From Co-op and Corporations to Music: Alumna Heather Hill

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Posted on September 11, 2013 by Jennifer Harris

Heather (Pirie) Hill’s website describes her as a “performing songwriter” with “roots in piano-pop rock.” But she also has roots in UWaterloo’s English department, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts degree in Language and Professional Writing. Given the different ways she’s applied her degrees, Heather seemed a perfect choice for a blog post.

JLH: What made you choose Waterloo?
HH: I chose Waterloo for the Applied Studies (Co-op) Arts program. I was very interested in rhetoric, philosophy and literature and wanted to experience the practical application of this education in industry. In addition to acquiring practical skills during my work terms like public relations and marketing writing, I was also able to pay for my degree with my co-op term earnings.

JLH: You’ve had an interesting career trajectory. Can you tell us a bit about it?
HH: I have had a very unorthodox career! Prior to university, I earned a piano performance degree from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. My first love has always been music. I decided instead of pursing another degree in music, I would expand on my other passion…words. It was fun to deviate from the rigors of daily practice and focus on writing. I ended up doing most of my work terms in technology. When I had completed my MA, my first full-time job combined marketing and technology.

I then learned that I loved product marketing. My employer at the time, Bell Canada, paid for my MBA in Marketing and Strategy at the Schulich School of Business. From there I joined a series of high tech start-ups. I worked on business plans, positioning, marketing communications, PR, promotions – whatever was required. After many years in management, I decided I needed to return to my music. I quit my VP of Business Development role with a wireless start-up, sold everything and went backpacking. Crazy right?

While traveling, something incredible happened…songs started pouring out. I was able to use my classical music training and my love of words. Finally the two worlds collided. I met my now husband (also a math grad from UWaterloo) and we moved to New York City. I cut my first album and we had our first baby. The rest is history – I am a mom, a musician and an active follower of all arts. I write songs with other artists, I perform across Canada, and I work on placing my songs in TV and film.

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