Johanna Button was the winner of Carleton University’s 2020 Undergraduate Co-op Student of the Year Award.
What attracted you to the Communication and Media Studies program?
At 18, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to learn, but I knew I wanted to explore many subjects. I liked that the Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies is really what you make it because it’s so flexible with the courses you can take.
Around half of my classes were on subjects outside of my major. This flexibility allowed me to grow my knowledge in many disciplines I was interested in, such as Indigenous Studies, History, Law, Environmental Studies, American Sign Language, French and many more.
While there are mandatory courses for the program, most of them you can pick from a list of options. This allows you to pick subjects that interest you. I leaned more towards courses that focused on societal and cultural subjects, such as environmental communication, gender, sexuality and race.
As a communications professional, it’s a valuable skill to be able to write about many different subjects in a clear and coherent way. Taking electives in so many disciplines grew my communication skills, which helps with my work now in digital government communications.
What skills did you learn in your co-op placement?
I had the amazing experience of working as a co-op student on the Outreach team at the Canadian Digital Service (CDS). I completed two co-op placements there from January to August 2020, then continued as a part-time student from September to December 2020, while I finished my last semester at Carleton. I’m grateful to be able to say I’ve been hired on to the team full-time as a communications officer, mainly working on blogs and social media.
Working at CDS during this time was kind of like a crash-course on being a communications professional. I learned a lot about strategic communications and I nurtured (with the help of my team) my professional confidence and abilities.
The biggest thing I want to highlight is my social media work. While I was a co-op student, CDS was tasked with building the Government of Canada’s COVID Alert app, in response to the pandemic. CDS wanted to know what people’s concerns and questions were so we could create social media content to give them the information they need.
I did social media monitoring and listening to surface these questions and concerns, as well as any issues people were experiencing. Based on this information, I helped create social media content, such as Twitter threads. My work has been shared across the government and has helped people craft thoughtful and helpful messaging.
Any advice for co-op students?
If I had to give one piece of advice to someone starting a co-op placement, it’s to be open. Be open to learning, feedback, new opportunities and challenges. I know it can be intimidating as a student, especially in a new role, but you will get a lot more out of the experience if you are open to it.
The way I look at it is that I trust my manager’s decisions, so if she thinks I’m capable of taking on this work, I should trust her confidence in my abilities. Over time, I became more confident in my abilities too, took on more challenges and got the most out of the learning experience.
What Twitter accessibility tips do you have for the Carleton community?
I have many! Before my co-op placement at CDS, I honestly didn’t know much about making accessible Twitter content. But I cared about being inclusive, so I did some research on how I can make better, more inclusive content.
I turned the research into a Twitter thread of tips that was shared on the CDS Twitter account. The thread ended up getting a lot of engagement, so I wrote a blog about it so more people can learn too. I recommend that anyone who uses Twitter check out these tips and be mindful of them when tweeting.
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