Deja Leonard is a manager of elementary and middle school programs with Junior Achievement Southern Alberta. Located in Calgary, the company is dedicated to educating young people about business and free enterprise.
This is one in a series of career interviews for the Calgary Journal.
I definitely have a passion for writing. Writing is subjective but it can also have a lot of rules and that’s something that I really like about it. I think the thing that really affected my love for writing was just the subject of English. I had a really awesome teacher in high school. I actually did English 30 twice because it was fun but not because I had to, so I basically considered going into journalism specifically at Mount Royal University.
I knew by about the time I was in my third year that I would not be an actual journalist and that’s for a few reasons. A lot of my friends that I knew that did take the journalism route ended up moving away to a small town and developing their career there. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but the type of writing that I enjoy doing is more expansive than journalistic writing.
Taking a job in communications gave me the ability to write journalistically, but also do a ton of different types of writing as well.
I was only interested in working with nonprofits so I definitely had my eyes out on various non-profit career boards. I think starting your first job, whether it’s an internship or not, is a little intimidating.
I interned for Dress for Success at the Hollywood location but I worked a lot of the time from Calgary. That was actually my start in nonprofit — seeing how amazing and rewarding it is to do that type of work.
After that, I interviewed at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and Junior Achievement (JA). SAIT had given me a job offer and I was still in the interviewing process at JA so I had to make a decision. I withdrew my application at that time and worked at SAIT.
Working at SAIT was definitely a shift for me in terms of a post-secondary environment, a kind of larger environment. I was on a contract at that time and typically, your contract just continues or gets renewed and I decided not to continue. It just wasn’t for me. After a month or two, the same posting for JA came up again because the individual that got my position was moving to Australia. It was a very meant-to-be type of thing. “You just have to care about what you’re doing — not only will that help you to be more successful, it will probably make you a happier person if you actually care about your job,” — Deja Leonard
I started out as a coordinator of programs at JA. I had a great leader to work with and I was able to emulate a lot of the things that she did. A big part of me being able to transition into the job of a manager is going the extra mile. In the organization, presenting yourself well everyday, being someone who’s easy to work with, someone who wants the best for the organization, is definitely a kind of trait that JA looks for in order to move someone into the manager’s position.
I think one thing that I like about JA is that it’s a youth-focused charity. I’ve done coaching in the past for ringette and coaching kids’ sports camps and honestly, children are hilarious. They have a lot of energy and it’s just very refreshing for me to have the ability to impact youth while also working with them at the same time.
Aside from the altruistic elements of feeling good about what you’re doing and the work that you’re doing, one thing about non-profit is that you’re often put in a position where you have a lot of work; not as many people to do it and that offers you the opportunity to excel your career at a faster pace than someone who’s working in a large organization.
I think ultimately, you just have to care about what you’re doing — not only will that help you to be more successful, it will probably make you a happier person if you actually care about your job.
As told to Sam Nar. This interview has been edited and condensed for length.
Editor: Tyler Ryan | Tryan@cjournal.ca