Speaking from experience: Alumni advice for the Class of 2017

- June 1, 2017

As the old saying goes, the best things in life are free. And for Dalhousie’s Class of 2017, it’s coming in the way of advice.

With 3,500 graduates celebrating Convocation this week, it’s a fitting time for alumni to offer advice to the newest members of the Dalhousie alumni family. Be it practical, inspirational or philosophical, it’s words of wisdom that can hopefully help new grads as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.

Josh Cruddas (BA’13)

“Stay true to who you are.”

Since Josh Cruddas graduated from Dal, he’s made a name for himself in the entertainment industry. Based in Toronto and Los Angeles, Josh is an actor and music composer for films. Amongst many achievements, Josh was nominated for the 2013 ACTRA Award for Best Actor in a feature film.

Through it all, Josh has kept in mind the advice he received soon after graduating.

“A highly-respected film director told me that once I reached a certain level in my career, people would try to make me change things about myself in order to get to the top. However, he said, ‘You got to those career heights because of who you are – and once you change that, you're no longer the person who achieved that success in the first place.’

“There's always going to be pressure, in work and life, to be something you're not, or do something you fundamentally disagree with, but that advice has given me strength to hold steady and true in difficult situations.”

Robyn McCallum (BSc (Agriculture)’13)

“Chase open doors… embrace new opportunities.”

Robyn McCallum is a PhD candidate and lead apiculturist with the Atlantic Tech Transfer Team for Apiculture where she works with beekeepers and blueberry growers in Atlantic Canada.

Throughout her education and career, she’s learned that when a door closes, it was meant to close. And in most cases, there’s a new opportunity just around the corner.

“When a door opens, even if it looks strange and maybe wasn’t on your radar, it’s worth it to pursue. When new opportunities come my way, I try to embrace them and am always happy that I did.” (Photo provided by Perennia)

Laura Weeden (BEng’12)

“The road to success is not always a straight and upward line.”

During her first year as a Technical Sales Engineer for Drilling Services with Calgary-based Baker Hughes, Laura learned an invaluable lesson.
“After making an honest mistake and accepting responsibility for it, my boss pointed to Demetri Martin’s success graph. Not only have I been able to avoid making that mistake again, I’ve grown and have become more knowledgeable because of that experience.”

And Laura’s advice to new grads?

“In a new job, learn as much as you can, and ask lots of questions. If you get the chance to take part in hands-on experiences, do it. You will earn respect by getting out there, showing enthusiasm and asking questions instead of assuming.  Be passionate about what you are doing, seek to continuously learn and don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Joe Shuchat (BMgmt’12)

“Find your passion and focus on it.”

You may call Joe Shuchat a sports fanatic, with a particular love for golf. So, when he took an entrepreneurship class in his third year at Dal, he had no idea following his passion for sports would change his life.

“I started Winning Identity, a software package dedicated to helping athletes and coaches communicate in order to achieve their goals, based on the concepts I learned in that class.  The company grew at an exceptional pace through partnerships with Golf Channel and IBM Watson. Just last year it was ultimately acquired by Blast Motion.”

Joe says his success came from learning the importance of channeling and managing his passion when he was developing his startup. “When you find your passion, if you work hard and stay focused, fulfillment will follow.”

Fallen Matthews (BA’12)

“I am where I am because I am who I am.”

Fallen Matthews never expected to be involved in activism or writing, nor did she think she would be so proud, principled or people-focused in her career. But she says all she has achieved, and the path she is on is a result of “being who she is.”

“You might find yourself doing things you never thought you would, but I’ve learned that’s a part of life.”

In addition to working towards her Master of Arts in women and gender studies, Fallen is deeply involved in grassroots activism through intersectional feminism and socialist collectives. She’s an independent author, ghostwriter and memoirist.

Shana Ewart (DDH'10, BDH'11)

“Always be eager to learn.”

In her role as a territory manager for Procter & Gamble Oral Care for the KMAC Group, Shana (pictured right, at the Dentistry Mentorship Program’s first-ever dental hygiene mentorship event in April) provides dental education through her work with clients and colleagues.

“I’m fortunate that my job allows me to constantly learn new things about my profession; it’s something I’d encourage everyone to do. Continuing to learn about your profession and its advancements is the best way to further your skills. And don’t forget to keep in touch with your peers and classmates – you can always learn from one another.”

Andrew Ling (BSc’05)

“Make the most of what your alma mater offers.”

When Andrew was looking for a way to immerse himself in the business community in Halifax, he didn’t have to look far.

“When I was seeking volunteer opportunities, I felt the Dalhousie Alumni Association Board would be a great fit. I also wanted to get more involved with Dal because my four sisters and I all went there for our undergraduate education. Dal has been a big part of our growth in our careers and friendships.

“I’m really enjoying my time with the DAA Board so far. I’ve gained a new appreciation for all the ways alumni can stay connected and I’m honoured to volunteer alongside fellow Dal grads.”

His advice to new graduates is to stay connected to their alma mater. “Dal has a lot to offer its alumni, whether its volunteering, networking opportunities, alumni benefits, or career development, there’s something for everyone.”

Michelle Hicks (BSc’13)

“Surround yourself with positivity.”

After working in the international education industry for several years, Michelle Hicks (pictured right, with colleagues during a business trip to Whistler) sought a new challenge.

“I had achieved my goal of working with international students and felt that it was time to put my success and growth into a new initiative.” That meant developing her own business as a North American higher education consultant in Colombia.

While being an entrepreneur is rewarding, it comes with challenges. Michelle has learned that it’s crucial to ignore the naysayers and simply focus on positivity and hard work.  

“By putting your mind to something, working hard, and staying positive, I believe people achieve great things. In fact, it’s something I remind myself daily.

Caitlin Urquhart (JD’14)

“Trust in your method.”

As an associate lawyer practicing in St. John’s (primarily family law), Caitlin often thinks of advice that she received as a Law student. It served valuable at the time and is applicable at all stages of life.

“We're constantly bombarded by new, faster, better ways of doing things and it's tempting to chase after every new advancement or technology. Often the best solutions are the ones that got you there in the first place.”

Caitlin says law school, at times, felt daunting and she was extremely focused on learning the “right way” to achieve success. But it turns out, there was no right way.

“What I found was that the study strategies and coping skills I had developed during my undergraduate were perfectly applicable. Rather than trying to find the right method, choose the one that works best for you.”


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