Mel Smith is a 2009 graduate of the Business Sales & Marketing program. She worked with the Business & Commercialization Innovation Centre as a Business Research Associate from 2013. She now works at Brock University as the Marketing Specialist in the Office of Government, Community, and International Relations. In her role, she manages a mix of internal and external marketing and communications, along with promoting events and services to international students. Read on to learn about her journey.
Tell us about where you work.
I’m currently working as Marketing Specialist at Brock University in the office of Government, Community, and International Relations. I’ve been there since January 2023. My job is a mix of internal and external marketing and communications, along with promoting events and services to our international students.
Describe your current job and what you like about it.
My current job is an interesting mix. The department I work in (Government, Community and International Relations) works with everyone from community partners to government representatives to the students themselves. I like having different audiences to speak to, and I’m very quickly learning a lot about community and government relations, which I have only had limited ties to in my previous roles. It’s great to be able to build my understanding in a new area; I think it’ll help me to become a more dynamic marketer down the road.
What year did you graduate and what program?
I graduated in 2009 from the Business Sales & Marketing program. I loved every minute of my time there. I was in an accelerated program that went through the summer. My classmates and I formed a tight team. I remember the projects being very practical and I felt prepared to work in marketing when I graduated.
What led you to want to go to Niagara College in the first place?
I went to university first and graduated with a degree in English Language & Literature. The original intention was to teach but my interest faded. I wanted to find something more creative, had an interest in business and entrepreneurship from high school, so I applied to Niagara College (NC) and the rest is history.
When did you work with Research & Innovation (R&I)? Years and what was your role?
I worked with R&I in 2013 as a Business Research Associate.
“At R&I, I got to work with business owners from a variety of industries. That alone, presenting and pitching to those different types of audiences, acting as a consultant, being leaned on as part of a team of experts, helped me to realize that as long as I know my own expertise in business and in marketing, I can apply it anywhere.” – Mel Smith
How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?
At R&I, I got to work with business owners from a variety of industries. That alone, presenting and pitching to those different types of audiences, acting as a consultant, being leaned on as part of a team of experts, helped me to realize that as long as I know my own expertise in business and in marketing, I can apply it anywhere. So, I wasn’t daunted going into this new job in January, knowing I don’t have much of a background in government relations, for instance. I just felt confident in my expertise and knew I could apply it in this new scenario, and also learn something new to add to my resume in the process.
A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?
I got to work on several great projects in a very short time there. My favourite was probably this web startup called FoodiePages (foodiepages.ca). The company was owned by a young woman; I remember being inspired by her drive and her creativity and ideas. That was part of the fun of working for R&I, too; it was to help these entrepreneurs, but it also motivated me personally. For FoodiePages, we did a market analysis, competitive analysis, and SWOT. It was fun to use a critical eye on the existing company and to do the research on the competitive landscape for them. It was an eye opener for the business owner, and it was awesome to use the exact practical techniques I learned in school and apply them to a real project that is still live today.
Do have any special memories during your time as a student at NC?
I just remember it being the first time in my academic life feeling like I finally landed where I was supposed to be. Being part of the Ontario Colleges Marketing Competition (OCMC) team was fun and unexpected, too.
Do you have a mentor who influenced you?
At NC, I always felt well-guided by Terri Champion; she was a great instructor and I also ended up working with her at R&I. In my career, my former boss (and now friend) Lynne Burnside really pushed me to do my best work. She helped me to build my confidence in the corporate world by being open and honest about her own journey to executive level marketing.
What advice would you give to a current student?
Be resourceful, and come to the table with solutions, not problems.
After being in the workforce, what have you learned?
You can keep learning and growing! It doesn’t just end when you finish school.
What do you do in your personal time?
I have a freelance graphic and web design business on the side that goes by the name Sugarbutter Creative (because everything is better with sugar and butter). I have had a steady client base for over 10 years now and it gives me a creative outlet that has been a lifesaver during those less creative times at work. I also have two kids, 7 and 9, keeping me busy. Aside from that, I do a lot of reading, a lot of puzzles, and I dabble in gardening.
Proudest achievement since graduating?
In my last job, I worked for a company called Walker Industries and was instrumental in the company’s rebrand. It’s not every day you get to rebrand a 135-year-old company. It was a big responsibility; a very busy few years during the pandemic doing online schooling with my kids while rebranding our entire fleet and signage across 65 North American sites. I’ll be bragging about it for years to come.
If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?
You’re allowed to start over if you’re not where you want to be.