like?
You know, science is the only way for us to go where no one has ever gone before. I’m
an MD, my income is from my clinical activities. I don’t get a salary from being a scientist. I do it because of that ability to see something no one has ever seen. And every
time one of my graduate students or research associates has done an experiment, we
always say, “What is unique about this? What is potentially earth-shattering? And how
does it connect to our overall mission to deal with stroke and related disorders?” Something amazing happens every day.
Is there anything in your medical background that as been particularly valuable
to you as a CEO?
Yes. Surgeons have to make critical decisions with a finite amount of information, and
so do CEOs. I’m accountable to my board, my company and my investors in the same
way that I’m accountable to my patients.
In both worlds, it sounds like at some point there’s a leap of faith involved. Is that
how you would describe it?
I would basically say that I try and avoid leaps of faith. I believe that go/no-go decisions
need to be made based on the best information that is reasonably available. My job as
a surgeon, and my job as a CEO, is to make sure that mistakes do not happen if they
are humanly avoidable. You know, we all make mistakes, but my pledge to my board
is that if our technology is going to fail, it won’t fail because we haven’t done something
correctly. So it’s a matter of integrating information from many sources, distilling it,
and then making a decision, and it’s not that different from being the CEO of a
As a surgeon, do you feel like your skills always continue to develop, or do you
reach a kind of plateau?
This is actually a question that many of my residents ask me. They ask me, “How did
you ever figure out how to master this operation?” And my answer is, “Well, I haven’t
finished figuring it out yet.” Change is constant. Surgeries can always be done differently. We pride ourselves on innovating and trying to do things better. Sometimes it’s
a different use of medications. Sometimes it’s a different use of instruments. Sometimes it’s a different way that we approach things anatomically. So I’m always learning. I am a much faster, more effective surgeon than I used to be. I went through the
process of videotaping myself and trying to figure out how to optimize my movements,
how to minimize wasted movement. So there’s a tremendous amount of learning and
improvement, and I would not accept that one cannot improve always.
How do you deal with the mental and emotional fatigue that comes from having
a life in your hands?
Well, I must say that I do believe that surgeons are a pre-selected group that deals well
with stress. The stress levels change depending on the complexity of what we do and
how sick people are. One of the things that helps me is remembering that, in the end,
I am there to help. I don’t own the patient. Their lives have not been given to me. It is
an honour and a privilege to participate in a road that a patient has to undertake in
order to get through their illness. So, for me, I try and do my best to make sure that
my patients are well-informed. When I operate on them, I do take it upon myself to do
the best surgery possible. And I don’t really dwell on successes. All failures are horrible, and all failures are an opportunity to learn in order to prevent them next time.
Do you have any rituals that you go through when you’re operating?
I would like to think not. I am a minimalist. I believe that anything that is done without a purpose is unnecessary. In neurosurgery, there are many, many instruments
that a surgeon can choose from. In the end, I do the most complex surgeries with a
minimum number of instruments.
You’ve achieved an awful lot in your life already. What would you most like to be
remembered for?
That through all of it my family was proud of me, and I did not forsake them for all the
other things that I did.
On discipline, finding work-life balance at zero gravity
and knowing when to pass the torch
His academic credentials—an MBA and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering
from MIT, a medical doctorate—are impressive enough. But Thirsk’s career headed
skyward in 1983, when the Canadian Space Agency recruited him as one of its first six
astronauts. Thirsk visited the void twice, including 17 days as a payload specialist aboard
the space shuttle Columbia in 1996, and six months aboard the International Space
Station in 2009. He was appointed vice-president of public, government and institute
affairs of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in 2012, and is slated to receive
the Order of British Columbia. He spoke to Canadian Business senior writer Matthew
How does a guy find himself aboard the International Space Station?
There’s a story about Isaac Stern, the famous violinist, who was once stopped by a
stranger on the sidewalk in New York City and asked how to get to Carnegie Hall. Stern
replied, “Practice, practice, practice.” Well, that’s how an astronaut gets into space.
The main three things we try to develop are our knowledge and skills, and inculcate
a certain attitude.
What attitude is that?
We’re looking for people with vision, decisiveness, attention to detail, refusal to accept
defeat and situational awareness.
How did you prepare for 2009’s mission?
There’s 2½ years of training prior to a space station expedition. We get the background
knowledge on what the station is all about. We learn Russian Soyuz rocket systems—
propulsion, electrical power, thermal control, computers, things like that. We develop
our skills as well, like robotics and spacewalking. We perform days-long simulations,
in which supervisors continually throw malfunctions or contingency situations at us.
