January 23, 2017

The evolution of the job interview?

My last two job interviews have taken place in coffee houses, in casual dress and with not an HR person in sight.  One opportunity was found on Craigslist and the other through word of mouth.  Is this the evolution of job search and interviews?

To be clear these are interviews for positions in small, locally owned companies and are by no means for any C level positions.  None the less, they are jobs that require skills and a fairly high level of trust on the employers part.

I’m pretty sure neither employer has ever checked my references.  When I asked them, one of my interviewers said.  “No, you look like a pretty normal person.”   Score one for looking normal.

I’m not sure if this is indicative of how the job market is changing or of it simply the opportunities that I am finding attractive.  I think that employers are looking for ways to cut some costs today and perhaps attract people like me who like a more laid back work style.

The Best Thing in Life is that it totally works for me.

 

 

 

Preschool Life Lessons

preschool

In my opinion the most overlooked job out there is that of a pre-school teacher. You will have grade school and high school teachers, college professors and bosses who will teach you a multitude of fascinating things. But really, pre-school teachers give you the basic tools to deal with all of that from day one. Pre-school teachers teach you how to share, keep your hands to yourself, speak kindly to others, not to push and not to stick your fingers in other people’s food. All important things to remember in the class room or the boardroom. It takes a special kind of person to teach our children these valuable life lessons while still nurturing their spirit and developing brains. Emma and Sarah, owners of Sunshine Cove Preschool, are two of those special people.

When I first met Emma and Sarah they both struck me as two of the warmest, kindest caregivers I had ever met. The first thing that I noticed about Sarah was her voice. Calm and soothing and kind. My mom would say that it was like butter. A true reflection of her character. Emma’s smile could light up even the dreariest of Deep Cove rainy days and even the most standoffish child would melt from one of her hugs. But don’t let those characteristics fool you. These ladies are not pushovers. They are both certified Early Childhood Educators from Capilano University and are firm on what is acceptable behavior in pre school (and life) and what is not. Smacking your buddy over the head with a book because you don’t like their opinion is not acceptable.  In preschool or in life apparently.

Emma and Sarah met a few years ago working for a daycare that my daughter attended. They discovered they had similar teaching styles and quickly became great friends. When the daycare closed they decided to take a huge leap and open their own preschool. Sunshine Cove Preschool was born. The decision to move from employee to business owner has been exciting, stressful and nerve racking all at the same time, they say. It was a tough start with neither of them having much business experience and balancing the work as a child care worker with the administration of the business side has been an eye opener. They both admit to being a bit naive when it came to the business side. They were lucky enough, however,  to have a great former employer who has guided them through the rough patches. Each credits the other with getting them through the last couple of years.

The school itself is amazing. It’s an older warehouse building that they have renovated. It is everything a preschool should be. Bright, colorful, warm, welcoming, fun. Nature is a huge part of their program and it is everywhere. Kids can create, paint, build and get messy or plop themselves down in a comfortable chair and look at any number of books and puzzles. Their program is a bit different from the other preschools in the area in that they offer a four hour session. This, they feel, gives the kids time to really settle in each day and allows Emma and Sarah time to establish good routines and structures and really teach rather than just watch. It also gives parents a decent stretch of time to work or relax. The toddler program runs Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30-11:00 and the preschool age kids can come Monday through Thursday for two to four days. Friday is a drop in day for registered students.

I feel that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how good Sarah and Emma are with the kids they care for. They are constantly looking for interesting and new education techniques to use when dealing with hyperactivity and aggression – two behavioral traits they run in to quite often. The flip side of that is nurturing the kids who maybe don’t need as much direction. Emma told me about one little boy that would happily play at the light table for 45 minutes on his own. The challenge, she said, comes in recognizing him and his fascination and not always focusing our time and energy on kids who need our attention. It’s important to connect with him and say “Hey, you seem to really be enjoying that table. Tell me about it?”  Don’t you wish some of your past employers  had done this with your work?

