Advice, Career Conversations

Courtney’s Career Conversations – Meet Rachelle

Introducing Rachelle!

Well everyone, this is an extreme honour for me today to introduce you to Rachelle! For those of you who don’t know… this is my big sister, my best friend, and my hairstylist! Having been around her my whole life I know how hard she has worked to excel at her career. The going has not always been easy, but it has been extremely fulfilling for her. I was so happy when she agreed to write this post, as I think this isn’t a career path that many people think about pursuing, but it is also one that many people have misconceptions about. So without further ado, here is Rachelle’s career story, in her own words.

The Passion Begins

When I get asked what I do for a living I tell people I’m a hairstylist.  Usually that results in a hundred questions about their hair, or any good/bad experiences they have had with their hair and hairstylists.  It’s funny to me that people think hairstylist just cut hair all day for a living.  Yes that’s part of what we do and what the public sees. But let me tell you what we really do!

First, let me tell you a bit of my story and how I became the hairstylist I am today.  I got my first taste of the whole makeup, facials, crazy fun hair-do’s as a young girl.  No, I was not cutting my Barbie’s hair, I wouldn’t dare cut Barbie’s beautiful long hair!  My Aunt and Uncle came for a visit from Vancouver when I was in grade 6 or 7 and my aunt had brought all this fun facial and makeup stuff to use on my mom, sister and I for a fun girls night.  I was a bit reluctant at first, I don’t like doing things to make myself stand out but my mom told me I had to.  She did my sister and my makeup and hair. Then she took some pictures and I thought… OK this is actually kind of fun!

Soon after that my parents bought me the movie The Beautician and The Beast with Fran Drescher.  I fell in love.  Not with the movie it’s a bit cheesy but that’s when I knew, I want to be a beautician when I grow up.  I was pretty set and determined that was what I was going to be.  In Grade 8 we had Take Your Kid to Work Day.  It’s to help children start to think about what they may want to do when they grow up.

My parents both work office jobs and that did not interest me at all.  I’d rather go to school for the day than sit in an office learning about a job I had zero interest in.  I told this to my mom and asked her if I could go to my hair salon instead and shadow my hairstylist for a day.  We called them up and they graciously allowed me to spend the day there.  I had so much fun watching her interact with her clients, and seeing what she got to do every day.  After that day I was not going to do any other job.  That was it.  My parents were a bit skeptical but only because they cared.

Learning The Way

First, I’m the shyest person around. How am I going to talk to clients if I can’t even ask someone at a changing room in a store if I could try a shirt on?  Second, it can be extremely low paying.  Yes, you may think you pay so much for your hair, but we don’t take all that home on our paycheck.  Sometimes it’s just half, 50% commission.  Then deduct all the taxes for the government. Sometimes we get deducted product costs like the shampoo we use to wash out your hair colour or the gel, or hairspray we are using on your hair (yup all that can come off our half!). Sometimes you split your tips.  There’s no such thing as paid time away from work, if you want or need a day off its without pay.  Some of these are dependent on where you work and who owns the salon as well.

My mom and dad knew this by talking to my hairstylist, so they always wanted me to look at other options just in case.  I took Cosmetology in high school as my parents wanted to make sure that this was what I wanted to do as a career before they forked out all the money for school.  It’s not cheap, and I always appreciated that my parents would pay for any education I wanted to take.  My parents as skeptical as they were, were still my biggest supporters, and still are.  My dad was my very first haircut not on a mannequin. If that’s not love for your kid I don’t know what else is!

New and Different Experiences

There’s a few different ways you can become a hairstylist and achieve your license. I decided on 1400 hours of schooling then 1400 hours of apprenticing at a hair salon.  We are a trade so it’s much like becoming a welder, electrician, etc.  After I finished my schooling I was out to find a job and was so excited.  My first job was at a salon close to home that will remain nameless.  I only worked there for 2 and a half months and it was horrible.

