Cohort 9 – Customer Relations Supervisor – Talent in House
Name: Nicole Han
Current job title: Customer Relations Supervisor
Internship/Placement role: Capital Region Housing Corporation
Degree: Business – Majoring in Accounting
Where are you based: Edmonton, Alberta Canada
I am first generation, Canadian born Chinese. Both my parents work in the finance industry and as the eldest child there was always a lot of pressure on me to follow in my parent’s footsteps. In college I majored in Accounting. The plan was to get my designation and work in my dad’s accounting firm. I always knew in my heart that this was not really what I wanted to do, something that I voiced constantly to my parent’s dismay. During a summer break, I took a trip to Singapore with my dad that changed the course of my life forever. On this trip I discovered that my parents had grown up in absolute poverty, living in slums with deplorable living conditions. This was a huge shock to me as I grew up upper middle class suburban neighbourhood. My parents had shielded me from their past for years and that’s when I realized there is a huge stigma (embarrassment and shame) around affordable housing. It was then that I decided that I wouldn’t be happy sitting in a cubicle crunching numbers all day. I needed to be doing something where I was helping people. I finished off the semester but decided not to pursue my Accounting designation.
My first job in housing was at a city operated agency that coordinated all of the homeless shelters. I worked there for over a year, assisting with the Edmonton Homeless Count, The Five-Year Initiative to End Homelessness and on many charity events such as food and clothing drives, free haircuts, job training and career fairs for the homeless. After that I moved to a permanent position with CRHC where I’ve worked in a variety of departments, starting off in Applications to where I am today at Customer Relations. I have had a ton of growing pains in this company. I literally grew up with this company. A Lot of people looked at me like I was young and naive, or maybe didn’t take the jobs seriously- not knowing everything I had been thru to be here. I have now been with the company for 10 years, it was also during this year that I was chosen to participate in the GEM Programme (a first for Canadians and employees at CRHC) and was also able to complete my CIH certification with the full support of my employer.
The GEM Programme
Being on the GEM Programme has forced me out of my comfort zone both professionally and personally. I am now more comfortable taking risks, putting myself out there and pursuing things that I am passionate about.
Since completing The Gem Programme, I have started a non-profit organization (100% volunteer and in our spare time) with my spouse, called Leftovers. (www.rescuefood.ca). My husband is Red Seal Chef and I have also worked in the food industry for years. We always recognized that there is a huge downfall in the industry at how much food gets wasted. We wanted to do something about that gap. No one should ever have to go hungry. Our organization aims to reduce food insecurity in our city by the collection excess food from generous vendors such as restaurants, bakery’s, deli’s etc and rerouting it to those in need via service agencies such as homeless shelters, soup kitchens and churches. The service we provide is complimentary to agencies like the Food Bank who primary deal with non-perishable items because we pick up fresh items such as excess produce, fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains. The food we are picking up and donating diverts it from going into the landfills, also helping reduce our carbon foot print. The impact on the community has been extremely positive. No one feels good about tossing out complete edible food, especially when there are starving people in the world. Because our volunteers do all the grunt work (pick up’s and drop off’s) no extra work is added to the vendors, all they are required to do is NOT throw out their excess food in the garbage!
What do you enjoy about your current role?
At the end of the day, I am making a difference in someone’s life.
With the increase in the cost of living, no one should have to decide between paying for rent, or buying groceries, a problem I see frequently working on the front lines of a social housing organization.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to apply?
Don’t be scared. There will be tons of “heat experiences” on The Gem Programme – scenarios that force you out of your comfort zone and pushes your limits. These moments are meant to help you grow. Give in, give it your all and reap the rewards! The Gem Programme is an intense program that will give you all the tools you need to succeed in your career and become a future housing leader!