Nov. 7, 2017

Alumni Spotlight: Zoë Klintberg BA'10 (Interdisciplinary)

Arts alumni are an accomplished crew. They have great advice for students and fellow graduates, and know that arts degrees teach skills that are sought-after in the professional environment.
Zoë Klintberg BA'10 (Interdisciplinary)
Zoë Klintberg BA'10 Kelly Hofer

Zoë Klintberg BA'10, is the co-founder and Head of Creative at RocketHouse, an event and entertainment company with a focus on producing live, impactful experiences. She heads up the creative and visual aspects of their projects and the overall direction of the company which can mean anything from costume design to story scripting to live performance to overall branding. Learn more at

What is your favourite University of Calgary memory?

For my last assignment of GNST500 (a full year course that was proceeded by GNST300, another full year course) I decided to try something different and create a photo-based graphic novel to express the concepts we’d been learning for two years. Luckily I had a really exceptional professor, Margo Husby-Scheelar (now, sadly, deceased), that not only allowed but also encouraged these types of projects. I put a huge amount of planning and work into it, probably to the detriment of my other classes. But, luckily, it became some of the best work I’ve ever done and allowed me to team up with people I still work with to this day (including my business partner and soon-to-be husband, Steve). And for those who are wondering, yes I got an A+ on that assignment.

What was your favourite campus hang out spot?

I spent a lot of time in the clubs office area when I was looking for a conversation or a group to hang out with. But I’d have to say that the area I spent the most time around was the second floor of Mac Hall - especially near the big windows on the north side. The big chairs and couches under those high up mirrored ceilings made the space perfect for chatting with friends, doing homework, or just staring into space and forgetting about all the work I was supposed to be doing. It was also my choice location for a quick nap.

If you could give one piece of advice to an undergraduate completing the same degree that you did, what would it be?

Find the loopholes that allow you to get creative and take full advantage of your classes and assignments. If there’s any leeway in the medium you can use for a project then challenge yourself to step outside of convention. You’re going to use the skills you learn in university in the “real world” one day, so now is a great time to figure out how to make even mundane assignments interesting to you and your audience. You will learn your own strengths and weaknesses much more easily when you don’t let your work get stagnant, lazy, or boring.

How has your career evolved?

Well, I definitely didn’t start a company right away after university. I worked the rounds of odd jobs and then eventually secured some larger roles of supervisory and administrative positions, but those were largely unrelated to my degree or passion. When I eventually decided to take the leap and start a company with Steve it felt, in some ways, like a backwards career move because of all the grunt work that's part of starting and running a small business. Being an entrepreneur can be back-breaking work and requires a lot of versatility. As exciting as some of our work is, a lot of the behind-the-scenes is not very glamourous. Now that RocketHouse is four years on I feel like I can finally start handing off some of those odd jobs to other people and focus more on my creative responsibilities but I don't think I'll ever get to the point where I have an easily defined job description.

What is the best thing about your job?

My work location in any given week might be a different office, or building, or city, or country than the week before. I get to experience some truly inspiring events and shows, sometimes because RocketHouse is a part of the production and sometimes just because I want to stay up to date on what’s happening in the live experience industry. So I guess the best part of my job is that sense of variety - there are always new places to go, new people to meet, and new ideas to share.

How did your arts degree help you get to where you are now/your current career?

The strength of a BA is that it allows you to zoom out and see the bigger picture of how various disciplines relate to each other and work together. Being an entrepreneur forces you to take on a lot of different types of work - more types than most classes or degrees can prepare you for, so understanding how to extrapolate and find the larger context is invaluable. My art degree also allowed me to have more flexibility with my education so that I could choose classes that were actually relevant to the type of work I wanted to do rather than the type of work that was standard at the time. The last five years of my life have been a very steep learning curve and if I hadn't been taught how to learn on my own terms throughout university I don't think I would be anywhere near where I am today.

Any last thoughts?

I'd just add that it's nearly impossible to do anything that hasn't been helped or influenced by others so it's important to surround yourself with people and ideas that challenge and inspire you.