Last fall, we interviewed a dozen young Queen’s grads about their careers. Their answers really surprised us. Read about where a Queen’s degree can take you + their advice for current students!

Last fall, we interviewed a dozen young Queen’s grads (Classes of 2012-2016) to get a better idea of what kinds of jobs are out there and where a Queen’s degree can take you. The answers we got back really surprised us! From vet school in the Caribbean to a Lady Gaga concert in Amsterdam, from Texas to Toronto… Keep reading to find out what they had to say + their advice for current students!

“Don’t feel pressured to jump into the next chapter of your life just because it’s what’s expected of you.” Matthew Muto, Class of 2015.

Lucas McLaughlin

Mechanical Engineering, Class of 2014

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you would end up?

I am currently a freelance Concert Tour Manager and concert production worker based in Amsterdam. To be honest, this is what I wanted to end up doing but didn’t think it would be possible. My main experience and motivation for working in the music industry came from my job as Entertainment Manager at Clark Hall Pub during my 4th year at Queen’s. With the support of EngSoc as well as past and present Clark managers, the successful and rewarding time I spent at Clark inspired me to try to continue a career in music.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Anything is possible, and stick to your gut. Keep your eye on the prize and force yourself to accept setbacks as learning experiences.

Moving to a new country and starting a self-employed career with no experience or training isn’t an easy process, but maintaining sight on the end goal allowed me to persevere and stay motivated even when working crappy jobs to make a living. If you don’t give 100% to follow your dreams, you won’t succeed and will never know what could have been.

Rebecca Finley-Schidlowsky

History & English, Class of 2012

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you’d end up?

Growing up, I always imagined myself as a real estate mogul or History Professor. However, after working for a few homebuilders in sales, I realized I wanted to work more so in business strategy… which is how I found myself as a Junior Partner at Finley & Associates. Our firm specializes in Strategic Planning & Board Governance for both for-profit and non-profit organizations as well as several high-net worth family businesses across Canada. I love working with the younger generations of high-net worth families to help engage them by building their leadership and entrepreneurial skills.  

I am also a co-founder of Connections: Mentorship Circle, a national group that brings women of all stages of their careers together to empower and support them in a positive environment through discussion, mentorship, and skills-building. One of Connections’ key goals is to get every woman in the group onto a Board. I have been involved in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for the past three years as a Big Sister. Outside of work, you can find me training for my next Latin Ballroom competition or traveling the world.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Travel as much as you can, especially on your own. You will be surprised at how much you will grow. The hardest time of my life was being 21 years old and undergoing an emergency appendicitis surgery in Osaka, Japan. Getting through that ordeal on my own has given me more confidence than anything else in my life. Also, put your phone away and make real connections with those around you. Your value isn’t equated with how many likes your Instagram pics get but instead by the positive impact you make in other people’s lives. Finally, call your family members more often, they will be gone sooner than you know.

Brian Handkamer

Chemical Engineering, Class of 2012

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you would end up?

Currently I work as a planning engineer for Encana’s Corporate Planning team. The roles and responsibilities of the corporate planning team are diverse and are dependent on the dynamic strategic needs of the executive leadership team.

I work directly with 3 different operating areas that comprise 6 different development plays across Canada and the USA. We require additional input from midstream, marketing, finance, reserves, new ventures, and supply management. I manage an inventory database, which analyses and ranks all plays to provide direction on the prioritization of future capital spend. I also compile and analyze various long-term planning initiatives to help develop and provide risk mitigation for Encana’s strategic vision.

I always knew that I had an interest in business and I saw a lot of value in leveraging the technical problem-solving approach of an engineer within a business setting. I am hoping to pursue an MBA next fall to further develop a fundamental understanding of business and energy finance. Ending up in the energy industry has certainly been a surprise for me.

Prior to Queen’s, I had always been interested in the biomedical side of engineering. In second year, I accepted a summer position as a field engineering student working in Northern B.C. I really enjoyed my time in the field and it sparked an interest. The rest is history!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Always keep an open mind! No matter how much you plan, things will change.

The individuals that are more open and accepting to change are often the ones that are most successful.

Work is very different from school. Without the regimented schedule of assignments and exams, you are often responsible for your own deadlines and your own quality standards. Be prepared for this transition and don’t be discouraged if it takes a little time to figure out!

Communication is king! If you are having difficulty with something, seek advice from your support network as early as possible!

