Jessica – From Student Affairs to the Non-Profit Sector

Jessica – From Student Affairs to the Non-Profit Sector

#28 – Jessica Bondy has always been a natural leader and from a young age she developed a passion for helping others. Towards the end of high school, as she tried to figure out what career path to go down, she flipped open a book about careers and landed on recreation therapist. Everything about the job seemed right so she set off to the University of Waterloo to begin her education. 

While excelling academically in her undergraduate degrees (she did two of them simultaneously), Jessica became heavily involved in student life, specifically in the area of housing. While she had plans to pursue a full-time Master’s degree once she graduated, a full-time job popped up in Campus Housing and Jessica jumped at the opportunity, thus beginning her career in Student Affairs.  

Years later while on maternity leave from another role at the university, Jessica began to feel like she needed to make a change. After testing out many options, she realized that if she wanted to ensure happiness in her future career she needed to get back to her roots and help those in need. As she began to explore the non-profit sector, a crazy turn of events led her to become the Housing Director at House a Friendship in the Waterloo Region of Ontario, Canada; a role she is still in today.


Social Links for House of Friendship

Website: https://www.houseoffriendship.org/

Twitter: @hofwatreg

Facebook: @houseoffriendshipwr  

The transcript for this interview is A.I generated and may not be 100% accurate.

Transcript
Jonathan Collaton:

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening, you're listening to career crossroads. And if you're new here, welcome. Otherwise, welcome back. I'm Jonathan Collaton, and this is the podcast where I talk to one person each week about all the decisions that led them to their current career path. This week, I chat with Jessica Bondy, Jessica worked for many years in student affairs until making a major pivot and joining the nonprofit sector two years ago. So let's listen to her interview. And then afterwards, we'll talk about what we can learn from her career path. Jessica, welcome to career crossroads. How you doing?

Jessica Bondy:

I'm good. Thanks so much for having me.

Jonathan Collaton:

I'm really excited to have you and I've talked about this before on the podcast that one of the things this has allowed me to do is reconnect with people I haven't spoken to in a long time. And we haven't spoken in I don't know how long, but to provide some context to how we know each other. Maybe like eight years ago, you were my boss's boss for nine months. While, I whilel, I had my first ever job at the University of Waterloo. So thank you for hiring me.

Jessica Bondy:

Well, you You did a fantastic job, just rolling with all sorts of crazy that happened that summer. So and you know, as a fresh young grad, lots of coachable moments, but you did an awesome job. And we were happy to have you.

Jonathan Collaton:

Well, I'm so glad you feel obligated to say that on my podcast. So thank you very much. And I, you know, I, hopefully people have read the description before they, before they click play on this. So I didn't spoil too much by saying that you were my boss at the University of Waterloo. But let's go back to to you as a teenager, because I always like to start there and figure out what were you like, Where were you raised? What sort of things influenced you sometime in high school?

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, so so to go back to high school, I would say, I was one of those super responsible people. So I was a natural leader had a really tight group of friends. very actively involved and engaged in high school, you know, my nickname at camp was mama J. You know, like, I was just one of those people that, that had it together that was connected and loved to support and take care of others and make sure that no one was really left behind. So that's a bit about about the high school years and, and kind of how I developed my way.

Jonathan Collaton:

were you raised? What area?

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, so I was born actually in in Winnipeg, Manitoba. And when I was a baby, my parents moved to Mississauga, and at three, we moved to London, Ontario. So a midsize city. And when we moved in there, my my childhood home, which we sold, just my mom sold just this last this last year, you know, that is where I met my childhood best friend and yell, and she really influenced actually my career at three, her same birthday around the same time as mine, her and I became very quick friends, you know, at that time, you were playing on the street skin, knees, I had barrettes in my hair. And at the time, as a kid, I didn't know that she was autistic. But you know, over time would start to learn that, you know, she was a little bit different, and that she had different needs than than I had. And really growing up alongside someone who, who had special needs, and who was in and out of the education system really helped to foster that notion of giving and supporting and giving back and helping out. And so I think my relationship with Danielle really did shape that responsibility piece and that duty to, to advocate and to support people who really, who really do need it. And so yeah, you know, growing up at a very young age met Danielle became fast friends, you know, as a as a kid was actively involved in in sports played competitive baseball. You know, we went to church on Sunday. That was an active part of our family life, except on the on the summer break, which Anglicans typically take a break during the summer. And for us it was because we were going to baseball tournaments, my sister and I both played competitively. And so we were in and out of, of all sorts of different cities and small towns throughout the weekends. You know, competing and enjoying the summer together as a family.

Jonathan Collaton:

The relationship with your friend that you talked about seems like already early on in your life, such a pivotal moment. And at the same time, the thing that I'm like latching on to from that original comment is that like I haven't seen a barette in years. But that just shows that I'm not a parent yet, I guess. And maybe because of COVID. I haven't seen anybody wearing a barette a long time.

Jessica Bondy:

That's right. That's right. I mean, yeah, truly, I mean, the pigtails, the side ponytails like this is back in the time where, you know, I met Danielle, around the time where I had no front teeth, right? We're thick as thieves as young kids. So yeah,

Jonathan Collaton:

that's great. All right. So in high school, like you said, you had it all together. And so as you're approaching the end of high school, usually, if you weren't thinking about it yourself, your parents are pushing you in a certain direction, and they're trying to influence for the better what you're gonna do after high school. So what was it for you that either your, your family was pushing you towards, or nudging you towards maybe? Or was it something you yourself really latched on to? And you said, This is what I'm gonna do?