It’s a good way to develop team spirit and problem-solving skills. For me, the toughest
part was Russian language training. Learning a new language is a lot of memorization—especially at my age, it’s difficult.
Describe the launch.
Shortly before flight, we headed to Baikonur, a city in Kazakhstan. We inspected our
vehicle, the Soyuz rocket, to make sure it was configured properly. The last week before
flight we were quarantined, in order to minimize the chance that we could develop a
viral infection before flight. The last couple of days before flight, we were reunited with
our families. And then we have the day of launch, which was a hoot. There were hundreds of people at the base of the rocket wishing us well. That’s a different tradition
than in America, where there’s nobody allowed anywhere near. We entered one at a
time. The Soyuz vehicle is quite small—it’s like having three people inside a telephone
booth. We activated the systems aboard our capsule and strapped in. There were a
couple of hours of system checks. A few seconds before launch, the main engines
ignited. It took a few seconds to reach 100% thrust, and then we lifted off. That’s like
a kick in the pants. It took 8½ minutes to get into space. After the engine shut down,
there was a lot of hooting and hollering and high-fives.
How do you cope with the inherent risks of your job?
Astronauts are not averse to taking calculated risks. I feel the tiny risk of injury or
death is greatly offset by the opportunity to do something meaningful. I try to push
fear to the back of my mind. I’d rather die from an unavoidable accident than from my
failure to properly perform my duties.
What was it like boarding the space station?
When we opened the hatch, there was this incredible feeling of euphoria as we came
from this tiny spaceship to this huge, incredibly sophisticated space station. People
were floating about. Moving takes only a slight push off a wall with a finger. For the
first few weeks our movements are clumsy, like fledglings or newborn pups. But with
time, we learn to move about quickly but gracefully, like swallows.
Previous crews numbered three. You were part of the station’s first permanent
crew of six. Why is that significant?
The ISS was initially conceived to be a world-class facility for doing research in medical science and material science, in which we exploit the weightless environment of
space to manufacture materials such as ceramics, alloys or protein crystals. We weren’t
able to fulfil that mandate with only three people, because it takes 2½ people just to
maintain and run the station every day. So I was very proud that our crew operated
more than 100 experiments from around the world.
What was the greatest challenge you met up there?
Probably the most difficult thing was to maintain my performance level and accomplish everything on time and correctly. A short-duration flight is like a sprint, and a
long-duration expedition aboard the ISS is more like a marathon. For each of those 188
days in orbit, almost every day I was required to perform to 100% of my capabilities.
The space station is a multi-billion-dollar facility. A lot of the work we’re doing there
has been planned five to 10 years in advance—the careers of professors and graduate
students depend on us performing the procedure properly. When I operate robotic
systems, I need to ensure I don’t endanger my crewmates or damage the space vehicle.
And also I must represent Canada with pride. Toward the end of the six months, I
found I was getting mentally and emotionally fatigued.
What’s the greatest sacrifice you’ve had to make?
For a person who loves science and technology and exploration, I have one of the best
vocations possible. But you don’t get something for free. The sacrifice is often paid by
the family. When things don’t go well at home, it tears me apart emotionally and is a
distraction to me as well. That’s the downside. Balancing the demands of astronaut
work and family is very difficult.
Want to ace your annual employee evaluation, learn to
schmooze your way up the ladder and generally advance your
career? We’ll show you how
Had a successful year? You may be in for a shock if your boss’s
performance yardstick varies from yours
Performance-reviews frequently reveal a distressing discrepancy between what you
think of your work accomplishments and how your boss feels about them. It suddenly
dawns on employees that they don’t understand the criteria by which they’re evaluated, or how to make the case for their achievements. “Tension can easily build up if
both parties have different expectations of what acceptable standards are,” says Maria
Rotundo, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management
who has researched how appraisals can improve performance.
The first step to making a good showing during your review, then, is figuring out
which of the numerous evaluation techniques your company uses. One of the bestknown is the 360-degree appraisal, which seeks feedback from many people you interact with on the job. Peers, customers and subordinates may all get their say about you,
and the reviewer judges your conduct as much as your ability to meet targets. Another
style is Management by Objectives, developed in the 1950s by theorist Peter Drucker.
