Ash Rao credits her experiences in student government in grade eight with sparking her passion for marketing. “I’ve always loved to draw, and I was artistic as a kid, so I went into the advertising part. It was just posters. I was like, ‘I have to go into advertising or marketing,” she recalled. After that, she forgot about her career aspirations until she was placed in a business class in high school. “It was by accident that I took the class, but I loved it,” Ash said. “My teacher told me about maybe going into marketing, I took a business SHSM (Specialist High Skills Major) and here we are today.”
Ash is going into her fourth year of studying marketing at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University. This summer, she is putting her marketing skills to work at Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga. She has designed marketing campaigns and has managed Habitat’s social media during events.
She said that her favourite event was the CUMIS playhouse build, where she took photos throughout the day and posted updates to Habitat’s various social platforms. Recently, she also worked on a social media campaign to promote Habitat’s efforts to build doghouses and dog murphy beds which are then sold in the ReStores. “When it comes to social media campaigns, I have a lot of theory and a lot of knowledge that I’ve gained just from classes, but now I’m doing the hands-on part of it,” she said.
Ash has also taken on additional responsibilities as a leader of Habitat’s ReVive Centre, where corporate teams can spend a day building or DIY-ing products which are then sold in the ReStore. She said that she was surprised by how much she enjoyed her role in the ReVive Centre. “It was unbelievable because all the jobs I’ve worked in before (have been) related to my field of study. This one I’ve enjoyed the most; maybe it’s the family environment that Habitat has. I’m enjoying myself so much here,” Ash said.
Since she has lots of experience studying marketing, Ash said that she has enjoyed learning new skills from working in the ReVive Centre. DIY projects in the ReVive Centre can range from painting chairs to painting whole kitchen and bedroom sets. On Build Factory days, teams build playhouses, planter boxes or dog houses—“something a bit more tool intensive or labour intensive,” Ash explained.
Ash said that her favourite part of her job is having responsibilities in leading teams while also having the opportunity to be creative. “If I don’t have a whole lot to do, I can pick up a paintbrush or I can design campaigns. There’s a lot of hands-on (experience) that I wouldn’t get especially once I graduate if I’m working for a marketing agency,” she said.
Working at Habitat has helped Ash define her goals for her life; “I want to do something where I can look back on it and be like, ‘I built that’ or ‘I made that,’” she said. “Whether it’s a whole marketing campaign that goes up, (I want to be like) I was a part of that, I left an imprint.” She also said that because sometimes there is a negative perception of people working in marketing, she enjoys working on campaigns for Habitat since they ultimately have the goal of making a difference in people’s lives.
The fact that Habitat is working to make that difference with regards to local poverty is important to Ash. “I was part of a high school that was connected with the Free the Children organization. We were taught day and night about poverty and the issues that happen across the world,” she said. “But it didn’t take a whole lot to see that we deal with the same thing in Canada as well.”
“After coming here (to Habitat), I realized that there are so many people who need safe and decent housing.”
When she’s not hard at work at Habitat, Ash has a plethora of hobbies; doing art, reading—“almost to the point of it being an unhealthy obsession,” she laughed—playing the flute, guitar, ukulele and learning how to play the piano.
Once she graduates, Ash said she would either like to work in a marketing agency or somewhere where she can do something similar to what she is doing at Habitat this summer. “After working at Habitat, I thought, maybe event planning,” she said with a smile. Whatever Ash decides to do, if her work at Habitat this summer is any indication, she has a bright future ahead of her.