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!
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.
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.
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!]
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!
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.
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.