Jessica Bondy:

Great question, Jonathan. You know, I'm, I have no idea why. But I had decided I was a part of the double cohort. So for folks who don't know what that is, it's where grade 12 and the Oh AC or grade 13 year got merged together. So there was a lot of competition for higher education, college and university programs. So so I felt a lot of immense pressure to make sure that I A got into a university, and B, that I had had it all together, so that I could be successful, because you know, this was a top notch year of, of multiple candidates for all of these, these positions in post secondary. So you know, in my mind, I was I was going to be a dentist. And anyone who knows me well knows how terrible of a life decision that would have been for me, nothing against dentists, absolutely nothing against them. And I'm sure at some point, Jonathan, you're going to connect with some and and hear this wonderful story about their career. But you know, I'm not a math and science person. But in my mind, I think I only knew like five or six different career options in high school. And so I just latched on to one, probably, because it was a career that would allow you to have some flexibility. It was a career that was, you know, a great a great income and would allow you to have a family alongside it. And so for whatever reason, I thought I was going to be a dentist. So we started to do that research that you often do in high school, and then very quickly realize that 3% of the people that apply to get into the dental, the pre dental school program, get in, and I was screwed. Because my math and science, not great. You know, I was struggling had to get a tutor on math, like it was awful. So I remember this moment, Jonathan, in grade in grade 12, when I'm just about ready to submit that, oh, you wax You know, my list of schools and the programs I want to, you know, to take, I can remember this moment of fear and panic, as I'm realizing that I'm probably not going to get in. And everyone's going to move on without me. And of course, these are my thoughts. These are my thoughts in my head, no one's telling me that I'm not going going to get it. And this is all me thinking about this. And so what do you do? Well, I, you know, I'm someone who loves to learn. So I went to the guidance counselor area, in our library, so they had a career section, I'm sure most libraries in high school had it where you could go, you know, if you've got books on all of the post secondary education institutions, you can research each of them. But there was this Bible of careers. Truly a Bible like you know, super thick. And, you know, in an act of faith, I just took that and thumb to the side and flipped it open. And what I flipped it open to was recreation therapist. And so I read the description of rec therapy, something I hadn't heard of before. And and a rec therapist, for those who who don't know, is someone who works closely with people with varying abilities to work towards goals and objectives and move move them to a better quality of life, through the pursuit of leisure. And when I thought about the experiences that I had with Danielle, and as a teenager, I was actually a support worker for her. So I ended up doing some swimming lessons with her I helped her overcome her fear of tomatoes, and you know, in try to improve her quality of life and her show her social skills. And so when I saw rec therapist, it was this aha moment of Yeah, like, that is what I have kind of been doing, through my support work as a teenager. But man is that something that aligns with with what I believe you know, I believe in helping people with disabilities. And yeah, I can get out get alongside that. So immediately I was like, I'm going to be a rec therapist, I looked, I saw that there were only two schools in Ontario that offered it apply to both and was lucky enough to get into both and then made the decision to go to the University of Waterloo.

Jonathan Collaton:

Wow. Okay. So that's quite the detail of how you end up picking a program. Amazing. All right. And so when you move to the University of Waterloo, it is a move you're in London. So it's like, I don't know, 45 minutes an hour, depending on your traffic? And how did you find that experience going away from home for the first time and studying in Waterloo is quite a large school across Canada. Like it's one of the larger universities, particularly by land, there's just, it's, it's a big open campus. So what was that experience for you when you got there? Was it super exciting? Or was it scary? or What was it like?

Jessica Bondy:

I would say, I was really ready for the university experience, you know, I was pretty independent. As I said, You know, I was a pretty much a natural born leader, or someone who took on leadership opportunities in high school or in my volunteerism world. So I was ready for university. But of course, it's it's a big learning curve, you know, what, how you learn the type of learning being in a large lecture hall. You know, it was just a big shift, I was a really, really great student in high school because it was memorize and regurgitate. And in university, that wasn't always the case. And so I certainly experienced a significant grade drop, probably about 10 to 15%, in that first year of university, which was heartbreaking for me, because I was working so darn hard to get those good grades and to make mom and dad proud of me. And to you know, prove my my worth right moving away from home, and that I can do this and, and that this is the right path I'm supposed to be on. But very quickly, I would say turned the corner towards the end of first year and really started to understand how I learned best, I would say University in those beginning years. For me, it was figuring out how he learned best, what skills and strategies I need to pull on. And for me, it was multiple forms of synthesizing information. So I don't have a fantastic memory, I am someone who needed to process information multiple times I needed to read about it, I needed to talk about it, I needed to write it down. And then it would be stuck, like stuck in my brain. Very often you hear people talk about different types of learners, there's kind of a wine bottle where you have a very narrow opening. But you know, once the information gets in, it's stuck in there for good. That's my way of learning. You know, the other side of that is a bucket if you think of a big wide bucket with a bunch of holes in it, you know, the information comes in at vast amounts, but it falls through or little bits and pieces maybe don't quite solidify as much. I'm certainly a wine bottle thinker. And so I had to really learn that I had to adapt my study habits and make sure that I had the time that I needed to synthesize information and make sure that I could could could be able to articulate it those concepts in a really great way.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, so through the upper years of university second through fourth, or if you took a fifth as many of us did, was that experience...did you start to get easier when you realize like, this is your style of learning, and you were connecting with the content because you knew how to absorb it better?

