Sonya Singh: Today’s Notable Young Professional

Today’s Notable Young Professional is an incredible storyteller and Marketing & Communications Director of Toronto’s iconic Fairmont Royal York. Here’s what inspired her ambitious career path and where she sees herself in five years as the city continues to boom…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
Well, I start the day talking and I end the day talking, and in between there better be a whole lot more talking going on. As the Director of Marketing and Communications at the iconic Fairmont Royal York, I am constantly communicating – that’s my job. I am fortunate enough to have my office located in such a historic landmark. As soon as I walk through those revolving doors first thing in the morning, I am chatting with the bellman about a great story he was part of just a few minutes ago, and next I am brainstorming with the food and beverage team about upcoming events. I am constantly running around the hotel listening to people share stories that I help communicate to everyone. This building is 85 years old – just imagine all the great stories I have yet to share.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I loved telling stories as a kid and I gravitated towards a career that would let me do just that. I spent a decade as a weather/entertainment reporter that took me to Ottawa, Toronto and LA. Once I had creatively exhausted everything in television, I knew that I wanted out; but I still wanted to tell stories.  PR was a way to keep that network of media connections and still tell a great story. When the position popped up at the Fairmont Royal York it combined creativity, storytelling, communications, marketing, history and everything I had excelled in as a reporter, but also enjoyed in the past. This role is not only about working with history but also making new history and that’s what inspired me to take it on.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Any good communications person will tell you that no two days are EVER alike in marketing and communications – and if they are, you’re not doing something right. The day to day can have me creating new partnerships that have lead to new friendships in the city, hosting events in the hotel, promoting our property with the media, being an inspiring leader for my strong team and remembering to smile while I do it all. That’s just part of my day – a fragment that ultimately helps build the best part. 

I’m lucky because I have a leader who believed in me from the moment she met me. I look at my mentors and they are strong women that provide not only leadership, but encouragement as well.  The challenge was learning a new industry, but with the right support it was to overcome.

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
When you see a stack of peanut butter cookies on my desk – something is off. It’s important to just have that time – that me time – and if I can’t fit in the things I love to do such as painting, writing, laughing,  seeing friends or just cooking a meal a few days a week, the balance isn’t there anymore. We all have the time – it’s just about juggling it all.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Still telling stories and maybe less peanut butter cookies on my desk! Just imagine our city booming city in five years; this is the place to be. The revitalization of Front Street and Union Station are stories that I want to tell. The excitement is just getting started and we really are making history as we start telling new stories of the city, the hotel and the people. I’m just lucky that I get to witness it all. Maybe I’ll have written a book by then.

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
It was difficult to make that decision to leave television. I would ask myself why I was going to leave when there were a lot of people who would love to be on camera, interviewing celebrities, flying to LA and producing stories, but I also knew that I wasn’t happy anymore. I was creatively itching to get out and try something new. The challenge was to be fearless and not let the lack of experience in something be intimidating. When I looked back on the work I had accomplished as reporter I realized that I was not only funny and creative, but also a talented writer, producer and great storyteller; those are all qualities that I could bring to my next career adventure.

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
My favorite author, Oscar Wilde, once said: “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about.” Success is all those clichés – making a difference, being selfless, happy, smiling, laughing, and remembering that it’s okay for you to feel that way too. I don’t want to look back and think that Sonya Singh didn’t do what she’s always wanted to do because she was afraid. Success can be intimidating, but boy is it amazing.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Why, is my career over already? 🙂

In Ottawa working for A Channel as their entertainment and weather anchor I was voted Top 50 people in the nation’s capital in 2008 by Ottawa Life Magazine and I thought to myself, “What is there to do now?”

Two years later I worked for CBS in LA and helped launch the first ever mobile station as their news and entertainment anchor and again I thought that’s a huge accomplishment – what do I do now?

Six months into my position here I was awarded Leader of the Month and I said, “How do I top this now?” This year, my team was selected as a finalist in the WestJet Social Media Initiative Award presented by TIAC – if we win (when we win), I’ll ask myself the same thing – “What do I do now?”

These milestones are more than just memorable to me – they are motivators and only push me harder at what I do and where I go from here.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
I think some of my past interns who now look up to me as mentors (from what I have been told) would say that I always tell them to dream big and travel often. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it because I will tell you that you can; and why didn’t you do it faster?

Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
Anything Indian. I am a huge fan of all things Gerrard Street.

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
If you’re in PR and you have “Me” time, you’re not doing your job! When I do have downtime you’ll catch me at the gym, or catching up on Walking Dead. I love to cook, and I’ll usually put up my masterpieces on Instagram. Okay, they may not be masterpieces, but they’re delicious.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
India. I try to go every three years and I have never had as much fun anywhere else. There is a side of India that I just love, which includes good music, great friends and lots of King Fishers.

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Katy Perry – ROAR, because “I am a champion and you’re going to hear me ROAR.”

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
A Bollywood actress of course!  Apparently I can be a little bit dramatic. 

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
WWF – I absolutely love animals. And Children’s Wish Foundation.

I am also on the board for the Toronto Public Library because I am huge fan of literacy, books, and did I mention Oscar Wilde?

What to you is notable?
Laughter, creativity and loving life. There are times that you’ll catch me just absorbing the moment with a sneaky grin on my face because I am really proud of being a part of that amazing moment. It’s your one life; live it well, make it notable.

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone! Mostly because I can’t live without Songza and I’m addicted to watching The Mindy Project on Netflix on my Iphone – when I’m regretting doing cardio at 6am.


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