Journalism student learns what it takes to be CEO

Ryerson Student Samantha Sim shares her learnings from spending a day with the head of Twitter.

By: Antoinette Mercurio

The fourth-year journalism student spent Feb. 10 shadowing Kirstine Stewart, managing director of Twitter Canada, as part of the CEO x 1 Day competition, hosted by the executive search firm, Odgers Berndtson. Ten to 15 third- and fourth-year students from Ontario and Quebec are matched with some of the country’s leading CEOs to equip them with tools and skills to start building their careers. Sim found the program through the career centre and thought it would be a great opportunity to spend a day with Stewart.

“I started thinking about what to do after graduation and after interning at the CBC last semester, I got interested in media business and the decisions that go into running a corporation,” Sim said.

Stewart left her job as CBC’s executive vice-president English services in April 2013 to join Twitter Canada. Sim says you can see how much Stewart believes in her product by her high level of activity on Twitter, even before she joined the Twitter team.

“There wouldn’t be one free moment when she wouldn’t be checking her newsfeed,” Sim said.

Sim spent the first half of the day with Stewart, attending client meetings and an interview with the Business News Network, including an hour for coffee when Sim had the chance to pick her brain about career choices. She also observed other Twitter employees at work.

“We talked a lot about complacency in careers,” Sim said. “You can get blinders on and not think about other opportunities that may arise. Kirstine is the opposite of that. She went from TV to social media because she wanted to do something different. She didn’t want to stay until retirement because that would be too boring for her.”

Since elementary school Sim has been on a path towards law school. But after participating in the CEO program, she is more intrigued by the business world.

“I’ve been pretty adamant about what I want to do. But seeing someone uproot their whole life and embrace that really got me thinking,” she said. “This CEO x 1 Day program taught me you can cross disciplines and got me thinking about working at a place like Twitter.”

It was no easy feat for students to be chosen for this program. The selection process is lengthy and mirrors Odgers Berndtson’s executive search process. Over a few months applicants apply online, submit a leadership assessment and conduct two interviews to gauge their potential. Despite the challenging application process, Sim is appreciative of the experience and encourages people to take advantage of it.

“Just do it. It’s a very valuable experience and your chance to be one-on-one with someone you admire,” she said.

Her advice to future applicants: Be yourself. “I was upfront I wasn’t a commerce or engineering student but very interested in business. Show your passion and own it.”