Growing up, and in a household surrounded by five other siblings, it was Kaitlyn (Kate) Jonker who stood out as the high-energy and outgoing one.
“My parents always said I didn’t stop talking and I didn’t really have a filter – I just said it how it was,” she says.
Today, in her second year of the Business – Sales and Marketing program at Niagara College – and mid-way through her co-op as research assistant with the Business & Commercialization Solutions team with the Research & Innovation division – she remains just as spirited, loves to talk and works the “zoom” room like a pro.
“I guess today I still carry on those traits except I like to think I have more of a filter now,” she laughs. “But I’m a social person with lots to say on issues that are important to me. I’ve always loved working and talking with people with a problem-solver attitude.”
Her energetic and social temperament – something she says she inherited from her father – ostensibly helped shape her career path.
Yet, she didn’t always know what she wanted to pursue, only that her dream was to attend Niagara College. Ultimately, it was her dad who took her to his company for a visit with the sales and marketing manager. She knew that was her calling.
A wise choice, given her penchant for presenting and speaking in front of people – an essential skill in her chosen vocation and one she had cultivated while still in high school. There, she and some classmates worked on a project that required raising awareness for an initiative in a developing country, and successfully pitched the campaign to a not-for-profit organization panel.
“My group and I actually ended up going so far that we presented our project to multiple schools and at events,” says Jonker. “Our project was taken across the world to be carried on by the non-profit organization.”
“I love being a part of helping others by using my problem-solving skills, as well as brainstorming with other members of the research team.”
During her studies at NC she has received even more opportunities to sharpen her public speaking abilities and has learned to love social media, advertising and promotions. Still, it wasn’t until she started working with real businesses, on official marketing plans, with the Business & Commercialization team, that thing really came into focus for the 19-year-old.
“While working with businesses, I almost have to remind myself each time I work that this is not just a school project – this is a real client’s business!” she says. “Working on these research projects has really allowed me to put to practice what I have learned in the classroom and apply it in the real world and for that I am grateful to Paula Reile, my project manager, and Research & Innovation, for the experience and opportunity this position has given me.”
Her first project was for a client operating a high-end lifestyle website wanting market research assistance to bring their brand from the web to store shelves in North America. It was something she was completely unfamiliar with, but eager to learn about.
Jonker and her fellow research assistants developed marketing strategies to help with a successful entry into the market, with detailed promotional, branding, packaging and distribution recommendations.
“I really enjoyed working with the business team to come up with ideas and strategies for the client’s business,” she notes. “I love being a part of helping others by using my problem-solving skills as well as brainstorming with other members of the research team.”
Yet, even with all the brainstorming, this past year has been difficult for Jonker, forcing the sociable people-person to pivot to a more isolated environment while studying and working remotely at her Smithville-based home. Despite this, Jonker has skillfully used it as a learning experience.
“It’s not always easy to motivate yourself to keep going, especially when I am such an extrovert and thrive off being around people,” she explains. “Balancing the crazy online school life and this job has been extremely challenging and time consuming, but it’s taught me patience and time management skills to get the work done and on time.”
She has also had to redirect her high-energy nature from her regular sports life – a passion she’s held since childhood – and in which she’s usually taken a lead role, either playing or coaching.
“Sports has been my life and I love everything about it – the energy, the competitiveness, the rush – I guess it’s fair to say that I miss it a lot with lockdown.”
For now, she gets outside into nature, spending time with her boyfriend Joel, as well as her family.
She’s also thinking about her next move once she graduates this April.
“I am really excited to take what I have learned as a business research assistant and apply it to my future career – though I’m not sure what that might be.”