On September 27, I was honored to participate in an Industry Insights panel at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. The panel was focused on communicating information about the Calgary market and life in Calgary to undergraduate business and MBA students. The panelists were individuals who have worked in Calgary and understand what you can gain by launching a career in the city. Julia Bonner, a Campus Recruitment Specialist in Deloitte’s Calgary office spoke alongside me to offer another perspective.
In my presentation, I highlighted my experience as both a longtime professional and resident of Calgary. Upon reflection, I realized my points could be categorized into a description of working in Calgary and living in Calgary.
Julia (far-right) and I (centre) with Catherine Williams, Manager, Business Development at the Sauder School of Business (left)
Working in Calgary
Our city has both big companies, including many corporate head offices, and small companies. I’ve had the pleasure of working with both types. In the larger companies people tend to move around and experience different positions as career growth occurs. Smaller companies tend to be a little more entrepreneurial and your job duties may be bigger or more varied.
Salaries in the Calgary market are higher than other Canadian cities – particularly in relation to the cost of living. You can get more for your money here. There is such a shortage of skilled professionals in Calgary that I believe this provides an opportunity for people to evaluate different job offers to decide which companies offer the best career growth along with a nice cultural fit. I feel cultural fit is just as important as how much you earn.
Relationships are also highly important in Calgary. Julia agreed networking in Calgary is key and a great way to uncover both business and personal opportunities in this big city that feels like a small town. Calgary has a work hard-play hard attitude and as long as you are placing the right level of work-life balance in your day-to-day activities, there is a fun and playful lifestyle that goes along with this booming economy.
Living in Calgary
I couldn’t resist emphasizing the weather in Calgary to these Vancouver-based students and told them we have four distinct seasons. Although it can get a little chilly in winter, the sun is usually shining – regardless of the temperature. We also have the Canadian Rockies in our backyard for those who like to go and play in the mountains.
From a lifestyle perspective, the Vancouver business students wanted to know where Calgary’s vibe fit in comparison with Vancouver. The West Coast has a reputation for being laid back in contrast to busier areas like Toronto or Montreal. In my mind, Calgary falls in the middle. If you choose to honour your personal time, there is a vibrant outdoor and social world in Calgary.
Transportation and housing was another topic the students were interested in. Historically, I have felt Calgary had a culture of people driving their own vehicles rather than taking public transportation. With the recent expansion of the C-Train lines and the increase in parking fees downtown, I think we are seeing a change. As Julia noted, the housing prices are reasonable enough in Calgary compared to salaries that it is possible to live downtown as a young person. She also said public transportation to get to work is not as much of an issue. If you choose to drive in Calgary, the traffic is still manageable even for a city of 1.1 million people.
Making my presentation and answering the students’ questions
It’s not all oil and gas
Some of the students were trying to envision the types of jobs they could get in Calgary.
After clarifying that the oil and gas industry hired more than just tradespeople, we discussed the huge opportunity for business students. With their talents in finance and possible specialties in information technology, marketing, human resources, or communications, they began to understand every company in the city could use these skills.
It seems some students are intimidated by the idea of trying to get a job in an industry they don’t know, but our panel felt it was less of a factor than the students’ thought. In this city and this economy, everyone with skills and expertise is valued.
Meeting with students to answer additional questions after the panel
After the panel
Once the panel was over, a number of students came down to speak one-on-one with Julia and me. Their enthusiasm was contagious. The students wanted to know more about starting small businesses to which I told them my experience around entrepreneurship. From my experience, Calgary investors and business owners are very supportive of new ventures.
Overall, I found speaking to students about my city to be an energizing experience. I love living and working in Calgary. To have a chance to highlight the great things about the city left me beaming and extra proud to be a Calgarian as the afternoon concluded.