Jul 25, 2018
Alumni and Community Engagement recently sat down with Langara School of Management alum Christian Westin to chat about his career, school, and life after (and now back) at Langara.
Thanks so much for sitting down with us.
It’s great to be here.
Congratulations, I understand that you’re teaching at Langara now?
Yes, I recently started as an instructor. It has been a surreal experience to know that I am teaching in the same building, and even in the same classrooms, where I was a student only a decade ago. It’s certainly a full-circle moment.
I always knew that I wanted to teach. I think it’s an incredible thing to be able to give people the gift of their own growth and development. I hope that I can be as successful at inspiring students to reach their potential as my instructors were.
How do you feel about being back on campus?
I keep saying to people when I see them in the halls, it feels like I’ve come home again. But actually, I don’t think I ever really left campus. I kept in touch with my instructors after graduation, and have sat on various advisory boards here for many years.
What’s changed at Langara since you were a student?
It has literally grown and become a much larger institution. There is also a wonderful diversity on campus now. Students from across the globe, bringing in a wealth of international experience can create an even richer learning environment.
What do you like best about being at Langara?
What I like best is the Langara community. I used to work for a major research university. In my role there, I administered some of the large 400-500 seat lecture theatres. I would see students go through their entire course without actually having any one-on-one interaction with their instructor. They might talk to their TA, but it was really a rather one-way, impersonal form of learning.
When I made the decision to pursue a post-secondary education, I had the opportunity to go to that institution at a discount, but I chose to come to Langara where class sizes are small, and instructors have real-world experience. And I have never looked back.
Langara is a community in the truest sense of word. As a student, you get to know your instructors, and they get to know you. They watch out for opportunities that may benefit you outside of the classroom. For instance, I participated in the BC Business Simulation and had the opportunity to create TEDxLangara because of the support and encouragement of my instructors.
As an instructor, I now do the same for my students. I get to know their interests. I try to tailor my course content to reflect the jobs they have right now as well as the careers they are aspiring to have -- to ensure what they are learning is highly relevant to them. I believe in customizing the learning experience.
That’s right you were responsible for TEDxLangara. What was that like to organize?
My first boss was Jimmy Pattison’s right-hand man. He always took the time to answer my questions and encourage my interest in business. I soon realised that many of my classmates hadn’t been lucky enough to have had such an opportunity.
I thought what a wonderful thing it would be to invite leaders to share their inspirational stories with Langara students, staff, and faculty. So, TEDxLangara was born.
I had a really wonderful supportive event team made up of Langara staff and faculty who generously gave their time. We had an amazing line up of speakers, including the former mayor of Vancouver; the head of Canada’s largest charitable foundation, the Vancouver Foundation; an expert on boards and leadership from New York, the founder of Y-Yoga and former manager of Sarah McLachlan the Barenaked Ladies; and the head of the Vancouver Board of Trade. It was a challenge to produce an event that was of high enough quality to be worthy of the calibre of our guest speakers. In the end, it was an amazing event and experience.
I understand that you’re about to take on the mantle of President of the BC Chapter of the American Marketing Association (BCAMA)? How did you get involved?
Langara programs are highly connected to industry. It was through the encouragement of an instructor here at Langara, that I started attending events put on by the BCAMA, and the Association of Integrated Marketers (an organization that recently merged with the BCAMA). Then I became a volunteer and eventually started working on teams organizing major conferences.
Subsequently, I was offered the role of director of Sponsorship, so I spent a number of years in that role working with various partners, from small, one-person businesses to enterprise giants, like IBM and Oracle. The position was a wonderful opportunity to meet incredible people, understand what was important to them and what challenges they are facing, and to develop creative partnerships.
Joining the executive team of the BCAMA has been an honour, a tremendous challenge and has been very rewarding. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in the BC marketing industry – some of them also hailing from Langara.
I take over as president on July 1st, 2018.
What’s your plan for the BCAMA during your time as president?
We have really focused a lot this year on growing our team internally. It’s a part of my interest in organizational psychology and developing a strong internal culture, rewarding and recognizing individuals, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your team.
At the BCAMA, we provide networking, thought leadership and strategic insights to members of the marketing and business community at large. Marketing is venturing beyond its traditional grounds. So, there are a number of aspects that the BCAMA will be focusing on to reflect this shift. One is technology. There are a lot of disruptive technological changes happening. These are affecting all industries, not just marketing. We recently held a marketing innovation experience event in the new Telus Innovation Centre. A part of that presentation was on which emerging technologies are useful and viable; what traditional means of marketing are still your best bang for your buck; and how do we really mark that line of new and emergent against traditional marketing tools?
We are also seeing blurred lines between marketing and other organizational domains, such as sales, HR, finance, etc. So, we are having a lot of conversations about how to break down the silos between those areas, and what that means for individuals working in industry.
Trust in marketing, data collection and privacy are hot topics these days. Many businesses and consumers are having to grapple with this daily. So, ensuring that we’re upholding best practices, promoting integrity in business, and showcasing marketing as a force for good is more important now than ever.
Finally, as an organization with a fairly senior career-level membership demographic, we are looking to open up more opportunities for students and individuals in the beginning stages of their careers.
What is one thing that has contributed to your success so far?
Always learning. Even now as an instructor, I am always learning. I am always a student.
What advice would you give students who are just starting out at Langara?
You have a wonderful opportunity to engage with the community here. Take advantage of all the opportunities you have. Do the extra co-curricular activities. Take risks because it’s a safe environment. You might stumble at times, but Langara is a place where you can make mistakes, and still be supported. It’s a great place to develop relationships, friendships, and seek out mentorship. It’s a place where you can form connections that will be incredibly valuable beyond your time here as a student. One final thing I would offer is to be generous with your time and give back to the community. I think that’s an essential part of what Langara is all about.
Thanks so much Christian.