Wednesday, 8 October 2014

MLIS Alumni Interview - Yasmeen Awadh!

Western received a special visit yesterday from a MLIS alumni, Yasmeen Awadh!  She was in London for the day, and returned to Toronto the same evening, and then back to Vancouver for a week before heading to Calgary.  Despite her busy schedule, she took some time out for this interview! 

Yasmeen completed both her Master of Library and Information Science and undergrad in Media, Information and Technoculture at Western and currently works at the Centre for Digital Media.

Magdalen:   Please tell us a bit more about yourself and your work at Centre for Digital Media. 

Yasmeen:   I graduated from Western's MLIS program in 2004.  What appealed to me about the MLIS program was the information aspect.  I was interested in how people exchanged information, information-seeking and the different channels to access information.  MLIS students could be found in a lot of non-librarian environments.  My boss also has a MLIS degree (from University of Alberta), and she was working at CBC prior to the Centre for Digital Media (CDM).

CDM specifically offers one program:  the Master of Digital Media (MDM) which draws a variety of students from various backgrounds in information architecture, UX design, industrial design, computer programming, software engineer, visual arts, media arts, architecture, etc.  All students’ works are project-based and as they work with industry clients, they develop their project management, leadership and team collaboration skills specifically for the digital media environment.  MDM was modelled after the program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, except the US program cost $100,000!  MDM was created by industry professionals and is a collaboration of UBC, SFU, BCIT, and ECU. 

As CDM’s admissions and recruitment officer, I liaise with all the different departments, work with the faculty, stay well-informed of the changing curriculum as the industry evolves so rapidly, meet with the marketing team, create webinars, develop recruitment strategies, conduct search engine analysis, interview candidates, evaluate admissions credentials... are some of the things I do.

M:  How are information needs of people changing?

Y:  People are more tech savvy, so as they are more connected through social media, they rely more on the learning experiences of others.  Access to people is access to information.

M:  In your present job, what did you find most useful from what you learned in the MLIS program?

Y:  Reference interviews, asking the right questions and customizing information in order to see which candidates were a good fit for the MDM program.   It is important to determine if the student will do well and being able to provide the right information to them.  Digital media has different meanings to different people with different backgrounds.  A gamer perceives digital media differently from a photographer or a compositor, but digital media consists of multi-skilled teams to carry on a project.  Our projects are very team-collaborative, as it is in this industry.

M:  CDM has worked with some pretty big industry partners such as Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, Relic, Microsoft, and Mozilla, how can special librarians and information specialists best market their skills when looking for work?

Y:   Students need to be problem solvers and know how information flows, such as in content management systems.  Ask companies the right questions, like what problems do the companies have and companies would want to know that you can help them solve their problems.  MDM students solve problems that clients didn’t even know they had.

M:  In our Information Visualization course, there is a lot of emphasis on being able to identify the problem in the info space, or else any mental activity is meaningless, so I can see how problem solving could top the list of desirable skills.  Besides being good problem solvers, what other important skills should special librarians have?

Y:  Good information literacy skills and be able to determine the relevance of the information.  Take initiative, strong critical thinking skills, be able to work with different types of personalities… soft skills, positive attitude.

M:  What do you see in the future of special librarians?

Y:  Be adaptable, have the ability to be adaptable, pick up skills quickly and adapt to the changing demands of the market.  They will have to have good tech skills.

M:  We have a few SLA members who will be completing the MLIS program this term, any words of wisdom for those venturing out?

Y:  Be open to opportunities and all avenues.  The path to your dream job may not be straight and narrow, but have many twists and turns.  The best opportunities come in strange packages!

Thank you Yasmeen for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences with us. You can find out more about the Centre for Digital Media at

magdalen lau is currently completing the MLIS program with a concentration in information science and global information.  She is from the Pacific Northwest and uses multimedia as a tool for visual storytelling.

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