Meet Justine, Community Practice Lead
1. What is your role in BC GOV and what product are you currently working on at the Exchange Lab?
I’ve been with the Lab for about six months and have just recently moved into an acting role as their Community Practice Lead.
Day-to-day I’m supporting different product owners and their teams’ communications needs, but the grander scope is all about building enterprise-wide communities for employees wherever they are. Whether that’s through supporting resident teams in the physical Lab or creating engaging digital spaces for hybrid teams to convene in, I like things user-friendly and well-designed. If you don’t quite get something the Lab is producing, then I need to fix how we’re talking about it.
The most exciting thing on my plate currently is conversation about what digital community at an interprovincial level could look like. We already know the value of bringing expertise and inspiration into one room, and the chance to bring that together from across Canada creates so much opportunity.
2. What do you like most about working at the Exchange Lab?
Access! Access to networks, to communities, to new tools and ideas. I’ve done more learning in my six months with the Lab than in the whole of my government career beforehand. My to-read list is already a mile long (do we have a book club? We need a book club). I have a backlog of podcasts that will carry me well into 2025.
I’ve never been in a meeting at the Lab where anything is just a little too far-fetched or we can’t expect executive support to explore. It’s incredibly empowering to see the direct impact of our ideas.
3. Do you have a favourite failure or apparent failure that has set you up for later success?
In 2018, I was working in healthcare and paediatric medical research, seeing children as young as a few weeks old. I’d been in the field in one way or another for close to five years by that time, and I burnt out hard at just age 25. Face-to-face patient care is a beast, and I have nothing but respect for every single healthcare worker who gets out there each day (whether we’re in a current global crisis or not).
I still wanted to feel like my career was about change and supporting community, though, so I turned to Government and took my first role with the Ministry of Health. It turns out a resume of mostly taking grim charts and test numbers and distilling them down to plain language that parents could easily digest was an ability that would really support my work in IM/IT communications. I love what I do now, and I would never have gained these skills without years spent having those difficult, real-time conversations.
4. What is an absurd thing you love?
I certainly don’t think it’s absurd, but my stationery collection has been called into question a time or two due to its sheer volume.
Other than that, I can probably quote every line from The West Wing.
5. What is a book that has greatly influenced your life?
I saw a live reading of Carolyn Forché’s poem “The Colonel” in university that immediately prompted me to go out and buy her book “The Country Between Us,” a collection which reflects her time as a journalist during the Salvadoran Civil War. Each piece is constructed in a raw, narrative verse that is punctuated with the white space of the horrors Carolyn is not talking about. It’s not what one would call pretty poetry.
I remember poring over the book late at night in my dorm, over and over, when I was supposed to be forcing myself to read “Sir Gawain and The Green Knight” (ugh). It was the first time I viscerally understood how good writing takes known truths and makes us not just feel them, but recognize them as parts of our bodies, as experiences we haven’t lived but have assimilated into our character nonetheless. Good poetry, and overall good writing, may be fictional, exaggerated, or even an outright lie, but it’s always a true experience.
(If poetry’s not your thing, she just released an autobiography of her time in El Salvador, “What You Have Heard is True,” that is also excellent.)