It was a bigger salon with receptionists, and techs (people that help clean, sweep, fold towels, etc.) and about 10-15 stylists.  None of which were nice to me.  I stuck to myself trying to help the techs make rip foils for colours, fold towels but I was told that wasn’t my job.  I barely got booked clients because they went to the top hairstylists first, so I’d be booked last.  They would pile colour bowls on my station to clean for them and never helped me if I had a question.  I stood all day working on a mannequin practicing perming or roller sets or round brushing.

After being there 2 and a half months the owner called me and fired me.  I was devastated.  She told me I was a horrible stylist and needed to go back to school.  This was all I ever wanted to be how could I be so crappy at it?  I had worked so hard in school?  A week later my mom made me go hand out resumes.  I didn’t want to I was embarrassed at what happened, talk about a crushed dream!  Well what do you know, the same day I dropped off a resume I got a call from a salon also close to home and went in a few hours later for an interview.

Two very nice, friendly ladies interviewed me and I was relieved that at the time only 7 hairstylists worked there, 1 massage therapist and 2 estheticians that worked opposite of each other so it was nice and small.  They hired me that same day and I started the following week.  That was 13 years ago.  Every woman there helped me excel as an apprentice.  Told me I didn’t suck, that I was great for someone just fresh out of school.  They built up my confidence, helped shape the hairstylist I am today and for that I am truly grateful for the woman, past and present that I’ve worked with.

The Truth About What Hairstylist Do

Being a hairstylist is so much more than just cutting hair all day.  Like I said I’ve been at the same place for 13 years.  Some of my clients I see more than I see my own family.  I know about their lives, their children, what they do for work, and I have a lot of families as my clients so then you really get to know everyone.  Yes, we talk about their hair, what new cut they want to try, what colour they think they should do but some of the appointment is chit chat about life.  I’ve given a lot of girl advice to my male teenage boy clients who don’t understand teenage girls. I’ve been there to listen to them vent about their husbands or wives. A shoulder to cry on through a breakup, divorce, a death of a pet or family member. Sadly, I’ve have also had to shave a few heads for my female clients going through cancer which is hard on both of us.

Not all appointments are sad though most are happy talking about their travel plans, crazy animals or kids, and exciting things they may be doing in the future.  Just like any job, I have shitty days where maybe you had a crazy client or someone that was rude to you, but that doesn’t happen often.  I don’t get paid a lot, my hairstylist growing up was right in warning my parents, but I go to work every day and love what I do.  I never wake up in the morning saying, damn I don’t want to go to work today.  Not many people can say that.

My job is forever changing and that’s also exciting for me.  There’s always new trends to learn about, which if you have a good stylist they should always be up on their education.  At the salon I’m at we really push education, and it shines through all our talented stylists.  We will travel all over Canada to attend them, on our days off, out of our own pockets.  It’s 100% worth it and I personally always come back fired up and excited to tell and show my clients who are interested what I’ve learned to keep them trendy and looking awesome.  I mean they are my walking billboards and there’s nothing better than seeing one of your clients in public and thinking, wow their hair is on point!

Building and Growing

Now you can make money as a hairstylist for anyone that is curious.  Since we are a trade there’s many roads you can take.  You can teach at a school. Such as, high school teaching cosmetology or at any of the hair trade schools.  You can work for a company such as Redken, Bed Head, Sexy Hair, etc. being an educator.  Some people like being on stage as a platform artist teaching big classes all the new up and coming trends.

For me, I love being behind my chair.  It’s my happy place where I get to talk to people all day, make them look fabulous and have them leave feeling amazing.  Do I want to have my own salon?  I get asked that a lot.  Most definitely I do!  I’m only 32 I have a lot more to excel at in my career but I’m extremely proud of how far I’ve come so far.

