How to Get Hired in an Age of Disruption

An executive search professional with over 25 years of experience in the industry, Lisa Knight, Managing Partner at Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge, has made a career of knowing what organizations are looking for in a candidate. Today, your ability to excel in a changing environment will be what sets you apart.


By Lisa Knight



Today’s job seekers are entering a market characterized by relentless and active flux. In both the private and public sectors, and in organizations of all sizes, change has become the only constant. New technologies are altering the ways in which organizations work and creating higher customer expectations than ever before. Digital disruption is introducing new market entrants into virtually every industry, spurring unprecedented levels of competition. These trends are putting organizations under exceptional pressure to evolve, innovate, and rapidly transform themselves.

Not surprisingly, they are also having a knock-on effect on job candidates. Gone are the days when the right experience was enough to secure you a job. Now, it’s just table stakes. Instead, organizations are coming to understand that business breakthroughs require leaders and team members who can drive results in an evolving culture. To truly capture the attention of today’s hiring managers, then, you need to demonstrate your ability to take part in—and potentially lead—the transformation.


The sought-after skills

Differentiating yourself in today’s crowded and changing market calls for a new approach to job seeking. Rather than focusing only on your job-related skills and experience, you must also showcase a growing array of social skills, interpersonal attributes, and emotional intelligence quotients (EQ). Ultimately, hiring managers are looking for people with the ability to:

  • Innovate. To deliver on spiralling customer and stakeholder expectations, organizations need people capable of taking measured risks, proposing new ideas, and advancing creative solutions to both existing and emerging challenges.
  • Demonstrate a high EQ. Experience shows that people with a strong EQ are highly-effective problem solvers. For job candidates, this means demonstrating qualities such as self-awareness, self-control, strong personal motivation, empathy for others, and the ability to collaborate and manage change.
  • Prioritize. Organizations are assailed by a huge range of competing projects and goals—which means their people need the ability to prioritize initiatives that align with the organization’s objectives, values, and culture.
  • Be resilient. Transformation is disruptive, which means sought-after employees are typically those capable of overcoming or quickly recovering from difficult conditions, and reacting calmly under pressure.
  • Exhibit agility. To remain agile, organizations must be able to respond rapidly to shifting trends or expectations. That explains why they favour employees with agility—those capable of confidently navigating changing environments, reassessing the effectiveness of their approaches, and adapting in response.
  • Provide measurable impact. Given the pressure to perform, organizations need people capable of making a tangible—and quantifiable—difference to their bottom line, productivity, or efficiency. Wherever possible, share metrics that describe how your actions made a measurable impact.


Finding a cultural fit

All that said, it’s worth remembering that there is a delicate balance between driving positive change and inciting negative disruption. That balance will be dictated by a prospective employer’s values, which is why candidates must understand the extent to which their personal values mesh with organizational values if they hope to fit into the corporate culture.

While a values match must take place on a case-by-case basis, certain behaviours can help you demonstrate your skill as an innovator rather than a troublemaker. For instance, consider providing examples where you helped introduce forward-thinking initiatives while still respecting the past. Show how you have engaged in cross-functional collaboration that moved the needle on a major initiative without negatively affecting the business. And explain how you helped change the mindset of existing teams or team members while still valuing alternative approaches and diversity of thought.

Hiring managers must assess literally hundreds of candidates for almost every job. If you hope to stand out, you need to share your ability to transform at the pace of business.


Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge helps companies simplify the complexity associated with transforming their leadership and workforce so they can accelerate results, with less risk. As leaders in Executive, Interim and Mid-Level Search, Talent & Leadership Development and Career Solutions, we assist organizations in finding new talent, and helping their employees navigate change, become better leaders, develop better careers and transition into new jobs.

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The confidence gap — Three tools to level the playing field

As an advocate for young, career-seeking women, Lora Sprigings, Career Coach at Smith School of Business, founded the WIL Do initiative. This is a unique opportunity for young women at Smith to candidly discuss leadership and empowerment in a small group setting while creating space for females to build confidence by supporting and encouraging one another.

By Lora Sprigings

Today, women make up almost half of the workforce in Canada; yet men are twice as likely to hold senior management positions, according to a Conference Board of Canada report. One cause for this disparity is the level of confidence displayed by women versus men. At work, women are less likely to share their opinions and speak out than men. Yet a growing body of evidence suggests that confidence matters more than competence to workplace success, and it is this “confidence gap” that holds women back. Here are three strategies to bridge the gap.


Just do it

In a corporate environment, where performance is often judged by how well we achieve business objectives, women’s self-imposed barriers can limit career successes.

“Fake it ’til you make it” — the advice commonly cited as the panacea to overcome our lack of confidence — rarely results in a lasting transformation and can be viewed as disingenuous. A lack of confidence can cause us to play it safe and avoid taking chances. Yet the path to greater confidence requires a depth of resiliency that’s best found through failure and risk taking. Ironically, the antidote to our inaction is often simply to act, or “Just do it” as the Nike slogan says.

The more often we sidestep our fear and take on initiatives outside our comfort zone, the greater our reservoir of courage becomes. Ultimately, it is genuine accomplishment and hard work that fuel confidence.


It is not always about you

One of the key challenges facing women is a tendency to overvalue likeability in the workplace. This behaviour often starts in elementary school. Several studies have found that while girls are praised by teachers for good behaviour and staying quiet, boys are rewarded for effort and speaking out. Consequently, boys develop a deep-seated resiliency or growth mindset in which criticism seems to have little to no impact on their self-confidence.

Women’s fear of criticism is further compounded by the fact that women who exert confidence are often labelled as bossy, aggressive or intimidating; as found in the 2016 Women in the Workplace study. These comments are typically not associated with men. Women are also blamed more often for failures, penalized for self-promotion and judged more critically for perceived flaws in their professional demeanour or physical appearance.

So how do women counteract this tendency to fear and internalize critical feedback? Remember, it’s not always about you. Consider the source of the criticism, understand the potential motivation and, through honest self-reflection, decide if there is an element of truth to the criticism. You can then accept the feedback and course correct, or not. Criticism is never a reflection of self-worth. It is best seen as either a gift that opens the door to greater self-awareness or a window into another person’s character.


Find your voice

Women are often encouraged to find a mentor to guide and support them. But with the limited number of women at senior levels, this can prove challenging. A practice that is gaining momentum is peer mentorship, where like-minded women meet to discuss challenges, and offer advice and encouragement to one another on how best to navigate difficult terrain. Women benefit from diverse perspectives as well as the sense of empowerment that comes from knowing their struggle is also the struggle of others.

Together women can affect real change: gain the confidence to participate in class, request a promotion, or as the women on President Obama’s senior advisory team did, proactively echo and credit one another’s ideas when they are not acknowledged.

It is when we work together to empower one another and stand strong in our own self-worth that we will realize our true potential and build the confidence to become fearless in our pursuits.


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Learning about leadership in the great outdoors

When Gillian Riley, an EVP at Scotiabank, joined a 10-day hiking and rafting adventure organized by True Patriot Love, a charitable foundation supporting Canadian military families, she knew she would have the opportunity to mentor ill and injured veterans trying to build meaningful careers in the civilian world. She quickly realized that the mentorship went both ways.



By Shelley White





Following in the footsteps of famed Scottish explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie this summer was a “life-changing” experience for Gillian Riley.

She recalls the moment when her expedition team reached the rock where Mackenzie inscribed his name in 1793, becoming the first European to cross Canada from coast to coast. Exhausted from 10 days of hiking through B.C.’s Coast Mountains, white-water rafting and canoeing on the rough waters of the Bella Coola River, her team stood and sang “O Canada” together. Gillian says it was an emotional moment for all involved.

“Everyone cried,” says Gillian, Executive Vice President of Commercial Banking at Scotiabank. “It was so moving; I can’t even tell you. We’d been working together for 10 days and when we got there, it was that magical feeling of, ‘We did this – and no one has done this since he did it.’ Knowing that we got there as a team, it was very, very powerful.”


“It was that magical feeling of, ‘We did this – and no one has done this since he did it.’ Knowing that we got there as a team, it was very, very powerful.”


Gillian’s expedition was one of three challenging adventures sponsored by Scotiabank this summer in partnership with True Patriot Love, a charitable foundation that supports the mental, physical and social well-being of the 700,000 military families who live across Canada. Each expedition brought together influential Canadian business leaders with ill or injured armed forces veterans, providing mentorship opportunities for the soldiers and shining a light on the challenges veterans face when transitioning from military to civilian life.

Gillian notes that the only knowledge most people have about the combat experiences of military personnel is from books and movies.

“It seems far away and foreign. But when you talk to the military, you get an understanding of what they do to protect and serve our country and the passion with which they do that,” she says. “Many of them are third and fourth generation in the military and they feel such a duty to protect this country.”

The veterans on the expedition team were open about their experiences in combat and some of the challenges they have faced transitioning to civilian life. Gillian says that hiking up mountains allowed plenty of time for one-on-one conversations with her military teammates, as well as group discussions at day’s end.

“We spent a lot of time talking. They would share their stories with the group, with people asking questions and working through issues with them,” she says.

There was also plenty of fun on the trip, says Gillian, much of it involving card games like euchre. “I got an email from one of the military fellows this week and he said the best part of the trip for him was the card games,” she says. “Also, the laughter, the humor; I haven’t laughed that much in 10 years.”

Gillian says she went into the project knowing she would have the opportunity to mentor ill and injured veterans who are trying to build meaningful careers in the civilian world. But she quickly realized that the opportunity went two ways. In her role at Scotiabank, Gillian is an experienced leader, responsible for the strategic positioning and growth of the commercial banking division and leads a large sales force. But her time with the veterans reinforced that there is still more to learn.

“The things I learned from a leadership standpoint and a personal standpoint were enormous,” she says.

One of the most important things she learned is “followership,” an essential skill in the military.

“I had a specific mentee in the program, but I think he became more like a mentor for me,” says Gillian. “One of the things he taught me early on was, ‘A good leader is a good follower.’ It’s about listening a lot, asking open-ended questions before jumping into the answers. I’ve really been practicing that, just this week even. Learning when to sort of back off, to listen and hear and not jump in to try to solve something. That’s one of the big takeaways I’ve taken back and I’ve already shared with my teams.”


