[Farwa Arshad] Yeah, Hi everyone, thank you for joining today's career spotlight session. My name is Farwa. I'm the alumni fellows and peer exploration coordinator at Calumet and Stong Colleges. Thank you so much for joining us today for our for this week's career spotlight session and just note that this session will be recorded and a feedback survey will be distributed by email. um after the session ends and if you have any questions for um our speaker today which is Safiya. Please you can feel free to message your question in the chat or if you feel um feel comfortable, doing so you can also unmute yourself may be put on your video if you're comfortable and you can ask her directly as well so again on behalf of the Calumet and Stong Colleges and the faculty of health thank you for joining today everyone so just to get started with introductions today we have with us Safiya Clarke Mendes um so thank you so much for joining us Safiya how are you doing today?
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] I’m doing well, thanks for having me.
[Farwa Arshad] Yeah thank you um, so let's get started with a brief introduction of Safiya. Safiya has a Bachelor of Science in Global Health from York University and a Master of Public Health from George Washington University. She has contributed as a public health researcher and education workshop facilitator to the development and implementation of health promotion programs in Canada and in the Caribbean. She is currently living in Toronto Canada and serving as the women's community development coordinator at the aids committee of Toronto which is ACT. So, again thank you so much for joining us here today everyone. uh so just to start uh Safiya can you please tell us more about your career journey and your leadership journey from your undergraduate to where you are right now.
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] Sure um so I guess i could start sort of from before i got to york I so york is actually my second bachelor's degree um after my first
bachelor's i did a degree in biochemistry I spent a couple of years in Trinidad where
I’m from and at that time I was doing a lot of work with the family planning association
and other um HIV aids serving organizations around health promotion I was doing a lot of
education workshop development and facilitation
and that's is sort of what led me into my studies
in global health at york university um so when I was at york whilst taking my courses I was
doing um a number of extracurriculars one of the positions I ended up getting was the new uh
student transition coordinator I think that's what the role was called yeah um with the faculty
of health and that um that position led into the leadership and development coordinator position which i held for my final year um of my global health degree at york university and um so in that time i was really kind of sort of figuring out how exactly i fit into um the world of public health and i mean i think i'm still kind of figuring that out um but some the the aspects of those positions that i loved a lot was in uh working with other organizations and in um facilitating workshops and and bringing people together under um common goals of of building professional development and personal development and so um with that in mind i i applied to my master's degree or a few master's degrees and ended up getting into george washington university and um through that experience i well i was i took i did a practicum for that to complete that degree and in um in doing so i was involved in a number of program planning um initiatives with the pan american health organization in trinidad and tobago so actually my master's degree was online so that's what allowed me to kind of do uh the degree in a number of places um one of them being trinidad tobago and um about a year ago after finishing um my my placement about a year ago i moved back to toronto with my husband um to set up roots and because i knew that i wanted to start working here um in in a more direct public health capacity and so in the past year um well we all know what's been going on with COVID and everything so the past year i was finishing my degree and also looking for jobs which took quite a long time um and then i ended up in um the the position that i'm in now with ACT and we can talk obviously a little bit more about how i ended up getting there.
[Farwa Arshad] yeah yeah thank you so much um that's honestly like a really impressive portfolio of skills that you collected over the years especially during the leadership positions um so I have a follow-up question for that so in your current job right now and in your volunteer positions with organizations like Pan Am how did those undergraduate skills help you and especially like your leadership positions like your university job how did you translate that kind of skills um into a professional environment?
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] yeah i think the biggest thing is um group work and I know that that's probably I mean like everybody experiences challenges with group work but it really is sort of the one of the biggest um most transferable practices that I took to to my my in in a more professional capacity because a lot of the work that i was doing as a work study student was with a team um whether you know and of course you all know like whether your job is sort of you know solo at some point or another you are collaborating with people and you are um tapping into sort of the resources that are around you and often those are human resources to sort of get um the job done whatever the job may be so I would say that that that aspect of teamwork um and all of the skills that come with being a good team team member um empathy, active listening, um sort of putting your ego aside to you know um to solve problems in in the most efficient way possible i would say that that would be the biggest thing for sure.
[Farwa Arshad] definitely and I guess your point about group work um it's it's not the ideal situation when you're in university but you're right because most of the organization you're working in it's not independent work um it's a lot of teams, yeah.
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] exactly yeah and that's exactly what I’m experiencing now um so in my position now what my i would say like 70 of my work is in working with other eight serving organizations that have programming that serves women and a lot of the work is around capacity building so it's it's a lot to do with building partnerships building relationships um close working relationships and really becoming ort of a go-to person um when folks are thinking about different capacity building initiatives that they want to to get in on um so it's all of those kinds of soft skills that really come in handy i think and for anyone i think working in in the public health field it's it's hose sorts of relationship building skills are incredibly important in fact i think like when i think about it now relationship building was one of the requirements on every almost every single job that i applied to while i was looking for for work in this past year.