The supervisor and employee meet at the beginning of the year to set goals together;
the year-end review is based on how well those objectives are met, reducing the influence of bias and personality. Some workplaces favour Behaviourally Anchored Rating
Scales, a system that scores performance on a numbered scale to try to limit subjectivity. And there are still managers who favour unstructured reviews: simply sitting
down with a staffer to chat about the year’s achievements and setbacks.
Over the decades, every approach has amassed its share of criticism, whether for
being insufficiently forward-looking or too dependent on people’s unrealistic self-perceptions. Whatever your boss’s preferred strategy, the annual appraisal isn’t a job
interview, and you shouldn’t sell yourself too hard. Rotundo advises aiming for a balance between tooting your horn a little and trumpeting your successes. Likewise, you
should press for specifics about how to improve your work, but not hunt too hard for
assurances so as to avoid coming across as needy.
If things turn sour during the discussion, staying calm is imperative. Rather than
apologizing for problems your boss is laying out, be honest about difficulties you
encountered, and don’t get defensive, Rotundo recommends. A negative review should
be an opportunity to ask for direction. After all, these annual meetings are supposed
to be constructive. In his book Get Rid of the Performance Review! How Companies Can
Stop Intimidating, Start Managing—and Focus on What Really Matters, UCLA professor
Samuel Culbert highlights the most often forgotten objective of the appraisal: the “performance preview.” He argues that the “boss’s mission isn’t to find fault but to simply
improve the company’s performance.” To do that, managers should outline employees’ path forward by setting targets and offering guidance.
From raise prospects to on-the-job confidence, there’s a lot at stake in the review
meeting, so preparation is key. Experts recommend rehearsing points you want to
make in front of a mirror. You should especially be clear on your financial strategy: if
you’re requesting a raise, know how much you’ll ask for, and what compromise you’d
To avoid being surprised by criticism—and boost your ability to counter it—it’s useful
to track your work highs and lows through the year. Rotundo suggests both staff and
managers document compliments and tasks completed, as well as setbacks, to track
how problems were met.
One of the biggest knocks against performance reviews is their failure to provide
ongoing feedback year-round. This problem has given rise to Rypple, a web service
that delivers regular comments on projects to employees via smartphones or e-mail.
It’s like a calendar that reminds managers to check on staff and send little “badges”
to reward progress. “Leaving feedback all until the year-end makes no sense,” says
Rypple’s founder Dan Debow. The software makes reviewing “part of the routine, like
brushing and flossing every day, versus just going to the dentist once or twice a year.”
That could mean the end of multiple-choice rating forms and the beginning of real
career development.
Just because you’re lunching- and networking-averse doesn’t
mean your career options are limited
It was during her years on Wall Street that Nancy Ancowitz figured out she was an
introvert. She did the famous Myers-Briggs personality assessment, which confirmed
that she is the type to feel drained after too much socializing, and relishes alone time.
For Ancowitz, then a marketing executive, the results explained so much­—why she
needed to collect herself in a quiet room before a big meeting, or had to walk the block
in the middle of the day, or dreaded the aimless chitchat of work functions.
Being an introvert, however, didn’t hamper her career: Ancowitz went on to become
marketing VP at JP Morgan, Chase and Co. Once she realized she was an introvert, she
started paying attention to her social preferences and figured out ways to manage her
energy for the day-to-day demands of her job. She figured it out so well that she quit
her job to write a book on the subject. Self-Promotion for Introverts is a kind of how-to
guide for introverts navigating careers amid the clamour of an extroverts’ world—and
it dispels the myth that introverts should stick to being librarians or basement-dwelling
“The misconception is that we’re loners, losers and anti-social,” says Ancowitz. According to her research, about half of us are introverts, but you wouldn’t necessarily know
it by looking around the room. “No one would ever call me an introvert,” she says.
“I’m outgoing. I love people.” By Ancowitz’s definition, an introvert is simply someone
who recharges by spending time alone doing quiet activities.
According to a University of Iowa study on brain activity led by physiological psychologist Debra L. Johnson, introvert brains show more activity in areas dealing with learning and planning, while extrovert brains are more active in regions that control sensory
processes, like watching and listening. This might explain why an extrovert is stimulated
more by external forces, namely other people, and introverts are happy in their own
head. It’s not that they’re shy, depressed or socially fearful; in fact, they can be quite
good at socializing, but they’ll seek out substantive exchanges over pleasantries. “If I go
to an event, I’ll have one or two, maybe three, deep conversations with a few people
and then I’m ready to go home,” Ancowitz says. “An extrovert will go to the after party.”