Jessica Bondy:

I would say those upper years of university, one of the things that really helped me Jonathan was the co op program. So I'm a high achiever, as you can probably already tell from from our conversation, and so I am doing a double degree. So I did a double degree in business and therapeutic recreation with the co op option. So that meant that since second year university, I didn't have any time off of school or work. And that was a paid employment. So it was fantastic. It helped me to be able to cover the cost for university. But those Co Op programs gave me such insight into applicability of the work that I was experiencing in the classroom. And I am so grateful that I was able to go through a program like that, where I could think about the things that I really loved in a job. And the things that Oh no, I don't want to work in this environment or, you know, this isn't a good fit for me. And so that experience I graduated actually my undergrad having two years of work full time work experience in in the field, which was fantastic.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, the co op programs. I've spoken to other people who had similar experiences with that and that was not something I never got to do in university. But it just sounds like such a great way to, to learn and just get that real practical hands on experience, because it's one thing to study, study the theory behind something, but putting it in practice in a, like a low risk setting that still has risks, you know, instead of just a test where you can if you're a good writer, and you know, if you have an essay, you can write around some content sometimes, but when you have to be in a workplace, putting that, you know, boots on the ground, it's a different experience. And you totally come out of that with a different sense of how things are, and how you're going to take what you've learned and actually apply it. So I'm glad to hear another person who has had a positive experience with Co Op. Now something I want to ask you about, too, is the extracurricular side of of university for you and what that was like, if at all, because with CO off often, if you're switching around terms, it can be a little harder to get involved in that way. But at the same time, knowing what I know about what you ended up doing for work, it makes me think that there's got to be some sort of extracurricular moments where you were like, Oh, I like being here. So how, how did that kind of come about for you? And what was that experience like?

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, so so for me the extracurricular stuff that I engaged in through university in my undergrad was really about leadership. I would say no one really told me that leadership was a thing. But it had always been a part of stuff that I did. I always thought leadership opportunities, but I hadn't quite connected that, you know, being a residence life, Dawn, as an example, or helping out with a student run committee. I don't know why, but I just didn't see that as being leadership, the way I think about it now from from a career perspective, I primarily thought about it through the lens of having fun and helping out. So I can actually remember when I toured the University of Waterloo, there was this awesome tour guide, who showed me around the residence building it, you know, as I'm applying and looking to pick out my residence at the University of Waterloo. And you know, in that moment, I said to my mom and my dad, I'm going to be, I'm going to do that, I'm going to either tour people around, or I'm going to show people and help people live independently. And that's exactly what I did. So at the end of my second year, as I was heading into my very first Co Op term, I applied to be a residence life Don, so that's someone who is living in residence. For me, it was with upper year students, and it's planning your social opportunities and, and also educational opportunities. And then, you know, you got to be the heavy every once in a while laying down the rules and the policies. But that was something that I did throughout my entire undergrad. So I really found donning to be a fantastic way to, to connect, it was one of the communities that I really did feel supported in. And it was one of those moments where in dawning, there's a lot of intentional training and leadership development. And I would say it's through those trainings where I heard about things like diversity and inclusivity. And, you know, like, all of a sudden, it was as if my, my world of understanding kind of opened and broadened in ways in which I hadn't experienced before. And so dawning really helped to expedite my interest into into leadership and, and also that self awareness around my own strengths and my abilities and and the things that I love and and the things that are, you know, uncomfortable but as a leader, you still have to do. So residence life really was a big part of of my story,

Jonathan Collaton:

as it is for so many people who I think end up working in some form of student affairs. Now as you're getting ready to graduate, you've got your, did you say double degree?

Jessica Bondy:

Oh, yeah,

Jonathan Collaton:

Not even a double major double degree.

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, so I did a double degree. So I actually spent kind of a third or a quarter of my time at at Laurier. A Wilfrid Laurier University, and did a lot of my business courses in in that program, which is just renowned for their business studies, worked with some fantastic faculty over there. And then, and then also focused on my my recreation side of things. So the business side, Jonathan, that comes completely from my dad, my dad, he lost his job during, you know, late 80s, early 90s when manufacturing was shutting down. So he spent a year unemployed and, you know, that had big impacts for our family. My mom stayed at home and looked after us girls, me and my sister. And so, you know, that was the first time we ever really had to think about about, you know what we needed day to day to survive. And we always had enough, we always had enough My parents always provided for us. But as a as a kid at the time, we had to put our house up for sale. And that was scary. That was a scary moment as a kid feeling insecurity with my dad's job. And so during that whole year, fortunately, our house didn't sell, so we got to stay there. But over over the 12 months of unemployment, my dad, you know, he was pounding the pavement every day trying to get a job. And with his college degree, he he was always the runner up. And that was the piece of feedback is that he didn't have a university education. And so he wasn't qualified for the senior roles. That would be, you know, a sidestep to where he was previously. So I would say my dad really hammered in that idea and concept of education, and the importance of education. So it doesn't hold you back in your career. But he also really shaped the the courageousness, in having a career, I mean, two young girls and a mom who stays at home for someone to, to create their own business and to go out and consult, and to then become an entrepreneur with a successful company. I learned a lot from my dad and his ability to navigate those ebbs and flows in his career. And I'm very thankful for that. Because I see a lot of that tenacity that he had in in my career and being able to make calculated risks and and to make those steps where you need to make them.

Jonathan Collaton:

Amazing What a great shout out. So as you're graduating University, then what's the next step? Is there something you had in mind about what you were going to do before you graduated? Or did you sort of graduate and then you had that double degree, and now you're out in the abyss, the job search, and you go from there?

