Written by: Megan Gallant, BPR Co-op Student
Maureen Mix, BTHM ’91, says that the work experiences she had during her tourism and hospitality management co-op work terms ultimately encouraged her to grow as an individual and guided her through her career.
After studying French at two other universities, Mix finally followed her passion for helping and hosting others. Being one of the students to enroll in one of the Mount’s earliest tourism and hospitality management classes, she participated in making numerous beginnings including organizing and preparing to host a Christmas dinner for the Sisters of Charity.
She joyfully recalls, “I was in charge of art and design, which was not at all my area of expertise. I had to be artistic, and that was just so difficult for me. But as a group we prepared the food from start to finish and the event ended up being a huge success; our professors as well as the Mount was ecstatic with the results.”
After gaining the skills she needed for the workforce in the classroom, it then came time for her co-op work terms.
Mix, originally from Morell, PEI, had the friendly and outgoing personality Fairmont Palliser Hotel in Calgary, AB was looking for in the role of being Human Resource Coordinator. So taking a risk, Mix embraced the opportunity to experience Western Canada and went from seeing sandy dunes to being astonished by large city life and breath-taking mountain views.
She described her time at the beautiful, historic Fairmont Palliser Hotel as being her most memorable work term, but also as both challenging and eye opening. She hadn’t initially thought that being a HR Coordinator was ideal for where she wanted to be professionally, but the challenge of being in a position where she wasn’t fully knowledgeable gave her the opportunity to experience travel and gave her insight to an area of tourism that she hadn’t considered.
“It wasn’t until that work term that I discovered HR was ultimately what I wanted to do within the tourism industry.” She achieved her first professional position following her co-op work term with the Fairmont Palliser Hotel and remained working there for the next 10 years, building her foundation in HR.
Later on, determined to return to her homeland on the East Coast, she then moved back to Halifax, and finally back to PEI to secure a full-time position at Vector Aerospace, where she remained as HR Manager for the following 11 years. Continuing to grow in her career, she once again proved herself as a risk-taker and jumped with ambition to advance in human resources. In February 2012, she obtained a position with the largest company she has worked for to date, Novartis Canada Animal Health.
Novartis is a large, international pharmaceutical company and the PEI branch is one of five worldwide research and development sites that focuses on the health and productivity of animals. Within Novartis, she looks after all HR needs in both PEI locations; Victoria where the majority of research is seen through, and in Charlottetown, where manufacturing of vaccines takes place, quality control is ensured, and administration offices are based. The vaccines that are developed are to decrease the percentage of diseases spread in farmed salmon, working towards sustaining the aquaculture industry.
Mix is passionate about her career in HR, enjoys the great amount of variety she is given, and is genuinely dedicated to helping employees grow within the company. “What I get the most interest out of is seeing people develop, mature, and build in their own careers…seeing people become successful is rewarding.”
From her career standpoint, Mix has done a lot of recruiting and speaks to many students emphasizing the value that co-op offers. “I think it’s helpful for a lot of students who are unsure or not confident in their choices, and what better way to explore options than through co-op; it just works.”
Furthermore, she emphasizes that had she not taken co-op at the Mount, she might not be where she is today and says from a long-term perspective she never could have imagined working for such a large, diverse company like Novartis.
All things considered, Mix highlights, “I’m 20-plus years from when I graduated, but it doesn’t matter if it was that long ago. It may sound old school but [co-op] is just so practical, it’s just so good, and no where else will you get an opportunity to experience different companies for short periods of time. Co-op is smart, and I am a huge advocate for it.”