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Alumni Engagement

Alumni Profiles

Career path leads through Red River College and back again

February 8, 2021

Like many young Canadians in the early 2000s, Jaime Manness went west. After a stint working in an oil-field camp in Northern B.C., she came home to Manitoba.

Red River College has figured in her career path ever since.

“My sister was in the Health Care Aide program and that occupation appealed to me as well,” she says. “But as soon as I completed the program, I wanted to go further in health care.”

Admission to the College’s (then four-year) Bachelor of Nursing program required Manness to upgrade her high school credits. She’s grateful the College offered a 10-month preparatory course to do just that.

After graduating from RRC with a Nursing degree in 2009, Manness began her career as an Emergency nurse at Health Sciences Centre. Though Emergency is an intensely stressful area for a newly minted nurse, Manness says the program prepares grads to succeed.

“The program concentrates on practical knowledge,” she says. “It builds up students to feel comfortable asking questions.”

“After four years of structured learning, you’re equipped with a cautious, calm confidence. You know your limitations but also how to ask for help and find support.”

Manness counts several of her classmates as friends to this day, adding that College faculty and graduates form a valuable support network throughout a career.

In 2018, Manness returned to Red River College as a part-time instructor, adding an extra dimension to her nursing skill set.

“I had enjoyed mentoring a couple of students in Emergency years earlier but still never imagined coming back as an instructor. A friend thought I’d be a good teacher. It’s nice to develop a different area of my professional practice.”

Read More →

Killer concept: Grads serve up hair-raising thrills at horror-themed escape rooms

October 27, 2020

The thought of starting a business in the middle of a pandemic would send chills down anyone’s spine. But that doesn’t mean the timing can’t be eerily, utterly right.

That’s certainly how it feels for Lisa Bernstein and Chris McMillan, two Red River College grads who opened the horror-themed Killer Noob Escapes at the start of October.

Not surprisingly, Killer Noob is a perfect match for the spookiest month of the year. After their shared love of all things scary led to some business-idea brainstorming, Bernstein and McMillan served up a fresh spin on the escape-industry standard.

“We’ve always loved escape rooms,” says Bernstein, who graduated from RRC’s Creative Communications program in 2010. “Three years ago, we went to a horror-themed escape room in Las Vegas and we could not stop talking about it. We loved the aesthetics, we loved how it looked. It was like walking on to a movie set.

“But we also talked about what we would do differently, partially because we found the puzzles to be lacklustre. So that started the ball rolling of planning what types of rooms we were going to do, what our theme was — and in January 2018 we bit the bullet and created the business, and slowly started chipping away at props and puzzles.”

While Killer Noob’s room names (“The Funhouse,” “Buried Alive,” “The Chamber,” and soon “The Upstairs”) might make the squeamish nervous, the goal isn’t jump scares or dumping guests into a haunted house. Rather, the set-ups require visitors to make skillful escapes, solving all manner of puzzles to get out of stressful situations.

As long as group sizes are limited, escape rooms can provide a safe form of COVID-era entertainment — so business at Killer Noob has been steady, with over 100 bookings in the first month. Read More →

Blazing a trail for self-care: Nursing grad eases quarantine stress with new guide for local hikers

October 13, 2020

If Jaime Manness tells you to take a hike, heed the advice. After all, she wrote the book on the subject.

After graduating from Red River College with a Bachelor of Nursing degree in 2009, Manness began her career as an emergency nurse at Health Sciences Centre. While a challenging and rewarding environment for a nurse, Emergency is also intensely stressful, particularly for a recent graduate.

Manness took to the trails to de-stress. The hikes evoked fond memories of family camping trips as a youngster, complete with hot dogs roasting over the campfire.

“I was chasing that restful, tired feeling at night,” she says. “I wanted a kind of mental and physical exhaustion to a point where I would get a good night’s sleep.”

“The more I hiked, the more peaceful I felt. I started to fall in love with the idea of what I might see next.”

Manness started volunteering for Trails Manitoba in 2015, giving recommendations — and just as important, reassurance — to weekend hikers.

“I realized that what was common to me was not comfortable to others. People wanted to know a little bit more about what they might find.”

If that was the seed of an idea for a book, Manness give much credit to her then-boyfriend and now fiancé, Ed, with bringing it to fruition.

Cover of Hike Manitoba guide“He’d remind me every month or so — ‘You should write that book.’ Then it was every two weeks, then every 10 days,” she recounts with a laugh. “It’s like he had a calendar set to remind me to write the book.”

The result was Hike Manitoba, a compilation of 51 hikes, all within the province. Launched June 30 — just in time for the Canada Day long weekend — the volume is lightweight and coil-bound, designed with a hiker’s needs in mind, Manness says. It includes trail tips and etiquette, evocative photos, hand-drawn maps, and lovely watercolour cover art.