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, Jonathan, I would say, I got those similar feelings that I had in high school, right, you're nearing the end of something. And that plan is coming to an end, and you need to make the next plan. And I wasn't ready to make that next plan. So I applied to grad school. I had become a stellar student. By the end of undergrad, I knew how to learn. I had fantastic mentors and my professors, and was really curious. And so I ended up pushing forward and doing my master's degree right after my undergrad. And at the time, my now husband and I had been dating on and off doing distance because of this Co Op program. We actually started dating in first year university. And so my husband Matt and I had been doing distance for for five, almost five years, as I went to educate, you know, to do these Co Op pieces and as he went to go do his job opportunities as they popped up, I was ready to stay stay in one spot for a little while. And so as we get into our master's program, we we moved into actually graduate student residents, you know, residence life being a part of my up being a key part of my life, we moved into graduate student residence. And I started working part time at the front desk there and and really enjoyed it the chance to connect with grad students and to support the the young families because there were a lot of young families in that grad student residence. And then I continued to push forward with my with my master's degree.

Jonathan Collaton:

And so you stayed at the University of Waterloo for that?

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, I stayed at the University of Waterloo. So I did my masters in in recreation and leisure studies. And it was what I would say is, is a master's program, at least the program, I had the pleasure to be a part of, really provided a chance to connect with professors in different ways, you know, smaller class sizes, you know, the, they know that you're smart, right? So the rigor isn't there. It's about relationship building, it's about connecting. You get to do research on things that are important to you. So I got to do a project actually on military wives. And I got to do another project on on people with disabilities and sexuality. Like, there's just so many cool opportunities that I had through that. And alongside that, I also got to do some cool work. So I got to help out with a million dollar grant application that we were successful with, I got to be a research assistant. And I got to try teaching being a teaching assistant as well. So I got to mark undergraduate student work. So it gave me a taste to the academic world and what that was like, and if that was a part of the path for me, but

Jonathan Collaton:

Interesting.

Jessica Bondy:

Oh, sorry.

Jonathan Collaton:

No, go ahead.

Jessica Bondy:

I was just gonna say like, as I started my master's program. And I was working at this front desk, a full time job popped up in housing and residences and and I was encouraged to apply. And so I very quickly deviated from doing my Masters full time to part time, as I accepted a full time job and housing and residences.

Jonathan Collaton:

Wow. So there's another kind of major pivot right there where you think you're going to go through and do the masters. And then hopefully, that would, if I if I'm, as an outsider hearing what you said, it sounds like, the Masters was something that like you enjoyed the education side of, of doing education, but it was also in a way, buying you time to figure out what the next step was for you, and probably gonna open up a larger world of possibilities in that you'd have just another degree to your name that would allow you a broader scope for what you could do after that. But then all of a sudden, a job that is related to that thing that you identified as being so fun during your university experience comes available.

Jessica Bondy:

Yup.

Jonathan Collaton:

And you take that and all of a sudden, not that, like you put the Masters in the backburner, but it really that changes your plans pretty significantly, I guess. So yeah. Tell me about that. What was how did that feel when you did it?

Jessica Bondy:

Ah, you know what, Jonathan, it was pretty scary. It was scary to say I'm gonna, I'm gonna just tap the brakes on my thesis for a little while. And I'm sure my parents were freaking out too, about the whole thing. But you know, what, I loved working in housing, you know, I was really good at it. And a big part of it was leadership development, working with students mentoring and coaching and developing young people developing training programs, for many of the people that I was I was overseeing it was their first job. And I loved the idea of sharing some of my learnings with them through training, development, and, you know, it was important to me and so those around me, including my, my then husband supported the decision. And, and I was very lucky that my, my workplace was flexible. So I ended up shifting and augmenting my work schedule. So I ended up having Friday's off. So Friday, Saturday, Sunday is when I did a lot of my thesis writing. It wasn't a lot of fun on those weekends, but I was able to push through and eventually get it done.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, now, what kind of jobs specifically was that? Because I know very well, you know, a lot of resume coordinator jobs or three year contracts. But I also don't think there's a lot of reslife coordinator jobs where you can just take Friday, Saturday, Sunday off, so what type of job were you doing?

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, so I was hired on to be the manager of desk services. So I was overseeing the customer service points of service in each of the residence buildings, so front desk assistants, or I'm not sure what they might be called in, in other locations. But you know, I made a lot of bad mistakes in that job, I would say that was my first real full time job, right. So I made, I made mistakes, I was too emotional in in some of the conversations that I had, I made bad decisions. But that's where in that role, that is really where I learned that managing teams is my niche, and that, that I love supporting and leading teams. And so I'm very thankful that the folks that I worked with, were able to kind of shape me and coach me in in a number of different ways, as I figured out what it meant to actually work kind of on the professionalism side of things.

Jonathan Collaton:

It's funny when I worked for your, for your team and your office is what I always tell people for me was like, that was how I learned to be a professional in a workplace. So I'm glad to see that connection. Yeah. I like that. All right. So how long did you stay Jessica, in that role before? Either you finished your masters? Or you moved to another role? Or did some other sort of catalysts change things for you?

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, so I had been there, I had been there for about four years. And something I had learned very early on about myself is that I kind of have a mess. I love a problem that needs to be solved and something that you have to put the pieces together. But as I got to the point where the system was in place, right, I had great leadership development, there's policies and procedures, we had really good kind of career pathing for students, you know, some of the good systems and it pieces were all in shape, I started to get bored. And so that was the first job that I really realized that that I wasn't a maintainer, that I'm more of a developer. And so I need a mess. I need a big problem and I need something that I can sink my teeth into and and make something great happen from it. So I was kind of rounding out your four in in that job. And a new office was being developed on campus. So initially that sparked my interest, you know, it's new, it's flashy. You know, there's lots of opportunity to create something great. And was very lucky that I got hired on as the manager of new student transition and focused specifically on supporting all of those new students coming in to campus, whether they be grad transfers, exchange international students, and supporting them throughout their, you know, pre arrival period. So as you get your acceptance offer, at the University of Waterloo, supporting them all the way until kind of that six week mark. And so that was a really great opportunity to try something new to build a new team that was really fun. And to and to just figure out what it meant to look like, what it meant to work for a more centralized piece of the organization. Housing is an exemplary service, typically for higher ed institutions. But a student service requires faculty engagement and connection to almost every single part of the institution. And so it allowed me to really learn a lot about work politics, and how to create consensus and how to create a coalition of the willing and to test out my skills in influencing.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, now, how was that because what, what I'm sure you'll agree with, that I've heard from everybody who's ever worked at any university is that we always are very siloed, in our universities, and every departments doing their own thing. But the office you worked in, trying to touch on so many different areas of campus, you know, I know very well that when you're trying to, to bring new students into your campus, like you have to give them all the important information, not just from one area, but from every area that might be applicable to them within that timeframe. So how did you find that that navigating? And did you did you find it was very siloed, around campus? Did you find that you had to sort of train staff differently, who are working in different areas of campus?

