Stretching myself to the City of Edmonton

When I was 19 I took a semester off and traveled Southeast Asia completely and utterly alone. I was stretched, questioned everything, and saw the most breathtaking sunsets you could ever imagine. When you initially compare staying in a Buddhist Monastery to sitting at a desk all day for the summer, you’d probably think “How can that possibly stretch you?”. But it has, and currently, I’m writing amidst a “stretching experience”. But I’ll get back to that in a bit.

Backing up, let’s talk about how I got to be sitting at my desk, looking out the window, pondering life. I am interested in organizational psychology so I wanted more experience in an organizational setting. I’ll be honest, in the past, I’ve worked fairly straightforward jobs that have very specific tasks. So my goal was to find a workplace where I had greater autonomy and it was a bonus that it was in the Culture office at the City of Edmonton.

Currently, the City of Edmonton is going through an organizational shift to become more adaptable to change. This is all because Edmonton is rapidly changing, there’s been population growth, budget increases, and a significant increase in technology. As a result, employees are being asked to embrace ambiguity and be comfortable with change. This significantly impacts corporate culture, and so the Culture Office has to be ready to support these changes with engagement programs.

Part of my role was to analyze a peer engagement program and to see how it can potentially support the organizational changes. At the City of Edmonton, Culture ambassadors serve as a method for peer engagement. Culture Ambassadors are employee volunteers that spread information about culture from a peer to peer level. Another part of my role was to get the chance to talk with current Culture ambassadors about what they think of peer engagement and the current organizational changes.

Alexa in a big truck

It truly has been inspiring to hear some people’s experiences at the City. I was given a tour at one of the garages that create and fix many City structures (for ex. Soccer goal posts, City trucks, sign etc.). Stereotypically, you’d expect that a workplace comprised of blue collar workers wouldn’t have standup culture. However, garage employees beamed when they talked about the culture they’ve recently contributed to and grown over the years. Through the culture ambassador program, they have grown a rich, supportive community of employees that is truly proud to serve Edmonton. It was really an eye opening experience that taught me the potential effects that corporate culture can have.

However, it’s not always roses and daisies. Currently, I am working on a report that will analyze research on peer engagement. Its purpose is to determine how the current peer engagement program needs to adapt in order to support organizational changes. To do this, it requires a lot of research and a comprehensive summary of the current state of the program. But truthfully, I’m learning how to work on an ambiguous project that I have little background on. Before this, I had little knowledge on municipalities, organizational structure and how politics plays into it all (Still don’t if I’m honest). It’s a little daunting to prove to people that I am a young leader when I know there is a potential for failure. And maybe coping with this realization is the point.

-Alexa Kjenner

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