Profile: Carly Pettinger
She completed an Honours Bachelor of Arts at Carleton University with plans to pursue a career with the RCMP, but it was an overseas trip and a casual conversation one morning that set Carly Pettinger on a path at Conestoga and a career in public service.
“After graduating from Carleton with an Honours Bachelor of Arts – Human Rights and Gender and Women’s studies, I took a five-week trip to South East Asia, visited three different countries and made many friends along the way,” explained Pettinger. “One morning at breakfast a friend mentioned they would be attending college when they returned to Ontario and that got me thinking. I was in the final stages of applying to be an RCMP officer, but as I started researching college programs I decided to pursue more education.”
Pettinger only applied to Conestoga and completed the Public Service graduate certificate program in 2016. She credits the hands-on learning and placement experiences she had at the college for providing the tools that really connected her to a career in public service.
She currently serves as an outreach coordinator for Laura Mae Lindo, Member of Provincial Parliament for Kitchener Centre, but began her public service placements while a student at Conestoga. She completed a placement with the City of Waterloo where she had her first meeting with an elected official, Mayor Dave Jaworsky, and through that placement she earned a four-month contract. She also worked with the region as part of her capstone project which provided another opportunity for her to apply the skills she was learning in class while growing her network.
“I worked on site with the region two days a week for my capstone and working in that space allowed me to make many connections. While some folks in my program chose to do their placements virtually, I saw the importance of physically showing up and taking up space. That placement helped me deal with imposter syndrome early on and has served me well as I’ve gone on to sit at tables at Queen’s Park.”
She also completed a co-op placement with MPP Catherine Fife’s office where she became more familiar with the tasks related to working in provincial politics. The placement led to an offer of full-time employment, but the experience also holds a soft spot for Pettinger – it’s where she met her wife Kara.
Outside her professional role, Pettinger advocates for women in politics and is passionate about queer equity challenges. She wants to use her voice to speak up about challenges that 2S LGBTQ+ communities continue to experience and wants to ensure queer students to have access to the same health programs and opportunities that non-queer students have.
Despite the time she commits to her career and other interests, Pettinger still remains connected to the college. She chairs the Public Service Program Advisory Committee and also participates in the Connector program that connects alumni with current students so that students are able to meet someone from the alumni member’s professional network. Pettinger will also work with the college in delivering its new alumni ambassador program where she’ll be able to share her advice to current students and graduates.
“Get as much experience as you can, applying what you learn in class,” said Pettinger. “Meet as many people as possible and expand your network to develop connections that can connect you to your career once you graduate.”