Leah Jurkovic has held some diverse titles throughout her career of nearly 20 years. Partnerships program coordinator. Assistant scientific director. Manager, applied research and knowledge dissemination.
Through it all, though, a solid foundation of communication skills has served her well – even if, until her most recent role, none of those job titles has ever contained the word, “communications”.
“Good communicators are generalists who understand not only their business, but also the importance of how it’s communicated in terms of public perception, stakeholder value, etc.,” says Jurkovic, an IABC Ottawa member.
“When you are a part of the senior team, defining the future work of an organization, that communications lens is hugely important to help contextualize decision-making.”
A new role in communications
Since starting her summer job as a financial analyst with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in 1999, Jurkovic has served in important research and program coordination roles with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, as a project officer with UNICEF, and in administration and research with the Micronutrient Initiative (now Nutrition International).
She first joined Colleges and Institutes Canada in 2012 as the manager of applied research and knowledge dissemination for their international programs.
In 2015 she moved into her current role as the organization’s director of communications and stakeholder engagement.
If there’s one piece of advice she’d offer based on her own experience to young professionals it’s this: Don’t overthink your career moves.
“Trusting and seizing new opportunities, and not being afraid to take on a new challenge, has been the key to a happy career for me thus far,” says Jurkovic.
Inspired by colleagues
But it’s not just her role in communications that motivates her. The opportunity to work with members of Colleges and Institutes Canada, a member association that serves colleges and institutes across the country, is equally important.
“I am lucky enough to work in an incredible sector with an astounding number of cool and innovative stories to share about our members’ community and industry impact,” says Jurkovic.
“It’s an embarrassment of riches. Getting the secret out about why colleges and polytechnics are so ahead of the curve in program design, applied research etc., is hugely motivating.”
Jurkovic is also an advocate for local canines, regularly publicizing Ottawa area dogs that are available to be adopted through local Ottawa dog rescues – she is a volunteer and foster for Sit With Me.
Continuous learning as an IABC Ottawa member
Jurkovic hasn’t been an IABC Ottawa member for that long. She joined about a year ago, hoping to continue learning from and socializing with her fellow members as she continued to build her career in the communications world.
It’s a decision she’d recommend to other local communicators – regardless of how long they’ve been in the profession.
“This is your home turf – take advantage,” says Jurkovic. “Go out and meet your colleagues, share promising practices and challenges, and get involved to help the group produce the kinds of events and content you want to see.”
Diversity in leadership
Jurkovic is something of an uncommon commodity: A woman in a position of authority in the C-suite.
Many organizations still don’t have women in senior positions in their organization. This, she says, is a missed opportunity for organizations to allow their employees to feel like they are represented in – and have their voices heard by – the senior team.
It’s just one of the benefits of diversity that she would highlight if advising an organization that lagged behind in that area, says Jurkovic.
“Embracing a diversity of perspectives is one of the most important parts of good leadership,” she says. “Only the best ideas can stand up to the diversity test, and that’s what you want driving the value and the direction of the organization.”
You can follow Leah Jurkovic for her work with Colleges and Institutes Canada and Sit With Me dog rescue on Twitter at @LeahJurkovic.