Meet Shawn Read – Humans of Ace Blog
Jean-Luc Lemire

For this month’s Humans of Ace blog, we spoke to Shawn Read, Co-op Coordinator and chair of the Career and Experiential Learning Department of Thompson Rivers University. From working with small business owners and distributing federal wage subsidies to helping Canadian immigrants and counselling students, Shawn has almost always worked in career education. In his experience, the ideal education should combine in-class and Work Integrated Learning to facilitate the transition from school to work. Helping students is Shawn’s passion, and thus, he was happy to share a few his experiences and insights with Humans of Ace.

What inspired you to join the career education field?

I got involved in career education very early on. While attending St. Thomas University and the University of New Brunswick, I held two summer jobs with the New Brunswick Government where I travelled around the province helping people start small businesses by teaching them to access government programming and acquire funding.

Later, I worked with both Kamloops Immigrant Services, where I helped new Canadian immigrants find employment, and the Federal Government, where I directed a program that provided wage subsidies to employers for hiring incentives.

After that, I started my own business called the Youth Network, a youth employment program that contracted out to the Federal and Provincial Government to help youth find employment opportunities. So, you can see the pattern: I have almost always been in the employment and career field. Finally, I landed the job here at TRU (UCC at the time) and haven’t looked back.

How long have you been working with Thompson Rivers University?

I started in August of 2003, so I have been here almost sixteen years. For my first two years, I worked as the Coordinator for the Student Employment Centre. Then I spent two three-year terms as chair of the Career and Experiential Learning Department, took a bit of a break—about a year and a half—and now I am doing my third term as department chair. So, by this time next year, I will have completed 12 years as chair of the department. Beyond that, I have also spent the last six years as the Bachelor of Business Administration Co-op Coordinator.

What is your most memorable moment with a student?

My Gosh… there are so many great moments with students… Three kinds of student encounters really stand out in my memory.

First, when a student gets their first Co-op term or full-time job, comes in to our office and, with utter joy on their face, announces that they have landed a position. Seeing how incredibly happy they are to break down that barrier between them and that first job opportunity—that is unforgettable.

Second, when students already in a Co-op work term receive a permanent job offer from their employer. That really shows that the employer has confidence in that student, and it shows that the student has really performed to the best of their ability.

Third, when I see students who have already graduated and are now in their careers in the community, and they still say, “Thank you so much for all of the help you gave me while I was at TRU.”

If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to take chances. As a young man, I tried to capitalize on the doors that were open to me, but sometimes fear overcame my ability to say “Okay, I’m going to walk through that door and take a chance on that job.”

For instance, I once received an offer to work as the executive assistant of one of the highest-level employees of the New Brunswick Government. It would have been a very high-pressure position, and I doubted my ability to speak French daily in an official capacity. In the end, my fear made the decision for me, and I elected not to take the job.

I like using this experience to demonstrate to students the importance of taking risks. After all, if you take a chance and it doesn’t work out, you can always try something else, but if you pass on an opportunity, it may never come up again. So, when an opportunity presents itself, go for it—you’re young, so go for it!

If you are not in the office, what would we find you doing?

I enjoy travelling. My wife, my family and I go on a lot of vacations together. I also love the outdoors, so I am always hiking. B.C. is a beautiful province with so much to offer, and whether I am going for multi-day hikes or shorter hikes, the mountains are therapeutic to me. The summer heat, photography, simply being outdoors—I just love it.

If you could be a character in any book, which character would you be?

That’s a tough one… (laughs)… I’m really into Game of Thrones right now, so I don’t know… A lot of those characters aren’t the greatest role models in the world, but maybe John Snow. He seems like the best of the bunch (laughs).

What are three words your coworkers would use to describe you?

Hard-working, honest and transparent. I have been in a leadership role for a while, and I’ve learned that things work best when I am as open as possible with my colleagues. I want them to know why I make decisions and to take part in the decision-making process. Departments can accomplish great things when everyone works toward a common goal, so I want everyone to understand where our department is going as well as their individual role to play. Furthermore, when speaking to the Dean or others, I want my colleagues to know I will be honest in my approach and that I will advocate as much as I can on their behalf.

Final statements?

We have a terrific group of dedicated people in our department, from our career education assistants, who are fantastic to work with and a huge part of our team, to our faculty coordinators, each of whom comes from a different background and has a unique skill-set with which to help students realize their dreams and aspirations. It is an absolute pleasure to work with these people. We have such a great team right now, and I am really excited about the future and where we are going.