Jennifer Dowdeswell, BHK’01

Jennifer Dowdeswell, BHK’01

Jennifer Dowdeswell currently works as an Organizational Development and Learning Manager at UBC. Jennifer shares how her work in sports and education and has helped her help others. Read about her story and advice for the Class of 2020.

Tell us about your role

After two decades away from UBC, I have returned to support the Student Housing and Community Services unit. I work with the Directors and their teams to help improve the work experience for the 2000 staff that serve the students, faculty and community. It is a diverse role in that the work ranges from developing a 5 year People Plan, and coaching staff to supporting the implementation of online training delivery.

What attracted you to this organization?

When I was approached as a consultant, the conversation quickly evolved to applying for a full-time position. Although I wasn't looking for a job at the time, it was an attractive opportunity to work at my alma mater, expand my skills, work within a team and have a large impact.

When I graduated, I certainly did not foresee myself returning two decades later as an employee.

What excites you about this role/organization?

There is a consistent theme in my life: I am fascinated by people and see the potential in them. From my role as a corporate team builder, to personal trainer, health coach, global trainer in tele-health, and leadership coach, I have had the opportunity to build people's skills and improve teams.

This role at UBC offers the opportunity to have an impact at the individual and team level, as well as influence the organizational design and processes. Combining these is exciting!

What was your first role after graduation?

I was hired directly from my internship role at SportBC. The four-month placement provided me with a great opportunity. I had my foot in the door, I was making connections and building experience. My second role after graduation was as a direct result of my first. I met the CEO in the elevator on my way to work, started a conversation and upon hearing what he did, I asked for a job.

Opportunities are everywhere.

What skill did you learn in your very first job after graduation that you are still using to this day?

One of my tasks was to read over and accept or deny applications from parents who wanted to receive funding from KidsSport. The money would go towards the registration fee for their child to play a sport. For example, $70 to play a season of soccer.

I was so struck by their personalized letters and life situations. I believe this experience taught me to be curious about others, give them the benefit of the doubt, and to support and ideally inspire them.

What techniques did you use to address career ambiguity?

I had a loss of identity roughly around the time that I graduated, because it was also when I retired from the National Field Hockey Team. It was confusing as there were so many options.

As a result, I tried many things, following what seemed interesting and enjoyable. One opportunity would often lead to another. I admit it was frustrating seeing my friends launch careers while I explored jobs. I felt 'behind'. But I walked my path, and I'm happy with the journey and where I have landed.

What advice do you have for the class of 2020?

First, celebrate! It's a big deal to graduate, so enjoy it.

Acknowledge that you are graduating in uncertain times. Get involved however you can in what interests you. The people you will meet are often the ones who will offer you a job, or have an important contacts or advice for you.

If you don't know what you want to do, don't stress. You'll figure it out by trying things out.

If you can't start yet on what you want, be patient, trust it'll come together with you staying focused on it.