[Farwa Arshad] yeah thank you um that's definitely interesting that's i've rarely heard of relationship building as a skill that students need to develop um to excel in their professional careers um and going back on your previous answer i just want to ask you more about um your job search during a pandemic because then it can be really hard especially if everything is remote you're doing virtual interviews it's so stressful um so what was your job search like and what was your interview process like
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] yeah um so it's funny you say that because i think i think because i was
doing so much school online already the transition to doing interviews um online actually wasn't that um it wasn't too much of an adjustment like that's actually something like every single interview i had online folks would be like oh you know i'm so sorry about this format it's so you know it's knowing that we have to do it this way but at that point i was so used to collaborating with people online and connecting with people online that it really so i think maybe that's like one tiny silver lining about having to do school online now is that we're sort of already prepared for you know being comfortable with this format and with um sort of talking about yourself on this kind of format but um more specifically about my job search so i started well of course i started job searching before well before the pandemic hit um and i would say what's true then remain true throughout the pandemic was that the best way to find work and find positions that are are meaningful to you is by connecting with people so the very first the um one of the first jobs that i interviewed for that i ended up getting was with a service design company called Bridgeable and i had met i found out about Bridgeable because i participated in a uh a Sick Kids conference it was called transforming care and it was all about sort of how uh it to integrate uh technology into healthcare and how to build stronger health systems leveraging these kinds of technologies and i participated in a uh a workshop on co-design with this particular company bridgeable and so through signing up or for that just because it looked interesting signing up for that workshop of course i did some background research into the organization into the company and you know just found what the work that they were doing was incredibly interesting and got to talking with them at the actual workshop and they told me about the the position that i ended up applying for and that i ended up getting so i feel like that's really telling um of like how you're more likely to find success in the job search is really by making those very personal connections and not only that but making personal connections with people in organizations and companies that you truly believe in i think makes a really big difference um so then of course when the pandemic hit that position was cancelled which was i mean just for such a disappointment um but i was still actually finishing off my my masters at the time so i kind of just threw myself into that um and then when i finished my masters around june was really when i kind of was sort of hit with okay i actually need to start looking for a job in a in a pandemic um and i was honestly a bit stuck at first like i can't lie i was really quite stuck um i think all of the normal ways of applying for jobs just wasn't really cutting it you know looking on indeed i'm sure folks are subscribed to a lot of different types of um job search platforms charity village linkedin um policy jobs to which is a great mailing list if you aren't signed up to it i really recommend it um and so i would say most of the jobs that i was finding or most of the jobs postings i was finding were through those channels and um really applying very ferociously to to everything that i saw that was even remotely relevant to me i was taking a lot of sort of or like doing a lot of those linkedin courses about like doing a lot of those linkedin courses about cover letter writing and resume writing even though i've written in cover letters and resumes many times before it was like okay what am i what am i missing here like what what do i need to fill in so that was a very active process for me and this is the point where i i mean it's a frustrating process for sure but it there is something kind of gratifying about um becoming pretty adept at the job application process i feel like i started off taking like a whole day and a half to write a cover letter to getting it done in like one or two hours which is it makes such a difference like i mean i'm sure everyone would agree that applying for jobs is kind of a daunting process um and so i was getting interviews but nothing was really coming to pass um and then i ended up getting in touch or i was sent a a volunteer position with act because i i contacted them earlier in the year like before the pandemic and asked about their volunteer opportunities um and they they were closed at the time and the pandemic hits so then they things obviously got delayed for them uh but then i ended up um getting a volunteer posting through somebody i'd been in contact with before and it was a an evaluation position with one of their gay men's programs and so i applied for it and connected with the coordinator of those programs and we just hit it off like it was kind of an instant connection um and we started doing that work together and then he sent me the the job that i ended up applying for that i ended up getting the women's community development coordinator job and then i mean of course like having that reference and having sort of already that context into the organization really really helped in the in the process of actually applying um and and in in the actual interview process and of course i had someone in the organization as a reference so it all just felt like it sort of aligned pretty perfectly so that felt like a very long-winded explanation of my past year
[Farwa Arshad] oh thank you so much um it's been a lot of experience in one single year um it just feels like so long um and i do get your point about like networking in a remote environment because most of the time it feels like cold calling because unless you know those really small platforms it's just hard to network with specific people um and have them interact with you
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] yeah, for sure
[Farwa Arshad] and uh um i had a follow-up question to your uh job search so during the interview did you feel like it was challenging that um to get interviews like as a new graduate or have job offers like a new graduate like where they're looking for more experience, more volunteer positions or because your interview was through a volunteer position. So, do you think it might be because um they're kind of not leaning towards new graduates um
