Tristan Roy (managing director, Digital, Canada and Latin America) shares the most valuable skills he’s picked up over the course of his professional life and how he has managed to cultivate his passion for creative writing and literature into a valuable skillset for his career.
How do you describe what you do for a living to your family and friends?
I had an old boss that used to say “I put things on the internet. Sometimes I take things off the internet, but most of the time I put stuff on the internet.” I liked that because, despite the jest, it was something that a child could understand. I suppose the way I most often describe it is that I help companies and organizations tell their story.
What attracted you to this line of work?
I never actually expected to end up in PR, marketing, advertising or digital. I intended to pursue a career or academic life in the arts but wanted to take some time after graduating to travel and try out a few different things. Given my interest in the arts in all forms – written, visual, digital, etc. – doing an internship at a communications agency seemed a logical and fitting pursuit. Once I started at Edelman, I fell in love with the pluralism of the work and the dynamism of the people.
What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on at Edelman?
I am of the disposition that you have to love all of the work. Whether it is big or small, creative or consultative, or in the face of an opportunity or crisis – you have to love the day-to-day in our business. It is also hard to name a favorite project after 13 years at the agency; there are so many. If I allow a little bit of recency bias, a highlight would be the work we did for HP in Canada with Michael ‘MafiaBoy’ Calce, a now-reformed cyber-security expert who was once considered one of the top black hat hackers in the world, around print security. It won awards in both Canada and internationally (Cannes and Clio), but most importantly made an impact for our clients.
What do you like most about working at Edelman?
I love our independence and the sense of family. Both of those things are felt tangibly. I also love getting to be an entrepreneur, but doing so within a large global agency full of incredibly smart and dynamic people and amazing clients.
What skills have you picked up along the way that are the most valuable to you today?
I think there are four that help me in nearly all personal and professional contexts. First, life and business are both conducted in the currency of relationships. I’ve learned to invest in those relationships with empathy. Next, becoming comfortable with and actually metabolized by ambiguity has allowed me to consistently find opportunity in the uncertain complexity of our industry and our world. Third, Jeff Bezos talks about creating the space to make only a few high-quality and high-impact decisions on a daily basis. This speaks to not only the importance of creating room for deep, divergent and strategic thought, but also to the notion of prioritization. I’ve tried to cultivate a disciplined and filtered approach to what I focus on with the goal of having maximum impact on the items that will make the biggest difference in life or business. Finally, I’ve worked hard to practice resilience over the course of my life and career. I use the word practice intentionally, similar to the way it is used in yoga or mindfulness. Resilience is a habit, and it is important to practice that habit in the face of setbacks big and small.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in his or her career?
In addition to considering the skills I’ve mentioned above, I would encourage someone just starting their career not to develop an overly rigid or defined idea of what their career path or trajectory should look like. Most, if not all, of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences and outcomes in my career (and even life) have come as a result of letting myself be open to unforeseen opportunities or circumstances that didn’t necessarily fit my view of where my career was going at the time. If I had maintained, in those moments, an overly narrow view of what I should do and where I should be I would have missed out on an awful lot.
What are three things you read or access every day?
The Ringer online, and The Globe and Mail and The Wall Street Journal in print.
What’s on your nightstand, playlist or Netflix queue?
I always keep a big stack on my nightstand, so it can be unwieldy. Right now there are biographies of Churchill, Robin Williams and Muhammad Ali, and I always keep texts from the stoics like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus. I typically have a Steinbeck (my favorite American author) on the go. And the latest issue of the Monocle is typically handy, too. In terms of playlist, I am most often listening to jazz or classical crossover. Labels like Blue Note and European label ECM are both ubiquitous on my playlist, as are artists like Max Richter. His eight-hour-plus album Sleep gets a lot of play in the evenings and when I’m on the road.
What is your personal mantra?
Focus on the things I can control. Often, the only thing that can be controlled in a situation is your reaction to it.
What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?
I try to be a global citizen both personally and professionally, so travel is high on my list. I recently did a trip with my wife to Mongolia (with several nights in the Gobi Desert staying in a traditional Mongolian ger and meeting nomadic families) and Japan.
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