Alumni Engagement

Alumni Profiles

“Emerging Leader” credits Creative Communications experience for kick-starting a career in law

September 28, 2022

For many people, career changes can be drastic – a sharp turn into the unknown. For Red River College Polytechnic alum Michael Badejo, though, moving from a career in communications to one in law has felt less like a swerve, and more like a straight line of experience.

“In the world of law, especially if you’re going to be a litigator, how you marshal the facts and create a narrative is central to your arguments and finding effective answers,” says Badejo, a graduate of the Creative Communications joint degree/diploma program who earned his J.D. from the University of Manitoba (UM) this past spring.

“Doing that effectively is based on getting the message across.”

Communicating a message is a central lesson of the Creative Communications program, but it’s not the only through line for Badejo’s change in career. The other is his personal commitment to the communities in which he’s learning and working.

In June, Badejo was named a recipient of the UM’s Emerging Leader Award, which recognizes “students who support the university’s educational mission by contributing to the social, cultural or economic well-being of communities on or off campus; encourage cross-cultural understanding, and demonstrate sustained leadership and initiative worthy of recognition.”

One of three recipients in the Faculty of Law, the award came after Badejo served as President of the Manitoba Law Students’ Association (MLSA) through a pandemic, working to rebuild student connections that were frayed due to distance learning and the lack of in-person camaraderie so central to the university experience.

Badejo was nominated for the Emerging Leader Award by a past president of MLSA, as well as a senior faculty member.

As MLSA President, highlights for Badejo included reinventing professional development events for the new normal, as well as signing a memorandum with the Faculty of Law to renovate student spaces. This included a first-of-its-kind agreement to build a gender-inclusive washroom in Robson Hall.

“I’ve always been a big believer in giving back,” says Badejo. “Even while I was studying at the College, our year-end project in my second year was based around working with and supporting [the Red River College Polytechnic Students’ Association].”

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RRC Polytech’s mentorship program helps student land refreshing summer job

July 29, 2022

Stars were aligning for Sehajdeep Singh in early 2020 – a Business Technology Management (BTM) student finishing up his first year, he had a summer job lined up at a credit union in a different city and was looking forward to putting what he was learning in school to the test.

But, the COVID-19 pandemic turned his plans upside down.

Due to lockdowns, Singh’s summer job fell through and he had to go back to the drawing board. Unsure if he’d be able to find a similar placement in Winnipeg, Singh began working his network.

As a member of the RRC Polytech Café, the College’s mentorship and networking platform that connects students with alumni, Singh had access to graduates from a variety of industries.

That’s how he met Dennis Cunningham, a 1991 graduate of the Creative Communications program.

“I heard about [the platform] through an email from Alumni Engagement and I liked the idea of being a mentor. I’ve been out of the College since 1991, so I’ve got a fairly decent network in the city,” said Cunningham, who works at Assiniboine Credit Union as the Manager of Environmental Sustainability.

The pair exchanged emails and Singh told Cunningham about his placement falling through.

“I said, I know a couple of people that work for either an IT company or someone that owns their own business that might be looking for somebody and I’m happy to connect you with those people,” Cunningham said. “That’s kind of how it happened. Classic Winnipeg: somebody knows somebody, and when you know them, I kind of know them, too.”

One of Cunningham’s running mates, Darryl Stewart, happened to be the right connection.

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Making their mark at Brandish

July 26, 2022

To borrow a stock market term, it’s fair to say Brandish is bullish on RRC Polytech.

Among the 35 staff at this young and growing Winnipeg branding agency – it was founded in 2015 – are 10 RRC Polytech graduates.

And they’re bringing serious skills in communication, design, and strategy to the table in helping clients shine and Brandish itself earn national recognition.

Case in point: Alexandra Martin (pictured above), a 2015 graduate of the joint communications program through The University of Winnipeg and RRC Polytech. An Advertising major, she gained experience in copywriting, project management, and business intelligence with several local agencies. A chance meeting with Brandish co-founders Lee Waltham and Derek Elliott at a conference led to her joining the agency in 2017.

“Including me, there were just four of us,” she said. “As the company grew, I started to lead the brand discipline as a whole—consulting on research, strategy, creative, or campaigns. I’ve been fortunate to hire some strong people to build a team.”

Now the Director of Brand at the agency, Martin enjoys helping clients bridge the gap between their brand and their customers.