“‘A good leader is a good follower.’ It’s about listening a lot, asking open-ended questions before jumping into the answers.”


Having made those connections with her expedition team, Gillian says the bonds remain in place. She has been in communication by phone and email with several of her new friends and will continue to mentor and support them as they develop and explore post-military career paths.

It’s not just veterans that stand to gain when they transition to civilian jobs, notes Gillian. Canadian companies can benefit greatly from hiring veterans, and it is a practice in which Scotiabank is already involved. The way they are trained and the skills they develop in the military could be a boon to any organization.

“When you’re going into battle, you need to be well-trained, you need to be good under pressure; you need to be very disciplined,” she says. “There is so much opportunity to hire from the armed forces and I don’t think companies always understand that. I think the more we can help companies figure out how they can bring the military in their organizations, the better.”


It Started With Courage: How two female entrepreneurs from very different sectors found success

Since launching her Turbine by Lisa Drader-Murphy label in 1997, Lisa’s company, Lisa Drader-Murphy Designs, has grown to operate eponymous boutiques in three provinces all while manufacturing designs under a vertical model on a private heritage estate in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. As one of the last vertical fashion houses in the country, they take great pride in designing and manufacturing all their garments in Canada.

Kathy Gregory is the founding president and CEO of Paradigm Quest Inc., the fastest growing mortgage company in Canada. Providing a one-stop solution from origination to back-office mortgage solutions for lenders, enabled by revolutionary Fintech ― Paradigm has grown from a small start-up in 2004 to one of the leading financial tech and business processing companies in the country today, with $26 billion dollars in its portfolio, and major outsourcing contracts with Canadian chartered banks.  

While fashion and finance might not appear to have much in common, both Kathy and Lisa have a story of courage that started their business, have overcome challenges that have impacted their respective industries, and have balanced their longstanding success with motherhood. In this Q&A hosted by Deloitte Private, Kathy and Lisa open up about their entrepreneurial journey, and their advice for other women looking to follow in their footsteps.



Kathy, you founded Paradigm after being let go from your job in the financial industry. Some people would have been defeated by being fired — how did you find the strength to start your own business?

When I was terminated as an executive of the bank, I had three kids, a new home with a big mortgage, and I was newly divorced. I knew I needed security, but I also had a business model in my head and I wanted to pursue it. I did not want to live with regrets or in fear. I often eliminate fear by asking myself, ‘If I do this, and I fail, is anybody going to die?’ The answer was no, so I decided to go for it, and build something great.


Lisa, you started your business when you should have been off enjoying maternity leave. What happened that made you want to start your own business during such a busy time in your life?

I was on maternity leave from my job as a designer for a garment manufacturer that produced industry firefighter garments. My maternity leave replacement was not working out and my boss asked me to come back to work. I accepted, and they built a nursery in my office for my 9-day-old baby. Shortly afterward, I was walking my baby through the factory in an attempt to put her to sleep to the sound of sewing machines and I came across some long-forgotten fabric in an unused portion of the factory. I had a vision for what the fabric could be, and with my boss’ blessing I whipped up a dozen pieces and threw a fashion show in the boardroom. My boss was so impressed we agreed to go into business together.  


Kathy, not long after starting your company, you lived through the financial crisis of 2008. That must have been a challenging time as you tried to grow the assets and achieve break even. What lessons did you learn?

The 2008 crisis was shocking, but our first two years of being in business were way more stressful — limited capital and profile in financial services was a much more difficult hill to climb. From those start up days, we learned to always come together to solve problems as a leadership team, tackle the issue at hand dead on, and that full transparency and teamwork are everything. By the time 2008 came, we had already been through the ringer, and we had created a problem-solving culture.

You can make a plan as an entrepreneur, but you can’t plan for what you don’t know. You can’t predict challenges. Being prepared for whatever comes is the best advice I can give anyone; by surrounding yourself with a strong leadership team, with varied skill sets and the foundation of excellent governance. It’s not if, it’s when things might happen!


“You can make a plan as an entrepreneur, but you can’t plan for what you don’t know.”


Lisa, the retail industry has not been doing well the last couple years, but you’re expanding. What’s your secret and what can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?    

A few years ago retail entered a phase of disruption, and now it has entered crisis mode. We have never seen anything like the current market. The new generation is thoughtful, appreciates items of value in their life and are not interested in throw away clothes. They are ecological and like to know where their products come from, which is in-line with my business. I have a 100% vertical company, I own the design and manufacturing and thus can take an idea, create a sample and try it in our flagship store in two weeks. If the samples sell I can have them in all our locations with a very short turnaround. Most retail stores purchase clothing six months in advance, if they sell out that’s it, if they don’t work you are stuck with your inventory I don’t have that issue.  


What do you see as your biggest challenges in growing your company in the current environment? And what are you doing to overcome them?

Kathy: Our challenge and opportunity is the same — stay ahead! That’s enabled by two things: great technology and people. We spend time searching the globe to acquire the right people to bring the best technology and we now have the best  IT team, who have the view of the client experiences as their mandate, to bring solutions to the market faster and better for the overall client experience. Our IT team is engaged in searching and finding solutions in and outside of Canada, as globalization for Fintech is vitally important to stay ahead of the curve.  

Lisa: I’m celebrating 20 years in business with my label. For years, people would say I wasn’t doing it right. They wanted us to show our collections six months in advance, but I refused. Instead, I would invite my actual customers and show them in-season clothing and it really worked for us. The rest of the industry is now talking about the new fashion calendar, but that’s the way I have always done it.  


You have both received a number of significant awards. Has it opened more opportunities for you in the Canadian marketplace?

Kathy: The awards and recognitions have raised my own personal profile, and has opened doors for me. I have had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with some amazing women with better and more challenging stories than me, and that really pushes me.

Lisa: I was recently recognized, for the second year in a row, by Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEO Awards. I was hesitant to even respond to the nomination until the nominee reached out to me personally. She told me that I owe it to women to follow up, that there were so few women nominated and we all need to do our part and get women CEO’s more exposure. It has since opened doors in networking and mentorship, and one of the best things has been the young women that have come forward and asked me questions.  


Kathy, when you took to the stage to accept the Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship last year, you singled out Deloitte and thanked us for all our support — attributing your business’ success to the advice you received as a start-up. What a huge compliment.

Deloitte Private helped me develop my business idea and provided business advice in the initial years. It was critical for my new business to work with a reputable advisor like Deloitte, because it not only gave the organization much more credibility in the market, but was also tremendously helpful in building a strong governance foundation across the company. As my company grew, Deloitte was there to connect me with their financial institutions group to further grow my company.


Lisa, you recently participated in a Deloitte courage roadshow. Why is this topic important to you and your business?

My industry takes a lot of courage. I also felt it was really timely — we need to stop and focus on what we need to do next, because a lot of industries are being disrupted right now.


Both of you are not only successful entrepreneurs but also mothers. Do you have any advice for other working moms out there with a bright business idea?

Kathy: I’m most proud of being a mom to my three kids, but for sure the mom thing is very hard. It seems to me, we carry tremendous guilt and pressure to be perfect at being a mom and single moms don’t own all of that, it’s most moms. Many moms ask me how I do it. I answer that there are no perfect moms ― kids just want to be loved, so tell them and tell them often. Balanced doesn’t mean equal in number of hours, but it does mean balanced effort. To succeed I try to be very organized with my calendar. For example, for years now, everyone at the office knows that Wednesday is Kathy’s day to be with her kids. No office events, no client dinners ― that’s my for sure night with my kids. My kids know that Wednesday is our night too, no matter what one another’s schedule is. Like most things in life, nothing is perfect, but I think this is a good example of how being diligent at scheduling and being organized sets us up for success as much as we can.

Lisa: Balance has been my ongoing struggle. There are times when I master it and there are times when I feel like a complete failure. When my kids were much younger, we moved from Calgary to Nova Scotia to create work/family balance. When my daughter reached middle school, I expanded my business and opened more stores. It’s all about balance.


For more than 150 years, Deloitte Private has been assisting entrepreneurs in transforming Canada’s economy. We know that the journey to success requires strategic decision making and being opportunistic at the right moment. As Canada’s largest professional services advisor to private clients, we are passionate and committed to your future success — always looking ahead to anticipate your needs and prepare you for any unforeseen challenges ahead.  




Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!

Business leaders, here’s how you start taking diversity and inclusion seriously

We all know it should be a priority, but how do we begin to make it one? Terri Hartwell Easter of T.H. Easter Consulting,  a leading employee engagement, diversity and inclusion management, and human resources management firm based in Maryland, U.S., weighs in.


By Terri Hartwell Easter



You cannot pick up a newspaper without reading about our collective difficulty with issues of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and in society more generally. While most companies and organizations are publicly committed to diverse workforces, they seem to have trouble sustaining that commitment. So what is really going on?

Having worked with many different kinds of organizations on diversity and inclusion efforts, I have found that most of them see it as a tactic, or a box to check to meet regulatory or cultural mandates, as opposed to a strategic business imperative.   

What does it mean to approach diversity and inclusion as a strategic business imperative? It means recognizing that getting diverse people in the door is not the end goal. It means that diversity and inclusion initiatives are not isolated from the larger workforce in terms of engagement and performance. And just like any other business initiative, it means that an organization must articulate their business case for diversity and inclusion.

An important first step in developing sustainable diversity and inclusion programming is to assess the current state of leadership and organizational readiness. This step is foundational and is probably the single most important factor in the success or failure of diversity and inclusion initiatives. It is only through this analysis that we can assess whether the business case for diversity and inclusion aligns with an organization’s leaders’ vision, interest and readiness for the change that may be necessary to achieve sustainable outcomes and results.    

And it does require real change. It is not uncommon for diversity and inclusion strategic planning to go off the rails as the realization sets in that changes in behaviors, processes, and approaches, not to mention mindsets, are required for success. An organization’s financial and psychological investment in the status quo should not be underestimated.  

