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Meet Lesley Lawrence, the BDC senior executive helping entrepreneurs realize their dreams

Recently appointed to the role of Senior Vice President, Financing and Consulting, Ontario, Lesley Lawrence oversees Business Development Bank of Canada’s lending and consulting services in the province. She hadn’t planned on going into finance — Lesley holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto — but after more than 25 years in the financial services sector, she considers herself lucky to have found a career where she can help people realize their dreams.

Actively involved in the community, Lesley personally focuses on advancing entrepreneurship. In her role at BDC, she acts as national champion for the Bank’s Women Entrepreneur initiative. This includes work with Cisco’s Circle of Innovation, an internship program in cooperation with Cisco and Communitech. The program has partnered entrepreneurs across Canada with interns from the University of Waterloo to help grow companies’ digital presence, all while using Cisco technology to drive future growth, collaboration, and success.


My first job ever was…Working as a cashier at Miracle Food Mart grocery store. I did that job all through high school and university to pay for my education. I took summers off to work full time and came back and worked during the school year for 8 years.


My proudest accomplishment was…Being a strong role model for my daughter. Showing her you could be successful in your career and be a wife and mom at the same time.


My boldest move to date was…Moving my family from Toronto to Vancouver to take on a new role with increased responsibility and building a new team and a new region.


I surprise people when I tell them…I have an abundance of disco music on my phone.


I balance work and life by…Taking my dog for a walk, running, and experiencing new adventure as often as I can. I work hard, but ensure I make the time to enjoy my life.


My best advice from a mentor was…Be true to yourself. Always remember who you are is what got you to where you are.


Female entrepreneurs and funding is…My passion. I am proud of the work the team at Business Development Bank (BDC) has done in supporting women entrepreneurs as they represent one of the fastest growing market segments in Canada.


Engaging women in entrepreneurship is…Not only necessary, but key to the future success of the Canadian economy.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…I thrive on pushing myself outside my comfort zone. I enjoy a challenge and get enormous satisfaction when i inspire others around me to the same and realize success.


I stay inspired by…Surrounding myself with people of different backgrounds who bring new and interesting ideas to the table. I enjoy learning from others, especially millennials.


The future excites me because…Of the unknown. It challenges us to grow, expand our thinking, and evolve to succeed.


You helped find female entrepreneurs to match with interns at the University of Waterloo for the Cisco Women Entrepreneur program. How would you describe that experience?
It was a enjoyable and very rewarding experience. Partnering with Cisco gave us the opportunity to help women entrepreneurs leverage technology and obtain critical expertise to accelerate the growth of their business.


Are you an entrepreneur interested in leveraging technology to grow your company? Sign up for the Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Academy, with over 90 hours of free training on the technology basics that can help you understand the opportunities available to you and your business. Simply fill in this quick survey for access.