Meet This Year’s Pat Hibbits Scholarship Winner: Charity Grace Principe

Meet This Year’s Pat Hibbits Scholarship Winner: Charity Grace Principe

photo credit: joseph coombes

The Pat Hibbits Scholarship, valued at $20,000, is awarded every year to one incoming female graduate student in the Master of Digital Media program who is transitioning from a non digital media-related field into digital media.

This year’s winner is Charity Principe. Charity was working at TELUS before she started the program but after a rare cancer diagnosis left her with a new perspective on life, she decided  to complete a bucket list item and complete the MDM program. We sat down to talk to Charity about how motherhood, a career in marketing and a theatre degree  helped her in the program and where the real magic happens in the MDM (hint: it’s outside the classroom).

1. Tell us a bit about yourself. What did you do before the MDM program? 

My background is in marketing communications and project management, focusing in telecommunications and broadcast media. Early on in my work experience, I decided to translate my love of theatre and storytelling into a career in radio and television. Prior to the MDM, I held roles in marketing for Corus Entertainment, Breakfast Television/City TV, Rogers Broadcasting, Super Channel and most recently, TELUS. I spent about 10 years in Edmonton before moving to the west coast where I can now honestly say it feels like home to me. Vancouver is one of the most beautiful places in Canada. It’s a place where the ocean meets the mountains and arts and culture blend into this diverse, serene, relaxing but still metropolitan environment – a place I could raise my family in.

About 5 years ago, after I had my son, I took a role at TELUS for Content Solutions as a Product Manager where I was the project lead for the launch of STORYHIVE, a digital funding platform for local content creators in BC and AB. After that, I moved into Home Solutions, managing the Video On Demand (VOD) and Pay-Per-View (PPV) portfolio where I had the  opportunity to work with high profile partners in the content space such as Warner, eOne, Disney and NBCU (Universal Studios) driving audience engagement for Optik TV’s best in class entertainment solutions. My time in that role was an exciting one – the year before I left, we were able to reach record breaking numbers for both VOD and PPV audience participation. The team there is exceptional. After finishing a role at TELUS, I was looking for another challenge to work with teams just as exceptional – the MDM presented itself as the right opportunity at the right time.

2. Why did you decide to take the program?

When I was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer and that world took over, I took stock of what I really wanted to do, what I was really passionate about. I made a list of the accomplishments, or bucket list items, I wanted to check-off. This program was one of them.

Attending the MDM program had been in the back of my mind since about 2012, when I first moved back to Vancouver. I was working with a brilliant vendor partner while building STORYHIVE and their Project Lead/Digital Producer was an MDM alumni Michael Brynjolfson (C4). When I asked him what made him such a great Producer, he told me about the MDM. He explained that the collaboration and leadership skills he had acquired came from his experiences in the program. Working on STORYHIVE is what inspired my shift towards digital.

 3. What surprises have you encountered at the MDM?

When I entered the MDM program, it had been a year since I sat down in front of a team. I had taken time off to spend it with my son – a personal sabbatical that I needed after my diagnosis. Initially, I thought that being a mom would make the program difficult, but it turns out that motherhood is actually an asset because the MDM is about getting comfortable with ambiguity. People who think they know everything don’t get very far in the program, because it is about challenging what you know. And when you become a mom you quickly learn that you don’t know anything. Ha!

Another surprise was the applicability of my theatre background with the MDM. Part of the program is an amazing improv course that challenges your ability to react and adjust in various stages of the design pipeline. So much of theatre is just like digital media. There are constant changes and shifts that happen on stage - you have to be agile and iterative - and it’s the same with digital media projects.

 I thought that being a mom would make the program difficult, but it turns out that motherhood is actually an asset because the MDM is about getting comfortable with ambiguity."

4. You just wrapped up your first term in MDM, what did you work on? 

I was working on HAVEN, an adaptive, restorative experience designed to combat the barriers to meditation and make it easier for people to access the benefits of practicing daily mindfulness.

We live in a hyper-connected world where we are constantly checking our phones, sitting in front of screens, anticipating the next TO DO list item. The fatigue is hitting home for people I’m sure. And while people know that it’s healthy to meditate, they don’t do it. The barriers to meditation are quite high - either because it’s seen as too intimidating, too difficult or too time-consuming. But the benefits are well-known. Practicing meditation and mindfulness results in reducing stress, improving concentration and encourages a healthy lifestyle.

So our team reframed this problem to think about how we could use the digital technology, the very thing keeping us so connected, to heal us and we built an immersive meditation experience.

I was the project manager and we had a team of 6 cross-functional people, talented designers, artists and developers ranging from 22-34 years old. Again, motherhood taught me how to be a people manager where patience, communication and openness are key.

After we finished our final presentation, we were approached by two businesses asking when we were going to bring HAVEN to market. So in Term 3 we might do a pitch-project and try to get seed funding for R&D to see how we could make it available to students here at the CDM and GNW District community.

5. What are you planning on doing after the MDM program?

I came into the program thinking that I could build my client portfolio with digital clients in the corporate space. I’ve learned how agile and design thinking can be leveraged to solve complex business problems. I see myself adding value to businesses looking to adopt a more entrepreneurial mindset and apply agile principles within corporate structures.

In the MDM, we’re told not to get too wrapped up in the outcome and to enjoy the experience since transformation is inevitable. With the calibre of talent and the ideas here, who knows, after taking an MBA-level business course focusing on the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, I may change my mind and create my own start up.

In the MDM, we’re told not to get too wrapped up in the outcome and to enjoy the experience since transformation is inevitable."

6. What’s different about the MDM program?

Compared to the corporate world, this place is different. The class is 50/50 male to female split, representing over 20 different countries. A diversity profile like this is rarely seen in the real world. Sadly, digital media is traditionally a male-dominated industry and we get to challenge that here. When we go out into the digital media industry after this program, I hope we get to bring this new wave of diverse talent into the world with us. The men and women in this cohort can go out and become advocates for a new way of working where gender diversity and cultural diversity is an asset. We can change the make-up of the industries and businesses we see today.

In addition, the shared learning opportunities outside of the classroom have been probably one of the most valuable learning experiences. I couldn’t in my lifetime pay to visit all the countries this cohort is from or experience the training they’ve received. In this space, we get to share it – share our skills, knowledge and perspectives. Every Thursday we have student-run workshops, where one of our peers runs a workshop in their disciple. We’ve had sessions on topics such as Javascript, Developing a Value Proposition, and Innovating for the Future.

The learning economy outside of the MDM curriculum and the different perspectives from your peers - that’s where the real magic is. When people ask me ‘Why CDM?’ I say that you can’t get this type of learning experience anywhere else.

When we go out into the digital media industry after this program, I hope we get to bring this new wave of diverse talent into the world with us. The men and women in this cohort can go out and become advocates for a new way of working where gender diversity and cultural diversity is an asset."

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Meet last year’s Pat Hibbits scholarship winner. 

The Patt Hibbitts Scholarship is awarded every year and students can apply when they apply to the MDM program. The deadline for applications for September 2018 is February 15th. Find out more about the Pat Hibbitts scholarship.