Rachelle: Vest (old) – Similar Here and Here | T-Shirt Here
Courtney: Sweatshirt (not online) – Similar Here, Here and Here | Jeans Here

Special thank you to the Cutting Edge Hair Company for allowing us to use the salon. Please check them out if you are local to the Edmonton area.
Website: | Instagram: @cehaircompany | Facebook: The Cutting Edge Hair Company
Check out my last Career Conversations post here. | Check out my New Year’s Goals here.
Advice, Career Conversations

Courtney’s Career Conversations – Meet Cara Cara

This woman is something else. Beautiful on the inside and out.  She is someone I love to talk to as she just lights up the conversation with her positive attitude and the fact that she will cheer you on to your goals and encourage you without a second thought. I first met Cara through my best friend when he was attending the same University that she was attending. He ending up moving in with her and on my first visit to see him in Portland I was sleeping on her couch! The first time I met her in person I was welcomed right into her tribe. A tribe that includes millions of pictures as this girl is the selfie queen. However, this girl is so much more. She has worked extremely hard and overcome some very trying times to get to where she is today. I am so excited to get to share her story with you. So here she is, in her own words. I hope you enjoy!

And don’t forget to follow her:


  • University of Western States– Portland, Oregon
    • Doctor of Chiropractic, September 2013
    • Summa cum laude
  • University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
    • Bachelor of Science, June 2010
    • Specialization in Cell Biology

What is the secret to success?

What is the secret to success? If it was as easy as just one secret then wouldn’t everyone be successful? Success to me is waking up every day wanting to be better and to do better than yesterday. It is making goals and then reaching them. It is not letting obstacles get in your way. It is about mindset, passion, purpose, and growth.

I grew up in a small town in rural Northern Alberta. My parents separated when I was three years old and my brother and I split our time between their two houses. My parents were not very traditional in the sense that we did not grow up with many rules. My mom worked out of town often and so we were on our own from a young age. My mom worked so hard usually having 2-3 jobs at a time to make sure my brother and I always had everything we wanted and needed. I even figure skated growing up, one of the most expensive sports. However, money was always a struggle and even as a child I knew the pressure my parents were constantly under. My dad would always say, “I would give you everything if I could honey”. I think my childhood experience is one of the major driving forces for my success today. My parents worked hard but they did not have the skill set or the education for a lucrative career.

Sometimes You Just Know

This experience led me to want more, to want a better life for myself and my future children. I wanted a career I could be proud of, one that gave me independence and allowed me financial freedom. I remember my first trip to the Chiropractic office like it was yesterday. It was year 2000 and I was 12 years old. The waiting room had toys and books littered about, a large plant in front of a bay window shedding light on the front desk lady with a big smile. It was warm, inviting, and relaxing. Once in the treatment room I couldn’t help but stare at the posters on the wall, huge anatomical pictures of the various body systems. I told my mom I wanted to know all the parts of the human body. There was a computer in the corner and a giant blue bouncy ball.  After a short wait, Dr. Gingerich entered. He had red hair and a deep voice. He sat in front of the computer on the big blue ball and asked me a few questions while typing away. The reason I was there was because I had fallen hard on my tail bone during skating practice. After he finished his history and exam he had me lay on the table. Then with a little twist and a quick push my back popped and immediate relief washed over me. In five minutes he had me feeling 100%. I walked out of there thinking to myself, “wow what an amazing job he has”.

Of course, I was young and there was no way I could already know what I wanted to be when I grew up right? Well…wrong because I did know, and I wanted to be a Doctor of Chiropractic. What an amazing ability to be able to decrease pain, heal the body, and improve someone’s life without the use of drugs or surgery. I was sold. Academic work always came easy to me, so I knew nothing was out of reach. I was lucky though, I really enjoyed my schoolwork and had a passion for learning. At age 12 I was in 8th grade, I had skipped grade 6 after a series of aptitude tests deemed me eligible. I started working at age 14 as soon as I was legal, I knew going to post-secondary school was not going to be cheap and although my parents would support me if they could I knew they did not have the resources.

