Work + Life with Julie Ross, Culture Coordinator @ I Love Travel

Julie is one of my favourite people ever… she has such an infectious positivity and fierce humour that the first time I met her I knew that I needed to be her friend. We met while working together at the student travel company I Love Travel, where Julie is responsible for the hundreds of little things that turn ‘work’ into a place to grow, learn, and create lifelong friendships. She has been nicknamed “Julie Ross Christmas” for her love of the holiday, and she is so beloved at work that she gets marriage proposals regularly. Read on to hear which companies inspire her and some [good] advice on finding your dream job.


Who: Julie Ross
What: Culture Coordinator
Where: I Love Travel in Toronto
Education: Recreation & Leisure Diploma, Sir Sandford Fleming College

What does it mean to be a Culture Coordinator? A Culture Coordinator is someone who works with everyone in an organization, and is constantly improving, engaging, and focusing on the happiness and well-being of the employee. This could be anything from a small gesture like gifting a surprise coffee in the morning, or bigger things like making sure reviews happen on time and helping employees feel confident and valued in their roles. Companies are realizing more and more how important it is to keep their staff happy to continue growing and being successful! We spend so much of our lives at work, so it makes sense to make every day an amazing experience. Some of my co-workers joke that I’m the “Spiritual Leader” of the company!


How do you make every day amazing for your co-workers? Every morning I sit down at our reception desk for the first two hours of the day. I absolutely love this because I get to greet everyone as they enter the office, and I know that I will get to talk to every single person in the office every morning. Every day is different for me. I spend a lot of time interacting with staff, answering their questions, helping them, on-boarding new employees, and working on some sort of cute surprise almost every single day!

How do you and your team work together to support your goals for company culture? My team has changed a lot over my four and a half years at I Love Travel, but we have always been a small yet powerful crew. The Talent Team (my team) acts as a huge support for everyone, and we strive to have all the answers and be a positive force for the company. We divide and conquer… we all have our strengths and tasks that we focus on individually, but when it comes to something big (like planning a company-wide conference), we always absolutely crush it as a team. My boss Jay Hamilton is amazing and I call him my “Culture Guru” because I can go to him with any crazy idea I have and he’ll be willing to listen. One of my colleagues comes from a background of teaching and event planning so we work closely together and I learn a lot about “getting stuff done” from her!

Julie talking with the Talent Team at the front desk

Julie talking with some of the Talent Team at the front desk

How did your internships help you find your career path? For my undergrad internship I worked at a resort in Orlando, Florida with other students from all around the world. I was an Activities Coordinator working with youth and planning events and activities for the guests. Meeting people from other countries and learning about their cultures was an amazing experience and solidified the fact that no matter where I ended up, I wanted to be working with people and having fun!

Where did you work before you started at I Love Travel? Did you always know you wanted to work with people? ALWAYS! I’ve done so many jobs involving working with people, I worked at camp for five years, I worked at a retirement home, at a hotel, a number of retail jobs when I was young, a pre-school, and on a cruise ship. No matter what, it always came down with spending time with people and doing everything I could to make a positive impact on their lives. Just before getting a job at I Love Travel I was working reception at a salon downtown where I learned a lot about Customer Service and multi-tasking. Before that I was working as a Youth Counsellor on a cruise ship. My role now is really relatable to when I worked on the ship, even though now my job is to engage with adults, a lot of the planning and strategies are similar. Preparing for my current role was all about having a wide variety of experience working with people and always putting a focus on being positive and making people happy.

Photo: Pete Whish

Photo: Pete Whish

Your job is all about making people happy every day… what part of your role makes you especially happy? Creating a personal relationship with every person in our company is very special. I can truly say that I have created a bond with every single person I work with (approx 100). I love getting to know everyone; making sure I spend time every day talking to them, supporting them, and knowing about them on a personal level. I LOVE the people I work with so much. Something really fun or special happens every day, and that is not something you can find everywhere.

