See for yourself.
If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to get hired and join the Student Life Network team, you’ve come to the right place.
Meet Katherine Lourenco. Kat is our Director of Custom Projects (at least, that’s what her LinkedIn profile says), and she helps our project teams do what they do best.
Kat helps get opportunities like Canada’s Luckiest Student and #TopshopTuesday into your hands by making sure everyone from our partners to our creative teams has the runway, clearance, and fuel they need to take off.
Think of her like our air-traffic-controller-meets-personal-trainer.
Yes, that means also hiring people to join the company.
First things first, how’d you get here?
I was originally working at Wilfrid Laurier University, where I was an on-campus partner of SLN. Even when I left Wilfrid Laurier, I kept in touch with the SLN team. Over our annual catch-up lunch, they brought up the idea of me joining them.
“Now that we’re growing, we need good people,” they said to me.
This was two years ago. At that point, the company was half the size it is now.
And I was like, “Okay, what’s the role?”
There wasn’t a specific role for me. They said, “We just want good people. Just come in and we’re going to figure out where you fit.”
“I started out doing entry-level admin work… and very quickly became part of the management team.”
We don’t expect anybody to change around here, so they didn’t try to mould me to what they wanted me to be. We built a role for who I already already was.
It was a really weird shift for me, because I had been very comfortable having the definition of a title, and being able to say, “Look, see, I’m doing this thing.”
Because I didn’t have a specific role, I was able to get into a bit of everything. I started to build structure where we didn’t have any.
For example, we had project management software, but everyone used it differently. The way we were reporting on projects was inconsistent. We didn’t have tools for team goal-setting, or an understanding of the types of thinkers we had on the team.
“I solve problems.”
Sometimes you can use what you’re passionate about—on a personal level, to make a positive impact on what’s going on around you.
I’m really into spreadsheets, personality tests and talking to people over coffee about what they’re working on. So that’s what I used to my advantaged.
I started out doing entry-level admin work, making documents pretty, and compiling client reports, and very quickly became part of the management team. But ultimately, nothing has really changed since day one.
What do you mean by “nothing changed”?
The thing that I do has literally never changed. I solve problems. If you put me in a room of people, I will immediately start to problem solve. I will immediately start figuring out: what are we doing and why are we doing it.
“In fifteen years that hasn’t changed. I still do that in meetings.”
I used to be that annoying person in a group project who was trying to dig in, to carve out only the necessary info. Like, “Guys, what are we doing? Why are we even talking about that?”
In fifteen years that hasn’t changed. I still do that in meetings.
Problem solving is really something you can make a living doing?
I didn’t see it at first. I wanted my work to be tangible, for there to be a visible result, like a writer or a designer.
It took me 5 years after graduation to accept and be like, “Okay, this is who I am, and this is what I do. I solve problems.”
But problem solving is a really soft, vague skill. What others like it exist? What can you actually sell yourself with?
Look at the qualities that can’t be taken away from you. The value you bring that isn’t tied to someone else, or your title, or your role.
For example, look at the way you are in a group of people. Especially one you’re comfortable in.
“But those are ultimately the things that are going to make you successful.”
What do you naturally do? Are you the quiet listener, are you constantly assessing, do you start making plans, do you try to make everyone happy?
And then look at what gets your adrenaline going—is it connection with others, is it checking items off your list, is it playing with ideas?
You don’t think, “What do I bring to this job? Well, I’m chill, and I love chatting over coffee.” But those are ultimately the things that are going to make you successful.
Because, to me, saying, “Oh, I have ten years of project management experience” makes me think, “So what? You could have ten years of being a shitty project manager under your belt.”
So you don’t actually have to know any specific software, or systems, or anything like that to make it in your job?
To do what I do, the only skill you need is problem solving. You might feel like you have to know all the answers, but as a leader, you just need to be able to figure out how to find them.
It might be that you are never the person who comes up with that answer or process, but you knew who on your team to ask for it.
And you know how to build a team that fills those gaps for you.
Why do you think of it this way?
In my interview for my first “real” job, my interviewer asked me if I knew how to design a website. I was like, “Yeah, of course.”
In that interview, could I design a site for them right then and there? No.
But did I know that I knew how to figure out how to build a site? I did.
I had taken an intro class, and I had the internet at my disposal—so, I ended up getting the job partially based on the fact that I could design and build a website.
“A lot of people think you have to be qualified for a job to get that job. That’s not true.”
I kind of forgot about it until one day they came up to me and were like, “Yeah so I was thinking we could build a site to do this.”
And I was like, “Oh here it comes, now I gotta figure out how to build a website.”
And I went home that night and built them a site.
So, actual experience doesn’t really matter? You can really just learn on the job?
A lot of people think you have to be qualified for a job to get that job. That’s not true. I think you have to be qualified by the end of that first year at the job. I’ve learned on the job every time.
I remember being sixteen, and I was in a job interview for a Cashier position at Sobeys, and the woman interviewing me asked, “Do you have any experience?”
I admitted, “This would be my first job.”
And she told me, “That’s not a negative. That’s actually a plus. It means you have no bad habits, it means you’re gonna come in here without assumptions and I’m going to teach you exactly how I want [the job] done.”
And that’s how you think when you hire someone, too?
Always. I don’t care that you have any experience doing the specific role I’m hiring for.
I care that you’ve shown an ability to learn, that you’re interested in being here, and that you’re going be a good member of my team.
You might like Part 1 of this series: What is it Like to Get Hired at Student Life Network (Part 1)
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.