Simone Viger is passionate about media arts education and designing engaging programs for youth. She is the Local Programs and Media Arts Coordinator for Girls Action Foundation, where she develops, coordinates, and facilitates programs for girls in partnership with schools and community organizations.
She is pursuing a Masters of Education in Counselling Psychology from McGill University and possesses a Diploma in Digital technologies in the design arts practice from Concordia University and an educational background in Communication Studies and Video Production.
Kickaction: Did you always know that you wanted to work within the media/non-profit sector?
Simone Viger:That is a tough question! I would say that I knew what I wanted to do, just not how to make a living doing it. I grew up in a mobilized, community-oriented neighborhood so this is one of my core values. And since I was a teenager, I have loved taking photos and making videos with other creative and talented people. So bit-by-bit, I sought out community-based initiatives where my skills and knowledge could be used. And that was the beginning of my freelance work within the non-profit sector!
Kickaction: Who have been some of your greatest influences?
Simone Viger: I would say my family;especially my Dad because of his ongoing support and coaching. There are also many friends, co-workers and project collaborators that come to mind. Their experiences and knowledge have provided me with immense informal mentorship and inspiration.
Kickaction: Did you encounter any obstacles when you first got started?
Simone Viger: Of course! The non-profit sector can be very unstable, especially financially. For example, with my two first full-time jobs that I really enjoyed- I was let go because of budget cuts! In the first case, our entire media education center was shut down. And in the second case, after a year of managing a studio space for artists, the organization had to shut down the initiative because they could not pay for my salary. So the studio was boarded up and un-used for two years afterwards. Moments like this were very disappointing because I wanted to continue the work.It also made me doubt whether I was a good ‘fit’ for either the media or non-profit sector.I really doubted myself and career possibilities.These disappointments taught me to be adaptable and not take anything for granted.
Kickaction: What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Simone Viger: I have been really lucky because I have work experiences that I genuinely enjoy. Each day can look so different from the next because the majority of the work I do is in partnership or collaboration. However, a typical workday includes heading to the office, some team meetings and then facilitating workshops for girls groups in either secondary or primary school. Sometimes I have special activities that include meeting with community partners, writing and sending out newsletters, or organizing events for parents to see their child or teen’s creative work. But all in all, I would say that my work is not defined by routine so there is not typical day.
Kickaction: Tell us a bit more about your educational background. What program(s) did you take and how did you find out about it?
Simone Viger: I came to Montreal when I was 18 years old to pursue a Bachelor of Arts and Science in Communication Studies, with a Specialization in Video Production. I sought out this program because it is a mix of theory and practice.I was able to build skills in video production while building critical knowledge around media and cultural studies. And go around Montreal, speaking to people in order to create documentaries and experimental videos. After a few years of self-employed work, I sought out another program in Concordia’s Fine Arts Department, where I earned a Graduate Certificate in Computational arts in the design practice. This program was also a mix of theory and practice, where I created a capstone project and wrote a thesis paper about the project. I found out about these two programs through my interest in media arts. Before applying, I met with professors to gain an understanding of the program and ask about what sort of profile the faculty looks for in applicants. While I do have an educational background from traditional institutions, I think that being involved in the school culture and seeking experience outside of the institution is critical to having a meaningful experience.
Kickaction: What do you love most about your job?
Simone Viger: I love developing projects and I love working with youth. And even more when those two are combined.
Kickaction: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Simone Viger: I get really excited and passionate about the projects and people that I work with so I put a lot of myself into the work I do. A key lesson that I have learnt over the past 10 years has been accepting my limits, that I cannot do everything, and prioritizing self-care so that I am not over-stretched. There can also be difficult lows, especially when a youth participant is dealing with challenges that are beyond my control.So I always strive to dream big in ways that are grounded and build from strengths that are already present.
Kickaction: Is there any advice you have for young women who are starting to envision their future?
Simone Viger: Look around you and start with what you know. Nothing is too small, or too simple, or too silly. I believe that often it is the most basic ideas that are the most powerful.
Kickaction: Is there anything that you would like to tell young female social entrepreneurs who would like to combine passions for social justice and media as a career path?
Simone Viger: Seek out networks and training opportunities where you can talk to other people about their professional experiences. Even though nowadays you can teach yourself almost anything through the internet, there is nothing like being in a learning community. Those relationships will influence your professional path for years to come. Get to know yourself and your strengths. Sign up for opportunities that will allow you to shine. And pursue opportunities to build your knowledge and skills in supportive environments.
Kickaction: What do you see as the most pressing issue for girls locally and/or globally at this time?
Simone Viger: Girls need to be heard and have a place in society where they are listened to. I don’t believe in speaking on behalf of girls but I do believe in advocating for their right to be empowered and active members of society.
Kickaction: What gives you your inner strength?
Simone Viger: I am a desperately hopeful person and am very motivated by life’s potential. I thrive in challenging situations and am always up for something that will help me grow, develop, or build capabilities. I also have great a great support system, full of inspiring people.