Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Professional Profile – Pam Casey, Ontario 211 Services Corporation

For the past four months, as she was just recently hired, Pam has held the position of “Data Initiatives Manager” at Ontario 211 Services Corporation. 211 is a service directed at people in somewhat dire circumstances, who find themselves in need of food, shelter, counselling, job services and/or other non-emergency, government and social service information. In essence, 211 provides human services data to people in need. Pam’s job requires her to establish relationships with data providers, for instance, libraries or governments, or the example she gave, HIP, Halton Information Provider. This service helps residents of Halton find the information they need to maintain general well being. Pam’s job requires her to connect with services like HIP so that 211 can forward their users to these resources.

Describe your educational background.

Pam has a background in social service work, for which she obtained a diploma from Mohawk College. While she very much enjoyed this career, when she married she moved to Montreal, and had to give up this work as she did not speak fluent French. Thus, she was inspired to pursue a new line of work and went to Sheridan College, where she obtained her library technician diploma. Pam is also a certified technical trainer, which is an accreditation from CompTIA (a computer trainer certification body).

Describe your first job as a librarian or information professional etc. and subsequent career path.

After leaving her career in social work, Pam found her first role in libraries at the Halton District School Board. Here, she worked in two different libraries, French emersion and Vocational. While she did enjoy this, she felt that she was working too much for too little compensation, and wanted to spend more time at home with her children. She thus chose to pursue a corporate library position and secured a job at GlaxoSmithKline, where she was required to work only three days a week, but was compensated more than when she worked full time at HDSB. At GSK, Pam was a business researcher, with this position changing into managing an offsite library. Eventually, Pam moved on to work for NPS Pharmaceuticals, where she worked as part of a team but was responsible for the library in Canada. Unfortunately, she was laid off from this position. Therefore, Pam decided to put more energy into her own business which she had been doing on the side for several years as a self described “hobby business.” Pam’s business is called Information Now and provides information management solutions to various companies. Although Pam’s attention is currently directed at 211, she is still committed to Information Now.

How did your information training and background prepare you for the job you now have?
Pam stated that her prior work experiences were mainly in data positions, which helped to expand her knowledge about data and information management. Her experiences and training have also helped her to learn a lot about taxonomy and information architecture, which helped her to secure her current job at 211. This employer was also impressed that Pam had a social work background, as 211 is in the market of helping those in need, which Pam had extensive experience with.

Further, Pam emphasized that she regularly updates her experience by taking classes and courses that teach her more about data and information organization, while keeping her knowledge updated. She is also an active member of the SLA; in 2009 she was voted Member of the Year. It is this networking and self promotion that has helped Pam obtain the job she now holds at 211.

What advice would you give someone who is currently doing his or her Master in Information?

“Think outside of the box!” Pam stressed that current Master of Information students should not have such a narrow focus when it comes to finding a job; there is so much competition for traditional library jobs. Instead, they should analyze what kinds of skills they have gained from their education and focus on making these skills applicable to various arenas in the world of work. In Pam’s case, she marketed her skills to the corporate and pharmaceutical world.

What skills and experience should they be building up at this point, if they would like to work in this specific field?

Pam said that if one was looking to work specifically for 211 in her position, they would need to have very up to date taxonomy knowledge, as well as knowledge about human services information. Moreover, Pam stressed the importance of having some knowledge of how government politics work, as she said that her job required her to be in contact with many government agencies. She was also required to learn how to draft contracts and agreements, something she had never had experience doing before.

Any general advice for new information professionals?

“Don’t sell yourself short.” Pam stressed the importance of being up to speed in all areas of the information profession; one should have current knowledge and up to date skills. Further, Pam emphasized how crucial it is to learn how to properly “sell yourself.” She suggested that new information professionals should use all social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (Pam uses all of them!), to build their advantage. She stressed the importance of networking, and mentioned that this was made even more possible by joining such groups as the SLA. Pam suggested that everyone should learn how to market themselves and the skills they have; just because one has a library degree does not mean that their skills are not applicable to another field.

What helpful lessons did you learn early in your career? Do any of them still apply today?

Pam expressed that her biggest mistake, career wise, was not getting her degree. While she has two college diplomas, she stated that she did not get many jobs she applied for, as employers only wanted to hire those who had a MLIS or MIS after their name. While she was completely capable of performing all the jobs she applied for, many times she did not even receive a call back as she did not have a MLIS, or similar degree. Therefore, according to Pam, the best thing one can do to further their career is obtain a degree, of any kind, as this really acts as a stepping stone to many jobs and careers.