Name: Cheryl Finch
Career: Director, Web Management, Studentawards
Education: B.A. (Psych.) from University of Western Ontario; LL.B. from Osgoode Hall Law School
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A vet … no, a journalist … no, a physiotherapist … I changed my mind a few times!
What was the first thing you were ever paid to do?
I worked as a Page in a local branch of the Toronto Public Library, shelving books and working at the sign-out counter. I loved being around all those books!
What was your favourite subject in high school?
English. I loved reading, and I always got good grades, but by the time I was applying to university, I had been working after school in a sports clinic and thought I wanted to be a physiotherapist. As a result, I didn’t continue with English after high school.
Which post-secondary school did you attend?
I got my B.A. in Psychology at the University of Western Ontario. At the beginning of my third year, I decided that I wanted to pursue my Honours degree but by then the program was full. I did a fourth year anyway so that I could take some additional courses that really interested me.
Did you ever change (or consider changing) programs?
Yes! I started out in Sciences at Western. Part-way through my first year I realized that the program was not for me. My interest in becoming a physiotherapist was waning because I realized that I was torturing myself with courses I didn’t really like.
Fortunately, I’d been advised to take a non-science course as my first-year elective to add some variety to my course load. I chose Psychology because it interested me. I ended up loving the class and it was my highest grade in first year. I switched majors before my second year. This also enabled me to take electives in other areas of interest, like Sociology and Film.
What was your favourite part of your post-secondary experience? Least favourite?
Favourite: I was lucky enough to go to school in another city. Living away from home for the first time was exciting and gave me the chance to really become my own person. I also made some wonderful friends (roommates as well as classmates), and we remain close to this day.
Least Favourite: The first year was an adjustment academically because I was not getting the marks I was used to. And because, for the first time in my life, I was not enjoying school. What got me through was (1) seeking help from profs and TAs, (2) studying with classmates, and (3) most importantly, realizing that it wasn’t the end of the world and that I could change my career plan.
When you graduated, did you find a job right away?
I ended up pursuing another degree.
After changing my major from Sciences to Psychology, I realized the importance of taking courses that interested me. Within Psychology, I was drawn to classes about memory, cognition, and perception in the context of the justice system/evidence. I also took several Criminology courses as electives. I got high grades because I was studying something I loved.
In my fourth year, I applied to law school. After completing my B.A. at Western I got my LL.B. from Osgoode.
Was your first job out of school related to your degree?
During my undergraduate degree, I began working summers at a legal publishing company in my hometown (Toronto), purely by coincidence. Working in the Editorial department undoubtedly contributed to my growing interest in legal issues, and it allowed me to combine two of my favourite things: reading and the law. By the time I reached my upper years at Western, I was also freelancing for the company during the school year. I continued freelancing and working for the summer at the company all through law school, and, when I graduated, the company offered me a contract position. After a short time, I was hired full-time. My first title was Legal Editor.
So, I wasn’t applying my Psychology degree and I wasn’t practicing law! Regardless, I was using my skills and training, just in a non-traditional way.
How many jobs have you had since graduation?
A few. I stayed at that first company for several years and moved up a few times. By the time I left the company, I was an Acquisitions Editor, developing new titles and sourcing authors. I then worked at a company that provided continuing education for professionals, overseeing the publication of their conference materials, before moving to an internet service for the Ontario legal community where I managed website content.
Eventually, I ended up in legal publishing again, working for a different company. After nine years of managing the Editorial department, I landed my current job at Studentawards, overseeing our website content. It’s a great gig!
Which of your skills do you find to be the most helpful in your line of work?
Believe it or not, my Psychology training, even though I have not worked directly in that field. Psychology is all about understanding people and their behaviour, and my background in the area has aided me greatly in working with all types of people in all types of situations in all of my jobs.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing similar opportunities?
Complete an undergraduate degree in a subject area that interests you, even if it’s not related to law. You’ll get better grades, and you’ll bring an interesting perspective to law school.
If you could go back to the end of high school and do things over again, would you change anything?
I wouldn’t change much. Perhaps I could have gone directly into Psychology in first year rather than starting in Sciences and switching majors. That would have saved me the stress of taking courses I didn’t enjoy (and therefore didn’t do well in). On the other hand, that misstep taught me that I could change direction, bounce back, and succeed in doing something else. A valuable lesson!
What do you wish you had known in high school, before you began to pursue your education/career?
I wish I had known that, if I didn’t choose the right career path the first time, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I chose a university program based on a career that interested me. I quickly found out that the courses didn’t interest me. By switching majors and taking classes I enjoyed, my grades went way up and my stress levels went way down!