Phil Flegel is a design professor at Bow Valley College in Calgary, Alta., where he teaches a new program called “Digital Design,” a pioneering design course in Canada.
Ironically, journalism wasn’t my first choice, but I decided that maybe arts education would be a little bit more of a better feel for me, because even back then I didn’t think journalism was going to go anywhere.
I took an undergraduate degree in arts education in Saskatchewan. Almost immediately after that, I went over to Hong Kong where I worked as a writer-researcher for a business magazine as well as a fashion magazine. While I was there, I also did some teaching on the side, and that’s sort of where [my] love of teaching came to be.
When I got back to Canada, I got a job at Henderson School of Business, and there I taught business communications, and I was there for about a year and a half. I went to work one day and suddenly the doors were locked. They didn’t have enough money to pay us, and we were out of a job.
After that, I took a full-time job in the school of business at SAIT in the marketing department. I was teaching communications, and I kind of transitioned into teaching the design aspect to marketing students. While that was going on, I started getting my own clients on the side.
While I was at SAIT, I actually got a master’s degree so that I could teach at college and university. And after about ten years at SAIT, I decided I wanted to do something new, so I got into freelance work at the time, and then I got a job teaching at the [University of Calgary] in their ConEd department.
There, I was teaching Photoshop and Illustrator, and mostly all the students, they were people already working in the industry, so that was actually a fun thing to be able to teach people that were using those programs in the industry, and how it can actually help them do their jobs better.
After that, I went to MRU where I was teaching in the journalism program, teaching design, which was [the students] favorite subject. I did that for four years, and decided to move on again.
Now, I’m working at Bow Valley College where I’ve been teaching and developing a brand new program called Digital Design, the only one of its kind in Canada. It’s a diploma program, and the students are learning really cutting-edge skills in the design world.
I’ve always wanted to own an art gallery. I think it would be super exciting to work with artists, not have to do daily drawing or “hustling up” for freelance work, not having to mark students’ papers, even though I do enjoy working with students.
Absolutely expand your toolkit! Do as many things as you can, take some design classes, take photography, take audio/visual, take business and take marketing.
Take more software, learn coding, learn a whole bunch of different things that even the colleges or universities don’t offer and never stop learning, do as much technical things as you can while having that great piece of paper behind you.
I don’t really see the journalism and broadcast field going anywhere, but I do see that there’s communications in everything, and I think that if you can get into the digital realm too that is a really cool thing.
I wouldn’t do anything differently because communication is sort of who I am, it’s in my DNA. I want to be somewhere where I am communicating and using interpersonal skills, and I’m very fortunate because those are the very things that I care about — being in business, design and education — and I’m doing all of those things, and not everyone can say that.
As told to Cassie Jamieson. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
This article is part of a series of profiles on industry professionals through the Calgary Journal. To see more like this, visit the On the Job page.
Editor: Alec Warkentin | email@example.com