Building a Career in Canada: The World of Marketing

An interview with Fellow App's Manuela Barcenas

As a marketer, I absolutely love networking with other marketing enthusiasts. When I met Manuela it was an instant connection - her and I have had the opportunity to collaborate in various environments and let me tell you, she is the real deal!

Prior to moving to Canada, Manuela lived in three beautiful countries: Colombia (where she was born), Ecuador (where she attended middle school) and Peru (where she graduated high school).

In 2014, her curiosity about people’s backgrounds and passion for story-telling inspired her to pursue Journalism. She spent four years at Carleton University, where she was able to work on her communication and writing skills, and made life-long friendships.

Today, Manuela 
is a content marketer, community builder, and personal growth enthusiast. She works at a thriving tech startup called Fellow.app, where she leads the creation, production, and distribution of all content!

How did she do it? Here's Manuela's career journey and her best advice on how you can do it too!

Q: What is the most impactful thing you did for your career while completing your studies?

One of the lessons I learned during my four years at Carleton was the importance of getting involved in extracurricular activities and internships. In fact, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for one of those experiences.

In 2018, after debating for a while if I wanted to become a journalist or a digital marketer, I decided to apply for a content marketing internship at Startup Canada. This internship not only introduced me to the startup community in Ottawa, but helped me understand that a career in social media management, content creation, and digital marketing would make me very happy.

Following my (newly developed) passion for startups and digital marketing, I applied for a great program called Venture for Canada. It was thanks to this program that I learned about the wide diversity of startup companies looking for new talent -- and it was thanks to a networking event organized by VFC that I met the team at Fellow.

Two years later, I couldn’t be happier to be a part of that team. As a content marketing manager at Fellow, I get to work with an extremely talented group of individuals, while producing content (such as ebooks, podcasts, articles, and newsletters) to help our community of managers and leaders.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced being an international student in Canada?

One of the biggest challenges I faced as an international student was being away from my family. As an international student, it can be very easy to feel lonely and isolated, especially when your friends have the ability to visit their families during holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving, and reading week. I think the best way to overcome this challenge is to take advantage of these periods of time to explore the city, tour around with your friends, and immerse yourself in Canadian culture (for instance, by attending a traditional thanksgiving dinner).

The other challenge was the fear of speaking in public - or raising my hand in class - because I knew my English vocabulary and accent weren’t perfect. This is a challenge that a lot of immigrants face, and the only thing that helped me overcome it was practice. My biggest advice for other international students facing this challenge would be to step outside their comfort zones, get involved in groups and classes where public speaking is encouraged, and of course, remember that we’re lucky to live in an inclusive, welcoming, and highly diverse country, where it’s very unlikely that somebody will judge you for your accent.

Q: Can you describe your experience looking for work after graduation?

Job hunting can be hard. I remember applying for a long list of jobs - and not getting replies from any of them. This, of course, can be very frustrating and intimidating.

My advice for any international student would be to network with other professionals in their field - ideally, before graduating university. 

Attend networking events. Follow other professionals on LinkedIn. Reach out to people who have your dream job and ask them what they did to get there. All these things will help you build a network and understand what employers in your field are looking for.

And one more thing: don’t give up. I know job hunting can be overwhelming, but I’ve seen a lot of my friends get their dream jobs because they didn’t stop reaching out to companies and putting their best effort into every single job application.

Q: Why marketing?

To me, marketing is the perfect blend between content creation, community building, and business strategy. I love that I get to apply a lot of the skills I learned in Journalism (writing, interviewing, and editing) -- and on the other hand, get to influence a business’s growth and development. 

Q: What sets a marketer apart?

One important part of growing a career in marketing, in my opinion, is building your personal brand across different platforms. I’ve seen it at companies such as Drift and Gong -- where a lot of people follow the PEOPLE inside the company, and not necessarily the corporate brand. In today’s saturated market, companies must differentiate themselves and stand out. I think that empowering employees to build their personal brand is an important part of this. 

Q: Can you share 3 things you did that made all the difference in your career path so far?

  1. Be open to feedback

One of the skills that I've tried to develop over the last two years is seeking feedback on my work and not taking constructive criticism so personally. Everything changed once I started seeing feedback as a growth opportunity rather than a threat.

My advice for you would be to ask your manager and coworkers for feedback on your work and be open to constructive criticism. This is one of the fastest ways for you to learn and improve.

  1. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people

I’ve reached out to many professionals via LinkedIn and Twitter. Take advantage of these platforms to follow people in your space and let them know that you admire them. This mentality has opened many doors for me - including becoming a member in exclusive marketing groups and getting exclusive previews before a book gets published.

  1. Never stop learning

Last but not least, make sure you’re always consuming content and learning skills that are relevant to your career. Think about where you want to be in the future and the skills you need to develop in order to get there. 

Personally, I’m always learning about things such as content marketing, search engine optimization, and leadership. I subscribe to newsletters, youtube channels, and services such as Audible to make sure that I’m always up to date on trends and knowledge. 

This growth mindset has made a big impact on my career.

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