July 28, 2017

Alumni Spotlight: Barry Strader BCS'09

Arts alumni are an accomplished crew. They have great advice for students and fellow graduates, and know that arts degrees teach skills that are sought-after in the professional environment.
Barry Strader BCS'09

Barry Strader graduated with a Bachelor of Communications Studies in 2009. He is the Communications Director with the Alberta College of Pharmacists (ACP), an organisation who regulates pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacies in Alberta. His role is to oversee all communications at ACP, including leading a high-performing communications team, developing strategy, managing media relations, producing publications, and guiding content and design for ACP’s website.

What is your favourite University of Calgary memory?

My favourite U of C memory is walking into my first class at 9:00 am on Monday morning. It was Introduction to Communications. I’ll never forget the feeling of being a mature student, 36 years of age, returning to school for the first time in 17 years, and opening the door to a huge lecture auditorium filled with 300 students. It was, to say the least, intimidating. Right away, I questioned whether I was up for this or not. I was older than everyone around me. It was my first university class ever. Several days later, I handed in my first assignment and got 9.9 out of 10. At that moment, I knew I could do it.

What was your favourite campus hang out spot?

The Den. In my final year at U of C, we had a long class every Wednesday afternoon. One day, a group of us decided we needed to decompress after class. We met for beers at the Den and it quickly became a Wednesday afternoon tradition that I will take credit for starting and maintaining! During that time, our group became very close and I still value those friendships to this day. Plus, it was a nice feeling to know that I could still hang with the 20-year-olds.

If you could give one piece of advice to an undergraduate completing the same degree as you, what would it be?

Time management. As a mature student who was still working 25 to 30 hours per week while taking five classes each semester, managing my time was critical. Keeping a strict schedule of when to be at work, when to be in class, and when to study kept me personally accountable. I had a responsibility to my employers to show up on time and ready to work. I had a responsibility to my fellow students to hold up my end of group projects. And I had a responsibility to myself to get the most out of my university education and prepare for a new career.

How has your career evolved?

My career has evolved from being a journalist pre-university, to becoming a communications professional. The skills I learned during my journalism career have carried over to my communications career. But since working in the corporate world, I have developed new skills such as creating strategy, crafting messages to different audiences, managing projects, and building the trust of senior executives. Recently, I have moved into a leadership role with a new organization and I look forward to learning and evolving as a leader.

What is the best thing about your job?

Learning. I learn something new every day, whether it’s about communication, leadership, or, in my new position, pharmacy. That’s the great thing about communication – it applies to every industry. There isn’t an organization on earth that could succeed without a sound communication strategy. The exciting part of being a communications professional is learning about the industry you’re working in and applying your communications expertise to help the organization reach its goals.

How did your arts degree help you get to where you are now/your current career?

After 17 years as a broadcast journalist, I didn’t like the direction the industry was heading and wanted to shift gears. I thought that with my college diploma and work experience, it would be no problem to make the transition to corporate communications. I was wrong. I had a very difficult time getting my foot in the door, anywhere. After several failed job applications (I didn’t even get an interview), I decided that if I was serious about changing careers, I would need to complete my degree. Through some research, I discovered that the U of C’s Bachelor of Communications Studies program would give me credit for my college diploma. That meant that if I went to school full time and took spring and summer classes, I would be able to complete my degree in two years. I applied, was accepted, worked very hard, and graduated in April, 2009. Over the next three months, I was interviewed for several positions, and landed a job in my hometown of Edmonton with ATB Financial. I have no doubt that without my U of C degree, that would not have been possible.

Do you have any other thoughts or memories you would like to share?

If you’re in your thirties or forties and thinking about going back to school, whether it’s for one class or as a full-time student, I encourage you to go for it. My university experience was one of the best times of my life. It invigorated me and gave me a new sense of purpose as I worked towards changing careers. While the first few days were difficult, I was able to make great friends and learn a lot – about communications and myself.