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] that's a good question i i i think i was definitely having um a hard time because well i think experience being one of the one of the one of the issues like a lot of my work experience is in the caribbean context and so of course even though like i interviewed for a lot of jobs and you know it was even the interviews that i had that i thought went really really well like i can imagine at the end of the day they would opt for someone who has a bit more uh um uh context in in a toronto in the toronto setting because a lot of the jobs i applied to were like community-based research jobs so like work that would be very community-facing and so naturally i imagine they would have wanted to go for someone that has that context um and and i yeah that was yeah definitely i think the toughest part is sort of reminding yourself that it's not really about you um you know you are one of many people that are looking for a job and of course everybody always says like you know do what you can to set yourself apart um but i think for for me at the end of the day the process of setting myself apart was in making those direct connections through um through volunteering i i also so along with the volunteering that i was doing with act i was also i also sit on the board for the choice and health clinic which is an abortion clinic in toronto so that's another really great way to um give back to the community and then also build your network in within whichever whatever um field or or um subject of of the public health field that you're interested in um there are always people like recruiting board members and it's just a great way to lend a hand to an organization to help in their direction and in their strategic planning and again you know it's just a whole other way for you to to meet people in your field and then people get to know you as a reliable person and start thinking of you for jobs and so so it goes i think especially for someone that maybe doesn't like i didn't really have many professional connections here that was crucial and so like when i reflect on it i would always think oh maybe i should have done my practicum in toronto maybe that would have made a little bit more sense in terms of like um speeding up the job process the job search process
[Farwa Arshad] yeah thank you okay
[Kiaba Beharry] I actually have a question for you Safiya
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] Sure.
[Kiana Beharry] um sorry i'll turn on my video i'm in poor lighting right now um so i actually wanted to ask you about your experience with your master's program um i'm doing global health as a second degree as well and i'm kind of stuck in that place of oh my gosh more school and a master's and kind of the impact it would have on my job search because a lot of the jobs i'm coming across right now are all very you have to have your master's in abc and 10 years of experience for entry level so i just kind of wanted to um get your thoughts on that and and how to navigate that.
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] i'm sorry
[Kiana Beharry] oh no problem
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] yeah no um for sure like most jobs say that they require or at least that like further education or like sorry sorry um or that like a master's degree is an asset or whatever um i would say for for me i i was kind of in the same boat like thinking like oh god like more school like i'm really gonna do more school now um the thing is that a lot of like master's degrees you could probably do in a year or two um and are you doing uh the practicum as well in the global health program?
[Kiana Beharry] uh no i was just doing the regular honors um two years
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] So I would say that a master's degree is great because you most like health masters i'm not sure exactly what you're thinking of going for but like most public i know that all of the public health um specializations at u of t for example they all have a practicum component like i actually only applied for a master's degrees that had practicum components um because like i would say that it's the greatest thing that global the global health degree at york has to offer is the fact that there is that required work experience um so um sort of going into my job search it was definitely great to have that uh experience to talk about that sort of work experience while i was studying because i mean not only of course you're getting practical you know experience in your field but you're also able to talk about how you're applying what you're learning in real time to the real world um which sort of gives you something a little bit more tangible to to talk about also i would say like at the at the master's level the the interesting thing about the global health degree at york is i feel like that it is fairly like it's it's a little bit more than an undergrad like it feels like a little bit more challenging than an undergrad um so for me it was also a really great bridge into a master's degree like i would say my first semester of my courses and my masters were fairly like oh like i know a lot of these things already or i feel very very confident in what i'm learning and so i felt like i just had a great foundation i'm not i'm not sure what type of master's degree you're thinking of of doing um but like i i'd say anything that's sort of related to global health whether it's global affairs or um i don't know international management um public health um bioethics i'm not really sure what you'd be interested in doing but
[Kiana Beharry] I was definitely just thinking of a of an mph and one preferably that's course based um only because my my heart just isn't quite in a thesis mode yet and to do to do a lot of research when i'm interested in so many different uh areas so there's a couple options at u of t that uh look really interesting and there's one about health promotion and behavioral aspects and being able to implement that in the community so that's what i'm definitely leaning towards but it's definitely daunting when coming out of an undergrad in global health and you're kind of thinking okay i would love to get a job and get some experience but everything is is very masters focused i guess every description so
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] for sure, I mean I'd see if you can swing it if you can do a masters and if it's something that you are interested in that you see if at you you know you found a program that you feel like fits your your needs and your interests i'd say go for it it definitely does help um especially if the master's program has a practicum component i mean i'm with you like i really wasn't um trying to do a big research project um not that there's anything i think you know if you have a great idea for research that's awesome um my program did have a like a final project it was kind of more like a thesis light and again like that was a great way like a great sort of uh topic that i was able to to raise in a lot of my job interviews um because a lot of the jobs that i applied to and probably like in the public health field i think even if you are applying to like a coordinated position or something that is more practical there is i feel like in health there is always going to be a research component so like honing those skills and doing literature searches and systematic uh reviews and all these these types of skills is really very very useful.