Being new business owners has taken an emotional toll on both Emma and Sarah over the past two years, but they wouldn’t have it any other way and wouldn’t have done it with anybody else. Their passion for teaching and nurturing kids is so inspiring to me and to be able to take that passion and make it your life’s work must be so satisfying. I can think of no better place to send a preschooler than Sunshine Cove Preschool. It would give me comfort knowing that they are in Sarah and Emma’s care and that they will learn those valuable life lessons that will carry them in to the big world with confidence.  The Best Thing in Life is knowing how to behave.  And to not stick your fingers in other peoples food.

The Yin and the Yang of Aimee Cakes

paris cake

The weekend before we met for coffee, my friend Aimee had done a MOMAR race. For the uninformed, MOMAR stands for mind over mountain adventure race. Kayaking, running, x-country biking, more running and more biking over 50 kilometers and a ridiculous amount of elevation. Despite not feeling great the week prior to the race, Aimee was the first solo female to cross the finish line in just over 6 1/2 hours. “I got lucky”. (Somehow, I find that hard to believe.) The week before that she had created the MOST beautiful, delicate, pink Paris themed cake for my seven year old’s birthday party. (see above) I was curious to find out how a life with two boys under the age of five, adventure racing and cake decorating all came together.

I first met Aimee about three years ago when I did a 200 mile relay race in Oregon. We were in the same van and I couldn’t have asked for a better team mate. Happy, easy going and willing to sleep in a field in the middle of nowhere. Now, I’m not stereotyping cake makers (okay, maybe I am) but if you had a vision in your head of a cake decorator, it may involve an apron, flowers and tea. None of that is Aimee. She is more likely to have just come back from a trail run or bike and may even have some mud in her hair. Yet, there she is making her own fondant and creating unique and delicious cakes. “I’m a Gemini so I’ve always felt a sense of yin and yang in my life”. Over the years she has realized that she needs to balance her love of physical activity with something creative. So she started Aimee Cakes.

Her cake decorating days began at about fourteen when she would bake cakes (from boxes she admits) and decorate them with butter icing and flowers. Her cakes have certainly evolved. Looking back at the cake she decorated for her sister’s wedding she thinks it looked “pretty” but lacked a certain something. Today she whips up cakes and cupcake for birthdays, weddings and special events on a regular basis. The cakes she loves the most are the ones that tell a story. The cake pictured below was for a birthday party and includes the birthday girls love of dogs, the ocean, crab, beer and stand up paddleboarding.

deep cove cake

After competing in triathlons for a few years Aimee was looking for a change in her physical challenges. An opportunity came up for her to compete in a MOMAR race in central BC. It didn’t go that well and she finished a six hour race in ten hours. Somehow she didn’t really care and was hooked on the sport. In her early years of adventure racing she did a nine day 800 kilometer endurance race. It was during that race that she first experienced the need to push through when times got tough. Yes, I would say that sleeping for two hours in a bug infested field and then having to portage a canoe up a mountain requires a bit of mental and physical push. Maybe that’s just me.

aimee on her bike

So, similarities between adventure racing and cake decorating? You wouldn’t really think so, but surprisingly there are quite a few. For both activities there’s the challenge of not always knowing what is around the corner. The fun of having something thrown at you and having to figure out how to best tackle it. Creating a replica of the Eiffel Tower can be just as difficult as a sabotage trail half way through a race. In adventure racing, things don’t always go the way you plan. Conditions can change and throw you off course. The same is true for cakes. Something you think will look awesome suddenly doesn’t work and you have to start over again. Additionally, getting too excited can cause mistakes and time. In a race it can be the difference between winning and not finishing. In cake making it can mean a cake that stays upright or a cake that falls over. In both cases it’s not over until it’s over and Aimee knows how to push through and get to the finish line every time.

Aimee’s approach to life (which she credits her husband with) is pretty simple. Have a vision, work hard, be intense, relax when you need to and enjoy your accomplishments. Right now, her yin and her yang appear to be in perfect balance and she is enjoying life to the fullest. Down the road she would like to take Aimee Cakes to another level and there is no doubt in my mind that she will do just that. The Best Things in Life for Aimee? Playing with her amazingly cute little boys, getting out for a trail run or bike with her dog and creating stories with her cakes.

birthday cake