Devan Glover, Psychology, Class of 2015

Devan Glover

Psychology, Class of 2015

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you’d end up?

When I graduated from university, I knew I wanted to pursue a full-time career as a musician. At the time, I was in a duo ensemble known as Devan & Khalid with my fellow Queen’s classmate, Khalid Yassein. We had been performing together for two years, and both wanted to continue to do so after graduation. Together, we made the plan to pursue our music careers together, and have been doing it ever since!

In 2015, Khal and I joined forces with Ben Labenski (also Queen’s Alum) and Andrew Oliver, to become Wild Rivers. So I guess the answer to your question is, by 4th year, I knew (and hoped) that I would end up doing what I’m doing today, because it’s what I had planned for and always wanted. However, I still have moments where I can’t believe this is actually my life.

Some of my prior expectations are definitely different to the reality of my career (I don’t think you can truly prepare yourself for this type of endeavour!), but I think that is probably the case for most people. I’m really grateful to be able to do what I love.

What advice would you give your younger self?

  1. Break out of your comfort zone – I wish I had done this at an earlier age. It took me years and years to push myself to perform in front of people and take music seriously, even though I always knew it was what I wanted to do. This also applies to many other things in life: trying things you’ve never done before, talking risks, meeting new people. Even though this is something I still struggle with, I strive to always push myself to try new things in situations where I may feel uncomfortable, whether it be asking questions, attending social events, or practicing a new skill. When I build up the courage to do so, great things always come out of it, and in turn, I feel more confident moving forward.
  2. If you want something done, do it yourself. – Don’t get the wrong impression – I consider myself to be a self-starter, and a very motivated individual. However, we spend much of our younger lives being handily presented with opportunities for success, and it can be hard to break the unrealistic expectation that these opportunities will continue to come as you grow up. Our first experiences with learning, getting a job, becoming involved in extracurricular activities and volunteering are usually organized through school or our parents. Many of us are lucky in that the steps to success are spelled out for us early in life. This changes when you get to university, and especially after you graduate, and this is something people often don’t realize or anticipate. Adjusting to autonomy can be hard – you have to make your own schedule, and create your own successes. A lot of the time, you have to seek out information that you don’t even KNOW you don’t know, to learn about opportunities that you wouldn’t have otherwise stumbled upon. Post-graduation, many people (including myself) feel lost and discouraged, because for the first time, you are in complete control of your life, which can be daunting. I have to admit, I’m still not used to “adulting”, but I have a few tips, which have helped me find a sense of direction. I wish my younger self had figured these out earlier:
  • MAKE TO-DO LISTS: This sounds so simple, but writing things down, no matter how big or small a task, and being able to cross them off your list will bring you a sense of accomplishment. Feeling like you’ve achieved something, and haven’t wasted a day is imperative to continued self-motivation.
  • ASK QUESTIONS & TALK TO PEOPLE: This is something people really struggle with post-graduation, because they hold the ideology that seeking advice is a sign of weakness. In fact, it is the exact opposite. Asking for guidance and having conversations with other people about their own experiences can help you shape yours. Often, people are more than happy to help – we are all just trying to figure our lives out. Networking and having conversations with a variety of people in all fields has helped me explore lots of different paths.
  • Take your time and keep it realistic: I have a problem of setting MASSIVE, unattainable goals for myself. It’s great to dream big, but I always need to take a step back and realize that things take time and effort. It can be frustrating when your expectations aren’t met, but I am trying to learn to set realistic micro-goals that feed into my larger aspirations. I also need to learn the virtue of patience…still working on it!

Keep your eye on the prize and force yourself to accept setbacks as learning experiences.” – Lucas McLaughlin, Class of 2014.

Emma Case (Pallen)

Computer Science, Class of 2013

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you would end up?

I currently work at a small company in Austin, Texas called Cycorp. Our company develops Cyc which combines a common sense ontology, knowledge base, powerful inference engine, and natural language to develop knowledge driven applications. I work both as a back-end programmer and ontologist. I honestly thought I would end up in a more standard software role. There was a bit of a running joke that the Cognitive Science majors wouldn’t actually get to work in AI, but I was lucky enough to do just that!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Most importantly I would say to not stress out so much – just do your best and that’s good enough. Also, I would say to get involved in extra-curriculars earlier, because I had so much fun doing that and met so many amazing people.