Sharing the love around the office

Sharing the love around the office

In a role that is all about keeping positive and promoting a healthy corporate culture, how do you deal with difficult days or situations at work? Staff turnover is always a challenge. I personally meet with every staff before their last day to get feedback. We have a good chat and I find out what we can do to improve in the future. I am a very positive person, but I do have tough days. When I have a difficult day I do my best to still do everything with a smile. If I am upset, people most definitely know it, but since it’s my job to make people happy I want to make sure that is always my focus no matter what kind of day I am having.

What companies inspire you? Zappos is a really cool company and they are always ahead of the game when it comes to company culture – they are the first place I remember discovering that actually had a culture in the workplace. Any company that I see making a constant effort at bettering their workplace, their perks, and the overall experience of their staff is a place I truly adore. Personally for my life outside of work and my blog/social media I love the brand Bando; they are so consistent, adorable, and fabulous in all they do, and Jen Gotch, the founder, is literally a walking party! [Editors note: these inspire me too! Highly recommended!]

Julie's desk is always filled with cute things and love notes from co-workers

Julie’s desk is always filled with cute things and sweet notes from co-workers

What excites you about the future of corporate culture? Things are always changing and evolving… I love learning about new companies, roles, and advancements in how culture affects the success of the company while providing amazing experiences for employees. The way people apply to, and obtain jobs, has changed over the years and will continue to evolve. I love the idea of networking and thinking outside the box when it comes to landing your dream job! I think getting creative, making an effort, and taking a chance on something you’re interested in goes a long way.

You see all the applications coming in and out of your company, and meet hundreds of people a year trying to find their dream job… what advice would you give job seekers? Always be learning, and meeting new people. These days it’s so important to make connections with people no matter the circumstance, you never know where that person works or who they might know. Spend your free time working on something that inspires you and has you working towards a personal goal that can be related back to your career in some way. Keep learning, taking courses, reading and keeping yourself inspired every day!

How do you handle the idea of a ‘work/life balance’? I’m an organized person with a very busy schedule! It’s important to me to make time to do all the things that I love, which means spending time with my future hubby, my family and my friends, celebrating with people I love, getting crafty and creative, blogging, travelling, and exploring Toronto. As much as I love keeping busy, I also really like a quiet night a home, spending time in my craft room, and just relaxing and re-grouping. Sometimes I need to cancel plans or schedule some “me time” if I am feeling really overwhelmed and I need to refresh. Having at least one day a week to accomplish things you really want and need to do is also a lovely thing.

Anything exciting that you’re working on right now that you can share? At I Love Travel we’re re-vamping our on-boarding process and orientation for new staff. I’ve taken over this process in the last few years, and it’s constantly improving. We want to make our on-boarding process like no other, and have new staff saying “I am SO glad I work here!”. Personally I’m also a big believer in engaging in creative interests outside of work; I’m a blogger, crafter, lover of sparkles, and try to spread positivity anywhere I can! So I am beyond excited that I just launched a campaign with Etsy Canada where I’m guiding people through opening their own Etsy store in time for Christmas!

Photo: Etsy Canada

Photo: Etsy Canada

How do you make your [amazing] personal style blend with the dress code at your work? We are a very casual and laid back office, which is so nice. I am generally a pretty fun and colourful dresser and I feel like that matches my role here. I love that I can be myself every day and wear something that reflects my personality!I generally feel comfortable wearing something really cute, fun and most likely covered in polka dots or hearts. We also do fun theme days at work where everyone dresses up and we take photo’s together, this is something I obviously LOVE to do!

Any final advice or words of wisdom?: It’s okay to not know the exact role you want during school or even after you’re graduated. It took me a lot of different jobs and adventures before I found where I feel I am meant to be. Back when I graduated I didn’t even know that being a “Culture Coordinator” or anything like it existed, and now I am seeing roles like this come up all over the place. Stick it out, keep learning and experiencing new things, and you will find what you truly love.

