With more than 30 years of experience in marketing leadership roles, as Vice President of Marketing at BlueShore Financial, Catharine Downes is responsible for leading the company’s marketing strategy, including brand management and digital and online communications. Previously, Catharine led marketing teams in several technology companies focused on the Canadian financial services sector and the international internal audit community. With an MA from McMaster University, plus roles on several not-for-profit boards, including the North Vancouver Museum & Archives Commission, Catharine is an accomplished executive who always stays open to learning – and trying – something new.
My first job ever was… A series of part-time jobs, including picking fruit in Niagara and tending bar at the local golf course. My first full-time job was doing market research and long-range strategic planning for an international engineering firm.
I chose my profession because… In truth, it may well be that my profession chose me. With each new role, you find out what you like, what you don’t, what your strengths are – and where you can grow. At every stage of your career you need to fully embrace opportunities to learn new things, and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
My proudest accomplishment is…The strategic rebranding work we did at BlueShore Financial several years ago when we reimagined a new brand and new name, transforming an established 70-year old traditional community credit union brand to a luxury full service boutique financial institution. In my personal life, it’s my two great kids – both adults now and wonderful people.
My boldest move to date was…Shifting out of B2B marketing in the technology sector to B2C marketing in financial services. It required me to rethink everything – positioning, promotion, branding, awareness building, personalization, analytics. Such a great learning experience.
I surprise people when I tell them…That back in the day, part of my job was to configure mainframe computers, branch networks and PCs as part of providing sales support in a banking system technology company. A true stretch for an English/History major…
My best advice to people starting their career is…Be open to change and embrace it. No matter how well planned and organized you might be, life has a way of throwing curve balls and often your best opportunities come out of those.
My best advice from a mentor was…To recognize that a big part of the success of any project or initiative is in listening, communicating and engaging all your stakeholders, all the way through the process. It’s usually more about the people than the processes or technology.
To me, effective leaders are… People who can create a compelling shared vision, effectively communicate it, and inspire others in bringing it to life.
My biggest setback was… When my dad passed away unexpectedly when I was 14. As the oldest of four kids, I became “second parent” overnight and you have to grow up pretty quickly.
I overcame it by… Working hard and focusing on my academic performance. It opened doors to the scholarships and funding I needed to pursue my education and ultimately my career.
Work/life balance is… All part of one big continuum. I don’t think there are hard and fast lines between work and “life”. Professional and personal interests, passions and commitments are so co-mingled and the mix is ever changing over time.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I’m a bit of a fantasy and sci-fi nerd. Still hoping for the day that Scotty will “beam me up”.
I stay inspired by… Learning something new every day. I’ve been so fortunate to have always had work colleagues and friends who’ve helped me expand my thinking and knowledge.
The future excites me because… The whole paradigm for marketing to consumers is undergoing such a seismic shift. Creating highly personalized client experiences, particularly in digital and social channels, that harness the power of “big data” analytics is really a key challenge for today’s marketers and businesses.
My next step is… Continuing to expand my contributions as a volunteer in my community.