Welcome Season 3 of our series This Is How I Get It DONE, where we take a moment to interview members of the PR In Canada & Profectio community members to find out more about the person behind the desk, how they got their start, their current role (and everything in between). For our seventh episode of Season 3 we talked to Alissa Von Bargen, Vice President at GCI Canada [TCO].
What is your current gig?
- Vice President at GCI Canada, or as my mom calls it: “What is it you do again?” GCI Canada is an agency of idea architects, pairing creative brilliance with brilliant execution as a leader in the Canadian communications industry. My Myers-Briggs type is “Field Marshal,” and that’s an accurate way to describe my current role.
One Word to Describe your Work Style:
- Connect. I was trained as a reporter and what I loved most is meeting new people and learning about something new firsthand—and then connecting that experience back to an audience of readers. I still have that impulse which is why I love working with a variety of clients. Making connections is what we fundamentally do as communications practitioners: we connect audiences to companies and brands.
Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
- I’m a northern gal from Thunder Bay. I went to journalism school at Carleton University and worked as a reporter and an editor before transitioning to communications. It was really important to me that I learn not just how to write about or communicate something, but also how to solve the big problems people face. That led me to do a Masters in Public Policy at the University of Toronto.
- With two degrees under my belt I worked as a civil servant in Ontario’s Ministry of Health. My nature is to move quickly and make noise (not great virtues in bureaucracy!) so I took a job in the non-profit sector, managing a group of physicians advocating for our public health care system. My first job in agency came a few years later at Hill + Knowlton where I was fortunate to work for GCI’s now-General Manager, Kristy Derkson. But my H+K tenure was cut short by the opportunity to work at Queen’s Park for the Wynne government. I was senior communications advisor to the Minister of Community and Social Services and director of communications to the Minister of Economic Development and Growth.
- Post-politics I was VP of Public Relations and Campaigns at Counsel Public Affairs, specializing in their PR 4 GR practice. Then Kristy and I reconnected and I had the opportunity to make the move to GCI.
What is a typical work day like for you?
- I’m guilty of sleeping with my phone next to my bed. I crack one eye open and read the news and my emails the moment my alarm goes off. I will also try to conquer the New York Times’ Spelling Bee game before I hit the shower—it’s basically anagrams, it stretches my brain for the day.
- After that, it’s checking in with my team and getting down to the business of the day—keeping on top of client files, meetings, calls. Making time for creativity is also a priority. Whether it’s a brainstorm or a field trip, we all need to pull inspiration from each other and from the world outside of our offices. GCI has a flexible hours and remote working policy that helps to foster that kind of creative juice.
What was a moment in your career that really helped define how you work today?
- I’ve always had hustle but my first job in political communications made me do it all, and yesterday. It taught me how to decide and delegate rapidly, shift quickly from issue to issue, and stay calm under fire.
How do you balance family-work.
- Having a small family helps—my husband Michael and Theo, our King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, are the loves of my life, and our free time is mostly spent together.
9-5 is LONG gone, what is one shortcut or life hack that works for you?
- Outsource what you can, and make time for yourself and your loved ones. I love my recipe box subscription—I love to cook, but I don’t have the bandwidth to think about what to cook. I make time for the people in my life – I may have to answer late-night emails, but it’s important to put the phone away when you’re sitting down to dinner with people you care about. I also make it a priority to go to yoga a few times a week for some “me time” – it’s a good reminder to breathe in and out.