Alumni Spotlight: Jeff Junke, MPC ’15
By: Elise Bradt, MPC ’15
Jeff and I graduated together only a few months ago in October 2015. Partnered together for our first assignment in Dr. Ava Cross’s Advanced Speaking and Presentation Technology class, Jeff was one of the first people I got to know in our cohort. After an hour of interview questions, we had to formally present one another to the class. Here’s what I learned about Jeff that day.
- His name is Jeff Junke. And that’s pronounced Junk. Not Yunke.
- He graduated from the University of Ottawa with a major in history and a minor in English. Plus, he spent a very fun semester abroad in Perth, Australia.
- Before coming to the Master of Professional Communication (MPC) program, Jeff spent just over two years working as a communications coordinator at the Council of Canadian Academies, a national non-profit providing scientific advice for the federal government, an experience which sharpened his organization skills to a degree that is unmatched in the communications world.
- He curled for Team Yukon in the Canadian Junior Curling Championships!
A year and a half later, Jeff has become one of my best friends. In fact, we work together in healthcare communications (we’re even in the same office!). I sat down with Jeff for a second interview to find out what Jeff’s been up to since graduation.
- So Jeff, how’s life since graduation from the MPC program?
Well, I got my job at the provincial health think-tank, The Change Foundation, in July. We dig deep into the most pressing policy issues and create projects and reports to advise government and healthcare providers. Right now, we’re working on addressing the issues family caregivers face in the healthcare sector. I’ve been working there for seven months now, and to be honest, I felt pretty green when I started. Not in terms of my communications skills, but in terms of my sector knowledge. I really didn’t know much about current or past policies, patient or caregiver engagement, or the real politics that go on behind the scenes. I quickly learned that there is a lot more to it.
I’ve spent the past seven months learning about the industry, while at the same time staying fully briefed on my organization’s priorities so that I can write everything from a tweet to an industry-aligned communications strategy. For me, the trick has been having the confidence to allow myself to learn, and that also means forgiving myself for the odd mistake. Communicators need to be extremely flexible and adaptive since we tend to move from industry to industry. Needless to say, it’s been an exercise in learning how to adapt my skill set to the healthcare world.
- What are the challenges as well as the fun things about working in healthcare communications?
There’s a lot of moving parts in healthcare. There’s the political side, the public side, the healthcare professional side, research and innovation, as well as patient and caregiver advocacy and engagement. In a single day you go from thinking about the very theoretical to the very practical—from ‘how should our healthcare system work’ to ‘how does it work every day for me?’ Healthcare really does matter to everyone, and it’s nice to work in and learn about a sector like that.
A challenge might be that the more you know, the more you realize you have to learn. Policy isn’t always a thrilling read, however it’s important foundational knowledge that helps ensure communications efforts can actually create change.
Fun things? I’m lucky to have a director who really supports and believes in me, so I’m really doing it all—from design work to social media to the management of our publications, and even strategic communications planning. I always feel like I’m learning. I also love that my organization is small. My team is made up of 10 of some of the nicest, smartest people I’ve ever worked with.
- So you’ve been working for five years now. A few before MPC, and now at The Change Foundation. How does it feel to have some of your career behind you?
When I was younger, I was always so concerned with my skill set and if I was measuring up. Now I’m at a point where I’m starting to see how formative those early years were, in addition to the training provided by the MPC. I have a perspective now on where my expertise lies, and the direction I see my career going in. I like that feeling of certainty, and how it can really help you plan out your future.
- What’s the coolest communications-related experience on your resume?
Last summer I volunteered to be a communications assistant at the PanAm Games, and it was a great opportunity to see the inner workings of a huge national organization (the Canadian Olympic Committee)! The team dealt with media requests, tracking competing athletes, as well as running a full-scale public relations project, all in a pressure cooker environment. Plus, I got to see basically every event for free—that was amazing!
- What communications-related projects are on the horizon for you?
In February, I’m attending a conference about social media and healthcare in Vancouver. As I said, healthcare is a small community, but it’s very active on Twitter, so you end up connecting with a lot of new and interesting people online. I’m really looking forward to meeting some of those people in person, and gaining their insights on how to increase patient and caregiver engagement using digital media. Oh, and basking in the glory that is British Columbia, obviously.
What should every communications professional read?
The Globe and Mail. Every communications professional should have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on around them. We all need to know the news.
What communications software could you not live without?
Canva. The best way to fool people into thinking you’re a real designer.
What are your go-to work tunes?
Currently: St. Lucia, Tame Impala, and Florence and the Machine.
If it was “Take Your Favourite Celebrity To Work” day, which celebrity would you bring?
That’s a really hard question. Do I want to gain some serious insights, or do I want to joke around all day? I’d have to say Kristen Wiig.