Thursday, November 4, 2010

Professional Profile: Daniel Lee - Navigator

Daniel’s Current Position

Daniel Lee 
Currently Daniel is employed with Navigator, a management consulting firm that specializes in public affairs. As Daniel explained, Navigator aims to apply the principles of a political campaign to help businesses and governments overcome and avoid public affairs challenges. Just like an election campaign, Navigator conducts public opinion research, designs an appropriate strategy, and implements an action plan to ensure their clients’ success. You can read more about Navigator here:

Daniel has been with Navigator for eight years, throughout which, his role has expanded and evolved. When he was first hired, Navigator had no system with which to organize their information, files or records. Thus, Daniel’s first task was to sort through the loads of information that had been casually accumulating in bankers boxes and computer files and come up with an organized way to store these records. He was then responsible for ensuring his coworkers understood and were able to use the system he had created. Of course, this all sounds much more simple and easy than it really was; as Daniel says, “There was literally a room full of stuff.” 

As time went on and Daniel’s organizational expertise became institutionalized, his tasks grew. He is now involved at every level of the informational lifecycle: reference and research work; media monitoring; data analysis; proofreading; and fact checking. Additionally, he acts as Navigator's privacy officer and lobbyist registrar, ensuring compliance with the latest rules and regulations. This variety of tasks is one of the reasons Daniel enjoys his job. Moreover, as Daniel stated, he is able to see the direct impact of his work which isn't always possible in more traditional library settings.

Daniel’s Educational Background

Daniel grew up in Massachusetts, where he attended the University of Massachusetts, receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Portuguese (yes, he speaks both; no, he is neither). Although he studied languages in school, he did so with no intention of pursuing a language-based career in the future; he knew that he had no interest in being a translator or a teacher, and wasn’t opposed to going back to school for more education or training to qualify him for another profession. Instead of jumping straight into another program, however, he decided to look for work and shortly after graduation found a job as an administrative assistant with a study abroad program. While he did enjoy this role, he found himself wanting more of a challenge and took an interest in the database his company was using. He noticed several areas for improvement and dedicated some of his time to streamlining this database. 

After nine months, Daniel was ready for a change, but still undecided about what this change should be. Looking for guidance, he took some career tests to point him in the right direction; his top results were speech pathologist and librarian. After some consideration, he felt that librarian was probably better suited to him; after all, he had taken a great interest in the database at his work and had always shown an interest in organizing things. His choice of school was easy: he was offered a full scholarship to Dalhousie in Halifax. While he received a broad LIS education, he found himself most intrigued by courses in data mining and information technology.

Daniel’s Career Path

Daniel graduated from Dalhousie in 2001 and decided to pursue work in Toronto. Before making this move, however, he sought the help of a professor, who connected him with five professionals working in Toronto; Daniel was able to meet four of these five people. With each one, he conducted an informational interview and then asked for the contact information for two more professionals. Through this professional ‘snowball,’ Daniel was able to build a network of people he could rely on for professional advice and opportunities. While this was a fantastic way to network (Daniel still remains in contact with many of these people through SLA, of which he is still a member), it was unfortunately a bad time to find a job (he was in the final round of an interview when someone barged in, informing Daniel and the interviewer of the terrorist attacks on September 11th). He remained unemployed for nine months.

Eventually he found work as a webmaster for the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS), “Canada’s Association of I.T. Professionals.” He was signed on for a year long contract, but knew he would have to find a permanent position eventually. One particularly fateful night, Daniel went out for dinner with a small group of people. In discussion it came up that Daniel was a qualified librarian. This piqued the interest of one person at the table who inquired more about Daniel’s skills. As it turned out, he knew of someone who owned a company that was in need of the skills Daniel offered. A long story short: Daniel was put in touch with this person, and after completing a few freelance research reports, was offered a job. After nine months with CIPS, Daniel started his career at Navigator; he has been with this company ever since.

How did Daniel’s Education and Background Prepare Him for this Role?

As mentioned, Daniel felt he had received a really well rounded LIS education at Dalhousie. Nevertheless, when he started his job, as he stated, “I had no idea what I was doing” (as any recent graduate would likely feel). However, even though he was in an untraditional environment with absolutely no guidance, Daniel was able to apply the skills he had learned in school and use them to his advantage. For instance, he mentioned that he was able to use the reference interview as a successful way to glean information from his bosses and better understand what it was they were hoping to achieve with a filing system. Moreover, when creating such a system, Daniel put to use basic cataloguing skills, such a name authority, in an attempt to harmonize files. Other skills such as indexing, abstracting, data mining and database expertise were also helpful to Daniel.

Daniel’s Advice

As Daniel mentioned, there were several skills that he was not thoroughly taught in school that he was required to focus on in the workplace, such as project management; problem solving skills; interpersonal skills; and the ability to think creatively. In his professional life, Daniel has found that these skills are equally, if not more, important than the basic library skills taught in LIS programs, and his advice to current students is to begin developing these skills now. Additionally, Daniel suggests that current students should also focus on their professional development; skills such as networking, public speaking, and event planning are all crucial in the world of work. Daniel believes that all students should become involved with professional associations, like SLA, as this is the best way to meet people and develop a professional path; such involvement is always illustrative of one’s commitment to their profession.

Daniel's final piece of advice to students currently pursuing their Master of Information: "Stop dreaming that you will become a librarian one day!" As Daniel stated, current students have to think bigger and realize that the skills we are currently learning are incredibly useful, highly sought after, and transferable to a wide range of environments. Like Daniel, we just have to be ready to sell ourselves at a moments notice.