At age 17 I graduated high school with Honours and about half a dozen scholarships ranging from $500-$2000. I moved out and started my Bachelor’s degree that fall. Throughout my undergrad years I worked 2-3 part time jobs to afford tuition, books and living expenses. I continued to apply for scholarships I was eligible for, as every little bit helped. Although I flew through secondary school with ease, I am not going to lie, the first couple years of my degree were tough. I was 17 living on my own and there were a lot of distractions and temptations. For the first time in my life I let my grades slip. I failed an English paper, the first “F” I had ever seen. I then received “D’s” in one Biology class and one Chemistry class. The reason I am not afraid to admit my faults is that its not the fault that matters but how you grow from it. Being a very self-motivated and disciplined person, I was disappointed in my performance and knew I could do better. I re-wrote the paper, and re-took both those classes receiving an “A+” for all three. I never received a letter grade below a B for the rest of my post-secondary education (8 years and 3 degrees in total).

It Takes Hard Work

In 2010 I graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science with Specialization in Cell Biology.  I was 22 at the time and I was working part time in a Neuroscience lab performing spinal cord injury research. My work from the time I spent in the lab was published in three different scientific journals and I was invited to present my research at an international conference in Vienna, Austria. I would have never even had this opportunity had it not been for a dear friend and mentor, Miss Erin Brennan. During my 3rd year of University as I was contemplating my future she encouraged me to do the research project even though it would mean additional hours and a huge challenge. I listened to her and from her advice that day you would be hard-pressed to find me backing down from anything. Instead I rose to the challenge and it paid off immensely.

When I was researching which lab I wanted to work in, I discovered Dr. Vivian Mushahwar, a renowned Neuroscientist. Her research lab was the only one at that was part of the Cell Biology & Neuroscience departments. I knew I wanted to work in her lab and no other. I emailed her and did not get a response. Instead of getting discouraged I thought to myself she must be an incredibly busy lady and my email might have been missed. I emailed her again until I finally received a response. She agreed to meet with me and I was given the position. I spent two years working in her lab, the first as a student intern and the second year on a full salary. Had I not re-sent the email the outcome may have been completely different. The lesson I learned here was to persevere until given a definitive answer.

The Next Move

I started chiropractic school in the fall of 2010 at the University of Western States in Portland, OR. I absolutely loved the program from day one and immersed myself fully in the training. I decided to fast-track the program by completing a summer term each year to finish my Doctorate in 3 years instead of 4. School was challenging but stimulating. I was soaking up the information like a sponge and practicing my skills daily. I knew right away that I had chosen the right career and couldn’t wait to be fully certified. I graduated in September 2013 at the top of my class and started working right away. I had just completed my final internship at a clinic in Lake Oswego, OR and was hired on as an Associate Doctor. I worked there under the mentorship of Dr. Jason Bussanich, DC for three years. Dr. Jason taught me so much in addition to what we learned in school and really helped shape the Doctor I am today.

New Beginnings

In 2016 I decided to leave the practice in Lake Oswego and move back to Canada. I had reconnected with the love of my life and wanted to be closer to him and my family. I moved to Calgary, AB in the spring and have been loving life here ever since. I joined a busy practice in the NW Hamptons community and just started at a second clinic location downtown. I will split my time between the two practices to touch the lives of as many people as possible. A lot of people are often concerned when I tell them how busy I am, but this is what I live for. It has taken me just shy of 30 years to get where I am today but I can confidently say I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to do. If it wasn’t clear throughout my story I want to emphasize the importance of having mentors in your life. I have often had to overcome challenges solo and at the end of the day you really can only depend on you, but look to those who have been there before you, learn from their mistakes and grow from it. I pride myself today on being a mentor, friend, and role model to many people which is why I wanted to share my story. I hope you can take something from it to ensure your own success!