Demand for the book has far exceeded her expectations, Manness says.

“We sold our first 100 copies within a couple of days. We’ve now sold more than 2,200 copies.” Read More →

Competitive drive pushes Graphic Design grad to shake up financial industry

October 1, 2020

Talking to Martin Bshouty, it’s clear that a typical day job will never be his cup of tea.

“My wife asked me the other day, ‘What would you do if you had to work a nine-to-five job?’ I can’t even imagine it, I would call that retirement,” Bshouty chuckles.

That ability to self-motivate has led Bshouty — a 2014 graduate of Red River College’s Graphic Design program — to a tech entrepreneur career that’s already seen dazzling highs in just half a decade.

His latest role is with the creative team at Neo Financial, a new fintech startup headquartered in Calgary that has set out to revolutionize the financial industry. Neo presents Canadians with an online banking experience, one that boasts a simple interface, no-fee banking and instant rewards.

“We want to simplify money and life for every Canadian,” Bshouty explains. “We’re building this financial platform from the ground using modern technology to create a fully digital experience right from your phone. No visiting branches or waiting on hold over the phone — you get full control over your finances right from the Neo app. The hope is to revolutionize the way banking is done in Canada.”

Founded by Skip The Dishes co-founders Andrew Chau and Jeff Adamson, Neo has created a Prairie dream team uniquely qualified to disrupt the Canadian banking industry — 100 employees that include tech creatives and former Olympians. Bshouty fits the billing, as he made a serious splash in 2016 as a co-founder of Geofilter Studio, the world’s largest Snapchat filter producer.

Starting as an idea between Bshouty and collaborator Chris Schmidt in Winnipeg, Geofilter has since created over 100,000 filters that have accumulated over five billion views, attracting business from major corporations like McDonalds and Coca-Cola.

“We saw it as an opportunity, that people can go to a local coffee shop for a quality cup of coffee, or get a streamlined experience at Tim Hortons. We figured we’d be the Tim Hortons of designing geofilters, but with the quality of local coffee,” Bshouty says with a laugh. “So we started an online design agency for designing geofilters for people around the world.”

“We had no idea if it was going to work or not, but then it started to catch on and we would say, ‘Woah, we’ve got as many orders today as we’ve had in the last month.’ And then, ‘Woah, we’re getting over 10,000 orders a week now.’ It pretty quickly became, at the time, one of the fastest growing companies in Canada.” Read More →

Machine Shop alum inspires new grads to keep learning

July 30, 2020

Don Fletcher gives alumni address at February convocation ceremony

Twice a year, Red River College students flock to the Winnipeg Centennial Concert Hall with a gaggle of family members in tow. They don distinct caps and gowns, transforming into a sea of black with flashes of red (tassels – not feathers). They wear their regalia with pride: this is the moment where students become graduates; they’ve earned their wings and now it’s time to fly.

This June, Red River College had to adapt in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, hosting a virtual convocation in place of our traditional in-person celebration. But back in February – what seems like a lifetime ago – we were able to salute our grads at the Concert Hall in style.

Don Fletcher, an RRC Machine Shop Apprentice grad of 1982, welcomed our Winter 2020 grads to the RRC alumni community with a memorable speech.

Read More →

Winning the ‘Job Lottery’

July 10, 2020


To an outsider, it would appear opportunities have presented themselves to Wilfred McPherson too often to be called coincidences.

And McPherson — a Red River College grad who’s returned as an instructor following a lengthy career in the trades — is more than happy to share the credit for his success.

“Some people call it being at the right place at the right time,” says McPherson, when asked about his career path’s natural and organic progression.

“It’s like an invisible hand that guides things along… [that of] Kichi Manitou, the Great Spirit.”

Read More →

Conference leads to career launch for Applied Accounting grad

February 13, 2020

Erika Falcao credits Red River College for pointing her in the right direction.

Falcao, who is from Recife, Brazil, graduated from RRC’s Applied Accounting program in 2017. She works at Bokhaut Chartered Professional Accountants Inc., an accounting firm that specializes in working with physicians.

She was first made aware of Bokhaut through RRC’s annual Directions Conference, which connects business and applied arts students with industry professionals.

“I met a Bokhaut representative at the Directions Conference and then I sent them my resume. After a couple weeks I got an interview and a job, even before my graduation,” says Falcao.

“So when I finished the program, I had a job already. It was the first and only place I applied to, which was really great.”

Falcao started as a staff accountant at Bokhaut in June 2017, and in January 2019 was promoted to a manager position.

It makes sense that she was able to climb the ranks so quickly, given she worked as a financial analyst for a Brazilian construction company.

Back home, Falcao also earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, as well as a master’s in Business Administration, Financial Management, Auditing and Control from Fundação Getúlio Vargas.

