I feel lucky to have landed so many amazing roles over the years: national newswire reporter, online news director, newspaper managing editor, corporate communications advisor – all giving me important pieces to the media strategy puzzle.
Still, some of the jobs that have had the greatest impact in my life aren’t even listed on my resume.
I worked the summers of my youth at VIA Rail in Toronto’s beautiful Union Station – a jewel in the pulsing heart of Canada’s busiest city. It brought me out of my introverted shell and forced me to talk to everybody I encounter, which has become a key part of my everyday professional life.
One of the most formative times came in my early 20s when I was responsible for boarding a train from Toronto to Windsor, Ont.
It was a painfully humid day. The train to Windsor often serves those travelling to Detroit, not usually a very hospitable crowd. This day, they were especially grumpy, sweaty and impatient.
A derailment on the track caused the early afternoon train to be delayed hours.
It was approaching 5 p.m. rush hour, and the lines at the other gates were beginning to stretch out like centipedes, too. They would bend in places toward each other, cramming together, creating chokepoints where a million Go Train passengers usually flowed.
It was a sea of angry people.
I had the unenviable task of walking (squeezing) between each line and asking furious customers to pick up their heavy luggage – and in some cases their heavyset selves – from the station floor and move a few feet to the left. One family, somewhat resembling ogres, refused and called me a few names that would have made my grandma blush 50 shades of pink.
By the end of the day, I had talked to many hundreds of people in awful circumstances, trying to keep them calm.
And thus began my long career in delivering bad news and managing crisis situations.
After that, I studied print and broadcast journalism and creative writing at Humber College in Toronto, known for its School of Writers and School of Comedy. I was the creative director and then editor in chief of the college paper, The Humber Et Cetera.
Real life reporting followed, first at the 100 Mile House Free Press, then thanks to serendipity, I landed the role of Southern Interior B.C. correspondent for the Vancouver Province, covering everything under the sun – including murder trials, massive wildfires and wine festivals.
As the first ever managing editor of the The Daily Courier’s Vernon Edition, I recruited columnists, photographers and news writing staff to create the new newspaper. One of my columnists even went on to publish a book, thanking me in the intro (good on you, Arlena!).
I was then head-hunted by CanWest News Service, which a few year later became Postmedia News Service, when they created a new national newswire in 2007. I moved to Ottawa for the job and joined the Western desk team. I quickly earned the reputation as resident geek and embraced it as a video game and technology reporter, with my years of coverage featured in the Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun, Ottawa Citizen, Winnipeg Free Press and Calgary Herald, among others.
As much as I loved Ottawa, the Okanagan Valley still felt like home. A good friend at The Daily Courier eventually offered me the job of night editor, designing the front page and running the night crew in the Kelowna newsroom.
It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
The newspaper industry has sadly been in decline. And when you know it’s time to move on and learn new skills, you just know.
That was the case when I took on the role of corporate communications advisor for one of Canada’s largest utilities, FortisBC. I spoke to reporters when we had power outages and gas leaks. I also had numerous key capital projects in my portfolio, including the controversial smart meter project, or as we called them, advanced meters.
During my time with FortisBC, I was interviewed hundreds of times by reporters. And I did media training for those who continued on in the role when I left to return to my first love: Journalism.
My old friend from The Daily Courier had moved into online media, working for the Okanagan’s top online news source, Castanet. He asked me to join the cast of characters at Castanet and I quickly worked my way up from news editor to news director.
But every caterpillar has to reinvent itself at some point.
So here I am.
I’m now the founder of David Wylie Media + Communication, specializing in media strategy. I freelance write for numerous clients, am working on my first book and will be teaching both writing and public relations courses at Okanagan College in the Fall/Winter calendar.