Eight questions with Melanie Rushworth
Director, Communications, Outreach and Planning,
Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
Melanie Rushworth has worked in the public service for nearly two decades – a career she finds incredibly enriching. “Doing something that’s moving your own country forward is definitely a driving force for me,” she says.
In this member profile, Melanie shares insight into her admirable career, what she values most in IABC, and the one important thing her work and passion have in common.
- How would you describe your current role?
The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is an independent agent of Parliament. Here, I oversee the strategic plan for the organization, which is supported by communications, along with outreach and policy. Our primary audience consists of over 2,700 appointed federal officials who must comply with the Conflict of Interest Act for public office holders and Members of Parliament who are subject to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons. We also help media and the public understand what the ethics regime is about and how it all fits together.
- What do you love most about it?
I love that I get to play a critical role in the democracy of our country – this is near and dear to me as a public servant. I deeply value the strength of Canada’s public service and what we do for Canadians. And I genuinely enjoy figuring out how to explain a complex piece of legislation in a way that the general population will understand.
- Professional superpower?
Strategic analysis. I love taking disparate pieces of information and figuring out where the road might lead, what our options are, and providing advice on the best route forward based on my ability to scan internally and externally.
- What advice would you give to a communicator just starting out in the government or looking to get in?
First, it’s important to try a variety of opportunities where you can build different skill sets. Once you’re in the government, you have flexibility to move around. For instance, you might switch from issues management to advertising and marketing. Try lots of things so you understand where your personal interests are to get a solid fit. Second, being bilingual is critical if you want to advance. I was not bilingual when I joined the government and have continually worked towards proficiency. It has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my career.
- Proudest career moment?
I worked on the National Day of Honour in 2014, a large commemorative event on Parliament Hill where the government recognized the formal withdrawal of Canadian Forces members from Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led operation. It was a huge project and made me very proud as a Canadian to thank them for their service to Canada.
- How did your graduate degree complement your previous credentials and on-the-job experience?
Earning a Master of Public Administration a bit later in my career balanced out my undergraduate work in communications and my post-graduate PR certificate. To this day there are still things I learned in the Humber College program that I make use of. But the Queen’s University MPA paired my core communications skills with an understanding of how government functions, and where to strategically place communications in the cycle of government.
- What drew you to IABC?
I was first introduced to IABC while at Humber and have been involved on and off throughout my career. I’m a big fan of the World Conference. Those few days of concentrated learning take me outside my regular way of looking at things (the government perspective). I find the conference extremely useful to understand what’s going on in the corporate side of communications. The last conference I went to there were many good takeaways on how tech tools are helping communicators with analytics. There was an excellent session on strategy that stuck with me (I’ve thought a lot about it since). Each conference I attend, I gain valuable contacts who I can reach out to later for sage advice. I am also enjoying a new volunteer role I have taken on this year at the international-level as a member of the IABC Ethics Committee.
- What’s your passion outside of work?
Sailing! It’s a major part of my lifestyle. I race competitively as skipper of an all-women’s crew and also as crew on a mixed team. I try as best as possible to be active in the racing community as sailing is one of my favourite stress-relievers. Sailing is an exercise in strategic planning. You think you’re doing one thing, and then the wind tells you otherwise and you need to shift your strategy. So in a way, it’s very similar to what I do every day at work.