So we begin by asking hard questions, like:

  • What are your organization’s business imperatives for diversity & inclusion? Is there alignment among leaders (organization leadership, business unit leadership, board of directors) with the aspirations and vision for diversity and inclusion in your organization?
  • What is the nature of your organization’s leaders’ investment in the status quo with respect to diversity and inclusion? What are the cultural connections, power dynamics, and barriers to change?
  • What level of personal awareness do your organization’s leaders have with respect to concepts related to privilege, bias and inequities, and the dynamics of organizational and personal change?
  • How competent are your organization’s leaders in the skills necessary to change the culture and nurture an inclusive workplace, including adeptness in relationship building and management, trust building, exercising influence, leading change, and managing conflict?
  • How ready are your organization’s leaders to acknowledge and own the organization’s past failures or missed expectations for success? More importantly, how ready are they to now assume the responsibility and accountability necessary to achieve new goals for the organization’s talent management, including engagement, professional development, performance management, and sponsorship as a part of a diverse and inclusive workplace?

These are not small ticket items. These questions go to the heart of an organization’s culture, vision, values, and mission, which can cause considerable discomfort for some organizations and individuals. But if it is approached in a fact-based, business-minded way, it can be done without assigning any blame or shame. The goal is to have an honest dialogue — and to the degree that this is successful, it will help your leaders craft a very realistic strategic plan with appropriate goals and objectives.

Like any change effort, the process of implementing a new diversity and inclusion strategy will be slow and incremental. As anyone who has ever tried to change a lifelong habit can attest, behavioral change does not happen overnight — but it can be done. Approach it just as you would any new business initiative, use classic business process re-engineering techniques to understand where your organizational systems are working at cross-purposes with your diversity and inclusion aspirations, and use evidence-based practices to benchmark and best position your efforts for success.  

Diversity and inclusion is serious business.  It’s time to position your business to take it seriously.



As the former Chief Operating Officer of a top 100 national AmLaw legal practice and highly regarded organizational change strategist for leading professional services firms, commercial banks and the White House alike, Terri Hartwell Easter‘s trademark is bringing new approaches and innovative thinking to some of the toughest human resource management challenges. With a renowned diversity practice, Terri works with clients to frame day-to-day business through a lens of inclusion to attract and retain a more diverse workforce, and create pathways to business growth. 

To Close the Gender Gap, It’s a Matter Of Degrees

In Canada, less than a quarter of senior management positions are held by women, and that figure drops significantly looking up to the board level. The MBA has long been seen as a key enabler to improve these numbers, both for early- and mid-career women, but “age and stage” issues often drive decisions for women considering the degree.



With her engineering background, Christina Waters thought she would have to invest 20 years establishing herself before getting a high-impact management position. She was only six years into her career, though, and looking to speed up her progression. She figured a Queen’s MBA would do the trick, but then doubts began to creep in.

“I had to get over the impostor syndrome,” says Waters, now a Senior Director of Digital Transformation Services at GE Oil & Gas. “There’s this voice that says, ‘I don’t think I can do this.’”

In the end, Waters worked through her self-doubts and took the MBA plunge, much to her delight. “It was interesting talking to some of the other females in the program because you get to really know them in that one-year experience. We all went through this. We all hesitated. We all didn’t really believe we could do it, for whatever reason. I was glad I had that support network.” 

It is a common refrain that Gloria Saccon, director of Queen’s Executive MBA, hears often when she conducts information sessions with prospective students and alumni. “The guys talk about confidence but the women bring it up sooner.” For many, she says, developing a “humble confidence” is the biggest gift of completing an MBA. “It’s the ability to converse with other functional areas of the organization, add value to that conversation, and extract what they need to make their strategic decisions,” Saccon says. “It enables them to be more nimble and adapt in a very fast-paced business environment.”


“The guys talk about confidence but the women bring it up sooner”


In Canada, women fill roughly 35 percent of all management positions and just under 25 percent of senior management positions. According to one study, women hold only 16 percent of board seats at Financial Post 500 companies; 40 percent of companies have no female board directors.

The MBA has long been seen as a key enabler to boost these numbers, both for early- and mid-career women. Business schools are working hard to make their programs more flexible to attract a greater number of female applicants, ever mindful of “age and stage” issues. 

“The full-time MBA individuals tend to be in their late 20s and early 30s, some married and some single, the minority with families,” says Saccon. “With the EMBA, fast forward 10 or 15 years, and you’re working with people in senior management positions who have significant professional and personal commitments, such as raising young children or teenagers or looking after aging parents. For women, it can be complicated when they’re raising families. It’s a different conversation we’re having with them.”

Queen’s School of Business offers four MBA programs: a full-time MBA program in Kingston; an Accelerated MBA for those with an undergraduate business degree; an Executive MBA; and the Cornell-Queen’s dual degree EMBA.

In Queen’s full-time program, 42 percent are women, while in the EMBA program female representation is 22 percent. Saccon says there are three challenges for women considering an MBA program: achieving work-life balance; financial constraints; and return on investment, or “Will this help me to get to where I want to go?”

Saccon sees organizations being more proactive in bringing women into senior leadership positions and making allowances for those pursuing a graduate degree. “They understand that there’s more on the shoulders of someone who is in an EMBA program; that employee has a hard stop at 5 p.m.,” she says.

A small number of organizations offer financial assistance as well; in the case of the Queen’s EMBA, at most 25 percent of students have part of their tuition covered by their employers. “The full ticket is rare,” says Saccon, “but even if it’s half and the employer says, ‘Take the time you need for classes on our time,’ that’s golden. It shows they have some skin in the game.”

Women who have gone through the Queen’s MBA programs emphasize the support Queen’s provides in the way of tools, resources, and advice. They also highlight the importance of support from other women in the program and, particularly in the EMBA program, peer-to-peer learning.

That was certainly the case for Christina Waters. Her MBA experience “allowed me to go from my old company, a firm with annual revenues of $500 million, to GE’s start-up software company, GE Oil & Gas Digital, which is focused on fullstream oil and gas digital solutions.” 

“It’s amazing that you don’t know what doors are open to you until you go into this program and see how your thinking changes and how you change as a person and start to believe in yourself.” 

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Guiding the Giving: How Jacquie Ryan’s unorthodox career path led her to her dream job in sponsorship and philanthropy at Scotiabank

Jacquie Ryan wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after she graduated university with a degree in English and Film Studies, so she headed to Banff to coach skiing. The short-term job set her on a path to a long-term career, and she’s continued to let her passions guide her profession ever since.


By Katy Paul-Chowdhury



Are you an arts enthusiast, hockey parent, or marathon runner? If so, you have probably noticed that Scotiabank sponsors many of the events you love. Behind that powerful presence is Jacquie Ryan, the Bank’s vice president of sponsorship marketing and philanthropy.

Jacquie joined Scotiabank five years ago with the goal to focus its sponsorship program. Under her leadership, the Bank has been frequently recognized for its acclaimed programs including the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Scotiabank Community Hockey Sponsorship Program, and Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada. Over the past year, Jacquie and the team have focused the Bank’s Philanthropy efforts on young people in the community, including launching a research initiative that provides greater insight into the current state of young people in all areas where the Bank operates.

Jacquie’s route to her ground-breaking role in sponsorship marketing was not traditional. Unsure of the career she wanted to pursue, Jacquie headed to Banff to coach skiing after graduating from the University of Western Ontario with a degree in English and Film Studies. Of this experience, Jacquie says, “Skiing is my favourite sport. I love everything about the outdoors and became interested in the ski industry — PR, marketing, sales. This led to nine years working in Banff, New Zealand and Whistler. When I wondered if I should pursue a more traditional job my father said, ‘Bay Street will always be here. Focus on what you love and come back when you’re ready.’”  


“When I wondered if I should pursue a more traditional job my father said, ‘Bay Street will always be here. Focus on what you love and come back when you’re ready.'”


Jacquie eventually returned to Toronto to enroll in the George Brown College, Graduate Sports and Event Marketing program. During an internship at a sports marketing agency, she became excited by the opportunities she found in sponsorship and community marketing. Over the following years, Jacquie took on a series of agency and corporate positions where she was able to tackle increasingly complex and high-impact projects, including General Motor’s ski properties, RBC’s Olympic Program, and the RBC Foundation.  

Reflecting on her career path and the lessons she’s learned, Jacquie says, “Passion is my compass. It has taken me through every job I’ve had, and it’s what drives my best work. Find what is meaningful to you and use it to guide your career. You’ll get up every day wanting to learn and be happy to work hard. You’ll build your resume, your network, and a tremendous opportunity to give back to the next generation who are coming up behind you.”


“Passion is my compass.”


When she arrived at Scotiabank, Jacquie found a company that supported many programs, but wanted to make a deeper impact. “We decided to focus our resources in a few key areas that matter most to our customers: hockey, arts and marathons. That focus has substantially strengthened our brand equity. People know what we stand for. And now we are embarking on that same journey in philanthropy.”

Last year Scotiabank gave over $70 million in donations, sponsorships and other forms of assistance globally. Investing in communities has been a priority for Scotiabank for over 180 years, however the Bank saw an opportunity to be more focussed in its efforts to drive deeper impact. “We realized we could have the greatest impact on communities by investing in young people, particularly in their health, well-being and education.”

The principle of shared value says that a business’ competitiveness and the health of the surrounding community are mutually dependent. “In addition to Canada, we operate in many developing countries. Children are the path to social and economic prosperity and by investing in their health, well-being and education, we help build communities in which we will all thrive.” To guide its philanthropic giving, Scotiabank has created the Young People in the Community (YPC) Index, a scorecard of nineteen indicators that assesses health, wellbeing and education by country, and identifies the highest-priority investments with the greatest possibility of positive impact in each region.

The potential to help improve the wellbeing of so many is what energizes Jacquie after a lifetime of following her passions. “Working at Scotiabank on sponsorship and philanthropy is a very rewarding career, which I am thankful for every day.”



One male-dominated sector, two successful female entrepreneurs

Joanne Johnson and Sandra Dussault each have a successful manufacturing company, despite not having a background in the sector. How did they do it? A clear vision and smart business decision-making, including investments in technology. Brought together by the Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle initiative, we spoke to Joanne and Sandra about entrepreneurship, and their advice for other women looking to follow in their footsteps.


By Marie Moore



In Canada, women make up 47.5 per cent of the labour force. If you focus on the manufacturing sector, they represent just 28 per cent — a figure that hasn’t changed in 15 years. Which makes the stories of manufacturing entrepreneurs Joanne Johnson and Sandra Dussault all the more inspiring.