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, it was hard, I'm not gonna I'm not gonna lie, Jonathan, you know, working in housing, people were fairly agreeable. We believed, like, teamwork makes the dream work. And, you know, the students were, were always at the heart of what we were doing. When I got into faculty land, I was able to see just the diverse ways of doing things, some faculties tradition really is important to them for other faculties, you know, specific ways of doing things is really important to them. And I would say that was a real learning for me that a one size fits all approach isn't going to work in this type of role. And I thought that a bit and felt a lot of discomfort, because I knew the best practices, I had the the standards that, you know, institutions, for years have been successful in implementing when it comes to student success. But I needed to be flexible. And I would say that is the role where I needed to establish my own flexibility. And and think about the strategy of work and you know, is this is this the hill I'm going to die on, or is this the time where I build relationship and, and, you know, hold out my my veto card for later. So I really learned some of those key pieces in that role, still made lots of mistakes, absolutely made lots and lots of mistakes, and, you know, learned along the way, but but really, that was a role where you had to integrate and connect with so many diverse partners, and also had to listen to the student voice at the same time. And often there was discrepancy between what the institution wanted, versus what the students were interested in. But, you know, really, really did learn a lot. I would say that role also allowed me to continue to expedite my leadership learning. So that was the first role where I did a 360 evaluation. And so that's where, you know, your supervisor is able to assess, assess you, your peers are able to assess you as well as the people who are your direct reports. And that was one of the most scary and comforting things at the same time. because it allowed me to understand some of my some of my blind spots as a leader and as appear and allowed me to really see where my strengths were. So So being able to have those opportunities for leadership really, were were incredible and able to refine my approach so that I could communicate more clearly or, you know, I can remember specifically it was it was creating realistic expectations for teams. You know, it's it was a new office, there was a lot have responsibility and ownership and there was there was a microscope placed on this, this new net new service on campus. And so we had to accomplish a lot. And, you know, for the first couple of years, we thought we were doing a great job. And then we received some feedback. And we actually had to shift our direction. And in that shift, we then created a lot more relationships, we brought people alongside us to get the work done, as opposed to really championing and leading the work ourselves.

Jonathan Collaton:

Great. Now, because you're someone who loves learning so much as we've learned from your undergrad to grad school, that review you talked about, was that something that you something that you found that you wanted to do? Or was it one of those things where, because you work at a university, which is full of learning opportunities, I honestly don't know if there's anywhere else you could work that would provide as much opportunity for learning when it comes to like courses you can take and extra training, things like that. Was that something that just happened to be there because you worked at the university? Or did you seek it out as something you wanted to do?

Jessica Bondy:

So it was something that the leadership actually brought down for our specific student service area. So it started with our kind of key leader, and then it went to our directors, and then it siphoned down to the managers, and it wasn't a confrontational process at all it was really was about this idea and concept of, you know, getting true feedback, that sometimes the feedback that you receive from people isn't actually how they're feeling. And when there's anonymity and rigor attached to an assessment, you know, you can't deny those pieces of feedback. And so I feel very thankful that that I had the chance to do that. And that I was able to, to really learn a lot from it, and ultimately shift my ability to lead and support teams and projects as a result.

Jonathan Collaton:

So leading and leading, in particular, as that term has come up so many times so far. Now, in that role that you were in you, you talked about going to that role, because it was it was something new and you were building and you weren't a maintainer. Now, everything you've talked about so far sounds very much like you were constantly having to build or retool with that role. Did it ever kind of hit a point where you felt like you were just maintaining?

