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Meet Anas Zaman, CFIA junior communications officer

My name is Anas Zaman and I am a junior communications officer at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Throughout my undergraduate studies, I worked part-time as a student at the CFIA. Upon graduation, I continued working in the position—and I am loving every minute of it.

This is not a job I always knew I wanted. In fact, even going into my first year of university, I was still not 100% sure what route to take with my life. I think a lot of students struggle with that. It's hard making life decisions at the ripe old age of 18!

Even though I was nervous to commit to one field of study, I stuck with it and earned my Bachelor of Communications and Media Studies at Carleton University while getting hands-on work experience and making an impact at the CFIA.

Diversity by default

Around my third year of university, my eyes really opened to the power of communications and made me realize this was the correct subject for me. It's a fun, unique and creative way of sharing news, updates and information with Canadians.

But communicating effectively means you need to understand different identities, cultures and groups in order to best reach them. Embracing diverse perspectives, backgrounds and life experiences is something I became passionate about.

My peers and I, via our university projects, put theory into practice by helping various organizations and businesses in Ottawa achieve their missions through solid communication strategies and tactics. I quickly learned that the medium is the message. At that point, I knew that I wanted to craft important, meaningful messages as much as possible in my future career.

When I found out about a student placement opportunity at the CFIA, the stars aligned. The position would allow me to get hands-on experience on a wide range of files, including food safety, plant health, animal health, innovation and internal communications that directly impact Canadians, industry and other stakeholders.

Finding balance (and cool files) as a part-time student

Beyond working on products like news releases, dashboards, strategic plans and articles, I saw another side of communications—and discovered that public affairs in the Government of Canada is actually a fun and vibrant environment!

Starting this student placement and first "office job" in a pandemic made it tricky to get the "office life" experience, but everyone was welcoming and made me feel valued. My colleagues offered career tips and advice, and insights on the world of communications in general. The Branch also had the initiative to get to know me and foster an environment that made me feel like a colleague and not a student. I thankfully had a lot of flexibility to juggle school and work, as my team was very accommodating to my academic schedule. I got to work on real-life communications issues while completing my courses and essays.

I even got to work directly with the CFIA's Vice-President of Communications and Public Affairs on a few files, and worked on creating a new project! Not only did this allow me to work with senior management, but it also allowed me, as a student, to sit in meetings with the President and other Vice-Presidents within the Agency. This was a wonderful opportunity for a student, and showed me that the Agency values input and perspective from employees and students alike.

Working for all Canadians

Creating products for underrepresented communities in Canada has been one of the most gratifying aspects of working at the CFIA so far. For example, I've worked on a series called Beyond Barriers, which has opened a safe space for storytelling and conversation with employees about the important work and life experiences of our colleagues living with disabilities.

In my perspective, this is one of the best things about the field of communications: highlighting and uplifting the voices and experiences of marginalized and underrepresented groups. The fact that this is part of my job only makes me love it more.

I understand the experience of being marginalized and not having a voice to speak my concerns. In this role, I can see the impact of my contributions and the lens I bring to my files, whether the communications are intended for CFIA staff or the general public.

At the end of the day, working at the CFIA means we are working for Canadians. This is only the start of my career, but I'll keep striving to make sure people from all walks of life are heard and meaningfully represented whenever I get the chance.

For now, I know I'm in the right place!

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