Madelen on the beach in sunglasses

Collaborator Profile: Madelen Ortega

This month we’re featuring Madelen, our project manager and operations director. She’s been my collaborator since I started Backyard Creative. Madelen and I go way back!

We worked together at a communications agency for several years. When I launched Backyard Creative, she was starting her freelance consulting business, so we helped each other get established.

We also shared four different office spaces in four years, because we kept losing our sub-leases! I eventually moved to Nanaimo, and she moved to Edmonton. Over the years, Madelen has become a great friend and my business BFF.

A formative childhood

Although we know each other pretty well, I learned some interesting details about Madelen’s life through this profile. Her family emigrated to Canada from Chile in 1982, when she was eight, after living under Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship.

Their new life in Edmonton involved not only learning English, but also going to protests and fundraisers aimed at ending the Chilean dictatorship. Being a part of social activism at an early age fueled Madelen’s need to support the underdog and pursue a values-driven career.

Madelen knew she wanted to be a writer since she was young. In her teens, she dreamt of writing for Sassy magazine, a feminist/revolutionary publication. Sassy had a huge impact on her (and I read and loved it too!) Fun fact/life regret: Madelen had almost every issue of Sassy until the magazine folded. When she left home, she gave her mom permission to recycle the whole collection!

A typical ‘sassy’ family portrait! Madelen with her husband Carlos and their kiddos, Alessandro, and Lucia

Driven to make change

Eager to start writing for a living, Madelen wanted an applied post-secondary education, so she earned a diploma in journalism. She moved to the West Coast after graduation and began her career in non-profit publishing. She spent seven years working as a writer, project manager and managing editor on government-funded youth publications and websites (in the early days of the Internet).

Madelen then transitioned into the communications agency world and spent four years at Junxion Strategy. She was a lead consultant and also the squeaky wheel about improving processes. She eventually became the agency’s operations director, and led the development of new project management practices. And later, Madelen interviewed and hired me there!

An early morning selfie on the beach with Alessandro, Tofino, BC.

Working toward joy and balance

After having her first child, Alessandro, Madelen was burnt out. She wanted a healthier work/life balance. She launched MO/Consulting in 2010 to support progressive clients (I did the branding for her, of course). Madelen, Alessandro, and her hubby, Carlos, moved back to Edmonton after their second child, Lucia, was born, to be closer to family.

Outside of work, Madelen is pursuing a life well lived. She loves making memories with family and friends, and hosting lots of dinner parties and BBQs (pre-COVID). Going for bike rides and walks keeps her balanced and connected to nature.

She fuels her creativity at home through interior design, gardening, knitting, doing art and crafting with her kids. And she’s also super connected to her neighbourhood and is a regular community league and school volunteer.

Madelen and her daughter Lucia

Madelen is a huge fan of music and going to live shows (one of the perks of living in Vancouver). She’s travelled with her childhood friends to see U2 in concert over 20 times! And of course, one of her happy places is her reading corner, where she devours books, digital news and magazines.

Madelen with her friends Tasia, Irene, and Connor (with a drumstick from the drummer!) in the front row after a U2 concert, San Jose, CA

Our ongoing collaboration

Madelen and I really bond over our drive to make a difference, and our commitment to the four sustainability pillars. It’s also important for us to create a positive work culture that prioritizes life and health.

She loves all the good work we’ve done together and collaborating with, and learning from, our amazing team. She’s really proud of the social impacts we’ve made working with the RCMP’s Crime Prevention Services, especially the Youth Healthy Relationships campaign.

Lisa (with Hazel) visiting Madelen (with Lucia) at home in Edmonton, AB.

After all these years, Madelen and I are still loving our collaboration, and we have a lot of great work left to do.

Do you have a communications project you’d like our team’s help with? Get in touch today!