“I didn’t find [Applied Accounting at RRC] that difficult,” Falcao says.

“I really liked the instructors — they were all very knowledgeable and I admired them a lot. It also helped already knowing the concepts of accounting. The program was helpful because even though I have a background in Brazil, I still needed a Canadian background to get the job.” Read More →

Game changers: RRC grads help build digital media industry at Ubisoft

January 13, 2020

Red River College grads Spencer Marr and Ibrahim Shahin have total recall of the day global digital entertainment giant Ubisoft announced it was opening a video game development studio in Winnipeg.

“When the news of the studio came out, all my friends and my family called me,” says Shahin (shown above, at left), who has since landed a plum job as a technical artist at Ubisoft Winnipeg‘s Exchange District studio. “I applied the same day it was announced.”

Marr (shown, at right) was already in celebration mode when he heard the news.

“The studio was announced randomly on my birthday,” says the 30-year-old team lead programmer. “As soon as it was announced I was looking into it, trying to find all the information I could, and I started preparing my resumé to apply for it that day.”

It’s fair to say Ubisoft’s arrival was a game-changer for the local industry. With brands like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and Watch_Dogs, the company boasts it has the world’s largest in-house game development staff, with more than 17,000 employees in 40 studios on six continents.

The Winnipeg studio has a unique role as the only one focused on developing tools and technology to build better games. Lured in part by Manitoba’s Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit, the company had hired 25 employees by the time it officially opened in October 2018. It plans to create 100 jobs over five years and so far, at least 10 RRC grads (many shown below) have signed on in various capacities.

“The best part is the people I work with,” Shahin says. “It’s crazy how well everyone gets along and how much care and effort is being put into building the team.”

Games have been a major part of Shahin’s life from an early age, but he’s always been more interested in making them than playing them. He says it helps that the skills he picked up at RRC are directly applicable to his job.

“All the stuff that we learned, all the tools and programs that we used there are industry standard.” Read More →

Range of programming preps Business Technology grad for role in project management

December 10, 2019

A graduate of Red River College’s Business Technology Management (BTM) program, Manchanda is currently working as a Technical Project Manager at Web Wizards Inc., a Winnipeg-based company that specializes in web design and development, with focuses on online marketing, search engine optimization and software development.

In his role, Manchanda is responsible for making sure that everyone is working within scope and following the framework of the team’s assignment. He’s also accountable for tracking the performance of projects and ensuring they come in on time and within budget, and that they ultimately satisfy his clients’ needs and expectations.

As an international student from New Delhi, India, Manchanda’s focus was on getting accepted to a college that had an excellent standing, and a strong success rate of graduates being able to find employment in their fields of study.

“I believe the BTM program is the best in the field, with a rounded curriculum that not only gave me the necessary project management skills but also familiarized me with business law, financial accounting and analysis and economics, along with a variety of other necessary skill sets that you require when operating an IT business,” says Manchanda, who graduated from the program in 2017.

BTM is a two-year diploma program offered at RRC’s Exchange District Campus. The program provides grads with the necessary knowledge and skills to analyze, design and manage projects and businesses related to the field of information technology.

Manchanda, who came to Canada in late 2015, adjusted to life in a new land quite quickly. He says RRC helped him to acclimate to a new country, a new city and a new culture. Within a short time of being here, he was also able to secure employment. Read More →

Community Development grad pays it forward in facilitator role at Mount Carmel

December 5, 2019

A Red River College grad is giving back to her adopted hometown by helping recent arrivals to Winnipeg — just like she was helped 12 years ago.

A 2010 graduate of RRC’s Community Development/Community Economic Development program, Catherine Biaya knows how it feels to be in an unfamiliar city with nothing to her name but her clothes and her family. The challenges that come with moving to a new home and adapting to a new culture would feel overwhelming to anyone — but are especially so to those coming from a war-torn country.

Biaya and her family first moved to Winnipeg in 2007 as government-sponsored refugees after they were forced to flee to Uganda from their homeland in the Democratic Republic of Congo when war erupted across the nation.

After two years in Winnipeg, Biaya decided she wanted to go to school, and enrolled in RRC’s Community Development/Community Economic Development program (now called Social Innovation and Community Development).

Biaya said she was attracted to the College by its culture and course timeline.

“Going to the university, taking four years, five years, would not be beneficial — would be too demanding,” she explains.

While at RRC, Biaya had to handle numerous obstacles, from teaching methods that differed from those she was used to in Africa, to learning how to use PowerPoint for the first time. She credits her teachers and classmates for helping her adapt to these challenges.

“I would stay after school, tell them ‘I didn’t understand it very well, could you explain it to me?’” says Biaya.

“They would sit with me, summarize it, explain it. It really helped.” Read More →