So, did you know that I’m looking for a job? Well, I am! On November 2nd, I was laid off. From March 11th until October 2nd, though, work was wild. I worked for a small, family-owned business called Elite Camps. Elite has been running basketball programming — starting with day camps, growing into afterschool programs, weekly lessons, an academy program, a D-League, and an outdoor centre — in Ontario for over 20 years, and I was the director of their outdoor leadership centre and overnight camp. When COVID hit, we — along with the rest of the world — went into scramble mode. The owners had taken on significant debt in early 2018 to buy and build the outdoor centre (it’s beautiful — you should check it out) and we were relying on aggressive growth in order to stay on top of the debt payments. It had been going really well, and then the pandemic hit.

The first round of layoffs reduced the full time team from 11 to 7, and the workload was intense. On top of my regular job of getting ready for an increasingly unlikely summer season, I began to help with all of our pandemic-related communications, including updates on cancellations, refunds, and credits. I also dealt with any escalated client issues (and as a company that provides programming for over 6000 children every year and just had to cancel all of our programs mid-season, we had a lot of COVID-related escalated issues) and I helped out with front-line program delivery. I did this while preparing for multiple Summer 2020 scenarios, with my main focus being on turning our outdoor centre into a family retreat centre for the summer. When that scenario became possible under provincial guidelines, we hit the ground running. The Grey-Bruce Public Health team was incredibly helpful, and we ended up safely hosting over 225 families over the course of the summer, selling out about 90% of our available nights. It was a weird summer of programming, but we made the most of it. Unfortunately — and we knew this going in — the family retreat model just does not work from a financial standpoint: despite how well we did, we ended up making less than 25% of the revenue that we were projected to make prior to the pandemic.

October 2nd was my last day of work prior to a planned 4-week vacation. And, sadly, it ended up being my last day at Elite Camps. A few days before I was supposed to return from vacation, my boss reached out and said she had something she needed to talk to me about first thing Monday morning. I had a sense that it was not going to be a good thing, and was disappointed but not shocked when I was laid off. My portion of the business — the outdoor centre — wouldn’t pull in any real revenue until the spring at the earliest, and we really didn’t know what the spring and summer would look like. Given the financial state of the company, they just couldn’t afford to keep me on. I have nothing but good things to say about the whole team at Elite Camps, and I know that they will find a way to rebound from this really tough time.

I got the news while in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where my partner is from. She hadn’t seen her family in over a year, so we had decided to spend my vacation time self-isolating and then enjoying the relative freedom of the Atlantic Bubble. I took about an hour to tell my partner, feel bad for myself, and walk our dog, but then I got to work figuring out what was next. Getting laid off is not a fun experience, but in some ways it has been a blessing. I’ve been given the opportunity to slow down and take stock of what I’ve done over the past five years, what I liked most about what I’ve done, and to figure out what I want the next five years to look like. After a week of thinking, preparing my resume, sifting through job postings and descriptions, and getting in touch with my references to let them know they might start getting calls, I decided that I wanted to make a major shift and find a way into the world of tech, likely in sales or customer success.

So, how does the director of an outdoor centre with a BA and MA in philosophy go about getting a CS or sales job in tech in the middle of a global pandemic? Well, that’s the question that I am in the process of trying to answer, and I’ve decided to write about it. Over the next little while I’ll be posting once or twice weekly about what this process has been like, how I’ve approached it, and what I’ve learned. Obviously, feel free to share if you think my perspective will be helpful or interesting to anyone else. See you guys next week!

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