Alum of the Month: Chris Bergen

September 9, 2019 - 4:30pm

Chris Bergen believes that anyone can excel when they are set up to succeed – a responsibility he says falls to the leader of a group or organization. Through his blog, he writes articles that help people “be the manager you wish you had” and inspire employees to reach their full potential. Now Operations Supervisor with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, Bergen credits his VIU education (he graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Business Administration) with laying the foundation for his rewarding career supervising supervisors – and for inspiring him to start the coaching blog. His blog posts are regular features on medium.com, a popular information-sharing site. He shares his best memories and advice for current VIU students.

 

Why did you choose VIU?

Originally, I chose VIU because it was my local university and I could work while studying. If I had to do it all over again, I would still choose VIU because of the faculty and the administration. The professors in the BBA program were excellent teachers, and many of them had robust careers that they drew real-life experiences from to use in their teaching.

The class sizes made it easy to build connections as well. I still keep in touch with some of my professors. I can recall [former president] Ralph Nilson walking around campus greeting students by name. He seemed to know everyone! He even wrote a personal reference for me once. I don’t think I would have gotten that at a bigger institution like UBC or SFU.

 

How has your VIU experience helped shape your success?

The practical experiences were absolutely critical. VIU is focused on empowering students, and there were so many opportunities to gain real leadership experience as a student right on campus. For instance, I was a director with the VIU Students’ Union, joined the University’s Board of Governors and Senate, and joined and led clubs. It’s been years since I graduated, yet all of these experiences still help me in my job and in job interviews.

The connections have been amazing as well. As a student, I had professors who would sit with me for more than an hour to discuss coursework, career planning or topics unrelated to my studies. Even though I finished years ago, many of my former professors still reach out to me on occasion, and I am completely comfortable reaching out to them when I need some advice or a letter of reference.

What was your path from graduating to now?

In my final semester at VIU, I starting working as a salesperson for Bell at Woodgrove Centre in Nanaimo. I was promoted to store manager within the year, and moved to Victoria where I managed the largest Bell store on the Island. In 2017, I wanted to expand my experience, so I joined the Ministry of Advanced Education as a program coordinator, and by late 2018 I was promoted to Operations Supervisor at the Ministry of Children and Family Development – a job I still hold. Through my current job, I am responsible for a team of up to 90 people. It’s an incredibly rewarding role. I get to support a bright young team of public servants as we help families gain access to affordable child care.

 

Tell us about your coaching blog.

I originally enrolled at VIU to become a high-school teacher. With four younger siblings, I’ve had an interest in helping people learn and grow since I was young. After I switched to the Bachelor of Business Administration program, I took Training & Development and Strategic Human Resources courses with Bryan Webber and Martin Martens. These courses made me really excited about organizational development and the potential to transform organizations by focusing on individuals, specifically through empowerment, goal setting, training and accountability.

At Bell, I was able to coach, mentor and train to my heart’s content. I even had the opportunity to plan and implement several training workshops for Bell and Virgin Mobile sales representatives from across Vancouver Island. It was a wonderful experience and I loved it. In my first role with the BC government, however, I was not a supervisor, and as the newbie, there wasn’t a lot of coaching for me to do. It was at this time that I built my website: chrisbergen.blog. While I couldn’t necessarily coach people at work, I could share the things that were important to me with others through my writing.

Today, between developing my career and being a good partner at home, I am writing as often as possible. I’ve recently put together the framework for a book on managing entry-level staff. I mentioned that I do this “between,” but I should really say “around.” Most of my writing happens between 5 am and 7:30 am, after dinner and on weekends. Fortunately, I love it. Few things in life are as satisfying for me as finishing a piece of writing. 

 

What advice would you give to current students and young alumni?

Do everything! Join the students’ union, join clubs, run a club, be a student ambassador, run for valedictorian. Your classes are just the things you do in between your other university experiences.

 

What’s next for you?

Honestly I don’t know! What I do know is that I’m going to set goals every day, I’m going to do something new every day, I’m going to be gracious and supportive to everyone around me no matter what, and I’m going to say yes to (almost) everything. Like Drake says, “This a Rollie, not a stopwatch, s*** don't ever stop.”   

 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

When considering our individual pursuits, we need to be mindful, thankful and gracious towards the people with whom we share this land. I recommend that students and employees learn about the Snuneymuxw First Nation, on whose unceded traditional lands VIU’s main campus sits. I also recommend people take the time to educate themselves on the history of Canada’s relationships with Indigenous peoples. I suggest starting with this open course from UBC.


Tags: Business | community | Our Alumni


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