From part-time job to rewarding career
Over November, we’ve shared stories on our alumni who’ve landed The Job—leveraging lessons learned as students, translating them into fulfilling careers.
The Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management contains a number of departments often staffed by part-time employees who also happen to be U of M students. For instance, you’re likely to find Biology textbooks and lab notes stuffed in the backpacks Mini U Programs‘ leaders and Recreation Services‘ fitness attendants.
Simon Wang is the Director of Facilities for the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management. It’s a pretty nice job—with some large responsibilities. He oversees over one million square feet of buildings, physical space and related equipment, both indoor and outdoor.
“There is never a dull moment,” Wang says.
Wang didn’t catapult himself from the classrooms of Exercise Physiology or Intro to Therapeutic Recreation to the career he has now. Quite the contrary. While he is a U of M graduate (B.Sc. and B.A. (Honours) in Psychology), he actually began his career journey in customer service with Recreation Services as a part-time employee. He shares more about his path, and gives advice for students weighing career options outside their field of study:
UMTODAY: Your involvement with the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management early on wasn’t as a student in the program—but as a customer service representative for the gym. Can you share more about that time in your life?
WANG: Yes, I started working in the faculty (known as Physical Education and Recreation Studies at the time) in 2000 as a permanent part-time customer service representative (CSR). I had just finished my B.Sc. and started on my B.A. (Honours) in Psychology, which made studying and working on campus a good fit. My job responsibilities included working the front desk in the Frank Kennedy Centre, Max Bell Centre and Joe Doupe Centre; performing opening and closing procedures; performing cash handling and processing payments; and providing general information and assistance to clients in-person and over the phone.
I actually didn’t plan to pursue a career in the facilities management area—until a full-time opportunity came available as the Max Bell Centre and University Stadium Coordinator. I was highly encouraged by colleagues in the faculty to apply for the position. So I did. I was successful in getting the position and the rest is history as they say.
What’s your current role, and how did you navigate the career ladder to where you are now?
I’m the Director of Facilities in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management. I have been in my current role since 2010. I have been fortunate enough with getting progressive opportunities that have led me to where I am now. With starting as a permanent part-time CSR, and then hired on full-time as the Max Bell Centre and University Stadium Coordinator, to being the Investors Group Athletic Centre and Events Coordinator, then as the Facilities Manager, and finally the Director of Facilities. So, I guess you can say it was a bit of finding my way up the career ladder over the last 18 years.
Was being director of facilities for the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management on your radar? What other careers were you interested in possibly pursuing?
Not at all! I had always wanted a career working in sport and recreation, but I was interested in being a physical education teacher. Growing up I loved playing sports and wanted to carry that passion to a teaching career—and besides, I was height challenged so being a professional hockey player really was not an option. At one point, I had also considered pursing a career in clinical or sport psychology.
What are some things you enjoy about your current career?
I love working in and contributing to the area of sport and recreation. I really enjoy what I do, where I’m doing it, and the exceptional team we have here at the University of Manitoba. I enjoy providing vision, leadership and strategic decision making. I also enjoy capital planning aimed at making improvements to space as it relates to new construction and/or renovation of existing sports and recreation facilities. I truly enjoyed being involved in the design and construction of the Active Living Centre, which opened its doors in February 2015. It was an amazing experience and I’m so proud of the awards the facility has received:
- 2017 CISC Steel Design Award, Recreational Facility
- 2016 NIRSA Outstanding Sports Facility Award
- 2016 Build Magazine, Best Institutional Architecture Project
- 2016 Acquisition International Magazine, Most Outstanding Architecture Project
- 2016 City of Winnipeg Access Award for Excellence in Universal Design and Accessibility
As for what is next, I think there is a real need for a new state-of-the-art aquatics centre at U of M that serves to better meet the needs of the both the university community and those of the surrounding communities.
What advice do you have for students—especially those with part-time jobs with Bison Sports, Recreation Services, Mini U, or other U of M departments, as they seek career options?
My advice would be to work hard, learn as much as you can and gain experience in those part-time jobs—whether they’re directly related to your career path or not. You never know what opportunities they may open up, or what other careers they may lead you to. Stay open to opportunities, there are many at U of M, and make the most of them. Success is a growth process. And, don’t be afraid to have fun and build meaningful relationships along the way.