Where are they now? – Profiling Rene Samulewitsch

Where are they now? – Profiling Rene Samulewitsch

The objective of our initiative ‘Where are they now?’ is to create a forum or a bridge for German alumni to share their career stories with current students, and for students to ask alumni questions about careers.  We kicked off the project in June 2017, by emailing German alumni, asking them if they would be willing to share their career stories with current students of German studies.  Response was very positive, with over 15 alumni from a wide variety of careers, inside and outside of academia, indicating their interest in participating.

This project was led by Joan Andersen, as part of her volunteer position as Alumni Ambassador and Executive in Residence.  Joan is a German alumna of the University of Toronto, and moved into a career outside of German studies after graduating with a Master’s Degree.  Joan conducted a telephone or email interview with each participant with the objective or drafting a 5-8 minute long article profiling his/her career.

We will publish one or two ‘Career Profile’ articles every month which we hope our readers will find informative and maybe even inspirational. We welcome your feedback on this initiative by sending Joan an email at j.andersen.ma@gmail.com

Our 13th article profiles the career of Rene Samulewitsch.

Welcome to this edition of ‘Where are they now’? In this article, we profile Rene Samulewitsch – UofT 2001. I hope you find this article interesting and maybe even inspirational.

Rene Samulewitsch graduated from the University of Toronto (Victoria College) in 2001 with a double major in Human Biology and Psychology, and a minor in German. His original goal was to become a doctor but a coop experience in the emergency room made him change his mind. He decided to complete a Corporate Communication certificate at Seneca College which led to a Masters of Strategic Management degree. After graduating, he worked for a US-based company in its Canadian office in a marketing role. He worked on cross-border issues until the company ceased operations in Canada. He subsequently moved to another agency in a communications/public relations role, focussing on healthcare. He then moved to his current job. Rene has also participated in the ‘b2B’ dinner program. We caught up with him at his office in Toronto.

1. What made you decide to pursue German studies at the U of T?

I was born in Germany and lived there till the age of 6. My mother made my brother and I attend German school every Saturday which we hated until we started to get High School credits for it. Then it just seemed natural to further develop/keep my language skills and UofT has a great German Department. It was also one of my least stressful classes.

2. Describe your current position and job responsibilities. What career path lead you to your current job?

I’m a Vice President in my current company. The organization structure is relatively flat so I oversee many different functions. My decision to stay in the health care sector fit perfectly with both my studies and career interests. My clients are drug companies, non-profit charities and healthcare organizations. I work with my clients in developing marketing campaigns for new products or services, and in dealing with any PR issues arising from their business activities. I have found that my studies have enabled me to understand and relate well with physicians and patient groups who provide information which I use in my corporate communications work. My agency also handles Tech and Finance portfolios which is a growing and evolving sector. In my job, I’m involved in both strategic (planning) as well as tactical (reactionary) activities.

3. How did you come to select this position as your career?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do after I decided medicine was not for me. I felt a little lost and looked for programs where I could still use my University background and interest in the sciences. This position ended up being a great mix.

4. What does a typical day at work for you look like?

A lot of meetings, emails and phone calls 🙂 .  We work with clients to hone in on their goals and objectives and then develop communications strategies to achieve them with a variety of tactics. Some days there’s more strategy, some days more execution and some days you’re putting out fires you never knew about.

5. What do you like most about your job?

With the variety of clients I have and the ever-changing landscape, we never know what will happen a month from now. Change is our constant.

6. What are some of the challenges that you face on a day-to-day basis?

Difficulty in planning your day is a big one. We react to media cycles, we don’t always create or drive them. This means you need to fluid, be able to shift priorities quickly but still make sure you’re providing the service level needed and warranted to all your clients.

7. What skills do you possess that make you a good fit for your current job?

I’m well organized, my colleagues say that’s a German thing. I bring a critical eye to everything I do and always ask myself: what can we do better? How can we elevate this and what do we need in order to do so, from our agency and from our clients.

8. How have your German studies equipped you with the skills you need to do your job?

Beyond the language, German is a critical thinking language. It has grammar rules and sentence structure that are complex and require quite a bit of retention. You can’t “wing” German. This background has helped me better review client materials, ask the right questions, and review written materials for grammar, context and understanding. Speaking German has helped me win new business when the client team had a German connection, helped me deal with international (German) media and even brought me to Munich for a client product launch.

9. What are your ultimate career goals?

Currently, grow into my role. Then, continue to drive business forward and expand our capabilities as the role of communications changes in the social network. The evolution of the social networks such as Instagram, means that consumers don’t just listen to or value the comments of the experts on a product or service but they place equal value on feedback from others such as friends and colleagues. This means we must move beyond listening to or watching social media to influencing it by becoming part of the conversation.

10. What do you do in your spare time?

I love to travel at home and afar. I like to explore new areas of Toronto I haven’t been to as much as I like traveling to destinations like Jordan and Morocco. I enjoy the arts and theatre and still look to go out dancing on a Friday or Saturday night.

11. What advice do you have for German students who are pursuing their studies with the goal of securing meaningful employment post-graduation?

Be more fluid and open minded. Career definitions are changing, our ability to work abroad is easier than ever before and multinational companies and work is everywhere. The skills you learn in German studies go far beyond reading, writing and comprehension. They transition into soft skills as easily as hard skills and that needs to be recognized. Also, go to Germany. Experience the country and language you’re studying, it provides such great insights. And if you’re traveling anywhere in the world, even if it’s a new area in Toronto, say ‘hi’ to people speaking German. Ask them about their travel here and you’ll be amazed how fast people open up and share experiences with you. Every experience is a learning opportunity.

12. For those readers who want to learn more, how can they contact you?