- By Colleen McNamara
Write, edit, write. Write, edit, write… plan. Then plan some more before writing again. Go to a meeting, then repeat.
If you’ve ever laid your eyes on a SweetIQ case study, eBook or product collateral, chances are Reinaldo “Rey” Calcaño penned the copy. Or, maybe you’ve seen us offline: talking retail and local at an event, or demoing our product at a booth — where Rey would have played a key role in developing the messaging concept. In short, when it comes to crafting our brand narrative, Rey has been instrumental in helping SweetIQ realize our voice.
In this LifeIQ feature, Rey walks us through his career path and describes how he got his start at SweetIQ.
Let’s start from the top! Where are you from?
I’m from Caracas, Venezuela; and I moved to Montreal about 10 years ago.
Interesting! How did you get your start in content?
Like many people in content, I studied communications and journalism in university. While pursuing my degree, I landed an internship at Leo Burnett – one of the biggest ad agencies in the world. That’s where I really started to learn about creative copywriting. Then, I got recruited by one of the most prominent creative directors in Latin America, Juan Carlos Bertorelli and I worked for his agency for 8 years. He taught me how to think creatively, challenge the obvious and avoid the pitfalls of being too literal or too boring. Two of the biggest hurdles to overcome in creative writing.
Ah! 8 years in the agency world – how was that?
It was intense, but great. I learned so much and I worked with a ton of interesting clients. The interesting part of working in advertising is that you get to write and create for different topics, sometimes in the span of a few hours. I found myself writing a TV spot for a brand of cheese one minute, and then a print ad for a major credit card company, followed by a radio spot for canned food. That taught me how to be versatile and flexible. Advertising also makes you grow a thicker skin when it comes to receiving feedback. Clients can be harsh and you cannot get attached to your work. You have to let it go. After a while, I moved on to the client side with Absolut Vodka, and helped launch their premium product in Venezuela.
It seems like your career was progressing well – what brought you to Canada?
At the time, things in Venezuela were starting to get rocky. I knew I wanted to move to another place, and essentially pointed my finger at a map and said, “ok, I’ll go there!” I was considering Toronto, but my boyfriend at the time spoke French so Montreal it was! Although I had never visited Canada before, I applied for my residency and soon after landed in The Great White North (though it was the summertime, thankfully!). Looking back, when you see the current situation of my country, it was the right decision.
What was the transition from Venezuela to Canada like?
Honestly, it was hard! I came here and it was all tourism at the beginning, but I soon realized I needed to really find work and get moving on my career again. Since I didn’t speak French, it turned out to be super tough. I found a job in customer service that wasn’t for me at all. I moved from having a very successful career – right on my desired path – to degressing. This happens a lot for immigrants coming to Canada; but, at the same time, the situation in Venezuela was getting worse and worse. Taking a few steps back in my career in exchange for peace seemed well worth it, so I don’t regret it one bit. I consider myself very privileged by just being in this wonderful country.
How did you keep your inspiration alive when you weren’t loving your new job?
Well – I did a Graduate Certificate in Design at Concordia University in my off time and I got to develop my own art practice under the pseudonym ReyMidax. It was definitely the right move to ensure I was going in a positive direction while doing something I was passionate about. Finally, I got a job with MaleBasics to build their social media presence and their branding from the ground up. I even ended up designing underwear for them! When you are an immigrant you will wear as many hats as needed to prove yourself. Ultimately, that catalyzed the development of my career here in Canada.
When did SweetIQ come in the picture?
After working at MaleBasics I was at a small start-up called Spundge and I absolutely loved the environment. There’s something really cool about working with people who are all pushing to get something done, and where everyone is fully on-board at all times. When I was there, a recruiter got in touch with me for an interview at SweetIQ.
What was your first impression of SweetIQ?
The interview process was great, as I connected with Liz, who’s now our Marketing Director and whom I have the pleasure now to call a friend. During the interview she asked me about my favorite books and I got to talk about how amazing Gabriel García Márquez is –pretty sweet deal. I clicked with the people, loved the vibe, and started pretty soon. I was drawn to the amount of women in management positions and the diversity of our office. I’m truly blessed to have found this home.
How would you describe your day-to-day?
Well, I try to write as MUCH as I can. But the truth is, to create really effective content, you need to do a ton of outreach within the company to get a solid idea of what people truly need to meet their goals. I crash Sales meetings and I always stay informed as to what’s happening in Product and Accounts. I’m the ears for the Marketing team and I help us plan ahead and prioritize content that feeds every part of the funnel – from initial touchpoint to retention. I really go into my man cave when I have to write one of our eBooks, I take the research phase pretty seriously, so you won’t see me around much when those are on my Trello board! They also go paired with ads, nurturing sequences, landing pages, infographics, adjusting for lead generation….the list is long…you get the picture.
As a creative person who is supposed to spend a ton of time on production, what are your tips and tricks for staying focused in an open-concept office?
It’s a skill that takes time. Every writer or content producer has to develop the skill to get into their own bubble to accomplish the day’s tasks! Get an amazing playlist, try to fight for a seat near a window with natural light, and book off time in your calendar when you really need to focus on production. Creativity is not a natural occurrence, you can train your brain to think creatively and to find different angles to the same issue.
#LifeIQ: What advice do you have for someone starting their career?
Learn as fast as you can. If you need to go back to school, don’t second-guess yourself: just go for it. Finally, apply those learnings effectively and quickly. Things move at a fast pace – so you need to fine-tune your knowledge and skills as much as possible! Try to start doing work as soon as you start studying. College teaches you a lot, but real life scenarios are invaluable learning opportunities….so don’t be afraid and start knocking doors as soon as possible. Also, balance your work world with things that you love. I unwind by dining, cooking, working on my art, and playing with my gender-confused puppy.
#LocalIQ: What’s your favorite spot in Montreal?