“We love to partner with organizations ready to transform themselves,” Martin said.

“Today, telling an effective story is so essential. Strategic thinking and research come first. It takes time to get it right.”

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Globetrotting Hotel and Tourism Management grad thrives in fine wine career in New Zealand

June 10, 2022

There’s no question a Hospitality and Tourism Management diploma from RRC Polytech can take you places, as grads and practicum students alike land in workplaces as varied as mountain lodges in Banff, Alberta, to northern outposts among the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba.

For Mitch Hyndman, though, it’s hard to beat a career in as far-flung a place as New Zealand, where he’s excelled in hotel and wine tourism for much of the last 16 years.

RRC Polytech graduate Mitch Hyndman

“I’m from small-town Manitoba, just north of Brandon,” says Hyndman, who graduated from RRC Polytech in 2007. “Back when I was studying, they said you can go anywhere in the world — and my mom’s uncle was down here. I decided to go check it out.”

Today, Hyndman is working at Pernod Ricard Winemakers, the second largest alcohol and wine producer in the world. He’s the Brand Home Manager at Church Road Winery — located in picturesque Hawke’s Bay, just a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean. Church Road offers wine tastings, winery experiences, large-scale events, and also features a restaurant, with Hyndman overseeing all of it and maintaining consistency in customer experience.

“It’s quite multi-faceted what I do,” says Hyndman. “I’m leading a team, including HR and payroll, but it’s also quality control, keeping everything up to what our standards need to be. We’re also a marketing business in some capacity, so it’s ensuring that everyone who comes through the door has the best brand experience possible.”

Before landing in the current role, which he’s held for eight years, Hyndman bounced back and forth between New Zealand and Canada — working more than half of the time at hotels, including the Delta and Fairmont in Winnipeg, and a luxury lodge back on the island. There were some challenges along the way, including coming to New Zealand’s capital for a practicum and having it fall through on arrival.

“In New Zealand, there’s lots of transient people, a lot of people that come here on a working holiday visa. I was supposed to do a practicum up in Auckland, but it fell through because I came in May — you’d think that would be a great time to come, but it’s the start of winter here — so the hours for the tourism sector were declining at that stage. There wasn’t as much happening as in the summer.”

“So the first practicum fell through, which I had lined up before I came. I had to find something else when I got here. With that, I got an exception and was able to graduate with the rest of my class.”

Hyndman says his RRC Polytech experience laid a solid foundation for the learning he’s done since, with each workplace adding to the skillset he now needs to perform in a management role.

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Creative Communications alumni find success in unexpected places

May 24, 2022

A new series on RRC Polytech’s RED Blog celebrates alumni career successes and the—sometimes wayward—journeys our alumni take post-graduation. The series features a variety of RRC Polytech programs from the viewpoints of different alumni, each with an amazing story to share.

In April, two Creative Communications graduates were highlighted: Lucasfilm lore master and Distinguished Graduate Award winner Pablo Hidalgo, and grad-turned-instructor Doug Darling, CEO of Tripwire Media Group.

Distinguished Graduate Award recipient Pablo Hidalgo

Pablo Hidalgo took what he learned in Creative Communications at RRC Polytech and combined it with his love of Star Wars to become the resident Yoda at Lucasfilm—seemingly all-knowing and the go-to guy aspiring Padawans approach to learn the history and lore of the force. When J.J. Abrams had questions during the production of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Hidalgo was the master with all the answers.

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Putting His Tech Training to the Test

April 25, 2022

Patryk Siedlik is the definition of a hands-on learner.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to be an inventor,” says Siedlik, 27. “I always wanted to build stuff and test it.”

A penchant for the practical has served this graduate of RRC Polytech’s Electronic Engineering Technology program well.

On completing the 28-month diploma program in 2018, he found work in his field with Winnipeg-based multinational bus manufacturer New Flyer.

In a role he characterizes as “a lot of fun,” Siedlik integrated, programmed, and validated aftermarket electronic systems to modernize existing bus fleets. In the process, he travelled to more North American cities than he can readily list.

Yet it was with fond memories of a final-term biomedical elective that Siedlik decided to make a change after three years with New Flyer. In 2021, he joined Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg (HSC) as a Biomedical Engineering Technologist in the hospital’s Clinical Engineering department.