Check out Julie online:
Website & Personal Instagram & Crafter Instagram & Facebook & Twitter & Pinterest

Work + Life is an interview series giving insight into career paths for non-traditional roles. When I was in school it was difficult to see what any chosen career path would really look like, and I barely knew the kinds of roles that existed in my field. This series gives a glimpse into the day-to-day life of work, uncovers the best (and worst) parts of the job, looks into personal career paths, and introduces us to driven people in interesting places.

Work + Life with Carly Watt, Producer @ Kids’ CBC

Work + Life is an interview series giving insight into career paths for non-traditional roles. When I was in school it was difficult to see what my chosen career path would really look like, and I barely knew the kinds of roles that existed in my field. This series gives a glimpse into the day-to-day life of work, uncovers the best (and worst) parts of the job, looks into personal career paths, and introduces us to driven people in interesting places. I hope you love learning about our featured Work + Life interviewees as much as I do.

Carly is one of the most energetic and optimistic people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. We were introduced by mutual friends while we both attending Ryerson University. Her positive energy is infectious and I always leave her side feeling energized and motivated for whatever comes at me next. We spent an early morning exploring Kid’s CBC and laughing our way through the amazing prop room. Read on to find out how you make a teleportation machine, when a burp just isn’t loud enough, and the surprising way Carly boosts her confidence.

Carly Watt, sitting at her desk at Kids' CBC

Who: Carly Watt
What: Producer
Where: Kids’ CBC in Toronto
Education: Bachelor’s’ Degree in Radio & Television Arts, Ryerson University

So, what does being a producer at Kids’ CBC mean? Kids’ CBC is a children’s television block that airs on weekdays and weekends. There are no commercials, so we fill time between shows with hosted segments and promos. I produce on air promotions and image pieces for the brands Kids’ CBC 1 (pre-school) and Kids’ CBC 2 (school-age), write hosted segments for Kids’ CBC 1 and produce/direct streeter segments for Kids’ CBC 2.

What does your typical day look like?: Every day is different which is really exciting! We go through pre-production, production and post production every month, creating content that is holiday and special campaign focused (like Halloween or Grandparents’ Week), or entertainment based sketches that focus on aspects of the pre-school curriculum, like the alphabet, counting, and manners.

That is a ton to do each month! Can you tell us more about your team and how you make things happen from start to finish? We have a weekly writing meeting where we pitch sketch ideas, the ideas are then assigned to writers and approved by a Senior Producer. I’m one fifth of the television team – we’re quite small which means it’s all hands on deck when it comes to production. We have a Senior Producer, Line Producer, AD/Scheduler, and a Production Coordinator but we all wear many hats when it comes to being creative. The Line Producer, Senior Producer, and I bounce ideas and look over each other’s work during the writing process to get feedback. Once scripts are finished our fantastic props team preps all the extra things we dreamed up… they’ve made a teleportation machine, knight helmets, pirate ships, the works. Then everything goes into the studio, and I take a step back until the footage is shot. Then I walk the items through edit (cutting together the clips to create the story) and audio post (bringing together all of the sound) with the Production Coordinator.

Carly Watt in the Prop Room at Kids' CBC

Carly Watt in the Prop Room at Kids’ CBC

How have you seen yourself grow since starting in this role? I have been really fortunate to have very inspiring TV Execs. Carla de Jong (now Production Exec at Sinking Ships) and Karen Fowler (Independent Exec Producer) have both been amazing in letting me grow as a writer and producer. They trusted my skills and abilities from the get-go, so I really loved the work I created with both of them. There is no one in that role right now, so our super Senior Producer Gillian Pike has been leading our team to glory in the meantime!

Where did you work right out of school? Did you do internships to help you get to where you are now? Right out of school I had zero leads. During my university years I interned at Kids’ CBC outreach events. Then in third year I took an internship at a post production house for advertisers. My fourth year internship really had nothing to do with the type of TV production I wanted, and the internship I found right out of school was with a company that didn’t seem legit. It was a lesson for me that even good internships are hard to come by. I applied to every job for my skill set and rarely got called in for interviews. There are tons of people vying for work in this field!

