Alumni Engagement

Alumni Profiles

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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Creative Communications grad parlays love of storytelling into role supporting economic development

December 13, 2021

Looking at the story of Eleanor Coopsammy’s career so far, there’s a lot of foreshadowing that she would end up as a journalist.

“I would sit behind a piano and pretend I was an anchor or a teacher. My mom even found an old news script I wrote,” says Coopsammy, a graduate of RRC Polytech’s Creative Communications program.

“I did quite a bit of public speaking when I was younger, and the journalism teacher at my high school asked me if I had thought about a career in radio or TV.”

In her high school yearbook write-up, Coopsammy’s blurb said she was most likely to take over from Oprah Winfrey. While this prediction didn’t quite come true, she did go on to create her own legacy at CTV Winnipeg.

She worked there for 16 years, and in that time, served in many roles and covered everything from politics to consumer trends, eventually becoming the host of CTV Morning Live.

“My first love was news, and I did develop an interest in business stories,” says Coopsammy. “Meeting new people, telling stories, learning about different things — those are all my favourite things.”

Coopsammy double-majored in history and English at the University of Winnipeg, all while holding on to her interest in journalism. She says she heard about the Creative Communications program while at UWinnipeg and was told that it was tough to get in, but she applied anyway and got accepted in 1997.

Coopsammy says the program opened many doors for her career, and instructors like Dean Cooper (who is still a media production instructor at RRC Polytech) had a lot to do with that. At the time, Cooper worked with local studios to revamp the College’s TV studio, and Coopsammy says it created access to opportunities on the television side for students.

She eventually worked at CTV with then-host Joanne Kelly, who is also currently an RRC Polytech instructor, teaching journalism.

“She had a profound effect on me, and I can only imagine the profound impact she is having on tomorrow’s grads.”

Looking back, Coopsammy says she appreciated the networking opportunities the program offered, such as the mentorship program that RRC Polytech developed with female leaders across television and public relations.

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Business Administration grad takes North Forge to the next level as CEO

December 13, 2021

It’s an all-female executive team at North Forge Technology Exchange — a fortuitous coincidence at first, but one that now impacts every aspect of operations. 

Same with the mandatory code of conduct — ensuring every person who walks through the organization’s doors is treated with respect — and efforts to maintain an equal ratio of female to male founders in its advanced manufacturing lab and at the Innovation Hub.

And it’s all the doing of Joelle Foster, who moved into her role as the organization’s Chief Executive Officer in February 2020. Since then, North Forge has seen a 294 per cent increase in the number of companies they’re working with. The growth would be impressive at any time, but even more so during a global pandemic.

Foster has also developed a four-stage digital Founders Program, an advanced manufacturing program called AMLab™ and an Angel Network, and will be rolling out a Women in Innovation Lab called WiLab™. Outside of North Forge, she’s also the co-founder and general partner of the Women’s Equity Lab (WEL) Manitoba.

“The tech and advanced manufacturing industries have typically been male-dominated,” says Foster, a graduate of multiple Red River College Polytechnic programs and courses. “I want to make sure that I make an impact, that I can start to change the perception around incubators and accelerators.

“I want a woman to be able to walk into our space at any point and feel welcome, like they belong, and never to feel like it’s all for men and they’re not worthy or respected.”

At North Forge, the success of Foster’s mandate can be seen in the current roster of entrepreneurs, including a female founder who created a pleasure device in the organization’s fabrication lab, a Saskatchewan woman developing a platform geared toward Black business owners, and a duo who designed an innovative cart for new mothers.

“We have a lot of women from across Canada approaching us because of our all-female team,” says Foster. “There are a lot of women with ideas and inventions. Our doors are always open to everybody.”

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Community Development grad cultivates supports, welcoming space for new immigrants

December 13, 2021

Raymond Ngarboui has a good reason for being late to a scheduled appointment at the Rainbow Community Garden on a recent August afternoon.

Within sight of IG Field at the University of Manitoba, the Garden is a place where families new to Canada are able to plant, tend, and harvest their own crops.

Among those waiting for Ngarboui is a group of students from Gordon Bell High School who have summer jobs on the Green Team, an employment program he manages in his capacity as a Community Development Coordinator for the Community Education Development Association (CEDA).

Not surprisingly, all eyes are on Ngarboui as he pulls up. With his easygoing manner, he has the full attention of the students. After speaking with them, he has time to sit down and talk about his career in community development.

“I was here (at the Garden) when I got a call from the Downtown Access Clinic,” Ngarboui explains. “A single mother had just delivered (her baby) and was in serious need of food. I spoke with her, got her address, rushed to put together a food box, and rushed to her home to deliver it. That’s why I was a few minutes late.”

Connecting people and resources through Winnipeg’s social services infrastructure is all in a day’s work for Ngarboui, a 2008 graduate of RRC Polytech’s Community Development/Community Economic Development program.

“I try to bring together different groups to spark positive results,” he says. “Like a catalyst in a chemical reaction.”

His self-assessment as a community builder has deep roots. A native of Chad, Ngarboui fled the Central African country in 2005 amid a civil war.

“I went through a lot with my family. I survived. We were among a huge population of refugees in (neighbouring country) Cameroon who would help each other. So, I was already seeing community. And I had a vision to give more back.”

With some skills and knowledge in farming, he came to Canada. Like many newcomers, Ngarboui spoke no English. Through the immigration process, he was given a choice of cities: Edmonton, Quebec City, or Winnipeg. A different fluent French speaker (as Ngarboui is) might have found Quebec’s “la vieille capitale” an appealing prospect. Ngarboui had other ideas.

“I was eager to learn English. And I was told Winnipeg was the coldest of the three options. I said, ‘Okay, that’s another good challenge.’”

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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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