The blanket confidence of extroverts generally casts them as warm and approachable, while introverts seem to get lumped in with social misfits, and are thought to be
closed and detached. But Ancowitz argues even in corporate communications or sales,
where there are strong social expectations—managing clients, working in teams, networking, lunching—introverts can thrive. Her advice: stay true to your nature and use
those “quiet ways” to get ahead.
As the new senior director for client services at Loyalty One, a Toronto marketing
firm specializing in rewards programs, 37-year-old Marshall Warkentin is the company’s point of contact with clients. Warkentin, a self-described introvert, has been in
marketing for over a decade, but this new position is a step up on the schmoozing
scale. “There’s a big personal element to the job—lots of meetings, conferences, charity events, golf games,” he says. Despite the intense social demands, Warkentin figures
he’s well-suited to the role. “It’s not about interacting with 50 people. It’s making connections with primary individuals, and introverts are better at that.”
Introverts, according to Ancowitz, are generally quieter and not prone to barking
opinions and ideas, which can also be a huge plus in a room full of bulldogs. “It can
be tough sometimes to get a word in edgewise,” says Warkentin. “But there are some
benefits to being the one who considers their thoughts, frames things in a refreshing
way and perhaps brings a different perspective.” Also, he says, “introverts are generally patient, good listeners—and the key to client services is you have to listen.”
Along with playing up quiet strengths, namely writing, preparedness and listening
skills, Ancowitz calls on her fellow introverts to use their one-on-one interactions to be
a “connector.” “Introverts are good at building lasting relationships over time,” she
says. “When you position yourself as a connector, you’re seen as a good person to know.”
There is, however, one particularly terrifying skill Ancowitz does ask of introverts:
learn how to speak in public. “It’s doable and it’s good for introverts,” she says. Five
years ago, Erin Lau, a writer and former event-planner, couldn’t speak in public without a red face and trembling hands. Toastmasters saved her, she says, and opened up
her career options. “I’m still an introvert,” she says. “I still respect my time with myself
a great deal. But it’s never something that will inhibit me.”
Research shows that job-hopping isn’t actually the best way to
climb the corporate ladder
When the economy takes a dive, workers hold on to their jobs for dear life, fearful of
being cast adrift without a lifeboat. Recovery, meanwhile, provokes the opposite response.
As companies begin to fill positions they cut in down times, employees are buoyed by
the promise of higher pay and better opportunities, making them quicker to jump
ship. It should come as no surprise, then, that the recent return to stability has brought
with it a wave of job-hopping: everywhere from North America to Asia to eastern
Europe, there have been reports of an uptick in the number of workers that are either
considering or making external moves. But it might be wise for aspiring CEOs to think
twice before taking the plunge. As new evidence suggests, staying put may in fact be
the quickest way to the top.
According to Monika Hamori, a professor at Spain’s IE Business School, “there is a
misconception that if you change companies often, it guarantees you a faster promotion velocity.” By comparing the career trajectories of 1,001 CEOs in the U.S. and 21
European countries, she found that contrary to popular belief, the longer individuals
stayed with a firm, the more rapidly they progressed to a firm’s upper echelons. In
fact, while the average CEO had worked at just three different companies over the
course of his career, a quarter of those included in the study had but a single employer.
The finding is not limited to those at the very top: when she extended her research,
published in a recent edition of the Harvard Business Review, to include the careers of
14,000 lower-level executives, she reached similar conclusions.
While external moves can result in higher pay (presumably workers bargain with
those looking to lure them from their current positions), Hamori says that there is no
evidence that “greater promotions would accrue from…changing organizations frequently”—even for younger workers. Though the average CEO included in this study
was 55 years old, she says preliminary findings for another data set, where employees
had an average age of 30, show “no relationship between hopping and promotions.”
It could be that firms are more likely to trust employees they know. “An outsider can
often misrepresent herself in an interview,” says Hamori, who conducted interviews
with 45 executive search consultants. “Organizations have greater confidence in insiders. They already have information on them.” The tendency to hire from within is even
more pronounced in small industries, she says, where it is frowned upon to poach
employees from competitors, and in countries like Japan, where “leaving a job is culturally seen as treachery.”
Workers with executive ambitions can, however, be forgiven for believing in the virtues of job-hopping. As University of California Davis economist Ann Huff Stevens
asserts in her contribution to the 2008 book Laid Off, Laid Low, “In recent years, a
conventional wisdom has emerged, suggesting the extent to which U.S. workers and
employers form long term relationships has deteriorated.” Since the 1980s, when companies began slashing jobs in a bid to do more with less, successive rounds of layoffs
have fed into the belief that lifelong employment is a thing of the past.