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, so so during the time, I had this awesome, awesome role. That's also where I started, we started to expand our family. So I had the experience of going on maternity leave, with my son, Rowan, and coming back to a job. And I would say, for anyone who takes a parental leave, that was really hard for me, because I had I had, you know, work was a part of how I got a lot of my self esteem and confidence. And here I was at home with a crying screaming baby. And I had no idea how to how to look after how to look after that little one. So I would say for my first maternity leave, I really did miss work, I missed the people I worked with, I love the people I worked with. And I missed kind of those, you know, those check marks that I would get during the day of crossing tasks off. Those weren't as fun at home when the tasks were changing diapers and you know, unloading the dishwasher, and doing endless amounts of laundry. So what I had learned, you know, during my time off with Rowan, is that work was really important to me, I had that moment as, as, as a mom, where I thought is, is this where I where I stay home? Is this where I spend the next set of my years looking after my family, or is this where I continue to pursue work outside of the home. And that was something for me, that was very clear is that I for my health and well being. And for the well being of my family, I needed to continue to work. So coming back from maternity leave, a lot had changed in my in my absence. And that was hard. That was hard. Because you know, I had missed a whole year of great stuff. And so I was feeling like I was playing catch up for a fair amount of of my short time back. And then, you know, felt like we got on a really good path. We had a clear path moving forward, we had establish some some clear outcomes and goals that we were working towards, had really focused on integrating metrics and data into the work that we were doing, which was just fantastic. And another really good learning for folks who are who are kind of leading and working, you know, metrics and data are our key right now and getting things done. And so from there, I then, you know, was pregnant with my daughter life and On that maternity leave, I really started to think about, you know, what do I really want to do here? You know, for me, it was a spiritual moment of what is God telling me to do? And how do I, how do I go back to my strengths? And what I love? And you know, how do I give back? And what does that look like, because I was getting a bit bored of the work that I had been in, I had been in that role for for a little over five years, I had created that system, as we had talked about it, it changed and shifted a bit, but it just wasn't my passion anymore. And so I had applied for a number of jobs on campus and in higher education, and, you know, it was a defeating process it I was always the runner up, you know, I was always the runner up in those interviews. And, you know, truly that that got my confidence down. You know, I, I felt like a failure in some cases. And so that maternity leave with my daughter, you know, was a chance to really build my confidence back, and to improve my mental health. And to think about who I am and how I want to spend my time. And and what do I do best. So I started to, well, Matt leave, I started to do this concept. It's called zhucheng. I don't know if if your your listeners are familiar with Chip and Dan Heath, they are some of my favorite leadership authors. But in the their book decisive, they talk about this concept of ooching, which is where you try something out without committing 100%, you take a half baked idea, and you just run with it for a short period of time. And so while I was on my maternity leave, I decided that this was going to be my time ooch, to, you know, do a strengthsfinder assessment and go back to what my strengths were to think about some of the the key things that I love about work and make sure that those were there for me. So during that year, I shadowed a wedding planner, I toyed with opening my own catering company, I taught in the Faculty of Human Services at Conestoga. College and started looking into a Ph. D. program. It was a crossroads.

Jonathan Collaton:

Wow. That is a big variety of things.

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah.

Jonathan Collaton:

okay, how like so of those things? Did any of them? Did you pursue any of them longer than others? How do you like, there's just so much to unpack there, you just keep talking, I'm not even gonna ask questions just go.

Jessica Bondy:

Well, well. So for me, I started to really think about, like, what are the things I love and and there were pieces in each of that. So teaching at college was the chance to connect and to share and I loved presenting. So that was a great way to try that out. Wedding Planner, I had done a ton of large scale events. So the idea of doing large scale events, for fun and for your job, you know, that seems like a natural alignment. What crossed wedding planner off the list was when it's all of your evenings and weekends, specifically in the summer, so that, you know, no go, I want to be able to spend that time with my beautiful family and my husband. So that was certainly one that I crossed off the list relatively quickly. I still toying around with the idea of opening a catering company or going to culinary school, I see that as you know, this idea or concept of serious leisure cooking is always going to be a part of my life. It's one of my passions. I don't know if I'll ever turn it into a side hustle or a business. But it's something that I love. So I wanted to explore it. And then

Jonathan Collaton:

This is, sorry to interrupt you there. But just because I think you will find this interesting and I know this isn't related to your career path. The interview I just did that I released literally today is a woman named Kristy who when she was home on maternity leave. In fact, she actually left her job to stay home. And she started cooking. And now she's a professional food blogger. So there's a perfect path laid out for you right there. And Kristy, she can tell you what to do.

Jessica Bondy:

Perfect. Kristy and I will have a great little chat afterwards. Perfect,

Jonathan Collaton:

But continue what you were saying.

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, so so you know, during that year I I really looked into to lots of different options. And then I decided that I needed to go back to my roots. And this is where where Danielle comes back to the story. It's about helping people. And it's about making a difference. And so when those became my organizing principles to find my next career path, I immediately went to the nonprofit sector. And that's where I started. I bought coffee for everyone and anyone that would let me. I told people that I was looking that I was interested That I was curious. And then I started to try to take 10 years in higher education and transfer those skills to a field I had never worked in before. And it was terrifying. It was scary, you know, to say, you know, I've spent a decade as an expert in higher education. And I'm gonna leave that behind to try something new. Yeah, it was, it took a lot of bravery to be able to do that.

Jonathan Collaton:

Now, one thing that often comes up when I talk to people about working at a university is of all the kind of safe stable jobs you can have University jobs are, they're very much in that category, safe and stable. Pensions, education, options, things like that. So you mentioned specifically maternity leave. So at that point, you knew that you could go back it sounds like to the job at the university. But what was like the moment where you kind of had to hand in that that resignation letter to the university, here it was, yes like, you could maybe go back in the future, but there wasn't any job for you there next week, or next month or anything like that. Was that scary as well? Because I I'm hearing that the jumping fields for sure was was something that was a big deal. But the actual act of leaving the university for you, is that something that was also a big deal?

Jessica Bondy:

terrifying, absolutely terrifying. Um, and you have to remember my experience with my dad have that instability of losing a job?

Jonathan Collaton:

I know, that's kind of where I'm thinking of that. Because it you know, I know, when I think about, like, what have I learned from my parents? And sometimes it's, what have I learned because I don't want that to happen. And so, you know, hearing what you said about your dad, it makes me think about that kind of same situation, like, how do you how do you leave that behind?