Siedlik examines a piece of medical equipment at Health Sciences Centre (Photo: Shared Health)

“I work on most types of medical equipment, including infusion pumps, defibrillators, respiratory equipment, and electrosurgical units. One piece might be 30 years old, and the next is one week old.”

“The main thing is ‘can they (health care providers) trust the machines?’”

It might seem like a logical progression: a curious kid grows up to land cool tech jobs. However, Siedlik is quick to explain his career path has hardly been a straight line. After graduating from Sturgeon Heights Collegiate, he found university a disappointingly frustrating match for his learning style.

RRC Polytech is not only where Siedlik got the training to launch a career, but also where he found like-minded people who share his interests.

“My good friends – my closest friends – are from college. All of us are in the field and happy with where we are. I’m such a fan of the school.”

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Business Information Technology grads thrive at new-to-Winnipeg tech consulting firm

December 15, 2021

An innovative Canadian technology and consulting firm has brought its operations to Winnipeg, and along with it, ample opportunity for Red River College Polytechnic graduates.

Traction on Demand (ToD) announced an expansion of its offices to Winnipeg in early 2021. Since then, the certified BCorp has hired dozens of Manitobans with plans to onboard even more. As an RRC Polytech industry partner, many of these hires are Red River College Polytechnic grads.

Headquartered in Burnaby, B.C. with operations across Canada, the United States, India, New Zealand, and Australia, ToD is North America’s largest dedicated Salesforce integrator and consulting firm. May 2021 marked 15 years for the company, and they recently welcomed their 1,000th “Tractionite” to the team.

Two of these Tractionites are Red River College Polytechnic graduates Anton Stroy and Richard Schentag, who joined the company in May 2021 after graduating from the Business Information Technology program in December 2020.

In their roles as developers, Story and Schentag develop custom features for the Salesforce platform and support technology implementation and integration for clients and organizations.

ToD focuses on creating a healthy, positive work environment for its employees, an aspect that both Stroy and Schentag notice and appreciate about the job. While the company has shifted to a remote work environment, their efforts to maintain culture, collaboration, and communication have resulted in the creation of new products, like Traction Gather, a digital engagement hub where weekly internal meetings are held for all employees across the globe.

Traction strives to create a place of belonging, friendship, diversity, accountability, and equity with each other as Tractionites through justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) initiatives. It also aims to harness the power of community to celebrate the inclusion of all humans and to leverage business and relationships as a force for good.

“Traction has a very good culture—it puts people first, and I like this about the company. I was worried when I graduated, as I wanted to find a company where the culture is good, and I wanted to fit in,” said Stroy.

“They make a conscious effort to build culture and trust among the team,” agreed Schentag. “We dedicate time each month to have a one-on-one with another team member. They also want us to set career goals every year. If your team isn’t the right fit for you, you can move to a team that better aligns with your career goals. It’s a great place to excel and to learn.”

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CreComm grad ‘living the dream’ as owner of social media and side-hustle startups

December 13, 2021

Charmaine Jennings will be the first to admit she has her hands full running two small businesses. But the 2013 Red River College Polytechnic grad is living a dream she made her own, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

In addition to owning Strategic Charm Boutique, a small marketing and public relations agency, Jennings is the founder and CEO of Hustle + Charm, a community of women in business across Winnipeg and surrounding areas.

She is a busy woman, so it’s no surprise she talks a mile a minute when you get her on the phone. Jennings founded Strategic Charm Boutique on her own in 2016. There, she and a staff of four women (all hired in the last year, also with Hustle + Charm) help entrepreneurs and small businesses grow their online presence by providing savvy social media and strategy content.

“We have 15 to 20 of those types of clients each month,” says Jennings. “I also have clients who are part of a larger company or community that invite me to do a workshop on social media marketing.” Including those, the boutique agency often has around 25 clients in total.

Instagram is her jam, as Jennings likes to say about the popular photo and video-sharing platform. “With most of our entrepreneurs, usually Instagram is their choice for their target audience. Instagram is quickly turning into an all-encompassing platform, so people need to know how to utilize all aspects of it. That’s where we provide the most help,” she explains. Calling it a powerhouse platform, Jennings said it is only getting stronger, in her view.

At Strategic Charm, Jennings occasionally fields the “make it go viral” request that is somewhat dreaded in her field. “A lot of people want viral content, or they want to increase traffic to their website significantly, overnight, or they need to sell a certain amount of product by the end of the week. We always tell our clients we don’t have the capability to promise that something will go viral. We try to set realistic expectations,” Jennings says.

