Today's Role Models blog features Bailey Parnell, the Founder and CEO of SkillsCamp. Bailey is a Masters student at Ryerson University, one of Canada's Top 100 most powerful women, a sister, an award-winning digital marketer, and also an educator of soft skills. I sat down with Bailey at Ryerson University to learn more about the work she's doing with SkillsCamp and her view on the importance of education.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us a bit about your formal and informal education.
My name is Bailey Parnell. I am the Founder and CEO of SkillsCamp, a soft skills training company that works with business and higher education institutions to equip people with soft skills needed for professional success.
I attended high school in Brampton. It was a school for the performing arts and I was a Vocal Music major. We were required to participate in all types of extracurriculars, like choirs or musicals. I did my Bachelor’s Degree in Media Production at the RTA School of Media at Ryerson and double minored in News Studies and English. I’m currently taking my Masters in Communications and Culture at Ryerson, studying social media’s impact on mental health. I also have my Certificate for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) as I taught abroad in China.
I have too many informal education experiences to count! I believe in lifelong learning and I seem to go to at least one conference or interactive workshop per week - sometimes for education and student affairs, others for creativity and marketing.
What is the most important lesson or skill you learned inside the classroom?
I currently work in, and have been a student staff with, Ryerson’s Student Affairs which primarily focuses on teaching soft skills outside the classroom. The three most important skills I’ve learned are self-management, social management, and synthesis.
During undergrad, I learned to manage myself and my schedule. I worked multiple jobs to be able to live in Toronto, and had various weekend and/or short-term gigs in broadcast journalism. It was not an option for me to do poorly in school as scholarships were a stream of income to pay for my education.
I also learned how to lead other people. With TV production, you have to work as a team, and the whole team has to be present to make it work. It is not like other courses in university in that respect - everyone on the team can’t take away a portion of the work and come back and piece it together. I enjoyed taking the role of Producer - which is much like being a CEO. You have to put together the right team, help people find their strengths, be calm in a crisis, and lead.
Synthesis and critical thinking were also essential to my learning. These skills are important especially in educating and working with people. It is important to understand how current issues, or even how people’s moods, might make them less inclined to learn on a given day.
What is the most important lesson or skill you learned outside the classroom?
The skills I learned outside the classroom were more important for my career, and for who I am today. Finding the right mentors and taking on leadership opportunities and projects have helped with my success. I had leaders who taught me more practical skills, like systems, task management software, or how to properly use a calendar (so important!). I learned about time management and processes for managing the inflow and outflow of information.
Who was your most memorable teacher?
I have two incredible teachers from elementary school! My grade 4 teacher, Ms. Mills, had (and still has) this zest for life that you would hope for all teachers to have. She also incorporated arts-based learning before that was a trend. I did not consider myself to be creative - I was more of a math-science kid. But, she made everyone feel like an artist and she always went above and beyond. She made other people excited to learn.
Ms. Tara-Leigh Filonowicz, my grade 7 teacher, always treated us with respect, and never spoke down to us because of our age (which is all you long for at that age!). She always made us feel like peers. I have emulated that in my own life with how I treat students in high school. I enjoy talking most to 11-17 year olds. I talk to them like I talk to my own friends. I am genuinely interested in what they are saying, what they’re learning, in the social media they’re using, and how they think about it. They respond well. She also went above and beyond to create learning experiences - using out-of-pocket expenses to create the best possible learning environment for us. When she recently announced on her Facebook page that the school was cutting her budget for classroom supplies, I reached to and offered SkillsCamp to donate the balance.
Tell us a bit about SkillsCamp - why did you start it and why it is important to you?
With SkillsCamp, I didn’t wake up overnight with an idea or a dream to start a business. My work in Student Affairs showed me that students who learned these soft skills (empathy building, networking, health and wellness) were infinitely more successful than those who didn’t. I was also working with employers and learned they were desperately looking for critical soft skills like communication and teamwork. There was a skills gap from what was being taught and what employers wanted. SkillsCamp helps to close that gap. We started working with higher education institutions because that’s where our connections are. But, we’ve since learned that this is not a “young person” problem. The soft skills deficit is an “everybody” problem.
We help students with a job search strategies, interview skills, personal branding. At companies, we help teams become more productive, collaborative, and inclusive. We also help with intergenerational communication and understanding. Millennials aren’t the only people with workplace issues: intergenerational misunderstanding happens on both sides.
Why do you think students are lacking these soft skills?
