Peter Joynt has won a brand new car and he’s won thousands of dollars in cash, but it’s his current job at Shopify that’s left him most feeling like he’s won the lottery.
As a culture content producer for the Ottawa-based Canadian e-commerce giant, the local rap artist has spent the past two years boosting the spirits of his colleagues and finding ways to make them feel connected to one another.
Each week, Joynt, 42, produces a company Town Hall that’s live-streamed to Shopify employees around the world. He also began creating, in his spare time, short videos. They’re included in the email blasts that he sends out to promote the Town Halls. And here’s the thing: his videos have really caught on. Big time.
“I started to do these fun videos just to try and bring these folks some joy,” said Joynt during a video interview from his Wellington West home. Hanging behind him are several skateboards from his prized collection.
Shopify employees – similar to office workers elsewhere – have been doing their jobs remotely since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Gone are the amazing amenities – the go-kart track, yoga studio, gourmet cafeteria food, etc. – that were previously available to staff at Shopify’s one-time head office at 150 Elgin St.
“As we transitioned to this digital-by-design model, I thought long and hard about how do we bring that vibe, that incredibly quirky fun vibe, into a digital world,” said Joynt. “So, the best way I knew how was to start creating these videos, where some would have to do with work content and some would be totally random.”
Practical and funny
Joynt has permission to now spend part of his work week on the videos. His dozens of visual creations range from 30 seconds to a few minutes. In one video, he spoofs a 1980s Juicy Fruit chewing gum commercial. In another, he’s more practical – but equally funny – by giving tips on how to avoid Slack bombing (repetitive direct messaging). Then, there’s his captivating broom guitar performance near the Parkdale Market.
Joynt also wrote an original song that he performed in a music video format to mark the end of employees getting Fridays off work during the summer.
“The last two years have been so strange and so tough as we’ve all transitioned to working from home,” said Joynt, whose wife also works remotely and whose kids just finished their latest stint of online school. “We’re all having to dig deep and learn this new way of living and figuring out what this new normal is all about.”
Joynt understands more than most the importance of remaining positive and resilient during times of adversity.
As a kid, he was the subject of bullying and teasing due to his speech impediment. He turned to music and to writing as a creative outlet, discovering that his stutter disappeared when he was rapping.
The graduate of Nepean High School and Carleton University has visited public schools to share his story with students. He’s also collaborated musically with such organizations as the Ottawa Senators.
“This stutter that was hugely challenging to deal with as a kid is now a tool. It’s this thing that has allowed me to relate to folks. It’s changed the way I see the world. I lead with kindness. I give the people the time and space they need to speak or to listen or to do their thing. I think that’s really kind of guided me a lot in life.”
Joynt joined the Culture team at Shopify in December 2019, a few months before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
He considers his job one of his three big wins, with the other two being winning a new car in a Tim Hortons’ Roll Up The Rim contest and winning $13,000 in a 50-50 draw at an Ottawa Redblacks game.
He underwent multiple interviews over a two-and-a-half-month period and beat out more than 600 applicants for his Shopify position. He brought with him more than 18 years of communications experience.
When Joynt started, he hosted the in-person town halls. He was quite surprised that they asked him to take on the role, knowing he had a speech disorder.
'They celebrate people's differences'
“For Shopify to say that they wanted me to do that was so cool; they truly recognize and celebrate people’s differences,” said Joynt, who gets a little teary-eyed while talking about how inclusive his employer is.
Joynt also lauded Shopify for the vital role it has played during the pandemic.
“When all these small businesses were shut down and transitioning to online, Shopify helped them survive and thrive.”
He believes companies that embrace the remote workplace model must reinvent their culture in order to recruit and hold onto talent. It’s up to these businesses to bring “the fun factor” to employees’ home offices, he said.
“I feel like a lot of people think ‘fun’ isn’t work. They think you’re supposed to be working, you should be doing your job. But ‘fun’ is actually very important because of all those things, like culture, retention and just general good vibes.
“I think fun is super important.”
Five Things To Know About Peter Joynt
- In 2017, the late Rabbi Reuven Bulka presented him with a Kindness Award for his work in the community.
- Well-known Ottawa artist Andrew King emceed his wedding. Joynt and his wife, Marjorie, chief of staff with National Defence, have two daughters, ages five and seven.
- His father is Ottawa angel investor and former Deloitte partner Carman Joynt, while his mother is Anne Joynt, a former president and CEO of Canada Post. “No pressure, no pressure,” Joynt jokes of being the son of successful parents.
- He owns about 70 vintage skateboards and at one time was one of the top collectors in the country.
- He’s still holding onto a pair of concert tickets to see his favourite band, Rage Against the Machine. He’s yet to ever see it perform live. He was to finally get the chance when the band was slated to play Bluesfest in 2020 as part of its reunion tour. Sadly, everything got cancelled because of COVID.