Michele (Mikey) Carlucci

Philosophy, Class of 2014

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you’d end up?

Current job: Telecommunications Infrastructure. I’m involved in the deployment of fiber optic cables in the GTA. It is not where I thought I’d end up. During my degree at Queen’s, I cultivated my writing and critical analysis skills by taking liberal arts and humanities courses. However, I didn’t develop as many practical skills that would prepare me for the workforce as I had hoped; therefore, I continued my post-secondary education by studying RF Wireless and Computer Networking at George Brown College in Toronto.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Learn to cook for yourself and do laundry. That’s what I would tell myself or younger students. For me that was a big factor in why I lagged in my first and second year. Also, develop good study habits and get into a solid routine. Go to classes fully rested and bug your professors about bad marks. Don’t study in groups unless you’re in sciences, and there are definite falsifiable answers. My school friends didn’t know any more than I did, so working in groups was not the most effective way to study. At least study and learn philosophy.

“Learn to cook for yourself and do laundry.” – Mikey Carlucci, Class of 2014.

Kelly Rajack

Psychology, Class of 2012

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you’d end up?

I am currently an Associate Consultant at a management consulting firm. I work on the executive search team and specialise in recruitment for senior managerial and executive level positions. This is definitely not where I thought I would end up. The big plan was to pursue psychology further and hopefully a career in the mental health field. Needless to say, I realised that it might not be for me while in my 4th year at Queen’s and actually changing my focus from psychology to organisational behaviour and eventually to human resources. I eventually went to George Brown for year and did a post graduate diploma in HR and I’m now pursuing my MBA.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self that there’s no reason to panic… it’s okay and completely natural to find that your interests have changed and it’s never too late to pursue an alternative option.

Don’t be afraid to try new things out, you may find something you’re even more passionate about.

Michael Nogas

Electrical Engineering, Class of 2016

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you’d end up?

Building energy engineer (in-training), working to improve energy efficiency and energy conservation in the multi-residential building sector. It’s not entirely where I thought I would end up. I thought I would be more on the design side of new buildings whereas right now I work with retrofitting older buildings. It’s giving me a much more thorough understanding of what is going on physically in buildings, but I might still want to go into design later in my career.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’d tell my younger self to spend more time on things that I’m interested in and passionate about, rather than worrying about what will advance my career. If you show up to the right job interview and show that you pursued your interests and actually made something happen it is much better than being on some silly club.

“Call your family members more often.” – Rebecca Finley-Schidlowsky, Class of 2012.

Mat Kahansky

Biology & Music, Class of 2016

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you’d end up?

Booking Manager for Side Door, a music tech startup founded by Dan Mangan and Laura Simpson, putting artists in people’s homes and facilitating intimate concerts and a sustainable touring economy. Hell fucking no this isn’t where I thought I’d end up – I knew I wanted to be involved in music in some way or another, but I thought I’d be keeping it as a passion project rather than developing it into a career.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Go with the flow. Every opportunity, every decision, every person you meet or heartbreak you endure, will lead to the next step. They don’t need to be taken quickly or even gracefully, but every step leads to something great. It’s stupid and cliche but it’s all part of the journey.

Jasmine MacKay

Nursing Science, Class of 2013

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you’d end up?

Staff RN at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary on Trauma/Surgical Unit. Acute care of multi-system injured patients. Yes, it’s pretty much exactly what I was looking for as I neared graduation.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Oh man…I don’t have anything very profound to say…(Still thinking)…I’ll get back to you…

“Go with the flow. Every opportunity, every decision, every person you meet or heartbreak you endure, will lead to the next step.” – Mat Kahansky, Class of 2016.

Liske Bruinsma

Lorinda Liske Bruinsma

Psychology, Class of 2014

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you’d end up?

I am a third year student getting my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) at St. George’s University in Grenada, a country in the Caribbean. This is absolutely not where I thought I’d end up. I didn’t really have any clue what I wanted after graduating. I took a year off and applied for a masters in social psych. Got accepted a couple universities but it didn’t feel right. Also applied for my DVM and got accepted so I went for that!

What advice would you give your younger self?

While I absolutely loved my psychology degree and was very passionate and interested in it, I never truly saw a future in it. I guess advice to my younger self would be to educate myself more in different fields to discover what I COULD see myself doing if it wasn’t psychology.

Matthew Muto

Political Studies, Class of 2015

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you’d end up?