Check out Tracy’s Career Conversation here. Check out my last post here.
Advice, Career Conversations

Courtney’s Career Conversations – Meet Tracy

Courtney & Tracy

Meet Tracy

I had to think pretty long and hard about how I would introduce Tracy to everyone on the blog. I first met her in 2010 working in my first internal audit position. Since then I have more stories and advice she has shared with me then I could ever type into probably 1000 blog posts. Our conversations range from fangirling over Game of Thrones, to talking about her dress obsession (34 at one point), and to her helping me choose between jobs.

This special lady, or as I call her, my work Mom, has always been open and honest (and sometimes brutally straight-forward) when I go to her for career advice. But really, that’s what we all need sometimes right?! So without further ado, here is Tracy in her own words to share her career path (so far) with you.


Courtney & Tracy


  • University of Western Ontario (Western University), 1988
    • Bachelor of Arts, Administrative & Commercial Studies, Finance and Economics Specialization
  • Certified Management Accountant, 1992
  • Certified Internal Auditor, 2001

Courtney & Tracy


I recently had a blip in my career path that caused me to question some of my choices, however briefly, because I have not always followed a traditional path of vertical movement up the organization.

Born in 1967, I am at the front end of Generation X.  That means more to some people than others, but for me one of the biggest impacts on my career was arriving at the tail end of the baby boom.  Literally since I started working in 1988 I have heard of the impending mass retirement of the boomers and the subsequent availability of countless advancement opportunities.  29 years later I am still waiting for this to come to pass.

I was a bit of a keener where education was concerned.  I decided on business/accounting in high school and chose my university accordingly.  I went to the University of Western Ontario (Western University) and was the only person from my small town Manitoba high school to go there.  I realized when I was older that this was a pretty big and brave move.  I got my CMA designation a few years after graduating University.  The date on my designation is actually 1 day before my 25th birthday (yes, I am proud of that).  Eleven years later I earned by Certified Internal Auditor designation as well.

Courtney & Tracy

My Story

I progressed through jobs rapidly early in my career, always leaving because I had outgrown the position not due to performance or personnel issues.  I also made sure to always leave the role in a better state than I found it.

At 24 years old I was in the 5th and final level of the CMA program but I only had 3 years of work experience.  The positions that matched my experience were hesitant to hire me because I was unlikely to stay long given my progress towards my designation.  The positions that suited my education level wanted much more than 3 years of work experience.

The next logical step for me was to go somewhere that wanted my educational qualifications and would accept my limited years of experience.  So, in November 1991, I moved to Arviat, Nunavut (formerly part of the Northwest Territories or NWT) and assumed the role of District Comptroller.  I moved to Yellowknife for a head office position with the same organization about 18 months into my time in the NWT, staying with that organization and in the territory for 4 years total.

My next geographical move was to Edmonton, where I still am today.  I held contract positions for a few years before re-entering the world of permanent employment with the provincial government.  I stayed with the government, though with 4 roles in 3 ministries, for another 8 years.

I left government to return to the not for profit world where I began.  I was 38 and landed the role of CFO at a large faith based social services organization.  It was a perfect fit.  I thought I was finally home, and for a time I was.  I was responsible for Accounting, Payroll and IT when I began.  While I was there, purchasing and administrative support were also added to my responsibilities.  After three years, I sadly tendered my resignation to allow me to spend quality time with my daughter while she was still a child.  It was the right decision but I did come to question it some years later.

I left the NPO in an economic boom time.  I signed up with a placement agency to do some management level temping. My second temping assignment was with an oil and gas company to do some internal audit work. That 3 month contract was extended twice and then I was offered a full time senior auditor position.  I loved my boss and I accepted the job.  I spent 8 years as an employee of that company until I was laid off due to the elimination of the department I was in.