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, and so the, the stability piece was, was terrifying. So So Jonathan, I looked at a ton of nonprofit organizations and in Waterloo Region, of which there are many, many fantastic organizations. For me, I looked at who is a, who is a fantastic leader, and who believes in leadership development, because I had known that those are my bread and butter, and also who would provide me autonomy and flexibility to do the job. I know I could do as opposed to feel like I was constrained, right? Again, that idea of I need a mess that I can fix, and, and build and create alongside others, as opposed to something that you just need to maintain it. So I ended up applying for a manager job to be the supportive housing manager at house a friendship Oh, a local nonprofit in Kitchener Waterloo. And it was a 14 month contract, a 14 month contract. So there were no vacation benefits. I was I was given vacation pay. There was there was no pension, there was there was no benefits, there was nothing. And it was scary. So I was actually in Calgary visiting my sister, when I received the offer, from the Human Resources team. And I remember calling my husband and just bawling on the phone, like ugly crying, full out ugly crying, because I felt my heart was pulling me in this direction of doing something good and giving back to the community. And, and feeling like I would get my mojo back. Right. My my self esteem and my confidence had been really put down from from not being successful in roles at the university. And, you know, I felt like I fit right I felt like I I felt like I was being called to do this from a faith lens as well. And, you know, when we look at the pro and con chart, it made no sense Jonathan's like the pension, the benefits, my payback from my maternity leave, like it was ridiculous. And you know, I am so thankful that I married the man I did, because he believed in me, and we could financially figure it out. And, and he knew that for me and my well being I needed to do it. I needed to try. And even if nothing came out of the 14 month contract, except a new learning experience, he knew that I would land on my feet somewhere. And so yeah, I was very hesitant when I signed you know, shaking hands that offer letter. I was so excited about the opportunity. And then I just I was so scared at the same time. Yeah, so so scared to make that change.

Jonathan Collaton:

Did you think that that Job had the possibility of turning into a more full time thing or You knew it was just like 14 months in out and then figure out what to do next.

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, so so I was hired. And of course, in my interview I'm asking quite so what opportunities exist beyond the contract, right? I'm like probing to try and figure out how I can make myself a job.

Jonathan Collaton:

Like why don't we get through the next 14 months first, and then we'll figure that out.

Jessica Bondy:

Exactly. But But I knew that with my track work track record, that I could prove myself very quickly, that I would be able to build relationship. You have to remember, this was a completely different field, Jonathan, like I knew nothing about homelessness, I knew nothing about addiction. I knew nothing about working in nonprofit. I don't know why they hired me, frankly. But they took a chance on me. And I'm very thankful that they did. But, you know, I felt obligated I felt called it was some it was like when I flipped that book in the guidance counselor office, and it hit on therapeutic recreation. This was another one of those moments, I was being called to do this. And so yeah, we made the shift, we made the change. I had no idea that four months later, my director was going to retire. So that is what happened. My director ended up retiring. I had three months of great track record, and I ended up applying for her position, and then ended up into a full time permanent, some pension some benefits type position. But yeah, I didn't see that on the game board at all.

Jonathan Collaton:

No kidding. I mean, so on the one hand, I'm thinking for you, like, how perfect is that right for that opportunity to show up like that. And on the other hand, I think about anyone I've ever known what the director title, and it would be very surprising to hear that they're retiring four months notice, and no one had a, there wasn't kind of already a plan in place for after that. So how that could not have worked out better for you. Amazing. And is that, correct me if I'm wrong, but is that the same role you're in now?

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, so so it's the current job I'm in. So it's the housing director at House of Friendship. So that's the current job I'm in now.

Jonathan Collaton:

Amazing. Okay. And so, tell me about - I know you talked a little bit about the role before - but tell me a little bit more about what you're doing in this role day to day now and how much that's shifted from the type of work you were doing before? Because I know it's a great organization, I have been following along on LinkedIn as you post about this, about this organization. And so reading some of what has been posted is why I reached out to you in the first place. So I mean, not just tell me tell everyone else who's listening about the organization.

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, so I would say I was kind of crazy to jump into this director role, to be really honest, Jonathan, um, you know, signing up to support people who are experiencing homelessness in the middle of an opioid crisis and a housing crisis, like, talk about a mess, right, talk about a mess. And as we said, I like a challenge. So, you know, jumped right into this position and into this role, and there's no going back I I learned so so much in my very first year, about my experience, my upbringing, the opportunities, the privilege that I've had as a, you know, as a human and in my career. And there are so many people that need help in our community. And in this role, I get the chance to support an incredible team, who are supporting the most vulnerable in our community, you know, folks navigating complex mental health addictions, challenges, you know, physical health challenges, people who are, you know, experiencing significant trauma, you know, from their past and in their childhood. And, you know, when we, when we reach out, and when we get to do the type of work that we're doing in housing services, we get to make a difference in people's lives. And we get to believe in them until they can believe in themselves, and seeing hope in the people that we serve. On the really hard days. That's what keeps me motivated is knowing that the good work that we're doing is, is changing lives.

Jonathan Collaton:

That sounds awesome. That's great. Now, you mentioned it's a nonprofit. So is this an organization that accepts donations from the community for the work that it does?

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, absolutely. So House of Friendship is is a nonprofit, and folks can go to our website and donate if that's something that that they're interested in. One of the one of the coolest things that we've been able to do, and I mean, Jonathan, before we started talking, you know, COVID has been hard for everyone. But for this population, Then and in for House of Friendship and our partners at the Inner City Health Alliance, we've been able to make something really cool happen in our community as a result of COVID. So, House of Friendship had this this great vision and dream of of this concept called shelter care. So this idea of bridging an emergency shelter program with health care right on site. And because of COVID, we had the chance to make this happen. We moved overnight into a hotel location where we were able to provide a sheltering in place environment, were very quickly we were able to bring primary care on site and slowly throughout COVID, because it seems to keep going, we've been able to add more and more services, including mental health supports and addictions counseling and harm reduction clinic. And we're seeing incredible results, both at a systems level in terms of integrating health and housing, into the sheltering system. But also outcomes on the participant side of things, you know, we've got overdose rates that are down by 50% incidences of violence in her program are down by 40%. We're, you know, our police calls are down by 65% and emfs. So, you know, our paramedic friends are visiting us about 75% less than they were previously.

