When Ruth Kelly (’78 BA) decided to leave her hometown of Sangudo, AB, in pursuit of higher education, the University of Alberta was the logical choice. “I was the first in my family to go to university,” she says.
While she picked UAlberta because of geographical convenience, she was amazed by the caliber of teaching in the Faculty of Arts. “I took my undergrad in English and there were some phenomenally good instructors,” says Kelly, who fondly remembers classes with Rudy Wiebe, Ted Blodgett, Stephen Scobie, Sharon Pollock and Douglas Barbour.
Early into her education, Kelly had her sights set on becoming a writer. “I thought I might want to become one of Canada’s great playwrights – then I realized, ‘I’m not that good,’ ” she laughs. Kelly knew she wouldn’t necessarily make her mark in the World through literature.
Another creative profession, advertising, seemed like a better fit, so Kelly went in search of an industry job – finding an opportunity at a printing company instead: “I knew so little about the sector that I thought [advertising and printing were] the same thing – it wasn’t.”
On October 26, the media mogul will share her story, as well as advice for new graduates, as the keynote speaker for the Faculty of Arts’ ArtsWORKS conference.
While printing was more about manufacturing than anything else, Kelly learnt all she could about the processes, had an opportunity to do some editing and worked with a “lovely family-owned business.”
After three years, it was time to move on to something else and Kelly was stumped. So, she went home after work one night and talked it over with her husband, who suggested she make a list of everything she knew about and was good at. The list looked a lot like a magazine.
It was a game-changer for Kelly, who snagged a job a week later as production manager of a magazine produced by Superchannel. In a year, she became the editor. For the next 12 years, she rose through the ranks: “I got to run the company at a certain point,” she says.
Kelly feels her liberal arts education was excellent preparation for both a media career and entrepreneurship.
During her time with the company, she’d had a hand in every aspect of magazines, from circulation to editing to marketing. Kelly felt ready to strike out on her own. Since there was no viable business magazine in Alberta at the time, she saw a niche and filled it, creating the award-winning Alberta Venture magazine in 1997.
Since then, Venture Publishing has acquired several other titles (like Alberta Oil), created a large contract publishing division, and will launch an Internet radio station (Venture Radio) this fall.
Three decades after she struck out, Kelly feels her liberal arts education was excellent preparation for both a media career and entrepreneurship. And, as a business owner, she feels an arts degree is great preparation for her new hires.
On October 26, the media mogul will share her story, as well as advice for new graduates, as the keynote speaker for the Faculty of Arts’ ArtsWORKS conference. However, she’s quick to point out that it’s normal – and even desirable – to make mistakes when you start out: “The first mistake I made was trying not to make mistakes.”
For more information on ArtsWORKS, visit the conference website.