Soft skills aren’t being taught in the right places. Student Affairs departments at Universities are doing this skill building, but ideally, it would be included on the academic side as well. Most students only interact with the academic side of the institution and they listen to their Professors over anyone.
During elementary and high school, most schools have no explicit soft skill programming incorporated into the learning. Part of the learning cycle is calling out what people have learned. For example, in a presentation class project, a teacher or professor should repeat back the skills the students have practiced - perhaps critical thinking, communication, public speaking, synthesis, interviewing, etc. - to complete the learning cycle.
Naturally, some people have more soft skills because of the way they are socialized growing up. Lack or abundance of soft skills is a combination of nature and nurture. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn those skills. Learn one step at a time. Build your skills incrementally.
Study after study has shown that women’s wages are lower than men’s, there are fewer women at the C-suite and board levels, etc… How can the soft skills you’re teaching help women to advance up the career ladder?
Soft skills can help women many ways. First of all, I work with the employers and the people who are going to be hiring, supporting, and training women. We can help teach them about inclusive workplaces and what type of language to use to make women more comfortable and successful. For example, in understanding that women are less likely to speak up in the boardroom, perhaps companies should change their format to ensure women’s voices are being heard. By changing the format, by say calling on everyone, or setting up anonymous idea-generation, women who may not feel comfortable raising their hands can contribute as well.
In working directly with women, I teach them resilience, and confidence, like how to ask for a raise and being able to back that up by tracking their work and what they’ve done. Soft skills can help with public speaking skills or how to structure a strong presentation as well.
Personally, I like to be an example of a strong female leader women can hopefully look up to. It is important for people to see themselves reflected in leadership positions. I believe that being in an equity-seeking group, I have a responsibility to advance the cause and be a leader.
How do you find balancing your Masters Program with SkillsCamp (and your job)?
I manage my time like I manage a budget. I book everything into my calendar: travel time, breakfast, beautification, etc. I commute effectively: I read and write on the subway. Because of this, I am never in a rush. I use my calendar with discipline and always immediately update any meetings and changes to stay on track.
There is also a unique synergy between my work at SkillsCamp and what I study at in my Masters program. I can apply my learnings in the classroom and my work in Student Affairs into SkillsCamp engagements almost immediately. For example, I spoke at a conference recently which came out of the work of a school paper. I made SkillsCamp relationships at that conference.
You have mentioned in previous interviews that Education is your passion. Why does education matter to you?
I originally went through school and started working in media because I confused what I was good at and what I was passionate about. I am good at storytelling. But I am passionate about education. I think education is the solution to most social problems we are facing - and not just traditional institutional education.
We need to have the right type of education, at the right time, from the right people in the right way. With SkillsCamp, I am choosing to focus on educating adults about soft skills with a certain type of pedagogy.
Education can come in many forms, and should not be confused with those traditional institutions. For example, I grew up in Brampton, in a very diverse community, and learned from so many other people’s varied life experiences. Education can come in the form of an international exchange or travel with your family. I think it’s important we teach children to be curious about why people from different cultures may do something differently.
What is one lesson you you’ve learned that you’d like young girls growing up today to understand?
With my niece, I naturally find myself pushing her toward a career in STEM. I have also been brain-training her to answer “CEO” to the “what do you want to be when you grow up” question (haha). The last time I saw her, she told me she wants to be a doctor and before that, it was an elephant, so I guess that’s progress. When it comes to feminism, it is ultimately about choice. Girls and women should be able to be whatever it is they choose to be – be it a doctor, a CEO, or an elephant. We need to be sure that young girls are hearing this – it is your choice. Young girls might not understand or relate to Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama’s speeches about women’s rights. Let’s provide opportunities even younger for girl to get used to having a choice - to decide whether they want to play with lego, play in mud, help mom with cooking, play sports, or draw. They decide.
What book are you reading right now?
Right now I’m reading What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Next up on the list are The 48 Laws of Power, Our Turn by Kristine Stewart, and finally my partner’s book! I felt so involved and invested in the whole writing process that I am only now getting around to reading it - The Burnout Gamble by Hamza Khan.
What did you learn today?
I started my day reading Hillary Clinton’ book, and learned about her side of the email scandals. Right now, I am working on a book, and learned about what to include in a non-fiction book proposal. I also finish my nights with a scroll on the front page of Reddit, where I can take in a little bit about a variety of topics – personal finance, politics, life hacks, etc.