Jonathan Collaton:

That's a huge decrease.

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, and, you know, one of the best things about this, this model that we've been able to beta test throughout COVID is, you know, we're housing people for good. So we've housed over 80 people in our community, and I don't think any have returned back to our shelter system. So it's those kinds of, you know, COVID created this really great opportunity for us to, to think about health and housing and you know, emergency services in very different ways and enforced collaboration through crisis to to make great things happen for people in our community.

Jonathan Collaton:

Well, you should be commended for all that great work you're doing. So good job. It's fantastic. But I know you're getting a lot of good press and and not that press is why you're doing it or anything like that. But it's good that it gets the word out there to let people know that this kind of work is being done. And how long have you been in that role now?

Jessica Bondy:

Yeah, so I'm coming up on two years. So I've been at House of Friendship for a couple of years, and continuing to grow each and every day. It's a it's a role that is high crisis. As I said, you know, part of the piece that I wanted to make sure I was focusing in on was helping people. And when you're helping this population, it is life or death, in many cases each and every day. And so it means my phone rings a lot, it means that I don't have that nine to five job and that stability that I had talked about before. But as a family, we've been able to make it work. And, and I work with such an incredible team of people at House of friendship, and so many community partners. Without them, we could not make this incredible work to support people who are homeless, I see improved health outcomes. And you know, it's this community coming together in creative and unique ways. I had no idea that these systems existed previously in higher education. And here I am getting to to influence and getting to support and getting to come up with new and creative ways of helping people who, who really do need in our community. And so it's become a passion of mine. Absolutely. And I would say Jonathan, I had no idea it was going to be a passion of mine. But it It absolutely is that ability of bringing health to people who need it and, you know, making it in a community service model through partnership. It's, it's complex, and it's difficult. And it it relies on so many unique leadership skills. And there are good days and there are bad days. But man, does it make a difference for the people that we serve?

Jonathan Collaton:

Well, that is another perfect way to end this interview. So I think we will wrap up there. And Jessica, thank you so much for going through your whole story of figuring out what you want to do through grad school, then at the university, and then that met. I mean, you had a number of pivots there but that that last major pivot a couple years ago is to take that leap and to see how how well it's worked out for you. I'm sure there's going to be some people who are influenced by that and hopefully find a leap that will work for them. So thank you so much.

Jessica Bondy:

Oh, thanks so much for having me.

Jonathan Collaton:

All right. So that is Jessica's career path so far. As I mentioned right at th top of the interview. It's re lly nice to catch up with pe ple. I haven't spoken to A lo g time, I knew that Jessica ha switched to working for Ho se of Friendship, but I had no i ea how that switch happened. S it was really nice to hear t e whole story from her. Now l t's think a little bit about s me of what we can learn from J ssica's career path. And the first thing that I think we can learn is that there's a lot of value in thinking of yourself as a lifelong learner. schooling was always important to Jessica, which is why she ended up doing a double degree, and quickly follow that up with a master's degree. That is a lot of formal education. And she definitely praised what she learned in those programs. But I also think Jessica talked more about the skills she learned when she entered the workforce. Her first full time role was at desk services. And she told us how in that role, she learned three things, how to be a professional, that managing teams was her niche, and that she needed a mess to clean up. And that was when she was at her best. In her second role at this new office at the University of Waterloo, she learned how to be flexible and strategize. a one size fits all approach she was used to would not work for the faculties. And a really good quote that came out of that moment was, is this the hill I'm gonna die on or is this the time I build relationships and hold out my veto card for later. So again, learning a new skill she did not have before. And then it was her next job, the job of being a mother. It was when she was home on maternity leave. That is when she realized that she needed to go back to her roots back to helping people like she did with Danielle when they were kids. And that brings her to where she is now at House of friendship where she's learning to adapt the skills, she has gained over a 10 year career in student affairs into a totally different field. And she's still probably got a lot of learning to do. But she's been very successful at that job so far. So that just shows me that it doesn't matter where you learn, but it matters what you learn. Another lesson we can learn from Jessica is that if you're ready for a change, you might have to try a few things out before you find the right fit. And that can create a sense of instability. When Jessica had her second child, she knew she was ready for a new adventure. But she had a she called it. She spent some time shadowing a wedding planner, then she contemplated starting a catering company. And then she taught in the Faculty of Human Services at a college. And she even looked at taking that final giant step in her education and getting a PhD working at a nonprofit was the fifth different thing she considered. And when she accepted that job as the manager, she had to give up all the stability of the job she had before the pension, the benefits, but how so friendship ended up being a great fit for her. And now as the director, while she has some of those things, there is still a difference in her lifestyle. She doesn't have that nine to five job anymore. But it turns out that when you find something where you can be really proud of all the challenging work that you're doing, and you're very fulfilled by that work, stability often becomes less important. And that is some of what we can learn from Jessica. That's all for this episode of career crossroads. So now that we're wrapping up, go take a look at House of Friendship and all the great work that they're doing. I'll put their website and their social media accounts in the show notes for this episode. So thanks for listening. And if you know someone who'd be interested in Jessica's career path, please share this episode with them. And if you want to hear more interviews like this, go to career Crossroads podcast.com or follow the podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify, or literally any other podcast player. If you like what you hear, please give the show a five star review. Come back next week to hear from James who has shifted away from his career in radio, but has found new ways to relay information to people all around the world.