Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Professional Profile - Helen Kula, MaRS Discovery District

Helen is currently a Senior Information Specialist at MaRS Discovery District, a not-for-profit innovation centre. As described on their website, MaRS seeks to bring together “innovators from the private and public spheres” and are “eager to tackle specific projects, like creating successful companies. But also to learn from one another. To create new alliances. And unleash innovations that will shape the 21st century”.

A day in the life of Helen

Helen provides research and various information services to clients working specifically in information communication technologies, advisors and staff at MaRS.

A typical day for Helen includes a multitude of different tasks and is not limited to the following:
Responding to information requests (developing search strategies, conducting research, summarizing results)
  • Reviewing and selecting relevant news and developments from e-newsletters, RSS feeds and other sources, as well as forwarding this information to clients, advisors or staff
  • Managing the print publications at MaRS
  • Attending meetings with clients and/or advisors
  • Updating the MaRS case management system to capture market intelligence requests
  • Participating in training and development activities to further knowledge of sources, databases and the ICT industry.

Education & Career Path

Helen began her education at the University of Toronto completing a BA in English and French. She then went on to McGill University to complete her MA in English. Following this, she completed a National Certificate in Voluntary and Non-Profit Management from the University of Ottawa. It was after managing a small information and referral service at a non-profit organization that Helen found herself at the Faculty of Information completing a Master of Information Studies. While a career in library and information science may be in her genes (her father is an archivist), Helen says that her decision to move in this direction was because this program complemented her career path at the time.

After her graduation from the iSchool, Helen had the opportunity to work at the Rotman School of Management as both a Public Services Librarian and a Business Information Specialist for Infosolutions – Rotman’s fee-based research service to external business and clients.

With regard to her current position, Helen says she had heard rumblings about the opening of opportunities which could benefit from her skill set at MaRS. She explains that she reached out to an old colleague for a contact at UTL who might be connected with MaRS. Turns out, this contact happened to be involved in creating the cross-appointment that she now holds. The job was then posted and she was the successful candidate – Helen says, “It was the only job I ever interviewed for in flip-flops” (she had a phone interview in Florida where she was vacationing).


When asked if her background in library and information studies prepared her for her future career path, Helen says that it gave her the basic background and skills she needed to be successful in her future job positions. But, she also notes that she learned a huge amount from her peers and colleagues at the time – these individuals provided her with valuable advice that helped her get to where she is today.

Helen also says that she saw a lot of her peers get caught up in concentrating too much on their GPA’s – this, she says, was something she tried to avoid. She stresses the importance of doing your best in school and getting all that you can from your courses, but Helen also notes that it is so important to focus on the experience you can gain outside the classroom – whether it’s getting involved with the student council or a professional organization. These can provide excellent experiences and opportunities.

Some advice that Helen shares for current iSchool students is “to appreciate the power of the library network”. Helen explains that because the library community is so small, there is a huge amount of support you can find within this group; she notes that the SLA was incredibly useful to her. The organization allowed her to explore different career paths and options, and gave her the opportunity to get valuable experience and meet some wonderful people.

To find out more about MaRS, please visit www.marsdd.com or check out the MaRS blog at http://www.marsdd.com/blog/ for more interesting articles and findings!