Hamori says it’s in large part this notion that has prompted career counsellors and
opinion leaders to advise employees to maintain an external gaze, with some recommending a switch every 18 to 24 months—despite the fact that the data show otherwise.
Though some experts argue that employee tenures at the top are decreasing, she points
to U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, which find that managers stay with a firm an average of 6.1 years (up from 5.3 years in 1983), as proof that the jury is still out. Huff Stevens concurs: “Quantitative studies have, until very recently, shown little evidence of
fundamental changes in empirical job security.” While the landscape may be slowly
shifting, Hamori insists that careers haven’t changed “to the extent that we think they
have.” Her main message: “To strike a balance between external and internal moves.”
To be sure, company loyalty has its limitations. “People who stay very long are sometimes taken for granted by their employers,” says Anil Verma, a professor at the Centre
for Industrial Relations and HR at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “We see that a lot of senior hires are now made from outside, because people
inside the company are not considered good enough.” This is especially true in tough
times, he says, citing Ford’s decision to install former Boeing executive Alan Mulally
as CEO in place of the founder’s great-grandson in 2006. “When companies are trying
to break out of a crisis, they invariably turn to outside talent.”
If you’re convinced you’re not as good as everyone thinks you
are, give yourself kudos—and fake it
Some of the world’s most successful people are impostors. Vivian Schiller, the first
female CEO of National Public Radio, was one. “I would get promoted and I would
think, ‘Don’t they know?’ Or I’d get a new job and I’d think, ‘God, I’ve fooled them.
Wait till they find out.’” Comedian Mike Myers is one, too. “I still expect that the notalent police will come and arrest me,” he said. Even Sherry Cooper, BMO’s celebrity
chief economist, recently admitted to being one in an interview.
Why would such overachievers feel like frauds?
They suffer from the “impostor syndrome”—the crippling feelings of self-doubt and
anticipated failure that haunt people who attribute their success to luck or help from
others rather than their own abilities. It isn’t a clinically recognized disorder, but it
has been the subject of ample research over the past three decades. While everyone
has occasional bouts of professional insecurity, impostors suffer from profound doubts
about their abilities, no matter what they accomplish or what other people think.
Such feelings of fraudulence have generally been associated with women, but in a
new book titled The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, Valerie Young says that’s no
longer the case. “Men are attending my seminars in increasing numbers, and among
graduate students [tested for impostor syndrome], the male-female ratio is roughly
fifty-fifty,” writes Young, whose book is based on her own research, including more
than 25 years of teaching a workshop for sufferers.
While both genders experience the condition, they react very differently to its symptoms. For example, Purdue University researchers found that when men felt the strain
of impostor syndrome, they focused on avoiding situations where their incompetence
could be discovered. Indeed, “The more men were motivated by a desire to avoid failure, the greater their impostor fears,” the authors write. In contrast, women tried to
feel competent by striving to outperform others.
Shirin Khamisa, a Toronto career coach who works with executives and mid-career
professionals, says that about 20% of her clients have some difficulty dealing with high
expectations and feeling accomplished, but she would consider only 2% or 3% to be
impostor syndrome sufferers. It’s a dangerous condition, because the self-effacing
behaviour such feelings often produce can sabotage people’s careers. “They sell themselves short,” she says, and over the years, that attitude can hold talented people back.
“You have to be your own best advocate in order to move up and grow. When your
belief system doesn’t align with your performance, it can make [impostors]
The first step toward overcoming the problem is recognizing it, says Khamisa, which
can be a challenge for sufferers not ready to be introspective. One simple exercise she
uses in such cases is to have the person make a daily list of three things they did successfully. She finds that even people who don’t identify as impostors can feel defensive
and have trouble coming up with tasks they accomplished well. “But as they keep
searching for that evidence, their perspective starts to change,” she says.
Phil Tyson, a psychotherapist based in Manchester, England, who works with men,
uses the same strategy. He sees the condition regularly in his practice, and even experienced it himself in his early days as a university lecturer. “The more success I attracted,
the more unbearable was my sense of being an impostor,” he writes on his blog. “Natural talent and hard work leads to promotion and new roles, which again triggers
another cycle of the syndrome.” He and Young both believe the problem stems from
perfectionism. “Often, people with the impostor syndrome have unrealistic expectations of what it means to do a good enough job, and these need to be challenged to
make them more realistic,” says Tyson.
