'Ag Wannabe' - Christina Fitzgibbons on joining the AG industry
Christina (Couture) FitzGibbon is a member of the Ag Women’s Network leadership team. She found a fantastic professional fit in agriculture, and she’s embraced new opportunities to expand her network and contribute to the industry. She shares with us some advice that she’s picked up along the way and her questions about next steps in life and her career.
If you’re interested in connecting with Christina, contact her via Twitter: https://twitter.com/@agcouture or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your career path.
I am a passionate 'ag wannabe' and proud to be able to bring my consumer perspective to the industry. Growing up in rural Ontario enabled me to experience my first taste of agriculture, and I instantly became enthralled with the process, the effort, and the craft of making food and the farmers behind it. Being a small town girl, when it came a time to choose a University, the University of Guelph was the obvious choice! There I obtained a degree in psychology (with a minor at “the Ranch”) and then furthered my education by obtaining a post graduate honours degree in marketing management from Humber College.
After living and gaining professional experience in Toronto I found myself back in Guelph, in the hub of agriculture, working in a marketing role within the agri-food industry. Today, I work at RKD Web Studios in marketing and account management with both ag and non ag clients. Becoming more involved in the ag community has been very important to me, and has given me a true sense of pride. I love that through professional and personal channels I have the opportunity to lend a hand to the agricultural community and offer an educated voice and perspective from the consumer standpoint.
How do you define success? What steps do you take to get you there?
I am a strong believer that success is self-defined. What I think is successful may not be what my friend or colleague believes. But to answer the question… my definition of success is being in a place of continual betterment and learning. If you are able (and lucky enough) to find a position or a role that you are continually learning from and growing from I believe you are successful. For me, my career path has had some ups and downs, but today I consider myself very successful. I hold a position in an industry and organization that is constantly changing and evolving, therefore there is always something to learn and stay ahead of.
“While I have never helped calve a cow, I embrace the agriculture mindset and I am not afraid to get involved or get my boots and hands dirty. My desire for consumers and ‘non-aggies’ to get more involved and engaged in how food arrives from the farm gate to consumer plate is what drives me to continue to be an Agvocate for the industry.“ - Christina FitzGibbon
The biggest step I took in my career and one I continue to take is to get involved! Network, meet people, and put yourself out of your comfort zone! The first organization I joined was Canadian Agri Marketing Association (CAMA), and to be honest I was nervous to get involved and share my voice. But now, I can proudly say I have been on the CAMA board for three years and I am now the Vice President of the Ontario Chapter. The Ag Women’s Network and CAMA have forced me out of what is ‘comfortable’ and have made me more confident to take on new roles professionally.
In the spirit of these profiles helping others, are you willing to share a mistake you made but taught you something important?
Without trying to sound like everything is sunshine and rainbows, I do not think in your career or life you can make ‘mistakes’. Everything is a learning experience and it is how you approach a situation, and what you take from it, that will define the outcome.
That said, I will share a lesson I learned on workplace politics that I believe can be applied to the office or barn... DON’T GET INVOLVED. This can be easier said than done, but I honestly have never heard of an outcome where someone got involved and it ended well. Whether you wear boots to work or three inch heels, try to take the high road and refrain from commenting or lending your opinion. And if you feel you have to, ensure it is constructive and will have a positive effect on those around you.
What's the most burning question for you right now in your career?
As someone fast approaching 30, some would say the biological clock is ticking! How starting a family will impact your career is something a lot of my friends and colleagues have been discussing in GREAT length. When is a good time? Will my employer think of me differently? Where do I need to be before I make that step? Lots of questions and thoughts.
A main concern of mine is my career slowing down as priorities change. To be a successful business woman AND have a family is definitely the goal, but what is realistic? I have seen so many women become superwomen, amazing moms and never miss a beat in their career. And of course I strive to be like them.
But does being superwomen come at a cost? Women in agri-business, like other industries, tend to feel the pressure to work through their maternity leaves or come back early to their jobs due to lack of coverage or feeling they are being left behind. So my burning question is, is it fair for employers to expect the ‘superwoman’ as the new norm? Or are we setting unrealistic expectations when it comes work and family life? I would love to hear your comments on this one!
How do you define agriculture?
The center of the world. Without agriculture and the production of food where would we be?
Mary Ann Doré, Robyn Walsh, Maureen Balsillie, Jen Christie, Christina Crowley-Arklie, and Christina Fitzgibbons during an AWN Leadership team meeting
What do you do as part of the AWN Leadership Team?
Since becoming part of the leadership team in 2014, I have had the opportunity to work on various projects including event planning, governance/policy and currently working on a new website (coming soon!). From the beginning when AWN was just a small group of women meeting in my kitchen to now, a group of 1300+ women and counting, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to both work and learn from this network of strong women.
Currently our leadership team consists of eight strong women from all different backgrounds and expertise. Working with them has been a pleasure and given me the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. A big thank you to Jenn, Christina, Maureen, Joan, Megan, Robin and Mary Ann for your continued support; I look forward to helping AWN grow and take on new challenges with you all.