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Karen Schulman Dupuis, Manager, Digital Communications at MaRS Discovery District.
Karen Schulman Dupuis, Manager, Digital Communications at MaRS Discovery District.

My Career

How I survived the dot-com bust and became a social media expert Add to ...

What is your full name and title? And how long have you been in this role?

Karen Schulman Dupuis. I have been the manager of digital communications at Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District for the past year and a half.

What exactly do you do?

I’m the online voice of MaRS, so I’m responsible for telling the broader MaRS story, educating the general public on what we do at MaRS, and the accomplishments of our startups and conduct ongoing community outreach for the organization.

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Describe what you do on any given day.

I consult a great deal with our internal business practices (life sciences and healthcare, information technology, communications, entertainment, educational technology, clean technology, social innovation) on how I can help support them telling their story to a greater audience. Sometimes it’s educational, sometimes it’s a call to action (like attending some of our amazing workshops, seminars, or conferences), sometimes it’s sharing the latest from our startups themselves and the successful milestones that they’ve reached.

I post content on our social media channels, build campaigns, actively market content and events, and read, read, read. I spend a great part of my day vetting content, reading technology blogs and sites and curating content for our audiences.

What’s your background and education?

I’ve worked in IT (information technology) for the last 15 years, and have always considered myself a geek. I was drawn to computers and technology at a young age, and I spent many years in telecom, which gave me a great education in the bits and bytes world of digital. I was around at the onset of the dot-com boom, and survived the bust.

Most of my education in this realm has come from being self-taught and from being an avid life-long learner. Formally, I studied at York University toward an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies and Economics. Unfortunately, at the time I was a single mother of a three-year-old trying to study full-time with OSAP [Ontario student loans] and social services support. When the Harris government cut social services funding, I lost my chance to study full-time, so I had to go back to work to buy groceries. That didn’t stop me though. I went on to do a Paralegal Diploma program (mostly to vet that I didn’t want to study law full-time), and from there, I took every professional development opportunity I could get approvals for; program management, project management, business analysis, and management.

How did you get to your position?

I realized that I was spending a ton of time volunteering in building community events and in educating people about social media through Social Media Breakfast: Stratford (a group I started) and in one-on-one sessions. I realized that I needed to find a way to actually get paid to work in the space, because it’s something that I’ve felt passionate about for a long time. I was determined to break into the field, and I started by attending networking and free events around social, digital and startup technology, while also fully engaging online and building relationships with people that were in the same space.

As for my current role, I happened to see the opportunity posted via Twitter and reached out to a friend that worked at MaRS to find out more about the role. I also happened to be at an event where the CEO of MaRS was also in attendance, and I took an opportunity to introduce myself to her directly, so that she knew how much I was interested in the role. Apparently, that worked in my favour.

What’s the best part of your job? And what do you like best about it?

Community is by far the best part of my job. I am literally surrounded by the best and brightest in this province on any given day. Getting to tell the stories of the incredible startups and entrepreneurs directly associated with MaRS, and then getting to share those stories with others and provide them exposure and possible future opportunities is a way that I glean great satisfaction from my day to day work.

What’s the worst part of your job?

When people ask me to “do your social media magic.” There’s very little magic to what I do. I bring those 15 years of marketing, communications, project management and business acumen to my role. It’s methodical, planned, and purposeful and takes into account goals, objectives, and excellence.

What are your strengths in this role?

I’m not shy – anyone who has ever met me can attest to that. It’s mostly my ability to connect with people, both in real life and online, and connect people that have similar goals that’s a huge strength for me.

What are your weaknesses?

I speak my mind. Some would call that a strength, others see it as brazen. I’m not argumentative for the sake of being argumentative, but I’m not good with celebrating mediocrity, wasting time or keeping mum on important issues.

What has been your best career move?

My best career move was seeking help when I felt hopeless, listening to the advice I received, and acting on it. Whenever I’m unsettled, unfulfilled, or unmotivated I remember the words of advice given to me: “Every. Single. Day. Do one thing to get you closer to where you want to be.”

What has been your worst career move?

Staying too long in a role because I was too scared to move.

What’s your next big job goal?

That’s a big question. I’ve never had a linear path in my career, so it’s not the next title that I’ve ever set my sights on. I want to have an impact, and I hope to continue to do that in an expanded way with MaRS.

What’s your best advice to others who might want to follow in your footsteps?

See my blog. Every. Single. Day.

Do you know an executive or leader who has an interesting career story for My Career or My Career Abroad? E-mail mycareer@globeandmail.com

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