Joanne Johnson is the co-owner and president of Armstrong Monitoring Corporation, which manufactures life-saving gas detection and hazardous gas monitoring equipment. Purchasing the Ottawa-based business three years ago, Joanne and her husband have reinvigorated the over-thirty-year-old company, setting it up for future success. Sandra Dussault co-founded Vertical Suits with her husband in 2006. Starting out with one sewing machine in the spare bedroom of their basement apartment, the skydiving suit manufacturing company now has a fast-growing global customer base and their own facilities in Pitt Meadows, BC.

Neither Joanne nor Sandra come from a background in manufacturing, but their past experience and skill sets have been critical to their success in the sector. As an avid skydiver herself, Sandra was familiar with the product needs, and her background in graphic and web design enabled her to build a strong brand and online presence. Joanne didn’t know much about sensor technology, but as a seasoned entrepreneur with an ability to understand data, she knew she could add value to marketing, sales, finance, and HR.

For both Sandra and Joanne, it was the entrepreneurial lifestyle — including the freedom to pursue their own vision — that drew them into business ownership. “I like to be able to create my own environment and set the tone for how people interact with each other,” explains Joanne, “and focus on treating each other well, being innovative and having fun. When you own the business, you can make sure that those are key priorities.” 

Being the kind of person that’s well-suited to the ups, downs, and unknowns of entrepreneurship was also a big factor, adds Sandra. “For me, it has lots to do with personality. I always needed a challenge when I was working in a day job. I am very adventurous, so for me, entrepreneurship is more like an adventure and a challenge for myself. This is what makes me love running a business, and entrepreneurship.”

There’s also common ground between their very diverse businesses: both women point to technology as having played a role in changing how they operate. The gas detection equipment manufactured at Armstrong Monitoring used to be all analog signals, and Joanne and her husband have focused on transitioning to digital (now common in the industry). It allows for a lot more data capture, which has enabled them to better understand their customers, their environment, and their product’s performance. “It’s allowing us to design better equipment, manufacture better, and service our customers better,” says Joanne.  

Sandra, who leads IT decisions for Vertical Suits, oversaw the introduction of a robust online ordering system — saving countless hours in administration time that used to be spent manually entering information from PDFs. She looks forward to the day they can utilize body scans to take quick and accurate custom measurements, improving the process further. “If we could start working with those, it would be life-changing in our business,” she says. But while the technology exists, the challenge is making it available to the 98 per cent of her customers that aren’t local. In the meantime, she’s working with programmers to create a custom inventory system.

Knowing technology will play a role in their future success, they are both excited to be taking part in the Cisco Circle of Innovation program. In partnership with organizations including the Business Development Bank of Canada, the program pairs internship students from the University of Waterloo with women entrepreneurs. The aim is to help them build their digital strategy, scale and impact.

Marisa Duncan, their shared intern, points out that the program has been beneficial to her as well, providing access to mentorship and inspiration. “It’s helped me think a lot more about what I possibly want to do in entrepreneurship,” she explains. “And seeing people who have actually done it, makes me think that I can actually do it.”

Their success as entrepreneurs — especially in a male-dominated sector like manufacturing — can not only inspire the next generation of women business owners, but also help guide them. As role models, what advice to do they have for other women looking to follow in their footsteps?

Sandra believes a big key is sticking to your vision. And while you need to make sure you enjoy what you’re doing, “don’t be afraid to work hard,” she adds.  

Joanne looks to the pillars that have led to her own success as an entrepreneur: authenticity, persistence and courage. “Authenticity is really important — in every business, I always had a role that was aligned with my values and my skills so I could be me. The persistence — you just have to keep going. Whatever roadblocks you hit, you just have to go under them, go over them, go around them. And courage — not being afraid. Don’t let fear stop you from doing what you think is right.”


The Cisco Circle of Innovation program is one part of The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle initiative, which addresses some of the obstacles female-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. In partnership with organizations including the Business Development Bank of Canada, Cisco is connecting women to the expertise and knowledge needed for their entrepreneurial ventures to thrive. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for the free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy, and kickstart your journey towards business success.




Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!

The power of passion: How Kathy Hay has reinvigorated fundraising efforts for Women’s College Hospital

As President & CEO of Women’s College Hospital Foundation, Kathy Hay leads the team responsible for generating the private and community funding that’s required for WCH to close significant gaps in the healthcare system and continue to forge the path toward better healthcare for women and their families.


By Marie Moore



When the first fundraising campaign for Women’s College Hospital launched in 1916, the goal was to raise $120,000 (a few million in equivalent dollars today) to expand their space. How did they achieve it? Through the efforts of an ambitious campaign committee, whose members were mainly focused on persuading women in the community to contribute small amounts of their “milk money” toward the greater goal — and the greater good. It’s a fundraising model that has continued to work for WCH throughout the decades, even today.

“I think there has always been an entrepreneurial, innovating spirit at Women’s,” says Kathy Hay, president and CEO of Women’s College Hospital Foundation. “It reflects what we’ve been doing all along — pushing ahead with courage and tenacity, driven by a shared vision for the future of healthcare.”

Kathy has certainly been carrying on that trailblazing tradition. She joined the Foundation three years ago, taking on the leadership role with only two years left of a ten-year campaign to achieve an ambitious target of $70 million to help build a brand new, state-of-the-art facility for WCH. And while she calls her entry to the Foundation “simply an infusion of new energy,” there’s no doubt she was responsible for greatly reinvigorating the campaign’s fundraising efforts. Within her first year, that $70 million goal was surpassed and the campaign ultimately closed at $77 million. Even more incredible is the fact that this historic fundraising milestone was achieved without an anchor donation, relying instead on the generosity of 22,000 individual donors — a community effort reminiscent of the hospital’s very first campaign in 1916. 

Today, the Foundation’s donor community consists of over 33,000 individuals, foundations and corporate partners and, together, that community has broken fundraising records year after year since the close of the building campaign.

This success is testament to the strategic vision and strong values that have been the hallmarks of Kathy’s highly effective leadership. Using her authenticity and passion, Kathy has been able to communicate the funding needs of the hospital in terms of how they will revolutionize healthcare for women and for all Canadians — from a patient-centred, ambulatory approach that creates a better and more efficient healthcare experience, to community outreach efforts that provide support for marginalized and remote communities, to tackling specific gaps in care when it comes to women’s health.  

“This is work that impacts women and families far beyond the four walls of our institution,” says Kathy. “It is the groundbreaking research, new models of care and health system innovations that will give hope and healing to generation after generation of women and their families. We are incredibly privileged to work with a community of donors who share this hospital’s vision to create a stronger, more equitable healthcare system for everyone and who choose to invest in that vision.”  

Kathy’s own path into the fundraising profession started in South America. After a successful career in banking, she made a move to Brazil with her family and began looking for a new path that would allow her to give back. Working with the Canadian Consulate in Sao Paulo, she launched the Canadian Foundation and ultimately discovered her passion. Upon her return to Canada, Kathy found mentors to guide her career change. Her business acumen, talents and profound desire to effect change have since benefitted countless thousands of lives, and she shows no signs of slowing down.


“It is the groundbreaking research, new models of care and health system innovations that will give hope and healing to generation after generation of women and their families.” 


Atypical to most post-major-campaign environments, now that the new hospital is up and running, Kathy and her team’s efforts have only increased. “The opening of our new facility really marked the beginning of a bold new era of impact for Women’s College Hospital,” she says. “When people think about how they can help advance healthcare for women and create change across the entire healthcare system, we want them to think about WCH. The work we’re doing now to engage the community in this important work will fuel an extraordinary future for this hospital and for women and families all over Canada.”  

Kathy’s inspiring leadership has led to three years of record support and a wave of new donors that builds in size and momentum year after year. Her primary focus is on developing stronger relationships that can lead to transformational donations with enormous impact. She has recently been pivotal in bringing in an unprecedented $12 million collaborative gift to establish the Peter Gilgan Centre for Women’s Cancers at WCH, a new partnership between the community, the Gilgan family, the hospital and the Canadian Cancer Society to transform care for women’s cancers.

And these efforts mean more than establishing excellence of care, which Kathy views simply as a baseline. The aim of WCH is to ensure that when research discoveries or surgical innovations happen, there’s a natural distribution channel to scale up that solution across the system. “What this means to me, for example, is that a woman in Sioux Lookout, Ontario – where my dad’s family is from – may not die from cancer because she has access to the same level of care, resources and support as a woman who lives in downtown Toronto. This is powerful, impactful work, and the more the community supports this hospital, the broader that impact will be.”

Ultimately, Kathy is a leader who stands firmly in her values and believes that every success is the result of teamwork. She believes that no one person can change the world – that true change is only possible through the power of passion and the power of a team and a community working together.

“There’s a quote I love to share that, to me, articulates our values as a Foundation perfectly: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.’ Only together — as a team and as a community — can we create the extraordinary impact we envision. I have no doubt we’re going to go incredibly far.”



For more than 100 years Women’s College Hospital (WCH) has been developing revolutionary advances in healthcare, and working to close the health gaps that exist in healthcare for women because their unique needs are not taken into consideration. Today, WCH is a world leader in the health of women and Canada’s leading, academic ambulatory hospital. It focuses on delivering innovative solutions that address Canada’s most pressing issues related to population health, patient experience and system costs.
For more information about how WCH is transforming patient care, visit To find out how you can give and get involved, visit




Forget the Roadmap: How Janice MacLellan used lateral moves to make it to the top of the payroll profession

Juggling a busy life as a single mother of two and an avid volunteer, Janice MacLellan made strategic career choices — like turning down promotions and pursuing lateral moves — to facilitate better balance. The result? Her broad experience, notably 17 years in various roles with ADP, led her to the senior leadership team of The Canadian Payroll Association, an education and advocacy group impacting 1.5 million employers across the country.


By Hailey Eisen



“Don’t spend too much time mapping out your career, because careers are never straight lines.” That’s the advice Janice MacLellan has always given the women she mentors — and her own children for that matter. “If you’re too busy focusing on the roadmap,” she explains, “you might miss great opportunities that could lead to great experiences.”