Courtney & Tracy

Courtney: Dress old – similar here and here | Long Blazer here | Boots here | Cocktail Ring old – similar here (less than $20)
I am not linking Tracy’s outfit except for her purse for the best reason. Her and I would prefer that you check out Peace Handicrafts, and consider making a purchase. Peace Handicrafts is a social-support business established in 2002 to provide training and employment opportunities to landmine victims, disabled persons and the deaf in Cambodia.

What now?

I was given a nice parting package, so I was not in immediate financial distress.  That did not lessen the unavoidable aspects of being laid off 28 years into a career.  A career that somewhat significantly defined you as a person, at least in your mind.  I felt I was fine.  I knew that it was not performance based – I was appraised as a high performer my entire time with the company.  But I was at a loss as to where to go, what to do.  And, I soon discovered, my career pathing was not consistent.

Was I a controller?  Not based on the job postings I saw.  My experience was too much.  Was I a CFO?  I was away from it for almost 8 years.  What about internal audit – was I a manager, senior auditor, did I even want to do that?  I got interviews.  I got good feedback.  I got “over-qualified”.  I did not get offers.  For 6 months.  After 4 months I was seriously questioning leaving my CFO role, even though I knew it was right for my personal life and wellbeing.  What had I done?

I decided to quit waiting for a paid position.  I signed up with Accounting for International Development and accepted a two month volunteer assignment with and NGO in Cambodia.  I thought, if nobody will pay me to do what I do then I will do it for free!  Actually, since I paid my way, I paid them to work for them.  It was well worth it.  Even before I left things started to shift.

Three days before I was flying out to Cambodia I received a phone call to set up an interview for the next week.  This was the perfect position based on my background.  A director role in a faith based, government funded organization with responsibility for accounting operations, financial reporting, compliance and even a charitable foundation.  It was like I had pathed my career specifically for it.

Then I got the offer.  And now I am in the job.  It is early on but I believe this is the place I am meant to be.  I turned 50 this year, have 29 years invested in my career and it seems to be working out.

Why did I feel the need to write this?  Because, despite conventional wisdom up until my generation, I followed my gut for 29 years.  I moved jobs when I felt it was time, no matter how short my tenure.  I moved laterally, several times.  I changed focus from financial reporting to internal audit and back more than once.  I attained a C-suite job at an organization with more than 1000 employees and then I left it!

The millennials coming up behind me are better at not following conventional paths and I applaud that.  I also want my example out there to show that job-hopping the right way, following your gut and doing what you need to for you, is okay.  You can still get where you want to be.

Check out my last work wear post here.
Advice, Career Conversations

New Series… Courtney’s Career Conversations

Fluted sleeve topFluted sleeve top Fluted sleeve top Fluted sleeve top Fluted sleeve top Fluted sleeve top Fluted sleeve top Fluted sleeve top

Top here – similar here and here | Pants old – similar here
Shoes old – almost identical here (under $50) | Earrings not online – similar here and here (under $35)

Courtney’s Career Conversations!

Hi Everyone! I am so excited to announce my very first series on the blog. Once a month I will be sharing with you some fabulous women that I have gotten to know either personally or through my career. They will each be sharing about themselves, their unique career paths and their growth within their chosen fields.

Why this topic?

I remember when I was about to start my final year of high school. Everyone starts asking you what do you want to do with your life, and well… I had no idea. I started University with plans to become a History professor (history is my side passion). However, I then got my first job in the corporate world after my first year of college working in the accounting field. From there, within one month I had changed from Arts to Commerce. At the time, I was not even aware of business or accounting as a career. My second job in the corporate world is what led me to find my passion for Internal Audit, which is once again a field I never knew existed until I was in it. So now, here I am working in a field I truly love.

My goal with this series is to provide you with information about the numerous different ways that people find their careers. To share with you the stories of different women who have each over come their own challenges. Finally, it is to inspire those of you who may be a little lost on your path.

Stay tuned, the first Career Conversation’s post will be next week!

Check out how I style one top for work and play. Check out my last work wear post here.