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13 Questions With: Tanya Snook

April 7, 2013

Senior Project Officer, Information Management, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat / giik (IA, UX, BA, web, analytics, sm) & tech blogger (gadgets, apps, how-to, Star Wars, Lego)
(aka spydergrrl)

Photo of Tanya Snook

Credit: Kim /

A hero who has inspired you in your career?

My mom, whom I consider to be an honorary geek girl. She was what we call in French “débrouillarde” — she was incredibly adept at adapting. She taught me that I’m pretty much made of rubber, and can bounce back from anything. She was by no means a geek but she exhibited all the values I love in geek girls: feisty, smart, opinionated, passionate and “débroullarde”. These are all characteristics that I value and that I think have served me well working in some very male-dominated environments.

The first job you ever held and at what age?

Flyer delivery, age 10. Lasted 2 weeks once I realized I was making $5 to deliver flyers to 200 houses.

Your first position in the library and/or information services field?

I was first handed a website to redevelop in my first job out of school back in 1998. I spent a lot of time researching content organization, which started me down the path to IA. Turns out, I didn’t even think of myself as an IA until someone else told me I was one almost 10 years later. 🙂

Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?

A Lego cubicle that The Dude (my son, age 10) made which features me at my computer with Star Wars desktop image, and my coffee. And most importantly, a Lego piece symbolizing the Lego cubicle resting on my desk.

What is your guilty pleasure?


Career advice – what’s your top tip?

Developing an online presence can establish your authority and help build your reputation related to skills that may not be entirely relevant to your degree or even to your first job. By researching and writing about topics that interest you or in which you may be knowledgeable, you can demonstrate how multifaceted your skill set really is (vs. how it might appear on your resume). Case in point: my LinkedIn profile is full of endorsements for social media, but my work history includes far more web management, analytics and e-marketing. The social media rep has grown from my involvement in the medium and the community, especially ranting away on my blog and Twitter accounts. Those have led to pro bono projects and speaking engagements that, at the time, were entirely unrelated to my day job — another great way to build skills and reputation to further my knowledge base, and in turn my career. It’s important to remember that your current (or first job is not going to define your career; it’s a stepping stone. Whether you blog your obsession with video games or you offer insightful critiques of world events, you are developing a persona and a voice (and probably skills) that can make you even more attractive to future employers. Branching out and demonstrating your capacity beyond the job, through social media and especially blogging, can open up your network and potential future career opportunities.

What useless skill(s) do you possess?

I can sing in Hindi. Long story.

Proudest moment in your professional life?

Every year during the first few seconds of the UX Camp Ottawa (a volunteer-driven user experience conference that I co-chair). That is the culmination of a collaborative effort that spans 9 months, and it’s always a huge thrill when we kick off the day. That feeling is what brings me back to help put it together year over year.

If you had 24 hours all to yourself, how would you best like to spend it?

A long run, a soak in the hot tub, and hours of sitting in a coffee shop blogging away.

If you didn’t work in the information industry, what would you be doing?

I’d be a concierge in a hotel. I worked in a hotel for a couple of years and I always wanted to do that role full time. You have to research the city, network with local businesses and be in the know on what’s going on around town. And you get to solve puzzles, trying to suggest experiences to fit guests whom you just met for the first time. Plus, it has all the customer experience delivery of the front desk without all of the headache of bad room experiences (and turning people away when the hotel is overbooked).

Finish this sentence: “In high school, I would have been voted the person most likely to … “

Be 14 in Grade 13. (There was a lot confusion about my age when I came from Manitoba and went from Grade 11 to Grade 13. In fact, I was 16.)

How do you stay current in your field?

I have an innate need to know how things work so I’m always reading and researching. My Google Reader has been carefully curated over the last 5 years and always has hundreds of new sources of information in web, tech, UX, etc. (We won’t talk about the fact that GReader is being shut down and I will need to re-categorize all those feeds in a new reader. #sadPanda)

What would you like your headstone to read?

Still learning.


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