For Janice, who is currently vice president, operations, with The Canadian Payroll Association (CPA), every job, project, course, and volunteer assignment she’s taken on over the course of her 36-year career has contributed to what she calls her “personal tool chest.”

“Everything you learn, in every job you do — you take that with you,” Janice says. While she says she had no idea she’d end up in the payroll industry — it wasn’t even on her radar when she started her career in banking — her passion for it is palpable. “I enjoyed banking, and everything I learned — especially working as a small business lender — contributed to my ability to succeed in the payroll industry.”

Raised in Ottawa, Janice went to St. Mary’s University to complete a dual-degree program in Commerce and Economics. From there she was recruited by RBC in Halifax into their management training program. After more than a decade with the bank, and a move to Toronto, she was working for the payroll service provider owned by RBC when it was acquired by ADP.


“Everything you learn, in every job you do — you take that with you”


Janice spent 17 years with ADP, where she was given the opportunity to lead special project teams, gain global business experience, and collaborate closely with the Canadian and provincial governments on business to government electronic initiatives, among other things. In her last role with ADP she was VP, comprehensive outsourcing services, and responsible for managing the payroll end-to-end administration of 3,500 Canadian and global employers.

As a single mother raising two kids (one who was a high-performance athlete), and as an avid volunteer, Janice had to learn how to prioritize and juggle her various work and life commitments. When her children were younger and in their teens, she thought carefully about her career moves in order to facilitate better balance. “I turned down some promotional opportunities because of the time demands and responsibilities, and instead chose some lateral moves that broadened my enterprise knowledge or gave me new skillsets,” she says.

Her decisions were hardly a compromise; while the roles were still at a director level, they were helping her gain experience she would need down the road, while giving her the flexibility to be there for her kids. “A career isn’t always in a vertical line up,” she says. “Making lateral moves often makes you a more well-rounded professional.”

Even her board and volunteer involvement was somewhat strategic. Her work in sports and the arts were combined with her children’s activities, and helped expand her social and business network. As an active volunteer within the payroll profession — spending many years on the board and as chairman and director of The Canadian Payroll Association, a not-for-profit dedicated to payroll education and advocacy — she gained knowledge directly applicable to her career. “ADP was highly supportive of my involvement in the organization and realized how valuable this volunteer work was in skill-development.”

With a long-term career goal of moving into the not-for-profit world, Janice was pleased when the opportunity arose in October 2015 to join The CPA professionally. She’s now a part of influencing the operational, compliance and technology policies and processes of payroll service and software providers, hundreds of thousands of small, medium, and large employers, as well as federal and provincial tax authorities. “I had been so involved in this association and this move felt like a nice segue toward the end of my career.”

In fact, she sees it as a culmination of the experience she’s gained throughout. “Both ADP and RBC were instrumental in developing my executive skills over the years, every job I ever had, not to mention my payroll industry knowledge from a technology and legislative perspective, and employer perspective — all of this I bring to The CPA table and it enables me to continue to represent the various stakeholders of the association and allows me to provide input to the association agenda,” she says.

Today she’s a strong advocate for the payroll profession and excited about the opportunities for education and employment opening up within the field. “When I look back over the years of my career, I have no regrets,” Janice says. “I started my career when women had to assert themselves to be equal to men — but I’ve never felt the impact of being a woman when it came to the opportunities I was afforded. The key for me was to always find organizations that were aligned with my own personal values, and to operate with integrity no matter what.”



In partnership with ADP, we’re highlighting the importance of strong leadership in finding, attracting and inspiring the talent to move organizations forward. Our evolving workplaces succeed when diverse voices and passionate leaders come team up. By celebrating Canada’s inspiring leaders, we can understand and nurture what it takes to build a better workforce. ADP provides the technology and expertise that helps Canadian organizations of all sizes to build and inspire the workforce they need to succeed.




Handling the leap: How a corporate executive became an entrepreneur

Shira Yoskovitch’s experience as a busy executive and caregiver — paired with her passion and talent for finding “that right thing” —  inspired her to create a personal shopping concierge service, Handled Concierge Services. She shares the lessons she learned in the process, and her best advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs.


By Marie Moore



They say necessity is the mother of invention. Handled fits the adage well.

Founder Shira Yoskovitch says her inspiration for the personal shopping service came from her own experience — not only as a busy executive, but also spending years with the added responsibility of caregiving for her parents. “During that time, my to do list was ridiculous; it was impossible. I was forever on the hunt for someone to just help me.”

At the same time, shopping was a task she actually enjoyed. So much so, Shira often took it on for others. “The truth be told, I have been shopping for my friends and some people in my circle, for the better part of 15 years. I have a friend who hasn’t bought her own pair of shoes since she was in high school.”

It took four years of mulling over the idea of starting a shopping service before personally and financially Shira felt confident moving forward — or at least recognized it was the time to have some faith in her idea. “I remember thinking, if I don’t do it now, I’m going to find myself in five years wishing to heck I had, and I’ll have missed the boat.”

So she set about creating the kind of personal shopping company that she could have benefitted from when she herself was stressed and overstretched. She chose the name — Handled — to reflect the breadth of the services that would be offered as a “holistic, end-to-end, solution provider.” Not only will her team complete whatever shopping task you give them (from clothes to gifts, from budget to luxury), they also provide their styling expertise, deal with returns and alterations, and deliver wherever it’s most convenient for you. They’ll even do a wardrobe consultation to make sure you’re using what you already have to the fullest.

With a background in supply chain management and operations, Shira was also well aware of the importance of making the process smooth and simple from start to finish, so the experience wouldn’t feel like a burden. She invested in technology (another field she’s experienced in) to make the booking process easy. “You can actually access us through various digital mediums, like your cellphone or a tablet, and book something with us like you would book something into your calendar — it’s an extension of how you live your life.”

Her biggest challenge since opening the business? Convincing women that there’s nothing wrong with getting help. “A lot of times there is this overwhelming sense of, ‘I couldn’t possibly send you to go shop for me, I’m Superwoman, I should be able to shop for myself.’ I liken it to the same argument of, do you use a drycleaner? Do you go to a car wash? Do you go to Starbucks for your coffee, as opposed to getting your coffee at home? All of those things are technically things we could do ourselves, however our time is better spent doing other things. I have the same conversation when it comes to Handled. Let us do the task that, frankly, there is no virtue to you doing yourself, for the cost of what you’d tip a delivery person.”


“You get lost, you make a plan, and you move forward. You put one foot in front of the other, and if you do that for enough time, it becomes a skill, a resilience like anything else.”


Ironically, learning to ask for help was a key part of Shira’s journey while setting up Handled. As a self-described control freak, it didn’t come naturally to her. She’s been pleasantly surprised by how many people have stepped up to offer their assistance, or make a beneficial connection. She now recognizes it as an integral part of building a smart business, not only for the time saved and expertise gained, but also for giving her the ability to see the faults in her own plan. As Shira explains, when you work alone, “You start drinking your own Kool-Aid.”

Her focus now is on growing the Toronto business, with a near-future goal of expansion into more cities in Canada, as well as the UK. The uncertainty of that journey doesn’t seem to phase her, a trait she says she picked up spending years as an expat, travelling to new, weird, and wonderful places. “I got so used to forever being lost, that it stopped scaring me. You get lost, you make a plan, and you move forward. You put one foot in front of the other, and if you do that for enough time, it becomes a skill, a resilience like anything else.”

She also credits the skills she learned in the corporate world for setting her up for success as a business owner, but she advises aspiring entrepreneurs not to let cautious knowledge-collection stop them from jumping on an opportunity. “If you have an idea, you are never going to get 95% of the solution worked out beforehand. You need to have enough courage of your own convictions to take a leap.”

The biggest reward so far from taking her own leap and launching Handled? It has allowed Shira to devote herself to a career she’s passionate about. “The truth is, I love it. I love finding that right thing, and by the way the right thing could be a Joe Fresh or it can be a Gucci, it doesn’t really matter — it’s the right thing.”


Handled is your personal shopper at your fingertips. Get the right look for an occasion or event, or build an everyday wardrobe filled with perfect pieces that work for your lifestyle. All you need to do is tell us what you want, and set the budget and timeline.  We handle everythingyes, everythingfrom there. Get started at

Handled is a proud sponsor of the 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards


A well-examined career: How Laurie Swami made it to the C-Suite in a male-dominated industry

With the help of Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge, Human Capital Solutions, Laurie Swami landed the role of President and CEO of The Nuclear Waste Management Organization. Here she offers advice for other women looking to move up the ladder.  


By Hailey Eisen



In the nuclear industry, where less than 20 per cent of the workforce is female, encountering a woman in the role of President and CEO doesn’t occur very often. But Laurie Swami, who became the President and CEO of The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) November 2016, believes the tides are turning.

While the nuclear industry may be disproportionately male, Laurie says she’s seen a significant shift over the duration of her 30-year career, most of which was spent working for Ontario Power Generation (OPG).

“When I started in the industry there were concerns around radiation exposure to women, but radiation was and continues to be safely managed and posed no more of a threat to women than men,” she says. “That myth was dispelled and soon there were many great opportunities for women.”

With an Engineering Chemistry degree, Laurie believes that to achieve success in STEM-related industries (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), the key is to balance the technical skills and knowledge achieved through training and education with “softer skills.”  

“When people think about STEM professionals, they often think of individuals like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory,” she says, adding that, in real life, you need more than a high IQ to achieve success in the field. “You also need to be able to develop strong emotional intelligence.”

One of the greatest challenges in her own career has been adjusting to each new level as she’s climbed her way up the metaphorical corporate ladder. She’s had to learn not just how to manage people, but more importantly, how to lead them. Laurie recalls when she got her first job as a supervisor, for example, she was advised that instead of trying to do everything herself, she needed to learn how to develop other people and empower them to do the work.

“As you move up, your behaviours need to change and the way you work must evolve,” she says.

Lisa Knight, Executive Search Managing Partner at Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge agrees. “In our experience, the most successful leaders are those that recognize the value of soft skills. They’re inherently self-aware, emotionally intelligent and great at communicating and motivating. At the same time, they recognize there’s always room for improvement and are constantly searching for new ways to strengthen existing skill sets,” she says.


“The most successful leaders are those that recognize the value of soft skills. They’re inherently self-aware, emotionally intelligent and great at communicating and motivating.”