Currently a music producer/mix engineer/recording engineer on a contract by contract basis. My long term plan when I was entering my first year at Queen’s was finish my undergrad, then apply to a journalism program for grad school.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t feel pressured to jump into the next chapter of your life just because it’s what’s expected of you. Make your life decisions based on what you want to do and not what you think social norms dictate or what others might expect. At the same time, don’t forget to keep an open mind when it comes to deciding what career path you might find yourself going down.

“I would say to not stress out so much – just do your best and that’s good enough.” – Emma Case, Class of 2013.

Kalla Tonus-Burman

Politics & Global Development Studies, Class of 2013

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you’d end up?

I work as an Event Manager at Candice&Alison Events Group, a design, production and management company where I oversee and execute large scale corporate, social and not-for-profit events across North America. A daily role in logistics, creativity and teamwork, I was able to turn my passion of social events, design and charity into a career. Being a Political Science Major and Global Development Minor with the intention of working for the Government, I most definitely did not predict my path at Queen’s would result in Events.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I wish I had spent more time learning about career options, what degrees existed and the steps to achieve this prior to beginning my time at Queen’s. Although it may not be the most obvious job, or a specifically offered program it is important to identify your interests and learn more about how that translates to a career so you can take the right steps to get there. Hindsight is always 20/20, and for me, the answer was always right under my nose. Being the President of the Students for Wishes Committee, planning multiple Arts & Science Formals and always finding myself planning both social or volunteer events on campus, I was told and also convinced it was just a side hobby and not an actual job. To my surprise when I did my research, I could be paid to plan parties and love doing it I just wish I knew this sooner!

Claire Brown

Nursing Science, Class of 2012

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you’d end up?

I’m a Registered Nurse, I work in a level two intensive care unit. I don’t think I expected to be working in critical care, but I did think I would be doing bedside nursing for the first several years of my career.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Say yes to most (if not all) opportunities you’re offered at the beginning of your career. If your supervisor thinks you can handle some extra responsibility or learning, it’s worth a try, even if you don’t think you’re ready. Also, master the basics that make life more orderly as soon as your can: make your bed, get up on time, have routines.

Sarah Witiuk

Psychology, Class of 2013

Briefly describe your current role. Is this where you thought you’d end up?

I am a freelance Social Media Strategist and Event Marketing Specialist. I’ve been a creative professional for 6 years, working in a variety of non-profit and for-profit settings, in Canada and in the Netherlands. Currently, I am working with a team of passionate Queen’s students to manage the QueensEvents.ca initiative – an online community events calendar that I launched when I was 21. It’s become my passion project, and I really enjoy the 1-on-1 mentoring I get to do, helping the next generation to get the word out about their awesome events. It’s also made me love the city of Kingston in a way that I never thought I would! 

What advice would you give your younger self?

University is tough!  I was often really hard on myself, and by 4th year, I had lost sight of why I was in university in the first place.

When I was at Queen’s, mental health wasn’t talked about like it is today. If I could go back now, I would tell my younger self that you don’t have to go through this alone. There are amazing resources around Queen’s specifically there to help you make it through your toughest times. 

If you’re in a tough place right now, just remember that for every obstacle you’ve faced in your life so far – you have successfully overcome it to get to where you are and who you are now. Stress is going to be a constant in life, so finding healthy ways of dealing with it while in university is important, and that will make you more successful later in life.

Finally, when in doubt – go to an event. It will help you clear your mind, learn something new, and feel more like a human being!

Final words

A HUGE thank you to all of the alumni who answered our call! Thank you for taking the time to share a snapshot of your life now with us. We certainly got a variety of answers! For current students looking for more information about what you can do after Queen’s, we recommend checking out “It All Adds Up” by Queen’s Career Services – you can see more profiles like these, and find resources to help you take the next steps.

If you have further questions for these alumni, please email queensevents@live.ca, and we will endeavour to connect you. If you are an alum, and would like to add your thoughts to the list, send us an email with your answers to the questions above alongside your name, program, and graduating year, and we may add a part two post!

Note: These interviews provide a snapshot of the lives of young alumni (1-5 years out of school) as captured in November 2017. The format was established by blogktown

About the Featured Photo: Lucas McLaughlin (Queen’s Mechanical Engineering, Class of 2014) got to work behind-the-scenes of the Lady Gaga tour in Amsterdam this past January 2018!

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