Theodora Jean, Vice President
What first drove you to become involved in communications?
Growing up, I definitely gravitated towards languages and creative writing. I joke that my love of words is largely driven by an inherent dislike of mathematics (and that’s only partially true). When I was younger, I thought that I may become a journalist so I started an English major at Queen’s University. Two years into reading Dickens and Brontë till my eyeballs bled, I switched my major to French and went on an exchange to France, where I drank wine for breakfast and spent a lot of time reflecting on what I wanted to do with my life. I knew then that I wanted to write for a living–just not comparative essays in Victorian literature. Shortly thereafter, I got a job as a communications assistant for a medical non-profit and started a graduate degree in communications from the University of Ottawa.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of my work as a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) during the height of the Syrian refugee crisis and throughout the movement of 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada. I had only just moved to Vancouver from Ottawa and was in a brand new job focused on marketing and outreach. On September 2nd, 2015, everything changed. The world was completely shaken by the photo of the three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, who had washed up on a beach after drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. The next day, I was immediately pulled into full-time media relations and had to learn and adapt very quickly to keep up with the hundreds of media enquiries received by IRCC each day. It was an extremely busy and emotionally-draining time for many people within the department but I was amazed by the strength and resolve I saw in my colleagues and the impact that government, businesses and individuals can have when they work together in a global crisis.
Is there anything you regret?
When looking back on my career, the only things I regret are the times when I didn’t speak up or stand up for myself and others. I did this a lot at the very start of my career, when I was just thankful to have a job and not wanting to ruffle any feathers. The older, more experienced, and more confident I got, the more I found my voice and learned to use when it matters most.
If you could give any advice to someone beginning their career in PR/Communications, what would it be?
My best advice to the next generation of communicators is to work for an employer who supports you and your professional growth. Surround yourself with people whom you admire and have a lot to learn from and try to find work that you believe to be meaningful for you. Starting salaries are generally quite low in PR so you need to view compensation more holistically. Sometimes it’s better to have a lower salary and work for someone who takes the time to mentor and inspire you—or to work someplace that allows you to give back to your community and help others. Figure out whatever it is that will bring out your best–whether it’s an industry, a person, or a role–and go for it.
How has your involvement with CPRS benefited your career?
I decided to become involved with CPRS a few months after moving to Vancouver in 2015 because I had no professional network beyond those whom I worked with on a daily basis. Since then, I’ve managed to build an amazing network of communicators in the city and even some deep friendships with people whom I greatly admire. Now, when I need advice on tackling PR problems or navigating career decisions, my CPRS colleagues are some of the first to step up to help. Additionally, my involvement on the CPRS board allows me to give back to an industry that has given me so much and to help other PR practitioners through mentoring, contributing to professional development, and making connections. I look forward to my presidency in 2019-2020 when I can build on the great work done by my predecessors and shape the direction for CPRS Vancouver’s future.
What’s something people may not know about you?
I was born in Romania and lived in Switzerland and South Africa prior to moving to Canada. In South Africa, I learned Zulu in school and can still say a few phrases. I also speak Romanian and French.