As a mother of two university-age daughters, one studying medicine and one mathematics, Laurie has no problem serving as a role model for women in STEM. To those young women who look to her for advice, Laurie says the key to success is fairly simple, but not easy: “You have to be willing to work hard, dedicate yourself to the goals of the organization, constantly develop your skills and be committed to lifelong learning.”

Prior to joining NWMO as President and CEO, Laurie was working as Senior Vice-President of Decommissioning and Nuclear Waste Management with OPG where she was responsible for implementing OPG’s low and intermediate-level nuclear waste deep geologic repository and overseeing operation of nuclear waste management facilities. Moving into a new organization and joining the C-suite meant a significant shift in the way she thought about things.

“The President and CEO role is a lot more strategic and aspirational, which is why it appealed to me,” she says. “But in the recruitment process, I realized I had to change my approach to demonstrate that I possessed those skills.” Throughout the process, Laurie says she focused on thinking through her own desires and values and demonstrating how they matched those of the NWMO.


“You have to be willing to work hard, dedicate yourself to the goals of the organization, constantly develop your skills and be committed to lifelong learning.”


Since taking over at NWMO in November, she’s focused on boosting the company’s internal communications, highlighting the important role the organization’s employees play in the company’s success and encouraging them to work collaboratively toward a common goal.

“I ascribe to a participatory style of management, I like to listen to what others are saying, to engage them in dialogue, and move forward together,” she says.

Under Laurie’s leadership, the NWMO will continue to develop and implement — collaboratively with Canadians — a management approach for the long-term care of Canada’s used nuclear fuel that is socially acceptable, technically sound, environmentally responsible, and economically feasible. 



We’ve partnered with Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge to bring inspiring and insightful interviews with leaders that can help you navigate your own career aspirations.  Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge helps companies simplify the complexity associated with transforming their leadership and workforce so they can accelerate results, with less risk. As leaders in Talent and Leadership Development, Career Solutions and Executive, Interim and Mid-Level Search, we assist organizations in finding new talent, and helping their employees navigate change, become better leaders, develop better careers and transition into new jobs. We have the local expertise, global infrastructure, and industry leading technology and analytics required to simplify the complexity associated with executing critical talent and workforce initiatives, reducing brand and operational risk.

To learn more visit


Embracing Change: How Susy Martins’ Cross-functional, Multi-country Career Led Her to a VP Global HR Role for the Largest Insurance Company in Canada

Susy Martins has had one constant in her career: change. And it’s her ability to embrace it that’s been the secret to her success, leading her into her current role as VP Global HR Operations with Manulife.


By Hailey Eisen



Given the rate at which things change in the business world these days, adaptability and flexibility are must-have qualities for success. For Susy Martins, vice president of global human resources operations with Manulife, these skills are like second-nature, thanks to the significant diversity she’s experienced throughout her career.

Since completing her HBA from the Ivey School of Business in 2001, Susy has worked for a number of different companies, across many functional areas (from Finance to Operations to HR), in 17 different countries. She’s also participated in a number of leadership and development programs within the organizations she’s worked for. Add in two maternity leaves, and it’s obvious that Susy is no stranger to change.

After working for 3M in London, Ontario for a few years, Susy took her career overseas in 2003 when she joined General Electric, first in the Finance Management Program and then as Corporate Auditor. Based out of the Netherlands and then Spain, she worked in dozens of countries across Europe and Latin America. Susy says having this experience early on in her career taught her a lot about communications across languages and cultural norms — and prepared her for the international work she’s doing today. “I wasn’t just a visitor in these countries, stopping in to take a few photos and moving on, I was working with the people, in a variety of languages, and I really got a sense of how things differed country to country.”


“I really got a sense of how things differed country to country”


That understanding has come in useful now that she’s responsible for 150 people globally. With more than half of her leadership team located in Asia, she’s also learned to adapt to a non-traditional work schedule. These days, it’s not uncommon for Susy to start meetings at 9pm, once her sons, now 3 and 7, are fed, bathed, and tucked into bed. Working from her home office in Waterloo, she always takes 5pm to 9pm off to be with her family, but often works until midnight to accommodate the work-hours of her overseas teams.   

“When I started in this role five months ago, I was having late meetings every day of the week and working full days as well,” she recalls. “I was getting really tired.” Thankfully, Manulife is highly supportive of work-life integration and this flexibility has made it possible for Susy to balance her time better — using a few hours in the middle of the day, plus Fridays (which are already the weekend in Asia) to run errands, drop off and pick up her kids, and make time for self-care. “As women, we need to decide what we want to do with our time,” she says. “When I was younger I had more time for travel, to sit on boards, volunteer, and get involved in extracurricular activities. Having kids has changed how I use my time and I’ve had to step back from a few of those responsibilities to make time for my family.”


“As women, we need to decide what we want to do with our time”


Despite the balancing act, Susy is as dedicated to her career as ever. This being her first VP role, she’s had to adapt to new responsibilities yet again. “I’m really a generalist in a lot of ways, I like HR because the function is a critical part of the business’ strategy and there are many facets to HR – talent management, analytics, operations, systems, etc.” Currently responsible for global payroll, the contact center, and knowledge management, Susy is once again learning new areas of the business. “When I started this position, being new to payroll, ADP reached out to me directly and their sales and support teams met with me and my leadership team to go over where we were at and where we wanted to be,” she recalls. “It’s extremely helpful to have partnerships like that to make transitions easier.”

When it comes to managing people across borders, Susy says the key is to find a common purpose and goals and rally around those — that’s the essence of engagement. “Engage the team you’re working with and make it fun to come into work every day, make it very clear what you’re trying to achieve, and then hold them accountable.”


In partnership with ADP, we’re highlighting the importance of strong leadership in finding, attracting and inspiring the talent to move organizations forward. Our evolving workplaces succeed when diverse voices and passionate leaders come team up. By celebrating Canada’s inspiring leaders, we can understand and nurture what it takes to build a better workforce. ADP provides the technology and expertise that helps Canadian organizations of all sizes to build and inspire the workforce they need to succeed.




Paying it Forward: How Personal Experience has Guided Lisa Citton-Battel to Make a Positive Impact on Women’s Careers

Lisa Citton-Battel, executive director of marketing, sales and services at 3M Canada, returned from her first maternity leave struggling with the transition of going back to work. A supportive manager taught her the importance of having an advocatea lesson that’s guided her own leadership style over the last two decades.


By Hailey Eisen



It was early in her career, 19 years ago, after her first maternity leave, that Lisa Citton-Battel realized the power of having a strong advocate within your organization. As a marketing supervisor at the time, she was still establishing footing within 3M Canada, where she’s now executive director of marketing, sales and services. After six months at home with a baby, she, like many, struggled with self-confidence as she transitioned back to work.

“I had this manager who taught me a lot about my own potential,” Lisa recalls. “Sometimes it just takes one person to have 100 per cent faith in you, to recognize in you something you haven’t yet seen in yourself.”

Lisa went back to work and was promoted to marketing manager, a role she hadn’t envisioned herself being ready for at the time. “My manager said to me, ‘you have the ability, you can do this better than anyone else,’ and that was one of the most energizing and rewarding moments of my career,” she recalls.


“Sometimes it just takes one person to have 100 per cent faith in you, to recognize in you something you haven’t yet seen in yourself”


This invaluable lesson in leadership stayed with Lisa throughout her career, and has guided her own management philosophy. Coming off two-and-a-half-years as director of HR, she says her focus has always been on developing her team and the people around her. “While women tend to want to have all the qualifications ticked off before applying for a job, I’m always encouraging those I work with to apply for roles they may not have considered themselves for,” she says. “It’s important to support one another and remind people of their potential — to help counter self-doubt.”

And when you are given a promotion or offered a new challenge, Lisa advises not to be afraid to ask: why me? Why do you think I can do this?

Once you can see yourself from someone else’s perspective, it’s easier to believe in your own strengths and abilities. “As soon as my former manager told me why she thought I was right for the position, I jumped in with both feet. I didn’t want to let her down.”

Supporting women has always been on Lisa’s radar. These days she’s the host of a 3M “Lean-In Circle” within the company’s Canadian headquarters in London, Ontario. The purpose is to help women build courage and confidence in pursuing career aspirations and to discuss issues related to work life balance. As Lisa explains, it’s important for women to be able to lean on one another, to have somewhere to go for support and advice, and to encourage one another to embrace challenges and take risks.

“A key success factor for women in the workplace is to have a strong inner circle you know you can depend on at any time,” she says. “You want your circle to be made up of people who will give you good, honest advice and feedback you can trust.”

Within 3M, Lisa says she’s been greatly supported by the many managers she’s worked for, and the company’s flexible work program. “After my 29-week preemie was was born in 2000, I wasn’t able to go back to work right away for a variety of reasons,” she says. “I remember my VP at the time, who was male and didn’t have children, said to me, ‘3M will be here when you’re ready to come back, take the time you need.’”

In her most recent leadership roles, Lisa has always extended this same attitude to her team, knowing that when someone is happy and supported at work and at home, they always perform better. “I always try to make sure people are making the right choices for their current situation, if a child has a baseball game and you want to be there, work with your manager to ensure that’s possible — that additional stress doesn’t do anything for anyone.”

Lisa remains a strong advocate for flexibility, which is a priority at 3M, and she helps managers see the value in a work schedule that meets everyone’s needs. Whether an employee wants to spend a day working remotely, or shift their hours to balance other commitments, she’s open to making that work.

In her new sales and marketing role, which she began in early May, Lisa will continue advocating to create a work environment that’s supportive of women. When it comes down to it, Lisa says, you want employees to feel empowered in their development and supported in the work they’re doing.



Seeking Challenge and Adventure: Advice on Nurturing a Diverse Career Here and Abroad

Despite a 15 year tenure with the same company, Kelly Graham’s career has presented enough challenge and adventure to go around — in her case, around the world. The Vancouver, British Columbia native has leveraged her MBA to build a global career, from launching new products in India to leading a team on disruptive innovation in London, England. Here’s how her education and experience has broadened her skill set, mindset, and her horizons.


By Hailey Eisen



When Kelly Graham was transferred five years ago by Unilever to London, England, a world of opportunities unfolded. In addition to living for a short time in Singapore, Kelly travelled to Indonesia, Russia, India, the Philippines, Mexico, Argentina, and Turkey in her role as this multinational powerhouse’s Global Marketing Director.