[Kiana Beharry] okay thank you so much for that that was really helpful no problem
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] no problem, I feel like i'm just here telling you go to your masters go do it um but no i mean that said like if you sort of have been working with an organization or volunteering with an organization like if that's something that you're doing now like it could be worth exploring or taking the time to see if you can get that work experience because you know a lot of masters you can also do part-time you know like it's not necessarily that you have to kind of do it all in one go you can work and study um which is i guess another kind of that like valuable um or like good aspect of the sort of this this transition to the virtual world that yeah i think typically with master's programs you do have a certain number of years that you can complete it in um so if there is like a project or organization that you're working with like you know even better because sometimes you can like leverage those work experiences to kind of waive the practicum requirements i know that that some schools do that right um yeah so you know it's kind of like what but i would say it is definitely in public health like having the masters is for sure it helps definitely yeah
[Kiana Beharry] sounds like a good idea it was leaning towards it but
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] Yeah
[Kiana Beharry] i wasn't sure
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] Yeah
[Farwa Arshad] thank you for the question um kiana and i actually did not know that you could do a part-time master's program so that's really good to know um do a part-time master's program so that's really good to know um
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] Exactly, gives you so much flexibility the program
that i did we i had like four years to complete it um so meaning that you could take like two courses a semester i think obviously if it differs um like schools will have different requirements for sure but um if if that's like an option that works for you then it's it's like a lot of the people that were in my programs were like people who were working nurses doctors like people with full-time jobs people with families you know so it's i think like a lot of schools are moving towards
the more flexible ways of learning
[Farwa Arshad] Yeah, definitely, um and going back to a question about figuring
better answer about online working we had a question in the chat um what skills that was most desirable um in online working?
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] um you know it's funny uh like in a lot of the in like quite a few interviews that i did they asked me about my ability to like i guess be patient with the actual online working process i think um, keeping in mind that not everyone has the same level of like computer literacy or like um i guess ability to work with these different types of platforms and you're also working with people like in different parts of the world and in different parts of the country and um you know with people who are more or less isolated so i think from from what i was gathering from from that process and from meeting with different organizations and like interviewing with different people i think that sort of flexibility and adaptability was very important and and it is yeah very important um because you're i and i think with public health public health work the um the objective is to meet people where they are in order to improve their access to health services quality of life gaining information if you're doing research it really does require sort of that ability to adapt to what other people might need from you
[Farwa Arshad] Yeah definitely um thank you so much and just going back to your question um sorry again your answer about your master's um education uh so what was your topic of study during your master's um and did you find it easier to land a permanent position um so you said that it's kind of based on that organization that you're working with so did you feel that having that kind of experience helped you land the job um and maybe in the future as well having a master's degree might improve your chances of getting permanent appointment
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] um i like it definitely depends on your field of course like you know someone's studying somebody with an engineering undergrad may not need those same things um so i it really of course it depends on your degree or like your background first and foremost and also what you intend to to do and what your work experience has been i think if i was someone with a little bit more work experience in canada perhaps i would not have necessarily needed to do my master's right away um and i know a lot of people like working in my field that don't have their masters either and i think because they were able to um establish those kinds of professional connections earlier on um and work in the in the field or um a lot earlier than i did it's i'm not it definitely isn't a requirement for sure um but it was it was necessary for me i would say um and i i would say that it has helped my chances like i said a lot of the job postings that i saw um graduate degrees were a requirement or or at least an asset um so i'd say it was for me it was it was very helpful but again it really i think it's it's really depends on sort of what your background is and what your professional background is um because i know a lot of like people who graduated from my program or people that that were in the faculty of health while i was there i know a lot of folks that went on to you know continue working in in their at their practicum site for example um or landed other types of positions so yeah i think it really depends on sort of your background and your intentions
[Farwa Arshad] yeah thank you um and in terms of um project orientated oriented people so for example um what would you what advice would you have for people who are more project oriented when working in public health um but might feel like they have to complete a master's to get a degree so um right now like a lot of students are kind of struggling with um that they have a practicum but do they need to get higher education to get a better job because they're more um like personally for me i'm in global health too and i'm more project oriented and i would not like a lot more schooling but just kind of you know get in the workforce do community work um something like that so do you think like in this job climate it's smarter to get your masters and then do project work or
