Co-op BC sat down with Heather Workman, Co-op & Career Development Centre Chair at Langara College, for the next Humans of Ace Installment. Heather has been with Langara College for 18 years, starting off with a six-month, ¾ time contract doing business development for the computer science program students, she eventually became a permanent member of the Langara team. During Heather’s time at Langara, she had the pleasure of working with a diverse grouping of students, ranging from Business Management, Marketing Management, and International Business Co-Op Diploma.
Tell me a little about your educational background.
I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary where I majored in Military History and Political Science. It was very interesting and then all of a sudden I was done and wondering what to do next. There were no co-op options in Arts in those days, however, I did gain unique work integrated learning experiences as Chief Returning Officer for a contentious student union election, running the Peer Orientation program for incoming students as well as teaching first aid for the Red Cross while at U of C.
I have taken various courses over the years in Community Development and conflict resolution, however, in 2013 I decided to take the leap and pursue my MBA with the University of Northern British Columbia. This was the first year that UNBC was running a Vancouver cohort, so for 21 months, basically one weekend a month, I was a student studying at Langara with UNBC professors. Honestly, I don’t know how my family survived this period! I was working full-time, became Department Chair, was raising our little family and not getting any sleep at all but in May 2015 we flew up to PG and graduated! Only in the last year have I enjoyed reading again for pleasure. It was a marathon but you know what they say…that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
What inspired you to join the career education field?
I wish I could say my career was well thought out and purposely planned but it was not. Prior to coming to Langara, I was consulting in the youth employment field both for an agency and also under my own name. I was the Director of Training for a national telecommunications firm (specializing in youth,) and prior to that was a contractor writing my own youth employment program proposals. I have worked with youth at risk, youth entrepreneurs, and youth struggling with the school-to-work transition in a variety of scenarios. Throughout all of this work the optimism and enthusiasm of seeing that “aha moment” when something we are working on together finally clicks for the learner – that gets me every time. The common thread, of course, is working with amazing young people who are excited about exploring possibilities.
If you could give your younger self a piece of advice what would it be?
Oh boy, that is a loaded question. I am a classic Gen X’er so I was driven to be entrepreneurial in my thinking. I wouldn’t change that at all. Many of the job roles I have had have been ones I wrote for myself or with a group of friends to demonstrate an idea. The piece of advice I would give myself is to “go all in – sooner.” Many times I was pitching an idea and didn’t know what the result would necessarily be and I fretted about that a ton. Due to this, I delayed starting some things because I didn’t have the final answer in mind. So rather than worry about having all the answers before starting, I would just tell myself to start sooner because if it is a good idea I believe in, than it can all be sorted sooner rather than later. Just start.
A favorite quote from Shakespeare sums it up:
“Our doubts are our fears,
And make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt.”
Just start. It will all get figured out once momentum kicks in.
What is your most memorable moment with a student?
Only one? I have been lucky to have many. Recently I have been reaching out to grads to invite them to come back on campus to help celebrate various milestones: 35 years of co-op at Langara, 10 years of the BBA program, and have been reconnecting with students who have been busy living their lives. Through these conversations, I have learned that things we talked about long ago were remembered and made an impression. For example, last fall I placed a student with a grad in her company. This grad started her own firm with another grad, and now they are hiring students. Every time I work with a student I tell them one day I will be talking to you about creating an opportunity for another student to get their start. Students are remembering that someone opened a door for them and now it is their turn. Grads hiring students is happening more and more and it is memorable every time.
If you are not in the office, what would we find you doing?
Out connecting with people, whether it’s family, grads, friends, my networks. It is easy to get lost in administrivia on a campus and really I get my energy from people and their ideas. There is power and energy in these ideas and I find when I make the time to get out of my office amazing realizations take place. I can see new patterns and new solutions to issues just because I have taken a few moments to breathe.
If you could be a character in any book, which character would you be?
Tough question. A heroine/cheerleader that gets people galvanized to work together to save the day. Annie perhaps?