Top Talent: Collaboration and open information is key for economics grad Brian Alkerton


Brian Alkerton is psychic.

OK, maybe he’s not actually psychic, but he’s at least pretty in tune with the latest trends on the web: instead of filling out a traditional application to be featured in our Top Talent series, he recently sent me an email with a link to a Prezi he made.

I had just discovered Prezi the day before and was obsessed with this amazing new “living presentation” tool, so I was pretty impressed that Brian, a recent York University economics grad, had already mastered it well enough to show off his skills and experience in a short, dynamic presentation.

Brian is currently working as the community manager for a social media project by Cyberplex Digital Media in Toronto (but he’s living in Ottawa–isn’t online work great?). He says it’s along the lines of what he wants to be doing, but he’s got enough time in his schedule that he wants to take on other projects as well. In his spare time, he tweets a lot, sings his heart out and builds marketable skills by teaching himself HTML and CSS!

He’s also the co-founder of #GenYOTT. If you haven’t heard of the #GenY movement, Brian explains: “It’s networking in the sense that you’re going to a bar to meet new people, but it’s within a social context: we want you to make friends more than we want you to make business contacts, although if the friends you make know people who are looking for people we consider that a happy coincidence.”

Brian was involved in #GenYTO when he lived in Toronto, but he says when he moved to Ottawa, he didn’t really have the same social network as he did in Toronto. “I saw others floating the idea of putting together a group for young professionals in Ottawa to come together, and thought I could help. A few others jumped on board and we all made it happen.”

Those others are Jen ButsonMatt Richling and Japman Bajaj. “We’ve now thrown three events and averaged in the ballpark of 100 people every time we do something,” Brian says.

What types of transferable career-building skills have you developed by being involved in #GenYOTT?

More than anything, I’ve learned that, in many cases, if you want to get something done, the easiest way to do so is to go out and just do it. If you need a venue, go to bars and ask if they’d be interested. Same with speakers, potential attendees, and so on.

There’s a fear of failure that someone might say no to you if you’re trying to put something together, but it’s guaranteed not to happen if you never take the first step, and if someone says no, you just move on to the next person. Failure sucks, but it can be overcome if you keep trying.

I’ve also learned about time management, planning/scheduling and how to create buzz/hype around a new idea through social media.

What are your longer-term career goals?

I’d like to act as an educator to people in both the private and public sector, teaching them the benefits of collaboration and sharing information, and how to encourage their employees to take advantage of the tools at their disposal to do so. I believe that open data and open information on the success (or failure) of projects is an invaluable resource, and should be shared in all cases where there aren’t security precautions to be considered.

Why did you think presenting yourself via Prezi instead of a more traditional medium, such as a resumé or even just filling out the application form, would provide a more accurate representation of you?

There are a lot of things about myself that I never felt confident putting on a resumé. Whether accurate or not, I’ve felt that a resumé is supposed to be a list of past experience. While I was getting some positive response from that experience, I felt I had a lot more to offer but that it would be out of place in a typical Word resumé.

I have training in public speaking and first-hand experience using social media, but in terms of the quantifiable results employers look for, they didn’t always fit into that box. These are things that set me apart, but they wouldn’t stand out on a resumé.

By breaking free of the formatting that Word uses, I have the freedom to explain my skills and talents in a way that can specifically highlight what I’d bring to an organization. I still send my Word resumé as a list of experience, but the Prezi resumé clearly shows what I’ve taken away from that experience and can share with potential employers.

Why do you consider yourself Top Talent?

I’m not sure if talent is the right word. I’ve certainly demonstrated my capabilities in more than a few different environments, but the things I feel are my strongest qualities–the things that should make an employer sit up and take notice–are my ability to think critically and my dedication to doing good work.

One of my first bosses told me it’s better to do it right than to do it quick, and that’s something that has stuck with me since then. I’ve been told in previous jobs that certain things can be let slide–I generally don’t let them. I want everything to be precise, correct and accurate, and will put in the time to ensure things are just so. I’m a perfectionist and will do what I have to do on my end to make sure things are done right.

About the author

Cassandra Jowett is TalentEgg's Content Manager. She joined the team as a student intern in the summer of 2008, and since then her heart has never really left the Egg Carton. Cassandra is a recent graduate of the Ryerson University School of Journalism, where she earned a Bachelor of Journalism with a focus in writing and editing for newspapers. She has also written and edited for The Globe and Mail, The National Post, t.o.night newspaper and other publications.