Young points out that many sufferers are often procrastinators who put off doing the
jobs that make them feel like phonies. She advises setting firm completion dates, and
declaring them publicly to create accountability. After the task is done, ask a trusted
adviser for feedback or write yourself “a letter of recommendation so you can see your
accomplishments and attributes through someone else’s eyes,” she says.
And if all else fails? Young suggests impostors “just fake it till you make it.” Few people ever really get over their impostor fears, and relapses are common. But as you wait
until you feel more sure of yourself, pretending you’re confident can be helpful. “It’s
perfectly normal to be nervous as heck,” Young writes, “just as long as you act as if
you expect to be an unqualified success.”
How to boost your compensation package when
salary budgets are frozen solid
Hard work doesn’t always pay off, and in a tough economic climate, that seems to be
more the rule than the exception. Even though companies report being optimistic
about their growth prospects and profitability they remain stingy with raises. At many
companies, salary budgets aren’t even covering the inflation rate, according to Morneau Shepell’s annual compensation trends survey of 250 companies (employing about
1.2 million Canadians), indicating stagnant incomes. In fact, “wage deceleration will
be a bigger factor in the health of the overall economy…than monthly employment
figures,” warned Scotia Capital economist Derek Holt recently.
But just because the boss says there’s no money for raises doesn’t mean you can’t
improve your compensation package by lobbying for better perks. Benefits such as
time off, training, and health and fitness programs can save you time and money, and
tend to be relatively inexpensive for employers to deliver. One survey of U.S. companies found that 41% have brought back some of their pre-recession employee perks,
and almost a quarter reported introducing new ones.
According to Jack Chapman, owner of career workshop company Lucrative Careers
and author of Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a Minute, the most popular
job perk is still time off in the form of free days, flexible scheduling or sabbaticals. But
Chapman believes the most valuable perks are company-paid training and education
programs. “In my experience, people with the best communication skills get paid the
most, and so do those who keep up with technology, learn how to speak their mind
and not to gossip,” he says. “Soft-skills training in communications improves your
emotional quotient, or EQ, in the long term.”
But you need to negotiate freebies just as you would a raise. Start by figuring out what
most matters to you, be it more office space, more or less responsibility, or a higher
title, says Ed Brodow, negotiation expert and author of Negotiation Boot Camp. “Then,”
he recommends, “make a specific appointment to speak to your boss about the benefits you desire—don’t add it on to another conversation like an afterthought.” Brodow
also cautions against launching into a complaint about how your needs aren’t being
met. Instead, begin the conversation by getting the manager to affirm your value to
the company.
Being very specific about what you want is important, says U.S. communications
expert Barbara Pachter, but so is knowledge of your company’s available resources.
“In today’s economy, are you going to look like a pig if you ask for too much?” She suggests requesting business services, such as having the company pay for your cellphone
or Internet if you telecommute. Money for such expenses usually comes out of a different budget than for salaries, she says, and there may be greater flexibility in its use.
Asking for more money than you really hope to get is a classic rule of salary negotiation, and one that applies to negotiating perks, as well. “If you ask for a $10,000 pay
increase, you may only get $5,000, and if you ask for Fridays off, then you may wind
up working half days,” says Brodow.
The timing of the request is also critical, and the ideal moments aren’t always what
employees expect. For example, many people make the mistake of knocking on the
boss’s door right after they’ve finished a project and feel they’ve earned a pat on the
back. Chapman recommends instead asking for part of the prize before the project is
completed. “If an employee sets low expectations for a project he knows is a slam
dunk, but negotiates a reward if he can manage to succeed, his boss is more likely to
agree to [that reward],” he says. “It’s easy to give away money that hasn’t come in yet,
but once the cheque has cleared, the boss will be less likely to want to part with the
cash.” The same goes for perks.
Requesting a boost in benefits after your company has gone through layoffs may also
seem counterintuitive. However, as a survivor of the cuts, you know that the company
values you. Plus, after the fat is trimmed, there may be some extra money to be distributed among the remaining staff, if for no other reason than to boost morale, and
especially for those who have taken on new responsibilities.
Spa days, Thursday night wine tastings and summer camps for kids may not be feasible offerings at every company, but Chapman says employees across North America
can push their bosses to bring some exotic perks emerging in talent-hungry industries
to their own companies. “It’s really all about attitude,” says Brodow. “The best negotiators are optimists and aren’t afraid to ask for the things they want.”
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