How I Made It

Bailey Parnell, Entrepreneur

FLARE #HowIMadeIt celebrates 100+ talented, ambitious and driven Canadian women with cool jobs. Want what Bailey has? Here's how she did it

How I Made It entrepreneurship: Bailey Parnell sits on a bench in a grey pinstripe dress
Bailey Parnell; Toronto; 

Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?

I own a soft skills training company called SkillsCamp. We work with businesses and higher education institutions to build soft skill competencies (like conflict resolution or public speaking) in their staff and students.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I earned a bachelor of arts in media production from Ryerson University. I am also currently pursuing a part time master of arts in communications and culture at Ryerson.

What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)

I worked as an associate digital producer for CBC Sports during the Pan Am Games. I helped with a social marketing campaign revolving around the volunteers.

What was your BIG break? How did you land it?

I applied to work as a marketing and media specialist for the Ryerson Orientation Team—a coveted full-time summer student position. I had a (longer than normal) interview with the wonderful Lesley D’Souza. Though she had never hired a first year into these roles before, she took a chance and offered me a position.

Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?

Well, I haven’t had that moment yet where I’ve felt this is all going to work out. All of the time, I question if I’m on the right track or if I’m making the right moves. Maybe this helps me anticipate all scenarios in a situation. So I guess I will have to let you know when I get there. I’m looking forward to it, ha ha.

What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?

We always want to focus on how people have failed, but “failing” looks different for everyone. What I believe is more important is how we bounce back from failure.

Name one piece of career advice you always give.

There is no substitute for hard work. Ideally, you’re doing “smart work” over “hard work,” but the point is that you have to put the work in. Like most of us, if you were not born into money and privilege, you must be prepared to work smarter than everyone else.

What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?

I am not a big fan of the cliched “pursue your dreams and everything will follow” or “do what you love and the money will follow.” I find this advice makes everything seem too easy and fails to present the realities of needing to put the work in. This advice also doesn’t address the systemic issues that make simply “doing what you love” impossible for a lot of people. I can appreciate the sentiment, but I suppose this advice is just too idealistic for my realistic brain.

Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?

I feel quite fortunate that I have not experienced blatant workplace sexism or harassment. When we first started SkillsCamp, I remember going to networking events and men would immediately tell their stories or pitches to my male business partners, which I found annoying. My business partners would point at me and say, “She makes the decisions!” Key takeaways: never assume and always be inclusive in conversations.

Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it

With my work in the higher education sector, I have certainly made fair wages. In Ontario, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) took care of that issue long before I was even born!

Back when I worked in television however, it was a completely different story. Most media companies from the largest conglomerates to the smallest production houses will try to find ways to get the most out of you for the least amount of money, and very often, no money at all. When I was in school, I worked at least two part-time jobs and had freelance weekend gigs. I had to pay rent and tuition myself, so not working or working unpaid jobs were not options. This is why unpaid internships are a problem: of course they are good learning experiences, but they’re not accessible to everyone.

What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?

I don’t like when people call millennials entitled and lazy in one brushstroke. How do you stereotype an entire generation? That’s a lot of people. That being said, I also understand that there are tangible differences in the way boomers and millennials were raised. These differences affect how they move through the world today. This is why we have started teaching “Intergenerational Communication & Understanding” at SkillsCamp.

  • Click here for more work-life inspo from the awesome people on our #HowIMadeIt List