John Palko

MSc in Chemistry (2012)

  1. What field of work are you in, and what duties are required in your position?

I work in the beverage industry and have been since completing graduate studies. I’m currently the Brewmaster for Gateway City Brewery in North Bay, Ontario. We are a new and small growing brewery that currently has a reach in North Bay, Sudbury and surrounding areas with ambitious goals to have our beer all over Ontario. Because we are a new and small operation, I perform all the duties within the production side of the brewery. I’m responsible for the management of the entire brewery from purchasing, scheduling, recordkeeping but am also performing brewery tasks such as milling, brewing, cellaring, packaging and cleaning. As our team and brewery grows, my role will evolve into being the team leader with emphasis on running our laboratory. Occasionally, I work beer festivals that we participate in and, in time, will participate in other off-site events such as food and beer pairings, conferences and community events.

  1. What challenges did you face when looking for work after graduating?

The biggest challenge was managing the fear of an unknown future. During my graduate studies, I caught a glimpse of life beyond grad school by keeping in touch with recent grads in my field during their job search and it seemingly looked unfavourable. I just happened to graduate in my field at a time period where the number of recent graduates outnumbered the available jobs. Adding to that, entrance to Teacher’s College happened to have a higher than average supply of competitive applicants and I hadn’t received an offer by the time I entered my current field of employment. You can imagine the supply and demand for these opportunities is ever changing. I just happened to be job searching during more challenging time period but eventually landed a job in my current field within a year of obtaining my master’s degree.

  1. How did you arrive at your current position?

My journey into the beverage industry is a bit unconventional but interesting. Shortly after obtaining my M.Sc., I decided to move to the Canadian Rockies where my older brother lived at the time. I had lived there for a summer during my undergrad years and came to the realization that, if my job search was likely to last around a year, then I might as well live and seek employment while in the Rockies. I happen to frequent a pub where they made their own beer on site and began attending events like beer tastings, beer and food pairings. This led to a brewing position at their sister brewpub in Jasper, AB. I quickly became their Head Brewer and ran the brewery at the pub for 3.5 years. An opportunity to work in a quality control laboratory in a medium-sized brewery lead me back to Ontario before accepting my role at Gateway City Brewery in North Bay. For my current position, I was contacted on LinkedIn, by my now business partner, with information about a new opening in 2018. The opportunity was to enter the company from the near-beginning as the Brewmaster and I accepted!

  1. What advice would you give to a graduate student looking to follow a career path similar to yours?

Drink more beer! This is a tricky question but I’m going to explain my answer based on my past experience, using a bit of STEM-based logic and an “If, then” hypothesis (which I perfected, by the way, at Carleton). If my advice to my younger self was ‘Drink less beer,’ then I would not have been at the pub to receive my first job opportunity in the beer industry. It’s a pretty solid hypothesis but that didn’t happen at all so the opposite statement must be true! Therefore, drink more beer. Cheers!