Small Business

Career Confidential: Ryan Archibald

The surreal work conditions, sketchy interviews and biz-etiquette lessons that shaped Vice Media's Canadian head

Written by As told to Alexandra Bosanac

Ryan Archibald, Managing director, Vice Media Canada, Toronto

Archibald turned a gig co-ordinating a punk magazine’s print run into a series of promotions that led to running the Canadian arm of what has become one of the world’s most influential media brands

FIRST JOB: When I was 14, I was a ride operator at Santa’s Village in Bracebridge, Ont. It’s a Christmas-themed amusement park. It was weird to work all summer with Christmas music blasting. Looking back on it, I was probably too young to be in charge of rides that little kids were on.

WORST JOB: Probably that job. The days were tortuously long. I’ve worked in retail, I’ve done odd jobs, I’ve done construction—but nothing came close to the crushing boredom I felt every day at Santa’s Village.

WORST JOB INTERVIEW: I was desperate to find a job after graduating from McGill. I studied economics, and I figured I had to do something related to that, so I applied to banks, investment firms, insurance companies and finally, because I just had to make some money, a few sales jobs. I didn’t knock any interviews out of the park. I went in for one at this electronics store in a real shabby building with no windows and a rusted-out door. The owner was a really sleazy, used-car salesman type of guy. He wouldn’t answer a bunch of the questions I had for him. I think he could tell I wasn’t interested.

BEST JOB INTERVIEW: When I applied at Vice in 2001, there wasn’t even a formal posting; I heard from someone who knew someone who was looking to hire someone. So I met [Vice partner] Erik Lavoie. I was in tune with the Vice “lifestyle”: I knew the magazine; I went to shows to see bands. Erik and I are the same age, which made the interview very relaxed. I think Erik probably just liked me and thought we’d get along.

BEST BOSS: I’d say Erik. He brought me on to be a production co-ordinator, and he really mentored me in the world of Vice. I learned a lot from him about how to get things done efficiently and how to interact with people in the business world. The magazine built him into a bit of a character, but he really isn’t a goofy person; he just has a gift for getting people to do what he wants them to do. One lesson he taught me: If you screw up, don’t give a thousand reasons for what happened. We’d forgotten to print an ad in the magazine, so I wrote a long explanatory email to the client. Erik told me that the client doesn’t give a shit about the reasons for a mistake. That stuck with me.

BEST PROMOTION: When I got bumped up from production to media sales at Vice around 2004. There’s a lot that goes into a business, but it’s the money that makes it go round. Seeing how the business ran from a sales and revenue perspective helped me learn how the whole company works. That is so important to understand.

This article is from the May 2016 issue of Canadian Business. Subscribe now!

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