ANN STEWART, MAXUS GLOBAL
Some people might spend decades trying to figure out what career path suits them best, but Ann Stewart was lucky.
As a grade nine student, she happened to enroll in a marketing class taught by a favourite teacher, Mr. Everett, who introduced his students to the media theories of Marshall McLuhan and organized tours of various ad agencies and publications. Stewart still remembers the “bustle” and dynamic atmosphere of the Globe and Mail newsroom on one of her school tours, and the dawning realization that she was meant for the media industry.
It’s a passion that’s stayed with her right up to her current role as president of the Canadian division of global media agency Maxus. Interestingly enough, her high school lessons about Marshall McLuhan and his iconic phrase “the medium is the message” are coming full circle in today’s world of advertising. No longer confined to traditional print and broadcast ads, marketing has been forever transformed by the digital age and the advent of social media and mobile advertising.
“I feel like every time I come to the office it’s a new learning experience,” Stewart said.
Her education is still ongoing, particularly in an industry as in flux as her own. As a member of the Canadian Media Directors’ Council, she’s seen a new crop of marketing professionals enter the field with an entirely new approach to advertising in recent years. To help her keep up with the changes, Stewart consistently enrolls in courses offered by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) of Canada, an organization that aims to develop and promote digital marketing.
“I’m always trying to update myself,” said Stewart.
“You can’t stop learning, especially in our field these days,” she said. “Digital, analytics— it’s a whole new skill set, really.”
She credits her decision to go to college after high school with providing the right foundation for her later career. At Humber College, Stewart says she was given the chance to be a hands-on student, completing work placements that gave her a glimpse into the field of advertising, and a marketable skill set while she was still in the classroom. She’s an advocate of presenting both college and university as equal pathways to success for young people.
“When you look at the courses, both offer wonderful opportunities,” said Stewart, whose son recently went through the process of deciding on his post-secondary education route. “I don’t think we should be pushing one or the other, I think it needs to be for the individual.”
Whatever the choice may be, Stewart encourages young people to “just get into the education system. It doesn’t matter if you decide you want to go somewhere else,” she said.
“Once you find the real grounding of what you want to do, and it doesn’t matter even if it’s 20 years later, you can still change and move and learn and try different things.”
Most importantly, Stewart believes in doing what you love. The same excitement she felt on those grade nine field trips comes with her into work every day—a textbook example of following your passion, from college to career.