“My job provides a great combination of creativity and business management,” Kelly says. Her role has had her uncovering consumer insights that have led to advertising campaigns and the development of new products. For example, she was recently involved with launching a deodorant brand in India. Her role? Taking a brand that wasn’t present in that particular market, learning about consumer practices, needs, wants, and customs, and then tailoring a solution that would fit.

“Over the years, through work experience and my MBA, I’ve learned to think outside the box, to approach problems in different ways, which is extremely important in this type of work,” says the Vancouver native. Currently, Kelly is leading a team on disruptive innovation, looking at new ways to meet consumer needs through different benefits, formats, and channels.


“Through work experience and my MBA, I’ve learned to think outside the box, to approach problems in different ways”


Unlike many of her peers, Kelly has been working for the same company since completing her undergraduate degree 15 years ago. “When I started with Unilever fresh out of school, I wasn’t sure where my career would take me,” says Kelly, who is now in her 30s. “Anything longer than a few years seems like a lifetime to a young student. But, I’ve been really lucky that any time I’ve become antsy in my role, usually around the one-to-two-year mark, they’ve been able to provide me with a new challenge.”

Challenge and adventure are key words in the story of Kelly’s career to date. She’s not the kind of person who is happy to sit still for long. She’s also not afraid of trying new things. In fact, she thrives on it.

I’ve worked across sales, local marketing, global marketing, and strategy at different points in my career, across several different brands and categories, and in four different cities. Not only did this breadth of experience give me a really solid foundation, it also helped to keep me really engaged with a new challenge every few years.”

One such challenge was her move abroad, leaving family and friends behind to start over in a new country. Another, prior to that, was going back to school, while continuing to work full-time, to complete an MBA.

With nearly eight years of work under her belt, Kelly had started to feel that her experience was somewhat limited having only worked in the consumer packaged goods sector. “I wanted to gain more exposure to thinking about things from the perspective of other industries, so I decided to enrol in the accelerated 12-month MBA with the Smith School of Business.”

For someone whose work would take her across the globe, Kelly says the MBA really helped broaden her mindset, introducing her to new perspectives which she continues to draw upon today. “I got the opportunity to meet amazing people from across Canada and gain insights from across many different industries, which proved to be very rewarding and beneficial to my career.”

She actually credits one of her favourite classes, International Business, with sparking an interest to work abroad. “I remember debating dairy tariffs in Canada versus New Zealand and starting to really think about how things played out on a global scale,” she says. “It really fueled my interest in strategy and I took on an international assignment working on Global Strategy not long after.”

The diversity of Kelly’s work experience can be attributed to her commitment to always taking the unexpected next step. It began the moment she graduated in 2002, earning a Bachelor of Commerce degree with a specialty in Management Information Systems. The tech bubble had burst and finding work directly related to her field seemed unlikely. “I decided to take a leap of faith and try something different,” she recalls. Her first job as an analyst with Unilever led to a diverse and interesting career that continues to evolve.  


“You need to find the right balance between adapting to your new work culture, and not losing what has made you successful in your career to date”


For those with a similar desire for challenge and adventure, Kelly says the key is to remain open to whatever comes your way — especially travel. “Working abroad is an incredible opportunity and you really grow so much, both professionally and personally,” she says. “In order to make it work, though, you need to find the right balance between adapting to your new work culture, and not losing what has made you successful in your career to date. The balance is different for everyone.”

While she’s settled in London for now, Kelly says she remains open to new opportunities. She’d like to come back to Canada at some point, but would also go somewhere else altogether. “Living abroad is addictive,” she says. “Who knows where I could end up.”

Liked this? Read more articles on preparing for senior leadership.

Fearlessness Led Kathy Gregory to the Top of Canadian Fin Tech

Kathy Gregory started Paradigm Quest in 2004, and has been at its helm ever since, growing the small start-up to become one of the leading financial tech and business processing companies in Canada. A natural leader and a passionate advocate for women’s professional advancement, the message Kathy exudes is clear: a woman can do anything when she knows her strengths, and is willing to use them fearlessly.



By Teresa Harris



Kathy Gregory is a woman of face value. There are no pretenses — what you see is what you get.

“Integrity is non-negotiable,” she states. “Nobody ever thinks, ‘Kathy has a hidden agenda,’ because whatever agenda I have, I’m just going to say it.”

Yet while she beams confidence and clarity in who she is and what her vision is today, she acknowledges confidence in yourself is a journey, not a destination.

In the early years of Paradigm Quest, the first business process outsourcing company dedicated to mortgages in Canada, Kathy describes the tension she experienced that many fledgling entrepreneurs face as they balance authenticity with business growth: deciding what deals to pursue, and when to walk away from a bad fit.


“Integrity is non-negotiable.”


Since she founded the company 13 years ago, Paradigm Quest has been selective when it comes to taking on new business, sometimes turning clients away when the organization or its key team members were misaligned with either Paradigm’s strengths or culture.

“It’s hard to say no, but I’ve realized through experience that you can’t be everything to all people,” Kathy explains. “Don’t try to be somebody you’re not, because everybody can see through it. Your best bet is to simply be the best at what you do and leave it at that.”

The strategy has worked. Paradigm is now a multi-million dollar company that employs over 300 people, positioned as the domain experts in the mortgage marketplace. As an end-to-end or à la carte solution, Paradigm Quest is focused on bringing the right technology and the right people to organizations who want to service residential mortgages and loans across Canada. “We’re no longer the little engine that could,” Kathy says, with apparent pride in her company, team, and herself. “I’d like to leave that legacy — I want people to say, ‘Wow, she lead a team and built something amazing and disruptive, in a predominantly male-dominated industry.’”

Kathy recognizes that the financial industry continues to deal with repeated instances of gender inequality. Yet, she admits to having never felt it first-hand during her career ascension. “I never went into a room and thought or noticed, ‘I’m the only female.’” In fact, the stark reality of just how outnumbered women are in the financial world didn’t set in until she became a business owner herself.

“People would say to me, ‘We finally have a female CEO in this industry,’” she remembers. “When I finally noticed, it made me realize what an injustice I’d been doing to myself and others by not paying attention.”


“When I finally noticed, it made me realize what an injustice I’d been doing to myself and others by not paying attention.”


And she feels the injustice goes beyond recognizing the opportunities she missed to help course-correct gender inequity. “The people you’re trying to please — your clients — are diverse. It’s good business sense to then have a team that mirrors that.” Which is why Paradigm’s executive leadership team is made up of over 50% women, a definitive practice Kathy began early on — and continues to stand behind.

“There’s a gender inequality issue in this country that shouldn’t be ignored,” she states. “And yet, when you’re starting out, you shouldn’t be thinking about that every day. You shouldn’t be giving others the chance to think about it either — you should be honing your skills and becoming the best at the job.”

As the owner and chief decision maker of a company that manages $26 billion dollars in its portfolio, Kathy is not only a vocal advocate for women’s C-suite advancement, she is also generous in admitting that by valuing skill above ego and all else, she has managed to surround herself with the best brains in the business.

“I have five or 6 people, men and women, whom I go to in the organization every time a problem or crisis comes up. They all bring such different perspectives, and together the problem gets solved.” By structuring her business in such a way that allows for change to occur and for Paradigm leaders to involve people right across the organization to be engaged — enabling nimble problem solving in response — Kathy actually looks forward to unexpected shifts, and encourages others to as well.

It’s one of the key messages she offers to the many up-and-coming women she mentors, along with ensuring that fear takes a back seat. That said, she hesitates to diminish the value in healthy fear: “You should be afraid of what can go wrong,” she advises. “There’s advantages to being cautious and reproachful, but in a lot of cases it just limits our ability as women to become what and who we want to become.”

So how does she recommend women overcome their hesitation?

“Ask yourself: ‘If I try this, and I fail, is anyone going to die?’” And if the answer is no — jump.



Success is difficult to achieve on one’s own; it takes a village. The secret is surrounding ourselves with excellent people who aren’t afraid to defy convention and who get excited about bold innovations and creative problem solving. At Paradigm, our four major principles have stood the test of time and the uncertainty of change. We consistently put the Paradigm Team first. We are performance driven. We over deliver on service excellence. We constantly challenge conventional thinking. To make an indelible mark, we live these principles. We think differently and act disruptively.

An Unconventional Path: How Valerie McKenzie-Flynn Went from Stay-at-Home Mom to Entrepreneur to HR Director

Valerie McKenzie-Flynn’s career to date has been anything but ordinary. But the human resources director with Oxford Imaging and mother of two wouldn’t have had it any other way.



By Hailey Eisen



Valerie McKenzie-Flynn’s work experience started much younger than most, when at the age of 12 she found herself running her family’s campground in Cape Breton — with the help of her younger sister — while both of her parents worked full-time. “My grandmother was an entrepreneur, and the campground was hers,” Valerie explains. “After she passed away we continued to run it, but since my parents both had jobs my sister and I ran the place, took reservations, managed and ran the on-site convenience store, cleaned the washrooms, mowed the grass — essentially from the ages of 12 to 16, we ran the show during business hours.”

Her adult career has continued to be anything but ordinary. Valerie’s first few jobs out of university were in human resources, first in insurance and then in a US-based high-tech startup. A layoff in the mid-1990s happened to coincide with her first pregnancy, so Valerie decided to take the time, and severance, to figure out what she wanted to do next.

She was starting to think about going back to work when her son was 18-months-old — and then she found out she was pregnant with her daughter. “All plans for work were postponed at that point, and I decided to focus on being a mom for a few years,” Valerie recalls. “While I had always been very career-driven, this was a fantastic part of my life and I’m very happy I made that choice to be home with my kids.”

While she did take on the occasional freelance project, and consulted many individuals within her network after layoffs or during career transitions, she spent most of her time being a full-time mom. After a few years, she started to crave a challenge and decided to look for something that would allow her to go back to work but also be there for her kids.

In 2009, Valerie joined the Guelph Business Enterprise Centre, and with the support of this local incubator she was able to take an inspiration born out of a dinner conversation with her friends, and turn it into a business.

