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Vanessa Russell

Apprenticeship Program Project Manager
Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada
Vanessa Russell | Gestionnaire de projet du programme d'apprentissage
Vanessa Russell | Gestionnaire de projet du programme d'apprentissage
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway
School Subject

Vanessa Russell is an Apprenticeship Program Project Manager for Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Corner Brook, Newfoundland Canada

I now live in: Mount Pearl, Newfoundland Canada

I completed my training/education at: Memorial University of Newfoundland; Bachelor of Social Work; currently completing online courses with Udemy in Project Management; partially completed Office Administration with College of the North Atlantic.

What I do at work

I spend a lot of time coordinating meetings. This involves making and taking phone calls, responding to and sending emails. I also create different documents including spreadsheets, word documents and tables. I am responsible for coordinating the training opportunities for our staff. Our staff receive this training to get their certification in the fields of Vision Rehabilitation Therapy, Low Vision Therapy and/or Orientation and Mobility. This is important because they are the front line people who work with people who are blind or partially sighted to develop or restore key daily living skills. This helps improve their independence, safety, mobility and emotional well-being.

I am the only person in this particular role. As a result, I often rely on my team, my manager and those who work around me to understand what the greatest needs are and how to go about meeting those needs. I work from home a lot as most of my work is on the phone and on the computer. This role is national and so a lot of my contact is with people in other provinces as well as learning institutes in the United States. I had to become familiar with tools and software within the Microsoft Office suite. I use these tools to develop agreements, handbooks, and budgets. I also develop plans and tools to analyze our current practice and review our strategies for providing the best quality service to our staff and our clients.

My career path is

I never dreamed that I would be running a major project like this when I was in high school. When I decided to go into Social Work as a high school student, I had my heart set on counselling teenagers. When I started the Social Work program, my plans changed to focus on people with addictions and trauma as well as counselling teenagers. When I graduated with my Bachelor of Social Work, I switched again to working with and advocating for people with intellectual and physical disabilities as well as seniors, particularly dementia clients. Social workers work in so many areas that it takes a while to realize all the career paths that are out there.

But, as much as I loved helping people, I struggled with my role as a counsellor. Eventually, I learned that I am not meant to work directly in a counselling role. Unfortunately, it took a bit of burnout to get to this realization. However, as I said above, there are many roles that a qualified social worker can take on and still be helping people. I started working with the VLRC in a part-time, temporary position doing outreach. I found this organization was a good fit for me. When the role of Apprenticeship Program Project Manager was posted, a friend encouraged me to apply for the position. I was reluctant at first as it was a lot of responsibility. Now I’m glad I did and could not imagine doing anything else!

I am motivated by

I love this job! The people I work with are great! The organization itself, its mandate and the massive amount of support they provide are also great. The job excites me because this project is so important to VLRC and CNIB. I love that I have a great team to work with and they have trusted me to manage this project from the start. I know I can rely on anyone within the organization to support me when I need them. To me inclusiveness and client care are absolutely the most important qualities in any organization. This project and the support behind it shows the dedication CNIB and VLRC have to their clients. In addition, this job allows me to work in a non-stereotypical Social Work role while still using my skills in communication, coordination, rapport building and constant love of learning.

How I affect peoples’ lives

Since this position is the only one of its kind, and the project is brand new to the organization, it holds a lot of value. The goal of this project is to meet short-term needs while also planning for the future by providing high quality training and certification to our staff. This in turn affects the service quality provided to blind or partially sighted clients.

Outside of work I

I spend time with my young children and husband playing and going on adventures. I also powerlift, I am in kickboxing; I scrapbook and make cards and I love to organize things. Surprisingly enough, cleaning up around the house is a major stress relief for me too.

My advice to others

Go for it! Honestly. If you want to learn about how to manage programs and projects, I suggest you do some research and perhaps do a short course to get some background and tools.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Art
  • Drama
  • History
  • Literature and Language Arts
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Enjoyed doing things on my own
  • Always wanted to be outside
  • Liked helping people
  • Was motivated by success
  • Wanted to be in charge
  • Liked being given specific instructions
  • Engaged in volunteer activities
  • Liked reading
  • Played video games
  • Was really creative
  • Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades
  • Always knew what I wanted to do
  • Learned Best by Doing

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