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] not necessarily i think like if you are already working on a great project like you know keep going with that um i would say that like as you go on in your work you will start to and i'm also like seeing like oh like these are some skills that i need to develop like i'm and i'm going to seek out professional development opportunities in in whatever it is that i'm like for example i'm i'm seeking out uh professional development and like design thinking and co-design and that that's a really great um uh these are just great methods for for facilitating group work and um and group projects and that kind of thing and designing solutions for social problems like these types of skills relate to that so i do think that no matter what like whether or not you go on to do a master's or phd or whatever you will always find skills that you are hoping to um that you're hoping to gain um and learning can come in a lot of different forms right it doesn't necessarily have to be in the form of university education or like a graduate program it can come in a lot of different um you know there are a lot of diplomas that you can do or certificates that are would be very very valuable to to whatever organization you're applying to and i know that a lot of organizations like the organization i'm working for now we actually have a professional development fund so there is a certain amount of money earmarked for me to engage in these types of of skills building programs so i think it's not engage in these types of of skills building programs so i think it's not necessary i think like you're saying if you're somebody that's more interested in doing projects and if you are working on a project than you find interesting then definitely go with that i i would say don't apply to a master's just to apply to a masters um you know do it because it's something like that you can see um first of all it's something that you're interested in and also something that you can tell is going to serve you in a very specific way um so and if you're seeing that working with people that you're already working with or working on a project that you find interesting or starting an initiative that you really believe in um you know go go with what feels like it's going to serve the community and serve you in in your career development i think you you would know best
[Farwa Arshad] Thank you, um i agree with you i feel like especially in global health that's really broad um you really have to research what you want to do before you know um start applying for jobs or just thinking what you're supposed to do other than what you want to do um yeah um and my next question was a little bit about your volunteer positions uh so working in big health organization what's your experience in the culture um around your workplace so for example do you have to deal with any like bureaucracy issues um any kind of smell like i don't want to say like office politics but you know like in small community organizations they have their um entire values and their um and their workplace culture so how do you settle yourself into that culture when you start your job um how you bring your own values um how do you advocate yourself for yourself um in that position
[Safiya Clarke Mendes]that's a great question um i i guess i'll talk
just mostly about the position that i'm in now i feel like i'm very lucky because there is a really pop there seems to be an of course i mean i'm just this is the end of my first month in the job but it's there's a really strong sense of um worker solidarity in this organization there are a lot of various subcommittees that are dedicated to the uh he health of the organization and the well-being of the people who work for the organization so i feel very lucky in that sense that the whole organization is really committed to uh the well-being of its workers and just the overall um an overall positive and productive working culture um so i would say i have not yet faced any any issues there i think in terms of orienting myself i've done a lot of connecting with people one-on-one and learning about the all the different work uh that is uh that's being done within the organization and finding out and figuring out exactly where i fit um one of the committees i was invited to join was i exactly what it's called but it's um it's around i guess coordinating the organization's um uh like statements and responses to various political issues that arise uh so for example one thing that we're working on is i guess is like the the organization statement around uh international women's day so it's a lot so what i'm gathering from this committee it's a lot of sort of um solidifying the organization's stance on various social issues um which of course shapes how the work is done and shapes the the culture of the organization around various issues that are you know very prevalent in our society today um so i think i'm very lucky in that sense i've worked in organization or during my practicum i would say the biggest i guess i'm not sure if you could really call this a bureaucratic issue but um the biggest issue i was facing was in um sort of the siloed uh the siloed nature of the various um agencies that that we were working with um and funding is of course a big a big factor here like everybody is sort of sharing the same funding and so all organizations have to advocate for themselves um and so tensions can arise from that so i would say that in terms of culture like that that was one issue that i faced in my previous work experience um and i mean like of course an organization is perfect so i imagine like i will face some challenges that act i haven't yet um but everyone seems very solutions oriented so it seems like no matter kind of what issues arise there's always sort of a focus on how to figure it out and how to solve it towards the the betterment of he the the service users mostly
[Farwa Arshad] yeah yeah exactly i think it also goes back to a previous answer about the teamwork and um facilitating their groups and working in coordination with others and that's i think like a key thing in working in especially community organizations about the teamwork and um facilitating their groups and working in coordination with others and that's i think like a key thing in working in especially community organizations yeah um and talking about your uh work life balance so working online as a coordinator what are some of the challenges and that so um how is your work balance work life balance right now
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] um actually i think because it's online it it's it's it's fairly easy to to balance these things of course i'm speaking from the perspective of someone that doesn't have a whole lot of responsibilities beyond myself my partner and my dog so of course like i think for folks with more family responsibilities that i have right now um it would look a little bit different but i think because it's online for example i don't have to be in working at any particular time or rather of course like i have meetings scheduled and and so and those happen usually during i guess the typical workday um but it's not an issue if i want to start work at 2pm and finish at 9pm that's not it's fine you know or if i want to usually i'm more of a morning working person so i'll start at around eight and i'll end up four kind of thing so i feel like it's fairly because it's online balancing work and life is fairly it's just it's much more easy to to do because you don't have to think about things like commuting um fitting in time to do like exercise and spend time with your family it's just a lot easier um now that i don't have to report to a physical office of course that said um i'm missing out on sort of the social aspect of of work which i think is also a big part of well-being is building that camaraderie at work and i can tell you know just from meeting folks over zoom that everyone is just so nice and friendly and and like-minded that i i do feel like i'm i'm missing that that sort of um closeness with the people that i work with which is something that's always been pretty important to me
[Kiana Beharry] um so i just have a another quick question um so i am definitely interested in working in women's health and and kind of that uh section i guess of public health so i wanted to know kind of what your um daily tasks i guess i'd that might be the best way to ask it uh what that would look like and any uh obstacles that that you've kind of encountered working in uh women's health.
