Jill Sutherland’s strengths include empathy, positivity and winning people over. She’s a seasoned volunteer for organizations such as the BC Children’s Hospital and Helping Families in Need and also volunteers for SFU’s convocation regularly — this year as a student convenor. So it’s a surprise to learn that Jill started her career in the world of commercial finance. Luckily, Jill soon realized that this wasn’t the best fit for her.
“I found that commercial finance, where your whole goal is to make as much profit as you can for a company without giving much back, kind of kills your soul.”
Jill was considering going back to school and decided to instead work for post-secondary. She joined Douglas College and worked in a variety of roles. She then found a job at SFU that popped up on her LinkedIn for a temp role at Surrey campus.
“My first temp position was an advising role based in Surrey, and I was doing a Master’s of Education at SFU Surrey campus. So the whole thing seemed perfect.”
Jill then worked in a variety of temp roles for SFU. “I worked in, oh, nine different roles over the last nine years. I’ve worked in centralized and decentralized faculties and in Student Services. Now in the VPA office. I’ve been around the University.”
Jill sees this as a major positive as she was able to see how different areas of the University worked. “Like in any large company, you get a feel for which areas are doing great things, have small staff turnover and are working creatively. As much as we think of SFU as a small institution, we’re not small. We are a big company if you’re going to look at us as a company.”
Her current continuing role uses her strengths. Her favourite aspect of the job is connection and connecting others. “I love trying to connect people. If one person needs this and another person can do this, I love connecting them. It’s a huge part of my job as the institutional liaison, acting as that connector.”
She gets to work with all the campuses, faculties and departments, which she loves. She also could not say enough good things about her boss. “I appreciate working with people who care about what they’re doing, are knowledgeable, supportive of their teams and weigh everything in a very straightforward, frank way. When he and I talked about my running for the board for APSA, he was highly supportive.”
Jill is currently a member of the APSA bargaining committee. Kris Nordgren, the current chair of the Salary and Benefits Committee, recommended she join.
“He and I were having conversations about what it meant to be a temp and the frustrations I saw for myself and other people. So he suggested I join the bargaining committee, and it seemed like a good plan and a good fit.”
Jill’s family also has a long union history. Her great-grandfather played a big part in bringing many unions into play across the Lower Mainland back in the 1930s. She jokes that most of her family now are managers, with only one person being in a union.
“We, both APSA and the University are saying there’s a desire for better relationships and more collaboration. We’re hearing that echoed by senior leadership and the board for APSA and, and I believe we’re on the precipice of positive change.”
She believes there are many opportunities for both the University and APSA. She speaks about how well the University managed with the pivot to remote work and the changes in the world of work over the course of the pandemic.
“I think there are lots of opportunities here to help people find new ways to work that work well for them and still keep the work of the University moving forward that will serve the University well.”
Of course, Jill has more than work on her plate; she has two passion projects. Her first one is elections. She works with Elections Canada, Elections BC, and municipal elections and has worked for them since 2003. Although it was good money when she was a student, that’s not why she does the work now.
“I am a firm advocate for exercising our right to vote. For me, it’s a bit of a passion project in that way.
“I do feel like in Canada, particularly people who are multigenerational Canadian, we often take for granted that we have this right to vote; that we can do so safely, easily, and without coercion. When you see new Canadian citizens who have come from places in the world where they didn’t have the right to vote or it was unsafe to vote, you gain a new perspective and learn to truly appreciate this right. That, for me, that’s a big thing.”
Her second passion is her small business, Jillybean Sweets and Savouries. She started her business in University, making small amounts of jam for people she knew, and the business took off from word of mouth. She’s now made over 90 dozen jams in nine flavours and will be busy selling her wares at various holiday markets over the next three months.
“I enjoy being in the kitchen and making jam throughout the summer and fall; it’s stress relief. It’s very methodical, and to make it, you have to follow the recipe perfectly, and there’s something for me about that, about the need to follow the rules perfectly. It relaxes me so much.”
Making jam is many things to Jill. It brings back good memories of her grandmother and reconnects her family as they hull strawberries for her in the summer.
“It’s reminiscent of their mom (my grandmother) and having done this as kids for her.
Unfortunately, my aunt passed away this summer unexpectedly. Every time I hull strawberries or make strawberry jam of any sort, I have that lovely memory of her, my grandmother and my family.”