Megan Anderson is currently the Business Development Director at integrate.ai, after having proved herself as a stand-out associate at McKinsey & Company. Her latest passion project is co-leading #GoSponsorHer, a social campaign to accelerate the sponsorship of high potential women in Canada and beyond. The project was born out of a deep desire to empower the next generation of female CEOs and break the glass ceiling – for good.
My first job ever was… This is a complicated answer because I was a keener as a kid and loved working from a really early age, so I had many overlapping ”first” jobs. One was running my own business that offered babysitting services and running kids birthday parties. I went around the neighborhood starting at age 10 with flyers for “premium birthday parties and babysitting services” (I also had business cards which of course added instant credibility). I brought in a team (aka friends) and we would do everything from loot bags to organizing/running the programming. I also acted and sang up until my 20s. I worked on the Disney channel, in musical theatre productions and in several embarrassing commercials.
I decided to start my own thing because… I wanted to stop talking about what needed to be done and take action. When it comes to promoting gender diversity, it’s easy to become paralyzed by the magnitude of the problem. The final straw was hearing a young woman say that she avoided going out for meals with male clients because of fear of how it would be perceived. While there is no silver bullet, my co-founder Laura McGee and I knew sponsorship was a hugely important lever so we ran with it. We really wanted to encourage both up and coming women and senior executives to feel empowered to cultivate sponsorship relationships with a full spectrum of people (regardless of gender). We won’t move the needle if women or men shy away from these relationships – 80% of executives are men!
My education prepared me for where I am now by… Boosting my confidence. Going into university, I felt like a musical theatre kid who accidentally ended up at business school, but coming out, I felt like a badass business woman capable of anything.
My boldest move to date was… Leaving a great company and fast-tracked career at McKinsey to jump into the tech world. The opportunity to join the team at integrate.ai was too amazing to pass up. I am so excited to be a part of building a team, a product and, ultimately, a world-leading company out of Toronto.
I surprise people when I tell them… I am messy. Because I am very structured in most areas of my life, it surprises people (until they live with me for any period of time.) At the same time I hate having a messy home, so the paradox there is a real struggle (for my poor partner too!)
My best advice to people starting their career is… No one has the right answer. I spent the early days of my career thinking that my job was to get the answers out of people who knew more than me. I quickly realized that everybody is doing the best they can with incomplete information. Smart people don’t know the answers, they ask good questions and make quick decisions once they feel like they have up to 70% of the facts (Jeff Bezos says any more than this and you are too late.) I became way more impactful once I changed my mindset from “I need to get the answers from other people smarter than me” to “I can create an answer with help from others.”
My best advice from a mentor was… It’s hard to pick just one, I have had many amazing mentors and sponsors. One is from Nora Aufreiter: “Create a vision of what you where you want to be in 20 years and work backwards.” Turns out it is much easier to picture what I want in 20 years than it is to figure out what I want in 5!
“I became way more impactful once I changed my mindset from ‘I need to get the answers from other people smarter than me’ to ‘I can create an answer with help from others.'”
My biggest setback was… I am not sure that I believe in setbacks; I am a believer in “everything happens for a reason”. Having said that, two days before #GoSponsorHer launched my partner and I were rocked by some potentially life changing health news. On the surface this was certainly a major setback, but we got through it and it reminded me what is important in life. It was also a good check to ensure that I was surrounded by the right team. My team at integrate.ai was amazingly supportive through everything – I could not imagine going through it without their support.
I overcame it by… Reminding myself of my mom’s favourite adage that everything happens for a reason. These challenges make me stronger and more empathetic to others.
Work/life balance is… A myth! To me it is about integration: I live one life comprised of a bunch of activities and I don’t feel that I have to turn work on and off with a switch. I have a few principles:
- Realize that 9-5 is an artificial construct that doesn’t need to exist anymore in most knowledge jobs/industries. People give me energy so I still love going into the office most days and I do think that it is important to have some time for the team to be together for the sake of collaboration and creativity. But some Fridays I work from the cottage because I am more creative there, some Wednesday afternoons I do chores and some Sundays I work because I feel like I am “in the zone”.
- Prioritize ruthlessly as an individual and as a company. Jason Silver (our COO at integrate.ai) is a pro at this. Make sure you know what your 6 month objectives are as a company (there shouldn’t be too many!), identify your macro life priorities and set weekly and daily goals and daily priorities.
- Find and build your tribe. I have an amazing network of family, friends and supporters that I could not live without. These range from my partner and immediate family to childhood friends to colleagues but they have one thing in common – they have my back and I have theirs. To me life is a team sport (forgive my cheesy line here): giving and receiving help is key.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I LOVE sugar. Gummy worms, licorice, peanut M&Ms – you name it, I love it.
I stay inspired by… Taking lots of breaks by keeping up with my hobbies, getting outside and staying fit. I take brain breaks often throughout the day. I also love everything to do with the arts so I still do at least 1 musical a year (the last one was playing Elle Woods in Legally Blonde). I get to the cottage as much as I can during the summer, I take walks outside through the day and I make sure that my weekends are packed with outdoor activities. I love running and fitness so I exercise 5-6 times/week. I also have a 15K step goal/day which sounds aggressive but is pretty easy when you walk to work, walk during calls, and dance frequently at your standing desk (the last one is also entertaining for your team!)
The future excites me because… We live in a time of unprecedented speed of change. This means that everybody, no matter what their age or career stage, has a huge role to play in shaping the future. This is enormously exciting as a young person because I don’t feel that the constraint of “you need 25 years of experience to have impact” holds anymore.
My next step is… I have no idea! Having just started my new adventure at integrate.ai and recently launched #GoSponsorHer, my focus for now is growing both of those and making them as successful as possible.