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] Sure, um so in my position now um i would say that my day-to-day
is a lot of reading and a lot of meetings um so it's a lot of meeting with people from other aids serving organizations within our network and understanding sort of what the work that they're doing what their programming has been like the issues that they're facing um towards building or designing capacity building um initiatives to to support the agencies within our network and so i'm involved in a number of different sort of groups with various um uh target issues i guess you could say so for example i'm involved in a harm reduction working group as well as um a violence against women's network as well as a uh an organization or one of the few organizations that work on the needs of immigrants and newcomers so it's a lot of meeting with um the different folks like the different agencies that make up these networks and figuring out how we can improve um services for for the women that they're serving uh so yeah like i'm saying meetings meetings meetings emails and reading is is a lot of the work that i'm doing but i'm also about to get involved in a a really interesting research project on so what's happening right now is um uh a lot of hiv self-testing kits are going out into the community and so part of my job is going to be in figuring out how to do outreach but also in evaluating um the accessibility of these services how they're being used towards hopefully making this this resource more widespread um because of course testing is a big part of prevention and sexual health so yeah i would say that that is mostly what my day-to-day is like sorry was there a second part to your question?
[Kiana Beharry] yep and i don't it's just not coming back to me, I'm sorry
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] no no it's all good i wish i remembered
[Kiana Beharry] um oh i think it was day to day and i think it was just any obstacles that you that you find that you might be facing with with women's health and
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] I guess i mean obstacles for me right now is like um i guess more uh more concretely understanding the themes that are arising um everything feels very much in the abstract right now and i'm someone that's very output oriented so if ever i'm talking about an issue i'm i'm always thinking about the okay well what are we going to do about it so i think i'm having to get very a lot more comfortable with um just the process of gathering stories and listening to people and understanding where people are and what they need which is it which is in itself an output you know understanding people's needs is in itself a result um and so i'm i'm having to get a little bit more comfortable with with that and understanding that the steps to solving problems are all in themselves outputs yeah
[Kiana Beharry] yeah awesome thank you
[Farwa Arshad] thank you for the question um and it sounds like a really interesting line of work too and it's something i feel like you're really passionate about and if you're passionate about something it just doesn't feel like a job yeah but sometimes it does yeah
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] yeah
[Farwa Arshad] um and on the topic of net breaking we have a question in the chat which is um do you have any tips on how to reach out to organizations to establish a connection and get your foot through the door or stand out especially like an online environment um yeah
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] um yeah for sure i think attending webinars is a great way to to learn about what different organizations are are doing um for me that was one of the bigger um or ways i'm not great at networking i find it to be a very uh stressful and contrived process um but i find that when i'm able to network with people through something that i'm truly interested in that i feel very passionately about it makes such a difference because then it doesn't feel like networking just to network it it's like networking with a real purpose um and obviously cold emailing is is another great it you're not always going to get a response but it does i think make a difference like a lot of these organizations will have sort of an opening for you to contact them and make a connection so i think going into making these connections having a clear objective not just like oh like what do you do and are there any jobs like it's it's i think if you have a clear idea of what you want to know about the organization or what you want to gain or what you even better want to contribute it, it definitely um yeah will make all the difference in in sending out those sort of cold emails which i think is just will be a part of the process especially like and that helps too if you for example if you saw them in a webinar you saw them presented something or if you read an article that somebody at the organization wrote for example you know it's it's great to also have that context.
