Jeff Loney Interview
Manager, Economic Development, Municipality of Gravenhurst Conestoga College Public Service Program Graduate Certificate Class of 2015
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Jeff sat down with Anthony Piscitelli, Public Service Program Coordinator and Erin Caldwell, Manager, Alumni for an interview on December 20, 2018. During the interview Jeff shared about his personal pursuit of lifelong learning, what lead him to study at Conestoga and where life has taken him since graduation. The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Why did you choose Conestoga College?
After graduating from the University of Waterloo with a political science degree, I became involved in a start-up retail aquarium. The company was expanding from a his service company and starting a retail company. I took a year before returning to school to assist with business development. I knew I wanted to get into economic development, so business experience was key, and I knew the business needed me full time.
I applied to four different post-graduate programs, ones ranging from research to public service. I picked the Public Service program at Conestoga, partly for the short commute, partly because I liked that it was a new program, as I knew there would be the opportunity to shift my learning to ensure it aligned with what I needed. I was really interested in the strategic planning course, which did not disappoint. The Strategic planning stuff stuck with me after I graduated. I still pull out the text book on strategic planning on a relatively regular basis. I can say I do not have any of my university text books on my shelf.
In selecting the Conestoga program I also liked the idea of a co-op term at the end (though I got a full time job and I didn’t end up doing it). The Post-Graduate program I used as my 8 month notice to my business partner so he knew that I would be leaving. I cut back my hours at work to 40 hours a week and focused on my capstone projects.
It was probably the group of people that I was doing the program with. The program brought out a very diverse group. Yes, the student group I worked with was the best part. I still keep in touch with some of them here and there. All of us are now employed and most are working in public service. A couple of us are moving up the ranks.
Any other passions?
My wife calls me a collector of hobbies. Any hobby that comes up I tend to try it. I have a backyard micro farm right now. So we produce quite a bit of vegetable products for the summer. I am transitioning to keeping bees next year. Other than that my wife and I do a lot of road tripping and traveling. We like to travel to small towns. Last summer we drove from Gravenhurst to Vancouver Island and back.
How did your time at Conestoga prepare you for success in your career?
It was important that I had both university and college to my work in economic development within the municipal sector. My university training gave me the background and understanding to figure out why we do what we do, supply and demand and those types of things, while my Public Service certificate really helps me to take those concepts and apply them. Over the years I’ve conducting many hiring interviews. When hiring, we sometimes find people with multiple master’s degrees struggling to explain the actual implementation of their learning into our municipal structure.
Last time on campus?
I am still supportive of the program. I was a guest speaker in a class at Doon in 2018. I have also volunteered to be part of the Connector Program [editor’s note: the Connectors Program allows currently Conestoga College Public Service program students to connect with professionals working in the public service to learn about their careers and how to be successful).
Advice to current students and recent graduates?
Start at the bottom and never stop learning! It is tempting to think that once you graduate, especially with a post grad, that you will fall into a nice six-figure management job. This unfortunately isn’t realistic for many of us. Do you research on opportunities and take something that at the bottom. Once your in, take every opportunity to learn, to move an organization forward and to use the skills that you have developed through school. If you have the passion and drive for what you are doing, your organization will notice and move you closer to that position you want to get to. Careers are closer to a marathon then a sprint so be prepared to train!