Alumni Engagement

Creative Communications grad lands ‘dream job’ working in animal welfare

April 12, 2024

It would be fair to say that Jessica Miller has her dream job.

On most days, one friendly dog or another keeps her company in her corner office at Winnipeg Humane Society (WHS).What Miller likes most about her role as CEO, though, is that she is doing something worthwhile.

“We help people. We help people just as much as we help animals,” she said.

Now in her third year on the job, she has always made her living through meaningful work.

Her career path began at Red River College Polytechnic, where she earned her diploma in the 2-year Creative Communications diploma program (commonly known as CreComm) in 2007.

“My interest has always been in having my work mean something. Whether it was for health care, or animals, or a non-profit, or volunteering,” she said. “I have always wanted to know that my time spent away from my family, and in my career, meant something. I never wanted to work corporately. It still doesn’t interest me.”

Before attending RRC Polytech, Miller modeled internationally as a teenager. As she aged, she wondered how to transition herself from the fashion runways to a more long-term career. Journalism struck her as a possibility, and RRC Polytech could teach her. “I had travelled the world. I thought being a reporter and being on camera would be a good transition from modeling,” she remembered.

She was deferred for one year after being accepted into the CreComm program. So, she went straight to The University of Winnipeg and started on the related bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric and Communications, which she later completed after finishing CreComm at RRC Polytech.

In her first year of CreComm, Miller quickly realized journalism wasn’t for her. Public relations, on the other hand, gave her the chance to shape and control the message, which she loved doing.

“Public relations was so ‘me’,” she said. “It was getting out there and talking to people, which I was used to doing. I loved learning how to write press releases. Creating and driving the narrative were what attracted me.”

CreComm was “intimidating”, and the coursework was “hardcore”, she remembers. The instructors often called her out on her mistakes.

“They expected the world from you, and zero mistakes. They put you to the test – in the field and in the workforce. The question was, could you execute what was asked of you?”

RRC Polytech graduate Jessica Miller is seated and wearing all black. She holds a brown and white puppy in her arms in front of a green and blue backdrop.
Miller spends her days fighting for animal welfare with arguably the cutest work colleagues in the business.

Competition amongst her peers was intense, but it drove her to do the best she could. “It felt like a family. I had my own group of friends with me in the public relations stream. They were confidants—we’d throw things off of each other,” she said. Miller found the writing and other skills she learned at RRC Polytech were completely transferrable to joining the workforce.

“Everyone I graduated with went on to do really great things, have great careers in communications, and they worked their way up. When we keep in touch, and I see what everyone is doing, it goes to show that we all got what we wanted out of the program.” 

Former Winnipeg Humane Society CEO Javier Schwersensky stepped down in October of 2020 after five years in the role. At the time, Miller was Vice-President of Marketing and Communications at St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.

She was also on the WHS Board of Directors. Deciding to risk it, Miller removed herself from the board and applied. She had the top job by February of 2021.

“I was overwhelmed at first,” she admitted. “I asked myself, how am I going to manage a $12 million budget, 190 employees, nearly 900 volunteers, lots of different stakeholders, and a building full of cats, dogs, and other animals?”

Then Miller looked back at how far she had come. “What made it easier for me was that it was something I’ve always done. I’ve always been a fundraiser. I’ve always been involved with animals. I’ve always believed to my core in putting animal welfare at the forefront.”

RRC Polytech: hard work, “real job skills”

Seeing RRC Polytech on an applicant’s resumé is a plus to Miller. In addition to herself, the WHS Director of Communications and the Communications Specialist are both also CreComm graduates.

“I always look for RRC Polytech graduates when I make a hiring decision. They are tactile and multifaceted. You know they have worked hard and, frankly, been put through it. They are able to legitimately perform when they get here,” she said.

To any prospective RRC Polytech students who dream of having a dog in their office someday, Miller advises them to be prepared to commit themselves.

“I will never forget how hard I worked at RRC Polytech, how hard it pushed me, and how much it has paid off,” she said.

“Think seriously if you’re going to put the time and effort into the program, because it will be expected of you. Put the time in and it will pay off a lot. I think it’s worth it! You can get real time and real job skills in a couple of years at RRC Polytech and be highly sought-after in industry.”

Profile by Nigel Moore (Creative Communications, 1998).

RRC Polytech campuses are located on the lands of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininew, Dakota, and Dené, and the National Homeland of the Red River Métis.

We recognize and honour Treaty 3 Territory Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, the source of Winnipeg’s clean drinking water. In addition, we acknowledge Treaty Territories which provide us with access to electricity we use in both our personal and professional lives.

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