[Farwa Arshad] Yeah, thank you
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] Militia, I don't know if this is the same issue that I was in and that was in my year, I'm not sure.
[Maleesha Paskarathas] Hey, how are you?
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] Hey, okay, how are you?
[Maleesha Paskarathas] I'm doing good, it's just, it's done. Great to see you again after all these years.
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] Hello, how are you?
[Maleesha Paskarathas] I'm doing good um
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] awesome
[Maleesha Paskarathas] Yeah, we started off with like uh both working at Calumet and Stong and it's great
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] oh that was another thing i mean sorry just on the topic of like working in your uh or like work study at york and what made the experience great is i was doing peer tutoring and uh or like work study at york and what made the experience great is i was doing peer tutoring and alicia was the the head coordinator at the time so like just doing those things and like just all like figuring out all the different ways to kind of give back to the your community is just i mean it's yeah it's everything really
[Farwa Arshad] yeah definitely um it's kind of sad that it's all online right now but um especially if you look at the small community especially like our program feels pretty tight-knit um so it's it's a lot of fun sometimes
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] sure for sure
[Farwa Arshad] yeah um instead of all of comment to your answer is that sometimes those cold emails feel like an another cover letter um and it's it's very exhausting just like sending these um but that's a necessary part of networking
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] and i think also i mean like just if you can find a way to just like get your cover let or the about me part of your i guess you know because your cover letter is a way for you to expand on all of your work experiences if you can kind of get that down to like a one paragraph like it's it's just something that you can kind of copy and paste you know um like this is what who i am um you know this is what i'm about actually some advice that somebody gave me in like like doing those sort of elevator pitches which is usually how you open up an interview it's like it's trying to think about your answer like this like who are you why do they care and what do you want because i think more than anything like it's it's one thing to know what you are gonna offer an organization but i think it's very important to um know what you want out of an experience because your personal development your professional development is is valuable and it and your time is valuable and i think in the the job search process there's this idea that when you're starting off in an entry level um position or if you're trying to if you're coming in at the ground level in any organization you should just sort of take whatever you can get but no like you are a person with a particular skill set and applying that skill set is is important of course you're going to learn and grow and there's a lot of things that you don't know um and and so being aware of that and being able to assert that i think is is really important
[Farwa Arshad] Exactly and definitely agree um another topic of learning i wanted to ask about
your experience orienting yourself for the same job um because i feel like in most global jobs are not specialized so you have to really suit your um skill set based on the organization that you're working with so how was your experience doing that did you feel like most of your skill sets um met the expectations of your job um description
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] Um i'd say like half and half um yes i would say like all my skill sets definitely applied but there was like i mean there are a lot of things that i that i'm having to do in this job that i've never done before and um i think that that's really nerve-wracking but also it's unlikely that whatever job you do at any point in your life you will only be doing things that you've done before um and especially at this at this level right like the whole point is to to learn and grow and i don't think anyone expects you to come into a job having done everything before um and again i think that is also something worth acknowledging and asserting when you are meeting people and when you're doing interviews is knowing like this is something that i'm a bit unfamiliar with and it's but it is also something that i'm very passionate about and that i want to to learn more about and gain practical skills and i think it's also okay to to own up to those things yeah
[Farwa Arshad] exactly um sometimes it gets a little bit anxious to just kind of figure out if they're capable they have the capacity to facilitate your learning
[Safiya Clarke Mendes]exactly
[Farwa Arshad] and just to see like if it could be a good fit um
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] and i think that is yeah like i i'm again, i think it sort of goes back to this i i think you can kind of chalk it up to sort of the power and balance between you as the interviewee and um the person as the inter and the organization um i think wanting to know what they can offer you in terms of support is is a very valuable question and if i think i think and any organization that you want to work with has that in mind um and especially during covid like something that i always ask in my interviews is um what kinds of supports are in place and that's actually a question that i got in um what kinds of supports are in place and that's actually a question that i got in almost every interview that i i did was um what type of work environment suits you best what type of managerial style suits you best what supports do you feel like you need um and i think any any organization worth working for is going to have those things in mind
[Farwa Arshad] thank you um and in terms of skill sets as a public health researcher what are some of the quantitative ones um and specialized ones that you feel like if a new graduate or if a student wants to become a public health researcher they should um learn more about for example you mentioned literature reviews um doing other studies so would you have any examples
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] yeah i think definitely that i think if you can do like if you can sort of up your skills and things like SPSS or NVivo like um statistical analysis software um that's really valuable learning how to use like online reference organized or like organizing services like refworks or um i mean there are a number of them um so whichever one you like best like the skills are fairly transferable um in any research position they are going to expect that you have sort of a fairly uh methodical process of of how you approach your research and i've been in interviews where they've asked me to describe that process and so i'd say uh if and i'm sure for folks who have done research you have at least a little bit of experience in that but like you know accessing your library services is a great way to build those skills um the librarians know everything they know how to navigate all of these different things all of these different sort of online research platforms so i think building those skills is is incredibly important and if you're doing your masters it's it's essential like you won't have a choice but to learn how to do those things.
