From practicum student to Program Director: 25 years and an immensely rewarding journey of friendship.
JT Aujla, WJS Program director
“I loved working with all the individuals in social services and it felt good that I was making a difference in their lives…”
If you were to go back in time 25-years to meet Jatinder “JT” Aujla on the day she attended a guest orientation at Kwantlen College to tell her that social services are her destiny, she probably wouldn’t believe it!
That’s because earlier in the morning of that day, JT’s elder brother happened to see the college’s newspaper ad promoting the Community Support Worker Program taking place later in the afternoon, and she was just about to find out how soulful her life’s work could become. Like many young professionals who share the goal of helping people in their careers, social services not only fueled JT’s passion of making a difference for individuals in need, but it came with the added value of creating lifelong friendships and a realization of the innate leadership qualities she possessed.
“I loved working with all the individuals in social services and it felt good that I was making a difference in their lives by just doing simple things as saying ‘hi’, smiling at them, listening to them and acknowledging their presence,” JT reflected on her beginnings.
Amazingly, one of these lifelong friendships began almost immediately. During her final practicum taking place at WJS Canada, she met a fellow who was non-verbal, autistic, and prone to aggressive outbursts, but he would help her discover important lessons that were key to her evolvement not only in the field of social services, but also with WJS Canada.
“After finishing my [post-secondary] education, it was time to put everything I had learned into practice, but what I learned after a few days is that every individual is different, whatever we learned in theory might not work in practice for each individuals’ needs.”
Fast forward to today, where this individual is still greatly benefitting from JT’s dedication to the field despite her inheriting a busy schedule in her role as Director of Specialized Outreach Services. To maintain the most ideal settings in his life, JT keeps her old office in the basement of his care home and stays in touch with his family. Sometimes it only takes JT’s presence in the room or the touch of her hand to help relax this companion she’s become so important to.
“I have a real close bond with him,” JT adds. “We have grown up together and I cherish the relationship that we have.”
There would be more catalysts to both career and personal growth for JT, as she was given every opportunity by her management mentors such as Lynn Wanamaker, another 25-year WJS employee, to enhance her skills and delivery quality work.
“I love challenges and my main motivation is to learn more,” JT explains.
By spending time with managers in their offices during their breaks, she could become more familiar with their roles, but it was the support received outside of work that JT also appreciated especially.
“I love that WJS provides its employees with a work/life balance, competitive wages, job security, training, support from management and a good working environment. I committed to WJS because they’ve always been very accommodating to my personal needs.”
Even after taking on heavier responsibilities as Program Director, JT carried on the tradition of flexibility provided to her by WJS. Along the way, she’s consistently showed a willingness to step outside of her job description, filling last-minute vacancies to make sure all her teams and person’s in her programs are looked after.
“You wear a lot of hats as a Program Director,” JT reveals.
“My rule as a director is quality assurance, making sure that we are providing the kind of care in our programs that the persons deserve. I make sure all of our teams are able to reflect the WJS values through their work because you have to be flexible in this industry and put the needs of others before your own.”
It is this selflessness and tenacity that brings us to today, with JT now leading six unique social services programs with WJS and continuing to lead by example. Her best advice for others considering this industry? Volunteer your time to gain the valuable knowledge and friendships as she did, because even the simplest of actions can make a world of difference.