Sherrilynne Starkie’s career in communications has taken her around the world.
London. Washington. The Isle of Man. So it’s with some authority that she can stake a claim about the singular character of the Ottawa communications community.
“The people are nice. Competitors often collaborate, everyone is community minded and involved in charity fundraisers and similar initiatives,” she says. “This is different from both London and Washington, where I’ve spent time working. I found those communities much less collegial.”
Few people in Ottawa can match the cosmopolitanism of Starkie’s career. After completing her diploma in public relations at Algonquin College in 1991, she got started as a technical writer for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.
For the next several decades she worked in various communications and public relations roles in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man for organizations like the Reputation Managers, AIMM Limited and PDMS Limited before returning to Canada a few years ago to join Thornley Fallis Communications, an Ottawa agency.
There is some weight behind her claim, then, that Ottawa is becoming a “world-class city.” “Ottawa is on the cusp of some exciting growth and is a great community in which to build a career,” she says.
“Our tech sector is at the cutting-edge of innovation, there are new government jobs for the first time in years, condo life is coming alive downtown and LRT is just around the corner.”
This dynamism has also spread to the local communications community, she says.
“Journalists, PR professionals, advertisers and marketers used to live within their own profession’s silos,” she says. “Now the professions work together in the community and individuals have a wider range of skills that lets them cross over from one discipline to another.
“PR people do advertising; ad pros are now storytellers, reporters work as brand journalists. The lines are blurred.”
A passionate commitment to IABC has stayed with her throughout her time in Ottawa. She served in various roles on the IABC Ottawa board before eventually becoming president for the 2015-16 season. This year she will serve on the board of IABC Canada East, a regional body encapsulating many of the biggest chapters in Canada.
She’s looking forward to many elements of the role, including meeting people across the country and helping all the chapters in eastern Ontario thrive. But it’s the prospect of helping to organize the IABC World Conference 2018, the annual gathering of worldwide communicators taking place this year in Montreal, that has her most excited.
“I’m the liaison between conference organizers and all Eastern Canada chapters,” she says. “We see this as ‘our’ world conference and we are looking forward to helping make it a success.”
Starkie has so enjoyed her role with IABC Ottawa that volunteering is a central part of her advice to young people looking to build their careers.
“You need to make real-world connections and build real life skills and experience, if you are going to get ahead,” says Starkie. “Competition for entry level jobs has never been fiercer with hundreds of extremely well-qualified candidates hitting the streets each year.
“Get building your network and portfolio before you graduate by volunteering in a field or for a cause you feel passionate about.”