Trading his Job in the Trades: Kyle Napier’s Story of Career Transitions and New Opportunities
“It's really hard to anticipate what your story is going to look like. You might write some things down, you might have a plan for what things would be like, but it's really difficult to predict. The story that you do write, that's the type of ancestor that you will be known as, and that's how your future generations or people in the community are going to know you. You’re going to have a legacy. How do you want to be remembered and what do you want to be remembered by? What steps do you have to take to get there?” asks Kyle Napier of Fort Smith, Northwest Territories.
Napier just got his Masters of Arts in Communications and Technology and has a Bachelor of Communications Journalism. He got started in his field when he wanted free concert tickets so he asked the local paper if he could interview the musicians and write a story. That first story led to work in music journalism reviewing albums. He now works as an audio visual technician and has run sound boards for thousands of concerts, festivals, and events, attending weekly free concerts and helping bands sound better, alongside many other jobs.
He did a field school as part of his bachelor’s degree where he got to visit different reserves and was inspired to think about how he could tie his interests together, to contribute around Indigenous languages, sovereignty and the knowledge of elders and their connection to land. Learning his language was something else he decided to do.
“Having been somewhere else and then returning, it really amplified the importance of home and that home fire.”
Growing up, Napier lived in a community of only 11 people before moving to a community with 250 people. When he was six, his mom met someone from Philadelphia and moved him there. He was homeschooled for a year before attending a mainstream school. His family moved every year and he struggled with making and losing friends. He ended up graduating from high school in Calgary and went into plumbing, work he loved and found challenging, with no shortage of opportunities.
What he didn’t love was working outside in the winter. He was living in the Northwest Territories and he applied for work at the Youth Centre, where he worked for a number of years in different roles before moving onto work with the Business Development Services center. These were jobs he didn’t technically have qualifications for, but he put himself out there and people in his community were willing to give him a chance. From there, he went into music journalism and audio engineering and he’s still trying new things, working on designing a video game in his language which has 300 speakers.
“Thinking in a language other than English, thinking in your ancestral language, really does change your worldview”
“Video game design is a culmination of everything you've ever learned in your life to edit a game, to create a game. You're thinking about how humans interact with you, about how animals interact. You're thinking about how the player engages with the game, what keeps someone hooked, what allows someone to learn while making it not feel like they're learning? You don't want it to feel like it's a classroom, you want it to feel like it's a video game, but people happen to learn the language while they're playing,” he reflects.
Now on the board of Native land maps, a well-known GIS page which partners with TakingITGlobal to deliver Whose.Land, Napier learned about an opportunity to work with TakingITGlobal's Connected North program as a school lead. “I'm a tech person by nature and so it feels easy to transfer all these skills from before into being a passionate educator now in the classroom,” she explains.
After his experiences moving abroad, he has advice for youth leaving their home community for something new. “Don’t be shy,” he advises, suggesting you ask around your community and find out if anyone knows people in the place you are moving who could ease the transition. He suggests looking for language and culture groups in a new community to make friends.
His other advice is “don't let insecurities or being shy be a barrier to your own success. One of the best things that I've ever, ever done is to just go for it, even if you don't think that you qualify for something, just apply because you don't know who else is applying or who else is shy, and you might be the perfect candidate for that. Or you might find a passion that you've never realized that's within you,” he recommends.
As a plumber, he had no idea working with you would become a passion of his. Ultimately, he suggests being open to new life experiences. “Having those diverse life experiences really help you to reimagine not only a better and more solid future for yourself, but for the folks that will follow you or for your community,” he shares.
He had some bumps along the way in his journey. When he first moved down south for school with a few thousands dollars from plumbing, he didn’t have money for housing and had to couchsurf and find places that offered free food to make ends meet. His family didn’t have means to help him. The experience motivated him to want to share about his experiences and also to work hard.
If he could give his younger self advice it would be to follow his intuition and trust himself. He also wishes he knew to not put so much pressure on himself to achieve a certain outcome but to just spend time with cool people and see where the connections lead. “If you're interested in something, just call someone who is also interested in it, because people love to talk about what they're passionate about,” he advises, knowing those conversations can lead to advice on how to move forward in the field you’re interested in.
He didn’t know what his story was going to look like, but the one Kyle Napier has written for himself has determined the kind of ancestor he’s going to be and the legacy he’s going to leave. Working with youth, engaging with his language, helping people make music and designing video games, he’s creating opportunities for learning and engagement. He came from a community of just 11 people and now has an extensive network that opens doors to new opportunities every day.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.