[Farwa Arshad]yeah thank you um we're running out of time so i'm going to close with the final question okay um unless we have any final questions or comments from the participants um so my last question is kind of a fun one so what's a course that you particularly enjoyed from your time at york a professor that you remember like any club um york related activity like clubs or something that you remember
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] that's i mean yeah i honestly i love my time at york even though like the last semester was during the strike i i yeah i love my time at york um some folks that stand out and i feel so sad because in preparing for this question like i'm was like searching who's that professor like what was their name because there are so many courses in the global health program that i loved um but uh claudia chaffan i'm sure folks in her power and politics like she's amazing she's just so smart and she just has a great way of teaching public health professionals how to think that's another thing about sort of going into the interview process is like you have to have it very straight in your mind what your um stance is as a researcher like what what you yourself as a public health professional stand for and how you approach your work and that's usually what interviewers want to hear is that you approach work from an anti-pressure lens um which means that you understand all the social determinants of health and how they affect someone's access to health services and how they affect if um how they affect a person's health status so i think like and and all of those things exist within a larger environmental social and political context so um professor Chaffan had just she was just amazing at helping us to think in in these ways and she also was really just so instrumental in my graduate application process she provided me with so many references just so many references and that's another thing don't be shy about reaching out to your professors for that ike that's what they're there for you know they they will always do that for you um another prof that really helps me out with was um jacqueline charlie she was i did like one of my very first semester courses with her i forget exactly i think it was like the intro to global health course but um with her was sort of when we were first talking about those concepts of the social determinants of health and and sort of understanding global health um from that social from that social lens um and again there i i'm forgetting the name of this professor but she taught social determinants of health and then there's um one of the the courses in bio in in ethics and health care was to me was for me one of my favorite courses in in my program and again i'm forgetting the name of the professor but she was great um and then of course doing work study was awesome like just meeting everybody in the work study program was just such a wonderful experience and again like it just serves as such a great support system for when you are you know on your way to applying for graduate programs or applying for jobs um Jennine Rawana was just was such a great support for me in that um and then of course like working in peer tutoring um and other sort of workshop facilitation clubs um was just really great um it's it's just so so easy at york finding ways to kind of give back to your your community which is like i mean of course it comes with its challenges but it's definitely like a great way to situate yourself um and of course earn some money while you're doing it um and i was also involved with um socialist fightback which is a marxist organization and that's another like very important for me a very very important um uh learning i guess um i guess you could say like a learning resource because it it's sort of these tenets that really inform my practice as a public health researcher it sort of gives you a very clear understanding of the roots of some oppression that folks are facing and how it gives rise to certain to different health issues um yeah i feel like i'm like forgetting things but those are definitely some things that stand out for sure.
[Farwa Arshad] thank you so much and thank you for coming back and reconnecting with us um and giving us your time to um yeah i think we should be closing the session now so if you have any final questions or comments for Safiya. You should animate yourself and speak to her that's okay
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] yeah it's like everything Bailey's posting is is yeah great to get involved in
[Bayley Tepperman] just plugging everything I can.
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] yeah it's like mentoring for sure but yeah global health students association was definitely really because it's such a small group right it's such a small group of us so
[Farwa Arshad] yeah looks like we don't have any more questions so we should be concluding the session now um thank you so much everyone for joining us and thank you especially to Safiya um for giving us your time sharing your experiences and for all the really specific examples i'm pretty sure it helped all of us
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] and um you know if anybody has any questions for afterwards you know please don't hesitate to send them through through bailey or you know whatever the case may be i'm always happy to to help
[Farwa Arshad] would you mind trying to or linkedin maybe
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] Sure oh my gosh. Oh, that's one other thing that i need to be better at is linkedin it's definitely a great resource
[Farwa Arshad] I feel like a lot of students made their accounts during the pandemic.
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] yeah, for sure that was always on my to-do list make my linkedin better improve linkedin and then linkedin learning is also a great resource and i think usually people have access through their um through your like uh school account
[Farwa Arshad] Exactly, um so yeah thank you everyone um hope you found this session useful and if you want to revisit it um you can it will be posted on the website and yeah thank you so much um i hope you have a great night and take care and hope you have a great rest of your week take care
[Safiya Clarke Mendes] bye everyone yeah