Stephanie Ritchie,
BABC Alumna

After 15 years working in the aviation industry, Stephanie Ritchie knew she was ready for a change.

“When I was 18, I started working at WestJet. I started in the call centre and worked my way up,” she said.

After more than four years in the call centre in Calgary, Stephanie became an Administrative Assistant before being promoted to Technical Records Coordinator, a position she held for almost six years. In the spring of 2012, she was promoted again to Analyst – Inflight Services, which entailed a lot of analysis of process management.

“We would go in and change a lot of the customer service processes based on feedback from our frontline staff,” Stephanie said. “We did a lot of investigative work and my role mainly fell in terms of improvement projects.”

Along the way, she earned certifications in business analysis, project management and risk management.

In 2013, she moved to the Middle East to work for Qatar Airways as Manager of Planning and Administration, which saw her overseeing planning for all service training for more than 8,000 crew members, among other duties and projects.

Stephanie lived in Doha, Qatar’s capital, for nearly four years, an experience she called “a great experience. I would actually recommend if anyone could move to a different country for even a little bit of time, just do it.

“I went over there having some misconceptions about what I thought it would be like to live in the Middle East, based on what our media shows, which is not all accurate,” she said.

“It really changed my worldview in a lot of ways,” she said, adding that the team she managed at Qatar Airlines included people from 12 different nationalities.

“You end up having to learn to work and communicate with so many different cultures that you’re just not exposed to in Canada,” Stephanie said. “So even though Canada is very multicultural in terms of we have a lot of immigration, it’s not multicultural like the Middle East.”

She was working as Manager – Special Projects and Quality for Qatar Airways when she started thinking about making a career change.

“I just realized that I didn’t love project management,” she said, adding that she started looking at the aspects of her job that she enjoyed the most.

“It came down to communications, essentially, which at the end of the day is the core of pretty much everything.”

In addition to her experience in the communications side of her career, Stephanie is a self-proclaimed “word nerd” who has been writing recreationally since childhood – her first published piece was a poem she wrote when she was 11. She said she really enjoyed the engagement side of project management.

“I just thought I could combine what I actually love to do with what I think I could do career-wise.”

Still living in Qatar, Stephanie started researching bachelor’s degree programs with a focus on communications. She said she knew she wanted to continue working while she completed her degree and quickly found University Canada West’s online Bachelor of Arts in Business Communication.

She started her studies in the Fall (October) 2016 term.

Stephanie said the online format made it easy for her to balance her studies with her work at Qatar Airlines and allowed her to make several moves without worrying about disrupting her studies.

In 2017, she returned to Canada and WestJet, working as Advisor to the Chief Guest Experience Officer. She lived in Toronto before moving back to Calgary. After getting laid off in 2018, Stephanie worked for various organizations on a contract basis and took the opportunity to focus more on her studies.

She graduated in December 2020 and started applying for jobs in communications. She had three interviews, turned down one offer and accepted a position as Communications Specialist at bioLytical Laboratories – a British Columbia-based infectious disease testing company. She moved to Vancouver and started working at bioLytical in May 2021.

Stephanie said she had tried applying for communications positions before she completed her degree, and even with her extensive work experience, never made it to the interview stage.

“The degree really did make a difference,” she said. “As soon as I could put that I had a degree, I immediately started getting job offers, especially in communications, which is what I wanted to do. So even though I had almost 20 years of experience doing communications, I wasn’t being considered for the majority of communications jobs, only project management jobs.”

Established in 2002, bioLytical is a leader in the field of rapid in vitro medical diagnostics with a range of tests that provide instant accurate results for infectious diseases including HIV, COVID-19, Hepatitis C and Syphilis.

As Communications Specialist, Stephanie heads educational awareness, writes press releases and liaises with the media, handles social media, as well as emails to internal and external stakeholders and marketing.

Nearly 18 months into her new career, Stephanie is not looking back.

“It’s been great,” she said. “Getting my degree was the best choice I could have made, to be honest.”