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  • Writer's pictureThe Edition

Ryan Carruthers: What I Learned form My First Speed Networking Event

The University of Waterloo Arts faculty along with our Arts and Business Professor, Kathleen Pierce organized and hosted a speed networking event between arts students and arts alumni.

Many seconds year GBDA students were a little anxious about how the night would go,  myself included. What do we ask them? Who should I talk to? What will they think of me? What do I have to offer to these alumni? 

All these questions swirling around our heads as we argued with ourselves if what we were wearing constituted as business casual. 

It is easy to get caught up in the formality of the event, intimidated by the word ‘networking’. 

But this formality distracts from the real purpose of the event: for us GBDA students to learn as much as we possibly can from these alumni! Learn what they were doing when they were in school that got them where they are today. Ask what kind of path they went down. How much did their degree help them in their career? Determine how they handled the uncertainty of entering the workforce. Did they feel as nervous about their futures as we do right now? 

So many questions! Where do we start?!

Pushing my anxious feelings aside, I focused on the value of networking with the alumni. I knew that these individuals all had a wealth of knowledge to share with us. My concern was how do I access as much knowledge as possible during the short time of the event? When the nerves subsided and we became more comfortable asking questions, thats when we really got to dig into the responses of the alumni.

To go into detail, touching on all the insightful advice the alumni shared with us would require a much longer article. Instead I’ll highlight some reoccurring themes that came up in many alumni’s answers.

Look for ways to add value to others - ask where you can help!

Fresh out of school, alumni expressed the common feeling that they didn’t have much to offer when entering the workforce. They struggled to get their bearings. Sitting around the table with my fellow GBDA students, the alumni encouraged us, explaining that the best way to combat these feeling and prove it wrong is by looking for opportunities to add value to others. 

By seeking out these opportunities to make yourself someone who contributes value to others you’re building relationships with your colleagues and in the collaborative work environments that we are bound to enter, this practice is invaluable. Start off by being an extra hand. Then, as time progresses and you prove yourself doing simple tasks, those you’ll begin to be trusted with more responsibility. To read more about adding value to others when you don’t know what you have to offer there’s a great article here.

Don’t be afraid to step into roles you don’t know a lot about, you can learn along the way

Starting a new role is daunting when we feel we don’t know anything. Nathan Hagenah, a bid manager at Sandvine encouraged us by showing that despite the nervousness that starting a new role brings, the organization isn’t out to get us. They want us to succeed and they don’t expect us to start off performing at the same level as those with more experience. There’s a slow start when starting a new role, allowing us time to get oriented. 

Jump in, have the confidence to take initiative in a new position

Just jump into it! Scott Wahl, Vice President of the Software Centre of Excellence at Dematic expressed to us that having confidence while starting new positions is imperative to our ability to contribute and work along side others effectively. If we find ourselves lacking confidence, we can start to build it up within ourselves by getting out of our comfort zone and following the previous points above.

Find a mentor

The last word of advice that the I heard numerous times from the alumni was to find mentors. By having the confidence to search out opportunities to help others and make new connections we set ourselves up to quickly meet others and find those that help us grow. If we follow these bits of advice we will find those that have experience to learn from and a desire to help us grow. Who knows, by putting ourselves out there, others may look to us for their own development asking us to become their mentors.

Speed Networking, although it went by fast (hence, SPEED!), provided a wealth of knowledge for myself and my fellow GBDA students. As we progress through our second year I hope we’re all gaining a higher perspective on what the future can offer us when we put ourselves out there to learn from others. Speed networking proved to be invaluable. I hope, one day to join other GBDA students as alumni at these events, offering up our experiences as lessons to future GBDA students as they feed their excitement for what the future holds.


Ryan Carruthers, GBDA '20

  • Student, Entrepreneur

My name is Ryan Carruthers. Im currently in my second year taking GBDA. During the year I focus on school, networking with my peers and building my painting franchise with College Pro in Stratford, my home town. I love to meet new and old GBDA’ers to talk about goals, personal development and current projects! 

If you’d like to reach out, connect with me on LinkedIn. You can find me on Instagram or Facebook. Let’s get a coffee and pick each others ears!

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