That brings me back to when I was fresh out of school looking for work. It’s such a stressful time! Do you have any insights for people in that position now? Well, the internships I did land helped me see how competitive it is out there and taught me to be assertive when trying to find work. They also opened my eyes to how wide TV Production is – advertising and corporate video are other places to consider looking for experience when typical TV Production roles are hard to land.

How did your previous role help prepare you for your current job?: My last job was with Corus Entertainment. I started as an On Air Promotions Scheduler and worked my way to Production Coordinator. I was occasionally given promos to create myself which was a nice way to transition into my current job. My awesome boss at Corus, Hilding Gnanapragasam, gave me a ton of experience and helped me get the most out of the role. I was shadowing producers, wrangling talent, taking a crew out for small shoots, voice directing talent, and more! When I applied for the my role at Kids’ CBC, I was able to email my resume/cover letter the Production Executive directly (I bugged a current Kids’ CBC employee for the email – sneaky sneaky) and landed an interview from there. It was a big jump from Production Coordinator to Producer but I was really prepared to do it.

Kids' CBC Props Room

What’s the best part of your job now? Being on set to see your sketch being filmed is pretty awesome, but I love walking it through post (the editing and finishing afterwards) even more! Adding little bells and whistles to make the spot extra goofy makes my heart smile. I’m pretty sure I utter the words “after the two zoinks, I need an even louder burp” weekly. We also have the amazing Patty Sullivan as host here – any Ontario kid from the 90’s will remember her stint on TVOkids – so seeing Patty perform my script is very surreal!

What can be difficult about Producing? The biggest challenge is the constant change and being “on call” to put out fires for other departments – but that’s also the biggest thrill.  Every day is interesting and it’s never predictable. I love seeing what other broadcasters like PBS, Nick Jr, and BBCbeeies, are putting out. Kids’ CBC TV doesn’t have a big budget, so I love the push to surpass other broadcasters’ content using less resources. If I’m not excited about a project, I find a detail I can add to it in post production to make me smile. That way when I watch it back, I can look out for the piece of it that I made my own.

What excites you, inspires you, and gets you excited to come into work in the morning? There is something magical about coming to Kids’ CBC every day. With all the weirdness thrown CBC’s way recently, Kids’ CBC is such a departure from it all. We have very bright offices, breakfast parties and lots of balloons kicking around. It’s hard not to feel energized. Inspiration-wise, seeing what my peers are making really revs me up! I’m lucky to know so many creative people working in lots of different mediums on cool projects. My social media feed is full of their work and it makes me insanely happy and proud. I also love what Nick is doing – green lighting animated shorts, testing them out and moving forward with the popular picks to make full length shows. They have great online content right now.


What’s your dress code like when you know every day is different? Our office is professional-casual. Lots of jeans, dress shirts and comfortable shoes. Luckily, that works just fine for my day-to-day fashion – what I wear regularly is pretty similar. Since I’m always running around the office, I wear sneakers and flats to be comfortable.

You seem to thrive in creative environments and enjoy the unique nature of creating content for kids. Have you always known that you wanted to work in children’s TV? I have very funny parents so I loved comedy as a kid – my favourite movies were anything by Monty Python, Mel Brooks, or The Muppets. I saw puppetry as an extension of sketch comedy and thought it was the coolest. I watched Canadian children’s television series like Today’s Special, Book Mice, and Dudley the Dragon which all featured puppets. I knew I’d work in television because that’s what my Mom does – she’s a Great Director and Series Producer (Hi Anne Watt!). I also loved making movies when I was little – even for school projects. I took a course in university called Children’s Media, taught by Clive VanderBurgh who is essentially the grandfather of children’s TV in Canada. He created Today’s Special and had so much experience to share about how to make a show truly special. It’s hard to create a character and experience kids attach to, so that’s always my challenge and the end goal!

It’s so interesting to look back on when you were younger and see all of these connections. What advice would you give to yourself fresh out of school? If it scares you, do it. I always know it’s going to be a challenge I should take on if my first thought is “how could I even start?”. If you don’t feel confident, fake it. Sell yourself on yourself and other people will see it too.

