Former Rye students turned producers, innovators and entrepreneurs tell us how they got their dream careers without a degree
By Kosalan Kathiramalanathan and Jes Mason
Illustration by Khaled Badawi
Going to university or college is seen as almost a necessity for success in Canada, where at least 68 per cent of Canadians aged 25 to 64 had some form of post-secondary education in 2017. But some students are realizing that school might not be where it’s at.
Whether it’s because they felt that school was holding them back or that the traditional education system isn’t for them, students have been leaving school to find their own success. Here’s how three former Ryerson students did just that.
Mikayla Fasullo, former RTA studentM
IKAYLA FASULLO* KNEW that she wanted to get into the media game since elementary school. Spending time with her two older siblings who studied at Ryerson’s RTA media production and creative industries programs, she grew to be ingrained in the rhythm of being downtown and had her sights set on only one school.
“Honestly, Ryerson was the only school I applied to. I applied to three programs, all at Ryerson, because it was like no other school felt right for me.”
Eager and ready to take advantage of every opportunity before her, she had a personal goal to get an internship after every school year. In her first year, she managed to keep good on her promise and snagged a position at Mad Ruk Entertainment. But she soon realized that it would also be her last year at Ryerson.
“I just didn’t realize that doing those internships, the opportunities I wanted to get from them would actually lead to something faster than I thought,” she said.
Despite wanting to drop out after first year, she took a year off on the advice from a counsellor, but she remained committed to the path she picked and dropped out after her gap year. She started working right away with her brother on a short film called Sweetheart. This was the first time she was in a producing role and it’s one of her proudest moments.
The now 20-year-old Toronto-based producer is currently a freelancer. She has worked on set with Wiz Khalifa and Alessia Cara as well as recently produced music videos for Francesco Yates and content for Jessie Reyez’s upcoming album—just to name a few.
Mathew Mozaffari, former comp-sci studentM
ATHEW MOZAFFARI WENT to a high school that was highly focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and placed a great deal of importance in attending post-secondary. As someone who cherished both the analytical thinking in the STEM fields and the creative freedom that came with the arts, he took a middle path—computer science.
“With computer science [and] with programming, I felt like that would give me a toolkit that would allow me to build whatever I could think of, and I always felt creative,” he said.
He came to Ryerson because they offered to teach coding programs from scratch—something he hadn’t had a chance to get his hands on in high school. But after spending time in the program, Mozaffari noticed the languages they were being taught were outdated and obsolete compared to what the industry was using.
Mozaffari knew if he wanted to be competitive in the industry, he had to be one step ahead of everyone. So he began self-teaching using online courses such as those offered by Udemy, an online learning platform that teaches a variety of subjects.
“I learned so much [online]. And that’s where the transition [from school into the industry] started to happen.”
In the summer of second year, he developed an app called Speer which helped optimize wait times in clinics. The app caught the eye of St. Michael’s Hospital and was one of his first major projects. With a growing portfolio from several international hackathon competitions, he felt that he had the skills he needed to succeed and dropped out of school to work at a consulting firm.
After finding financial success, he took it one step further and returned to the app that helped him launch his career, founding a new company, Speer Technologies, where he’s a Solutions Architect.
Chiara Lucchetta, former journalism studentC
HIARA LUCCHETTA GREW up surrounded by artistic practices, going to both an arts-based middle school and an arts-based high school. So when she came to Ryerson in her first year to study journalism, she felt that it wasn’t the setting for her.
“Normal for me wasn’t a classroom setting. Going to art schools, it’s very different. And a lot of work you do is collaborative [and] hands-on.”
In order to follow her passions, Lucchetta ended up transferring and moved to Montreal to study dance at Concordia University. But still, she didn’t feel like it was the right place for her, despite enjoying both fields.
“I felt like I was missing out on opportunities. Being in school, I kind of felt restless in a classroom setting,”
After spending a year at Concordia she dropped out and moved back to Toronto. Lucchetta now holds a number of jobs, including teaching dance and fitness classes, digital marketing, running an arts magazine with her friend and the occasional dance gig here and there, such as dancing for the Toronto Argos during their last season.
While Lucchetta has her plate full with different jobs, she enjoys the flexibility it’s given in her life and wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I like the fact that I have these different sources of income and can still do both things that I love without having to sacrifice the other.”
*Fasullo is a former Eyeopener employee