Virginia Brailey, Vice-President, Marketing and Strategy at ADP Canada believes fully in reaching beyond your career comfort zone, and bringing others along for the climb. Her advice? You should too.
By Hailey Eisen
“It’s not the act of jumping out of an airplane; it’s what’s you learn before the chute opens that really matters,” Virginia Brailey says. Learning on the job (and while skydiving) has been her approach throughout her 25-year career as a marketing leader, and it’s advice she shares with anyone looking to take their career to the next level.
“Every time there was a chance to get involved in a new area or take on a new challenge I jumped at it,” she recalls. “I have always considered myself lucky to have these opportunities to learn, even though it can be a lot of pressure to learn quickly.”
The result is an impressive career trajectory through natural resources, telecommunications, technology and now, as Vice-President, Marketing and Strategy at ADP Canada, in the human capital management industry. Virginia has tackled a number of specialties including corporate communications, product management and strategic planning in organizations of all sizes.
“Getting out of your comfort zone is the key,” she explains. “Assuming you have strong basic skills, there is no reason to turn your back on a great opportunity just because you lack years of experience. This goes for everything from a new job to a big project in your current role.”
Just like skydiving, taking on new opportunities requires a little bit of nerve and a great deal of trust in other people. “I talk to so many educated, smart women who feel they need to have one-hundred per cent of the skills or experiences to put up their hand for a new project, and this keeps them on the sidelines,” Virginia explains. “The truth is, there are always lots of people out there who can help you learn and you may find support in the most unlikely places to help you on that journey — you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.”
As a volunteer mentor with the American Marketing Association, she encourages others to view learning itself as a goal, as is the chance to see things from a different point-of-view by rolling up your sleeves to work alongside colleagues or specialists with whom you might not normally engage.
“The truth is, there are always lots of people out there who can help you learn and you may find support in the most unlikely places to help you on that journey — you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.”
“Taking on opportunities beyond your existing role or department is good for career advancement, but more importantly it helps you understand and respect the work and expertise other people bring, and what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes,” Virginia explains. “That’s information you can bring back and pass along to the people you’re helping on their journey. I like the phrase, ‘lifting as you climb,’ because I think the most important thing each of us can do at work is to help other people grow and learn.”
Her own challenges and experiences early in her career have contributed to Virginia’s commitment to encourage others. Working in traditional male environments in the natural resources and telecommunication sectors, Virginia heard plenty of discouraging messages, but looked to role models and mentors for guidance. “Earlier in my career at a predominantly male mining company, it was the president who was always quick to encourage me to run with new opportunities and that alone made a huge difference,” she recalls.
“I like the phrase, ‘lifting as you climb,’ because I think the most important thing each of us can do at work is to help other people grow and learn.”
At ADP, Virginia continues her mission of learning and teaching. “Leadership is a privileged obligation — both to teach others and to continue learning yourself,” she observes. “We have a wonderfully diverse group of senior leaders and associates, and I learn constantly — that’s a big part of what energizes me.”
While she is not planning to jump out of any more airplanes, Virginia explains she is still learning as she goes. “I actively surround myself with people of different backgrounds, experiences, and cultures — because there is so much power in diversity.”