Erin Thibodeau: Today’s Notable Young Professional

Erin Thibodeau is the definition of a career woman, currently satisfying her love for coffee as KRUPS Canada’s Barista Ambassador while working in marketing and communications for architecture and interior design firm HOK and freelance writing on the side. But you’d be dead wrong to assume she’s only about work…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I have the pleasure of representing KRUPS Canada as their Barista Ambassador…which essentially means that I get to be creative and hang out with inspiring people most days and drink a lot of coffee!

During the day I work in marketing and communications for HOK, an architecture and interior design firm, and moonlight as a freelance writer.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I have a big passion for coffee, so in terms of applying to become the first-ever KRUPS Canada Barista Ambassador, it was an easy decision for me. I love getting an opportunity to talk with anyone over a cup of coffee, and spreading the word about some of the most amazing and technologically advanced coffee machines in the market is just an added bonus.

I made the move to a design firm after being in the construction industry for a spell. The transition was a natural and welcomed one – I get to work with inspiring, vibrant and creative people. I’ve always been interested in fashion and style, a topic that I cover most often in my writing, but now I have an appreciation for, and knowledge of, all types of design. In the office, we talk about everything from interiors to product design, from fashion to art, and city planning to landscape design. I’m always learning something new.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
I love collaborating with my coworkers and being creative. Interestingly, this can also be the most challenging; working through issues in design in a group setting and catering to a lot of different opinions can make it hard to find a happy medium. Redesigns and rewrites are a common occurrence!

Now that I’m also working with KRUPS Canada, I also get to spend an inordinate amount of time drinking coffee and talking about its history and the culture that surrounds it – great topics for finding common ground with strangers.

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
A sure sign that my work/life balance is off – “un-centered” is the word I like to use – is when I’m unable to concentrate or accomplish anything and I start feeling really stressed out and overwhelmed. I know that I’ve had my head down writing or have been in the office too long and haven’t given my brain a rest.

Coffee with friends, a workout, and a nice weekend are hugely instrumental to being able to recharge and refocus. When my personal life and balance suffers, so does the quality of my work.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Ambition, positivity, and forward movement are very important to me in my professional life. I don’t necessarily believe in setting concrete goals because life can be so fluid, but in five years I would like to be able to look back and say “I’ve come a long way and there’s still a lot I’d like to accomplish.” I’d also like to be in a position that allows a lot of travel.

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
I’ve only recently been open about my age. In the same way people fudge their age in their advanced years, I’ve always felt a need to fib by rounding my age up. People are surprised to find out I’m so young, so I often feel the need to work harder than anyone else and act very mature to convince people I belong. Now I realize that I do work hard – and that’s why I’m valuable. Now I’m more comfortable in getting by on my own merits.

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Money definitely does not equal happiness. I’m not naïve enough to think it doesn’t hurt your chances at contentment, but in the end it’s about the people you surround yourself with, your life experiences, and your outlook. You can’t take money to the grave. Enjoy life to the fullest, and for the important things, people will usually find a way – money or not.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
As an ambitious writer, the first time you actually get paid for a piece is really memorable; you take that step from ‘ambitious’ to ‘freelance’ and that’s very validating. You also have to navigate that tricky –  and sometimes awkward – territory of asking for your deserved compensation, and successfully completing that is a positive step forward.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” I think, especially with the social media assault these days of everyone’s “success,” it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re falling behind in your career or that you haven’t accomplished enough. This is usually not the case at all. Stay passionate, stay hungry, and keep your eyes in your lane (how many metaphors can I fit in this sentence?). Everyone’s life path is different.

Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
I love that Toronto is a city of so many parts; it’s so easy to find and try great new restaurants and independent coffee shops. I love to start my morning at either Sam James Coffee Bar, or any of Hula Girl’s locations; that is if I don’t use my KRUPS coffee maker before rushing out the door! In terms of restaurants, my go-tos have become The Harbord Room and Salt; the menus aren’t expansive and what they do, they do well. I also enjoy going in and seeing a familiar face working there – both establishments have wonderful staff. It makes the meal/drink so much more enjoyable when everyone is in on the fun!

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
My “me” time is usually spent in the presence of other people. I really value my friends and family and aim to spend as much time with them as possible. Debriefing and having a chill evening with them really helps to relax and inspire me, and since becoming the KRUPS Ambassador people gravitate to my place for fancy coffee drinks – cortados are popular these days! When I do find myself alone I’ll read, go shopping, or head to the gym.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
I don’t think I could pick just one! I love to travel and am not happy unless I know there’s a trip on the horizon that I can be planning and thinking about.

London, England is one of my absolute favourite cities. I lived in Northern England for a while and made my way to the city every chance I got. It’s such a vast and exciting place; you can stumble onto new corners and places indefinitely.

Recently I’ve been lucky enough to travel India – Mumbai, Delhi, and Goa – and would go back in an instant. The country is vibrant, with such a strong sense of history and culture. Everything seemed a little duller after I arrived back in Canada.

And finally, a recent trip to Iceland has me thinking incessantly about visiting other Scandinavian cities. I think that’s next…

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Oh gosh, this is hard! Not necessarily a theme song but anything by Robyn gets me pumped up. Can I have a pumped up song instead?

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I’d be pursuing a career in acting, hands down. I did a lot of theatre growing up and I still miss it. Actually, I wouldn’t write the idea off just yet!

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Earlier this summer, some colleagues and I participated in The Stop’s Night Market initiative. The work they do there is so important. Not only do they work to provide food to those less fortunate, but they also educate people about sustainable and healthy food alternatives, which is such an important message and lesson.

What to you is notable?
People who can speak to or care about something passionately are notable. Pouring yourself into something and having a commitment to it is significant, whether that’s your career, an art you pursue, or a family life.

So maybe I’ll rephrase: people who are passionate are significant. Those who share that passion with others are notable. 

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
Currently iPhone, always accompanied by my Moleskine day planner and note pad. I’m tactile and enjoy making lists and keeping track of my days with pen and paper. 


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