Channeling her late grandmother’s entrepreneurial spirit, Valerie started This Box Rocks, a care-package assembly and delivery service that reached university and college students across Canada. Inspired by the wonderful care-packages Valerie’s own mom used to send her when she was in university, the web-based company allowed busy parents to customize care-packages online and have them delivered right to their child’s dorm. Things were going quite well for This Box Rocks — Valerie had earned some media attention, found a business partner, and had begun to partner with a few university residences in southern Ontario — but she was still investing almost all of her earnings back into the company.

To help supplement her income, Valerie decided to seek out part-time work. It was around this time she came across an HR Manager role with Oxford Medical Imaging, a Kitchener-Waterloo-based startup with 25 employees, focused on diagnostic imaging. “It seemed like the perfect opportunity to work part-time while continuing to run This Box Rocks,” she recalls. “The only glitch… Oxford ended up growing explosively and my job very quickly turned into a full-time position.”

While she had offers to purchase This Box Rocks, she couldn’t bear to let it go to someone else, so she parked the business. Her focus was on growing Oxford Medical Imaging, which very quickly became a mid-sized, GTA-based corporation with 200 employees across Central and Southwestern Ontario.

With her strong human resources background and startup experience, Valerie was able to bring a great deal of knowledge to Oxford. She worked closely with the company’s CEO to build the management team. She also created and launched a performance management program and in-house training program, and implemented ADP’s Workforce Now system, including the Payroll, HRIS, and Applicant Tracking Systems. Within two years she was promoted to HR director. “I’ve been really lucky to be part of this company, to be able to watch it grow and evolve, and experience success — I’m really glad I chose this route.”

Valerie’s kids are now 9 and 11, and she’s managed to find a new balance that works for her family. “There were times when the company was in high-growth mode, that I wasn’t able to handle it all well, but I’ve learned to be proactive, to get the support I need to ensure things run smoothly at home, and to pick my battles, and focus on what really matters.” It’s been an exciting career, and there’s lots more to come. “There are lots of changes happening at Oxford all the time,” Valerie says. “You never know what’s going to happen next.”



In partnership with ADP, we’re highlighting the importance of strong leadership in finding, attracting and inspiring the talent to move organizations forward. Our evolving workplaces succeed when diverse voices and passionate leaders come team up. By celebrating Canada’s inspiring leaders, we can understand and nurture what it takes to build a better workforce. ADP provides the technology and expertise that helps Canadian organizations of all sizes to build and inspire the workforce they need to succeed.


When perseverance pays off: Terry Sugar lacked education and experience, now she’s VP of Business Development and Finance

When Terry Sugar was a young mom of two with financial troubles, she told her father she’d take any job in the family business that he would give her. She had a tough road learning the ropes as bookkeeper, but thirty years later she’s earned her CMA and the title of VP of Business Development and Finance.



By Hailey Eisen



There’s a widely-circulated statistic that while men will apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, women will only apply if they think they meet all of them. If this had been the case for Terry Sugar, she would never have started working at Farmbro Inc., and she certainly wouldn’t be in the role of Vice President Business Development and Finance today.  

Founded by Terry’s father, Al Farmer, in 1983, Farmbro supported The Ford Motor Company with upfitting solutions and mechanical expertise in the commercial and truck fleet sales industry. Around the time the company launched, Terry recalls that she and her then husband were experiencing financial difficulties. She was a young mom of two with a high school education and little experience under her belt. “I remember calling up my dad and saying, ‘I need a job, I’ll do anything.’”

Terry was thrust into an accounting role, handed the general ledger, taught the basics of bookkeeping by her uncle, and left to figure out the rest. For the next two years, she learned the ropes at work while juggling her kids’ programs and activities and working around her husband’s unusual schedule as a skating coach.

Inspired by the need to support her family and her drive to learn everything she could about accounting, Terry was moved to seek out a formal education. In 1988, after giving birth to her third son, she enrolled in a CMA program via correspondence. “I didn’t have a university degree, but I found a way to get into a CMA program that I would complete over the next three years.”

Studying every morning and every evening while continuing in her role at Farmbro took a great deal of commitment. But she was dedicated to the advancement of the company and wanted to bring everything she could to her role. After all, nearly everyone who worked for Farmbro at the time was a member of her family.

“Working with family means you have a very strong bond — love, loyalty, and dedication to one another,” she explains. “But because family businesses can destroy families, you have to be very careful and respectful of one another too. It’s a fine balance”


“Working with family means you have a very strong bond — love, loyalty, and dedication to one another”


Terry’s commitment and dedication paid off in spades. Today, at 60, she stands at the helm of Farmbro alongside her brother. Her father, who’s 90, just retired a few years ago. The family owns three businesses in total and has nearly 100 employees. Throughout the years, her three brothers have all worked for the company, as have her mom, aunt, uncle, and her own three sons.   

About a decade ago, Terry’s brother went from a VP role to that of President. While the option presented itself for them to divide up and each lead one of the companies her father owned, she made a decision to stick with her brother and continue working collaboratively. “Working together we have a great synergy, and I wanted to maintain that no matter what.”

Today Farmbro has an extensive product and service offering providing work vehicle solutions for individual needs and high volume uplifts for some of the largest fleets in Canada. As a woman in this industry, Terry has learned, above all else, that the best way to succeed is to not be afraid to ask questions. It’s the same philosophy that allowed her to take on, and succeed in, her accounting role with no prior experience. “I’ve been very lucky that I haven’t run into too much chauvinism,” she says. “My brother and my father were always very supportive, and the respect they showed led others to do the same.”  

Through asking questions and exploring new areas of interest, Terry has come to realize that her true passion lies in communications and people management. “Sure, there were times when I would think, maybe I should venture out on my own and find an industry that’s more aligned with my interests,” she says. But ultimately, her commitment to family and the advancement of their business, even during hard times, always won out. “Today I’m drawn to the strategic planning around people, bringing our staff together to ensure everyone is happy and that they want to come to work and drive the company forward.” She’s worked with ADP to bring in speakers and organize information sessions for the Farmbro staff to shed light on these areas.

While Terry has learned to leave work at work on the weekends and enjoy life, whether it be hiking, traveling, or taking dance classes, she’s still as committed to learning and growth as she was when she started over three decades ago.



In partnership with ADP, we’re highlighting the importance of strong leadership in finding, attracting and inspiring the talent to move organizations forward. Our evolving workplaces succeed when diverse voices and passionate leaders come team up. By celebrating Canada’s inspiring leaders, we can understand and nurture what it takes to build a better workforce. ADP provides the technology and expertise that helps Canadian organizations of all sizes to build and inspire the workforce they need to succeed.


How to create an award-winning RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards application

With the nomination period for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards closed, it’s time to begin putting together a winning application. Official Due Diligence Sponsor, Deloitte Private, offers the top items to consider for this crucial next step.



By Marie Moore



In Canada, just 15.7% of entrepreneurial businesses are majority-owned by women. Fortunately, the number is increasing. Self-employment among women has been steadily rising, even though self-employment overall has been relatively flat since 2009.


Why is this segment so important? Women entrepreneurs are contributing fresh ideas, capitalizing on new opportunities, and creating jobs in their own community ― and beyond. The continued success of female-led businesses is crucial to economic growth in this country. They need to be supported in their ambitions, and celebrated and appreciated for their accomplishments.  


The aim of the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards is to provide this much-deserved recognition. As official Due Diligence Sponsor, Deloitte Private has had the privilege of being an integral part of the RBC CWEA program for several years. Each year, we are introduced to a new set of unique businesses and their high-quality offerings. With the required minimum of three years in operation, they all have a proven sustainable model ― one that comes from a history of designing and implementing effective solutions. They exemplify what female entrepreneurs are capable of.    


With such an impressive group, what can make your organization stand out? Here are the top four items to consider when filling out your application.



  1. Surround yourself with a winning team.

This is not a process you need to complete alone. Tap into your talented employees who understand your business, and don’t be afraid to seek outside help. By involving others in the application process, you’ll be able to get a broader perspective. What seems normal to you might pop out as really outstanding to someone else ― and worth emphasizing. “This is one of the key insights we have drawn from our experience,” says Lorrie King, the Deloitte national co-lead for Best Managed companies program. Deloitte, Canada’s largest professional services firm, established this platform for recognizing excellence in private, Canadian-owned companies in 1993. The Best Managed program includes valuable coaching from experienced professionals of Deloitte and CIBC that help applicants take a step back and look at their business through a new lens.


  1. Focus on your accomplishments.

While it’s both exciting and important to think about your future growth opportunities, these awards are designed to recognize your accomplishments, not your aspirations. The application should therefore be largely focused on what you have done, not what you are planning to do. The adage “show, don’t tell” applies here as well. For each achievement you want to highlight, from a growth in sales to reaching profitability, ensure you have quantifiable evidence that backs it up.


  1. Get your books in order.

A solid application begins with up-to-date, organized financials. Be sure you understand your numbers well enough ― or have someone on your winning team who does ― to be able to demonstrate how well your business is doing. Providing tangible evidence of your success through your financials is key to moving to the Finalist stage.


  1. Be ready for the next step.

When we engage in the due diligence process with each finalist, our main purpose is to validate the information that has been provided in the application ― but it’s not as simple as checking your numbers. An in-person meeting with your assigned Deloitte Private practitioner is critical, because it gives you the opportunity to speak to the success of your business beyond the balance sheet. Be ready to discuss your business successes, such as how you have applied creativity or innovation in solving problems and overcoming challenges. The goal is not to oversell your business or offering, but rather speak to your strengths, focus on what you do best, and ― most importantly ― always be able to provide tangible evidence.



For more than 150 years, Deloitte Private has been assisting entrepreneurs in transforming Canada’s economy. We know that the journey to success requires strategic decision making and being opportunistic at the right moment. As Canada’s largest professional services advisor to private clients, we are passionate and committed to your future success — always looking ahead to anticipate your needs and prepare you for any unforeseen challenges ahead.  


18 Entrepreneurs Share their Best Advice

These 18 women were selected from over 5,000 nominees to become finalists for the 2015 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. From construction to retail, communications to not-for-profit, they manage more than 2,300 employees and over $190 million in gross profit. We asked each of them to share what advice they would give to a room full of aspiring entrepreneurs.

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