Mac grad and wine expert reflects on unconventional career path

For Tracey Dobbin wine is more than just a drink – it’s an expression of culture and an industry rich in history and passion.

“I was drawn to the complexity of the aromas and the ability of a wine to tell its story – where it comes from, how it was made and so on,” she says. “It is alive and is constantly evolving in the bottle, and in your glass.”

And it’s that level of curiosity, fascination and appreciation that put her on a career journey that would lead to her current role as head educator for Autour Du Vin — a wine education program based out of both France and Canada.

A photo of Tracey Dobbin pictured from the waist up with her arms crossed in front of her and smiling at the camera. She is wearing a black shirt and there is some greenery out of focus behind her.
McMaster graduate Tracey Dobbin is the head educator for Autour Du Vin, a wine education program based out of both France and Canada.

“When I started learning about wine, I was impressed by the breadth of information – how many subjects ‘wine’ covers, from history, geology, biology, chemistry, commerce and the depth as so much is still unknown,” she says.

“When I started to research potential career opportunities, I realized that the wine industry is an umbrella term that encompasses a large range of careers […] from production and distribution to the sale of wine, there are countless fields in the wine industry.”

Taking a leap of faith

Wine wasn’t always what she thought she would do with her life. Before she made the transition, Dobbin received her MSc in occupational therapy from Mac in 2002 and was building a thriving career.

“The program was intensive, but the problem-based approach at McMaster fostered great camaraderie among classmates and lifelong friendships,” she says.

“It was a special time in my life and I have many cherished memories such as talking through projects while hiking and running through the extensive trails a few steps from campus, taking a break to catch a film at the Westdale, dinner parties with friends, sitting outside in Hess Village. Hamilton is a great student town and I thrived there.”

While seemingly unrelated on the surface, Dobbin says her time at Mac helped her develop the skills she needed to be professionally successful.

“My education at Mac provided with me with an invaluable set of skills and tools and the confidence to take on new challenges,” she says.

“I learned how to understand a problem, research, appraise and apply information to the problem, constantly question and evaluate and work effectively with others. This structured approach has been invaluable in shaping how I approach everything in my life.”

When it comes to being open to opportunities and following new career journeys Dobbin says it always takes a little bit of courage and can be exceptionally rewarding in the long run.

“Based on my own experiences, I would offer the following advice: Don’t limit yourself – take risks, learn and grow from your failures and keep moving towards your goals. Be inspired by challenges, be flexible and adapt to change.”

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