Kelowna Women in Business: Media offers unique opportunities
Wesla Wong didn’t see a future for herself working in an office with no windows.
Tj found her dream career early on and lived by the adage of “giving it 110 per cent” of her commitment and effort to find success.
Both are working today in Kelowna’s media market, Wong as the Global Okanagan TV weather forecaster and Tj who, along with her husband Andy, has hosted the longest running morning radio show in Kelowna for the last 11 years.
This is the second go-around locally for Wong, who worked at different local media outlets and did freelance marketing until she landed an on-air job eight years ago with Global BC in Vancouver, which led her to become part of that station’s successful morning show.
“A lot of people thought I was nuts to move to Kelowna when I did originally, and then they thought I was nuts to move back again,” Wong laughs.
But Wong says she was growing tired of getting up at 2:45 a.m. on weekdays to do the Global BC morning show, and the prospect of buying a house in the Lower Mainland seemed an increasingly impossible dream.
She wanted to find a balance between work and lifestyle, and she didn’t see the Vancouver real estate market as enhancing that opportunity.
“After a while you get tired of renting, moving from rental to rental, with no hope of being able to save enough to make a down payment on a house.”
Wong grew up in North Vancouver and attended Capilano University to obtain her degree in criminology, with the idea of working for CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. But after graduation, she faced the prospect of having to move to Ottawa to pursue that dream, something she didn’t find attractive.
She then got a marketing job at Capilano University working with students. While she enjoyed working with her student piers “I just felt there had to be more to life than this,” sitting behind a desk surrounded by those four walls.
So she moved to Kelowna for the first time, despite her friends and family telling her she was crazy to leave her marketing job.
“It was a great job but it just wasn’t for me,” she said.
Wong moved to Kelowna and worked both in freelance marketing and part-time for CHBC, radio and the Shaw community television station.
“I had planned to stay here when the Global job came up and I decided to move back to Vancouver and pursue that. The timing wasn’t the greatest because I had just completed building a new house and then I was moving again,” Wong said.
While in Vancouver, she decided to pursue a post-graduate degree online in meteorology, enrolling in a program offered by Mississippi State. “Most of it was taking courses online but I did have to go to the campus down there for some of it.”
Besides becoming a bonafide weather forecaster, the course also changed her life in another way—she began a relationship with one of her fellow meteorology students, Duane English.
The two would mutually come to a decision it was time to leave the Vancouver rat race and relocate to Kelowna, with no immediate job prospects for either beyond the idea of starting up a freelance weather forecasting service.
But after returning to the Okanagan, long-time Global Okanagan weather forecaster Mike Roberts announced his retirement, and an opportunity for Wong and English to take over the on-air weather forecasting duties for Global Okanagan was created.
“It’s been really great in that both Duane and I get to discuss the weather, go over the graphs, and determine what the forecast will be,” she said.
“As a meteorologist, it’s really nice to have someone to bounce ideas off and interpret what the forecasting information is predicting rather than just having that discussion with yourself.”
She said living in Kelowna now, she is happy to have what she calls a normal life.
While the glamour of being a TV personality can be enticing, the hours and the stress take their toll.
“I get up in the morning now and look out the window and say to myself,’ Oh my God, I am so lucky to live in Kelowna.
“It’s interesting how things work out in your life. What I do now is not what I was thinking of doing when I went to university, but it all seems to have worked out in the end.”
For Tj, working in radio was a career choice that came to her early growing up in Kelowna.
She wanted to get into the radio business and got her first job working at the radio station CKIQ in 1987, which was owned then by current Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray.
She did everything at that station, from getting on-air gigs to marketing to blowing up balloons at weekend remote locations. It was the education that today students look for in attending broadcasting schools.
And it cemented her love for broadcasting, something she remains passionate about still today.
She left Kelowna for Edmonton to work in a larger media market, but she and her husband now are happy to be working these past 11 years at 101.5 EZ Rock.
“That is the prime time in broadcasting, to have a morning show, but it means my husband and I get up at 3:45 a.m. Monday to Friday,” she said. “By the end of the week on Friday night at 7 p.m. it’s hard to stay awake.”
Besides the odd hours, Andy and Tj also have a blended family of six kids, three of whom still live at home.
“It’s tough in the media business sometimes to find that balance between work and family, and that was really harder when the kids were younger…but it gets easier as the kids get older and we are fortunate that I have family who live in Kelowna, so we have a support network there.”
“I have loved the opportunity to be on radio and I still love it today. To me it’s the ultimate job and hopefully I will get to continue doing it for another 10 to 15 years until I retire,” she said. “Like anything in life, if you have a career dream you feel passionate about, go for it and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
“If you are passionate about it and give it a 110 per cent commitment, you will give yourself the opportunity to be successful.”