Hanging out with the Infamous Mama Yama

Hanging out with the Infamous Mama Yama

How do you see Children’s TV evolving in the future? The children’s television industry is fascinating and ever-changing. I love seeing what’s next at KidScreen every year. A new and big change is having to compete for your audience with online content. Parents are utilizing iPads and other mobile devices to teach or distract kids, and the ease of uploading your own content to sites like Youtube really levels the playing field. Animation is king right now, but I’m hoping to see more live actions puppet-based shows (my favourite).

Anything exciting that you’re working on right now that you can share?
This year I’ve been focusing on writing for live action and animated children’s television. I’ll be pursuing a writing agent with spec scripts (new show scripts I hope to make) before the end of the year!

What dreams do you have for your career? I would love to have my own children’s television show in production. But in the meantime, I want to learn more about development, partnering with production companies, and write more!


How do you handle the idea of a ‘work/life balance’?
I am a gym and yoga junkie. I have a lot of pent up energy before and after work, so I channel stress into productive bliss during my workouts. I also do lots of improv & sketch comedy with a cool group of pals through Second City Toronto. On my days off, I love to go outside and explore the city. Parks are everyone’s backyard! Also seeing friends is so needed – sometimes you get so caught up at work that you forget about the people who have seen you at your best and dumbest.

Any final words of wisdom?:
When I need extra confidence, my mom tells me I believe in you Quail Man!” from Nickelodeon’s Doug. Feel free to borrow it when you need a boost!

Check out Carly online:
Website & Instagram

The Grindstone – 2


Personally, I’m drawn to monochromatic looks like this one. Tones of blush, and ivory, and white… made not too proper with frayed white denim and brought back into the working world with neutral pink heels. This version has a similar vibe, but suits a slightly more formal office.

Image from Brooklyn Blonde.

The Grindstone is a series of posts featuring inspiring modern workplace fashion. To me, the modern workplace is a place where casual dress and fashionable choices meet to make you feel inspired, comfortable, and effortless throughout your workday. In a word, you.

Follow my modern workwear inspiration Pinterest Board for The Grindstone.

This Week’s Pile: Photoshop 1, anti bullying, and hidden phones.

J Crew at Bulova

I always love a ‘behind the scenes’ story… seeing product sketches, inspiration boards toppling with tear-outs, and the history behind things. Photo above is from J Crew’s visit to the NYC watchmaker Bulova headquarters. Below are some links to things you might find interesting. Come back next week for more, mostly design-related, but sometimes funny or practical things I’m reading/seeing. Ps. This column is named after the newspapers and letters that my step-dad would pile up in the kitchen every week for things he’s ‘going to get to reading soon’ (and saving the comics for me).

For laughs: When it took 25 minutes to make a drop shadow.
For design thoughts: Why Interaction Design does not need to be ‘delightful’.
To make you cry: Kids read ‘Mean Tweets’ about themselves – anti bullying ad by John St.
For meetings: Create a flexible and collaborative space with ‘Sparring’ style meetings.
To try: Communicate better by ignoring your smart phone. – If this is too harsh for you, I recommend just keeping your phone on silent. I never want mine to make noise so it’s been on silent for 5 years (except for morning alarms of course).

Phone link via Cup of Jo.

The Grindstone – 1


The Grindstone is a new series of posts featuring inspiring modern workplace fashion. To me, the modern workplace is a place where casual dress and fashionable choices meet to make you feel inspired, comfortable, and effortless throughout your workday. In a word, practical.

Starting off we have a classic black and white look…  my favourite since you can play with the details to create something that feels modern. Sneakers, buttoned up to the collar, with straight trousers – tomboy greatness all day.

Follow along with modern workwear inspiration on my Pinterest Board for The Grindstone.

All the Fun: Dumb Ways to Die

This sweet animated video shows you dumb ways to die and featurs the cutest cartoon dancing since Charlie Brown. The way this is animated is also so perfect, and charming, and cute. They’re all loveable dumb dumbs!

Happy Monday!

(Video: Dumb ways to die)