This week on At Your Man’s House Monday, meet Christian Lopez. Originally from Los Angeles, California, Christian had stage presence from the start, performing at birthday parties and giving speeches from a young age. He moved to Toronto close to a decade ago and is currently a student at Glendon College pursuing a trilingual iBA in English with a minor in Linguistics.
As I understand it, your immediate plans are to be an event planner before pursuing a career in speech pathology. I am a strong believer in not getting caught up in the expectation of a traditionally linear career path. How did you make this decision? Have you always wanted to pursue both, or did you start with one, discover the second, and then struggle between the two before deciding you could do them both?
I have never really stressed about following the traditionally linear path to a career. I have talked to so many professionals who have led extraordinary paths to get to where they are now and they reassured me that doing the whole high school-university-career thing in that order is not essential for getting to where you want to be. My parents have always told me that success is not measured by how much money we make or what job we hold, but by how happy we are and how independent we can make ourselves. That all being said, I knew I liked planning events (originally just parties and get-togethers) and I also knew that I loved languages and working with kids. All of these realizations helped me to create my plan of being in event management (because you don’t need a master’s for that) until I feel stable and independent enough to get a master’s degree in speech pathology later down the road. I do not put pressure on myself about WHEN it will happen, only about HOW it will happen. And for me that means volunteering, getting job experience, networking, and putting myself out there.
Event planning sounds like all fun and games, but it is an extremely stressful and demanding line of work. In my opinion, the pay-off only comes once the event is safely over, but I have a colleague who insists she gets a thrill out of the whole experience. What is it about event planning that appeals to you?
My favourite part of event planning is putting the event together. I love logistics and scheduling, so this is the most fun for me. I like feeling the pressure of getting all of the moving parts together and creating my vision. All of the stress, however, is contained to the planning. When the events themselves are going on I believe in being relaxed in order to facilitate a stress-free and inviting environment for guests and team members who might be working on an event with me. I believe in enjoying a glass of wine and taking your time to benefit from networking and meeting people. As the host or event planner I believe that the most important part of your job is to make sure everyone is comfortable at the event you put on.
You have quite a bit of experience in the area considering your work with the Glendon College Student’s Union, your time with Glendon’s Dance Team, and your current position as Communications Officer of Pro Tem, Glendon’s newspaper, which involves its fair share of logistics and event planning. What are some concrete skills you’ve picked up that will benefit you once you start working professionally?
Extracurricular activities at Glendon have proven to be very useful in acquiring skills for later on in life. My experience as VP Operations for the GCSU gave me skills like organization, time management, and general office managing skills. I learned how to lead a team of over 20 students and was in charge of maintaining a clean and organized office. These basic logistics and office work gave me first-hand experience with maintaining a team and being in charge of supply orders, etc. The job of communications officer did the same, but also gave me great experience with engaging audiences. As communications officer I did the promotion and marketing for our new logo and new branding and that gave me a new understanding of how important aesthetics and catering to your audience is.
People often think “parties” when they hear “events” but there are so many options for an event planner. A couple that instantly come to mind are managing sports events and organizing conferences. Is there a specific kind of event planning you’d like to go into?
In the future I hope to be in charge of putting on charity events and conferences. I would love to put on any sort of event that benefits the arts or that revolves around the arts.
How do you go about making genuine connections while also leveraging existing networks in order to set yourself up for job opportunities upon graduation?
I see all networking as a way to set myself up for opportunities. There are several instances where a connection from the past has come in handy for professional ventures. For example, an old dance teacher asked me to do choreography for an amazing festival that she was helping to organize. That same dance teacher (that I helped out a lot and always offered to assist) gave me paid contracts to teach dance for the Dufferin-Peel school board.
If you were a trust fund baby with VIP connections, and it were simply a matter of being qualified for the job, which event or conference would you love to be in charge of organizing?
My dream job would be putting on events for the United Nations, or any other sort of international organization that meets in order to facilitate change. Environmental conferences would be awesome too.
How do you plan to segue into a career in speech pathology down the road? Will you keep one foot planted in the field to keep your knowledge current (maybe through courses), or are you planning to shelf that career until you return to it later on?
I mostly plan to shelf it until I am ready to pursue my master’s. I think that language acquisition and developing language skills is something I will be doing naturally by a) working abroad and b) living in places with other official languages. I will eventually pursue speech language pathology seriously, and I plan to make it my long-term career with hopes of eventually owning my own business.
What is your preferred spot for getting things done in the city?
I love getting things done at any Starbucks. I know it seems basic, but their WiFi is always strong enough (unlike most Tims) and their layout is usually pretty clean and linear which helps when I am trying to concentrate. The upstairs seating at the Starbucks south on Mount Pleasant and Eglinton is great!
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