December’s Spotlight features Laurie Izgerean, a professional writer, educator, and online instructional designer. Laurie’s diverse portfolio includes books, blogs, and business articles, as well as industry trade publications. She is currently a business communications and technical writing instructor at BCIT, in not one but three of the institution’s Part-Time Studies schools: School of Computing and Academic Studies, School of Business, and School of Construction and the Environment.
Laurie has over ten years’ experience in the ever-evolving world of andragogy, with unique and varying perspectives as a designer/developer, facilitator, and reviser of face-to-face, blended, and online learning and training programs. Her courses include Project Reports and Proposals, Business and Technical Correspondence and Reports, as well as Advanced Communications for Business Management. Some of her past clients include General Motors of Canada/GM Financial, Canadian Tire Corporation, and The Canadian Automobile Repair and Service Council of Canada.
Question: How did you get started in teaching and instructional design?
Before I became a college instructor, I worked in several different industries. I sold air time for a radio station, yellow page ads for the phone book, was an executive recruiter, and I sold cars. In each of those jobs, I was given opportunities to train the new hires and/or mentor junior employees. Before I knew it, I fell into the role of Product and Sales Trainer for a very large automotive organization where I spent ten years travelling across Canada teaching 5,000 employees.
This included product training, sales, service, operations, and how to build long-term relationships with customers. That position eventually morphed into a Learning and Development Specialist role that included:
Question: Who or what inspires you professionally?
Who inspired me: I suppose my father was my biggest professional influence as I went to work for him when I was 21. He was well respected, he was fair, and he absolutely LOVED his profession. He often said, “Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life.”
What inspires me: Relevance, authenticity, and credibility – to inspire good humans, one student at a time.
I strive to make my lectures and labs (lessons) relevant to the global student – and I want those students to feel relevant – that they matter beyond a ‘grade’. I want them to trust that I, and this institution, are both an authentic and credible source of support and knowledge so they too can aspire to be relevant, authentic and credible in whatever area of study or career they wish to pursue./
My MO: “I endeavor to help people become better at whatever they want to become better at!”
These days, my inspirations come to life by teaching a variety of fantastic business and technical communications courses to both domestic and international students in class, and online. I work with several schools, including School of Business, School of Computing and Academic Studies, School of Construction and the Environment, and most recently I’ve developed (and will teach an online course) for the School of Transportation.
Question: What was the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
The ten year position mentioned above, prior to joining BCIT, was through Durham College of Applied Arts and Technology in Ontario. While there, the corporate division was awarded a two year contract to write and deliver dozens of online training programs for the automotive aftermarket. The goal was to upgrade industry communications skills as a whole through C.A.R.S.: The Canadian Automotive Repair and Service Council of Canada. I was the lead writer and instructor for that project for the full two years, and was part of a group who helped raise the communications standards of an entire industry. What’s best, in hindsight, is it provided me with a wealth of experience that now benefits my post-secondary communications students.
Question: What was the biggest challenge in your career and why?
Working within the male-dominated automotive industry as a whole was challenging. When I sold vehicles, the odd customer would ask to deal with a man instead. Then, when I moved into a training and development role, the first time an audience of sales or service people saw or met me, their initial reaction was always the same; “what could this woman possible teach me about selling or servicing trucks?” After a live TV show, instead of receiving an email or notification from a viewer about the content, they would send me notes about my outfit or my hair. True story. However, once they realized I had experience, that I genuinely loved the industry and could be a supportive conduit between corporate head office and retail operations, my gender eventually became irrelevant (or at least, they stopped commenting about it!).
Question: What advice would you give your future self in terms of your career?
Tough question. I am now living a life-long dream of teaching at a post-secondary level for a great institution (on the west coast no less!). I’m not quite sure how things can get any better, however, I also know I’m not done yet. So, to my future self: “Remain open to all opportunities, keep learning, don’t get stale, take risks, go out of your comfort zone, and rise to any and all challenges that are placed in your path. Life knows where you need to go, even if you don’t always, so just say ‘yes’! What have you got to lose?”
Question: What do you like to do outside of your career? Interesting hobbies or pastimes?
I have two amazing grown children (who are about to complete their university degrees back east) — we fly back and forth across the country quite a bit. One of them will relocate to the west coast soon, and I’m hoping the other will follow eventually. However, now that I’m no longer a full-time parent (the empty nest syndrome isn’t all bad!), outside of the classroom you can find me hiking a mountain or ocean trail in the Sea to Sky Corridor, exploring the waterways by kayak, or mapping out a bucket-list travel destination. I also love live music, yoga, and road trips. My kids and I just travelled to Iceland in mid-September, where we drove the entire country to hike waterfalls and fjords over the span of 8 days. I think India and the Himalayas might be next.
Megan Alford has a certificate in Technical and Business Writing from Vancouver Community College, is a graduate of the Office Administration with Technology Program from BCIT, and has a Major in Creative Writing and a Minor in English Literature from Concordia University. She’s currently program assistant for BCIT’s Technology Management program.