Before opening Strategic Charm, Jennings earned her communications degree through a joint program between RRC Polytech’s Creative Communications program and the University of Winnipeg, majoring in public relations.

Before she entered CreComm, as the program is commonly known, digital and social media marketing was still a newer concept for businesses. Jennings herself had only a Facebook account at the time. “The more I got to experience social media in CreComm, the more I wanted to specialize in it, as opposed to more traditional marketing,” she says. “Using social media in school got me more interested in using it professionally.”

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Structural Engineering Tech grad builds opportunities alongside brick and mortar projects

December 13, 2021

For many, a relationship with your alma mater begins with admission — some paperwork online, an application, maybe some references.

For Structural Engineering Technology grad Jared Akman, his bond with Red River College Polytechnic started well before that. Back when the College’s Roblin Centre was being constructed in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, Akman was there with his family business — an early teen tasked with cleanup duty on the build site.

That connection between Akman Construction, an industry icon in Winnipeg, and RRC Polytech is at the core of Akman’s career. Though he started with jobs as simple as sweeping floors, it wasn’t long before he was moving up in the industry.

“I worked my way up as the building progressed into a deficiency coordinator,” says Akman. “I started on clean-up to gain an understanding of the complexity of the build and to work alongside the trades in hopes of gaining their respect. That fueled my love for Red River, being involved in the amazing project on Princess Street.”

Since then, Akman has not only graduated from an RRC Polytech Engineering and Construction Technology program — with a diploma in Structural Engineering Technology in 2008 — he’s also worked on a number of other projects, including the new Skilled Trades and Technology Centre at the Notre Dame Campus, and RRC Polytech’s newest expansion to the Exchange District Campus, Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, which opened downtown this fall.

Those projects have come to Akman Construction, a family business that Jared says he always wanted to continue with from a young age. The organization has been in his family since Aaron Akman, a certified carpenter, established the company in 1912 after immigrating to Canada from Russia. The company’s work began by growing the city, constructing single family homes in the North End of Winnipeg.

“I was given the opportunity to choose what field of work I was interested in and get an education in that sector,” says Akman. “But as the fourth generation, it was very important to me to carry on the family legacy.”

Akman credits his experience as an RRC Polytech student with setting his career path in motion. Having looked around at those working at the company, he realized many were already RRC Polytech graduates, including his father, Richard. On the recommendation of his father, Jared decided to get into the program himself.

“That made my decision very easy,” he says. “This was the right path.”

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Entrepreneurship grad follows in father’s footsteps while showcasing efforts of Indigenous business owners

December 13, 2021

Derek McCorrister watched his father build two different businesses.

“I grew up in his contracting business, and he built a number of homes in Peguis First Nation,” says McCorrister, a graduate of RRC Polytech’s Entrepreneurship program. “I was a helper from a very early age and I saw what he had to do to provide for us.”

As a young adult, McCorrister worked for his father’s second business, a sporting goods store called The Sports Zone, in addition to doing other odd jobs, all while playing competitive hockey. He wanted to become an entrepreneur like his father, but at that time, he was trying to take care of his growing family.

“I had to make a choice for myself and my family to pursue my dream,” he says. 

McCorrister’s parents instilled in him the importance of pursuing an education, and he tried university, but says the setting didn’t work for him.

“I needed more structure and smaller class sizes, so I made the switch over to Red River College Polytechnic, and it was the right choice,” he says. “I only found out years later when I was attending RRC Polytech that my father attended, too.”

McCorrister graduated from the Entrepreneurship program in 2000, around the time his second daughter was born. He says he had many business ideas going into the program, including the inkling that would eventually become his current business, but his big dream was to open a billiard hall and lounge. His favourite part of the program was being surrounded by classmates with the same intention of opening up a business.

“It was cool to see other people doing this research to create something that would shape their future,” he says.

After graduating, McCorrister ended up working for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s Economic Development department. He worked extensively with Indigenous businesses and organizations in the private and not-for-profit sectors until he decided to take a leap of faith.

He knew the door to his entrepreneurship dream would close if he remained a civil servant, but that didn’t make it less scary. McCorrister says there were a couple of factors that made the decision challenging — one of them being that his family was continuing to grow and the job with the federal government provided stability and security.

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