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.

Visit us at



Meet Dr. Catherine Chandler-Crichlow, a human capital expert and immigration champion

Dr. Catherine Chandler-Crichlow is the President & Chief Human Capital Officer of 3C Workforce Solutions. With close to 30 years of experience in human capital research and development, she has worked on a range of initiatives that span private, public and voluntary institutions in Canada, Central Europe, Latin America, South-East Asia and the Caribbean. An active volunteer, Dr. Chandler-Crichlow is Board Chair at Toronto Region Immigration and Employment Council (TRIEC) and also participated in the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration’s Expert Advisory Panel, which led to the province’s first-ever immigration strategy that was introduced in 2012.





My first job ever was… As a high school teacher of science, chemistry and mathematics in Trinidad and Tobago.


I chose my career path because… I have a passion for human capital development. I love developing and helping others – both at an individual and corporate level – to achieve their full potential, whether this is in the area of education like math or science, or in areas of self-development and soft skills like in communications, negotiations, or problem-solving.


My proudest accomplishment is… The strong network professional leaders that I have developed internationally throughout my career in government, corporate and the non-for-profit sector.


My boldest move to date was… Taking the step to become an independent consultant and have my own practice. This has allowed me to pursue a range of initiatives including meeting amazing leaders in the human capital industry, academia, and government and the non-for-profit sector.


I surprise people when I tell them… I am an ardent sports aficionado! I love cricket, soccer, basketball, skiing, and Formula One! In fact, my favourite team is Arsenal F.C. in the English Premier League. I have their swag and have attended many of their games in London.


My best advice to people starting their career is… To focus on integrating their passion into their career and make an effort to not box themselves in to pre-defined roles. It’s easy for one to define their life by their occupation. But I say discover your passions, strengths, and expertise and start from there.


“It’s easy for one to define their life by their occupation. But I say discover your passions, strengths, and expertise and start from there.”


My best advice from a mentor was… To create a groundswell if I want to implement sustainable change within a corporate culture. And to create this groundswell, you have to immerse and learn their culture first.


I would tell my 20-year old self… To enjoy every single opportunity you get. Regardless of how bizarre it may seem, enjoy learning from them all! And I would also say, be present in each moment and learn wherever you are.


My biggest setback was… I would not call this a setback, but rather a hurdle: I was living in Trinidad and Tobago and really wanted to study and do a particular masters degree program at Harvard University, but the international student fees were very high. I had absolutely no idea how I would be able to pursue that dream.


I overcame it by… Doing two things: first, I created a vision of myself attending Harvard. Just being there. And second, I created a critical path of actions that I could take to make that vision a reality. I did extensive research in the library to learn about all the international scholarships available to foreign students that I would qualify for. I applied for and received a fellowship from the Organisation of American States and that’s how I was able to attend Harvard University. Again, you have to envision yourself achieving your dreams, create a plan and never doubt yourself.


Work/life balance is… An essential aspect of building a successful career, exploring personal goals, and having a strong family base.


I stay inspired by… Remembering that there is always an opportunity to learn from others and pay it forward at a community level.


The future excites me because… I see the energy, spark, and brilliance in the youth I meet from walks of life. What a tremendous opportunity to help build the leaders of tomorrow.


My next step is… To continue to find avenues in which I can contribute to strengthening the skills, competencies, and capabilities of youth and immigrants, especially with my work as board chair at the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).

Welcome to the Valley: How Joanne Fedeyko built a company around making connections to help others succeed


As the founder and CEO of Connection Silicon Valley, Joanne Fedeyko is focused on bringing together her extensive network across Canada’s startup scene and her influential network in the Valley. Her aim? To help Canadian businesses succeed on a global scale.


By Marie Moore



If you ask Joanne Fedeyko what she loves most about Silicon Valley, she points to how collaborative the culture is. “Everybody is trying to win and win big” she explains, “but everybody is there to help each other. When you meet with somebody, often the person will say, ‘How can I help you?’”

It’s a question she herself asks often. As the founder and CEO of Connection Silicon Valley, Joanne helps Canadian organizations navigate the ecosystem of innovators and investors in the world-renowned technology hub. She’s also passionate about supporting women in tech, and has formed a network of Canadian women in the Valley to advise female founders, as well as help other women in technology establish the deep connections that are invaluable to their success in the industry.  

That she’s built her company and career on the caliber of introductions she’s capable of making points to her insider status in Silicon Valley — impressive, considering where her journey began.

Growing up near the 59th parallel in a Northern Albertan town of a few thousand, Joanne never considered she’d end up where she is today. “I didn’t map it out, that’s for sure,” she says. “I actually didn’t know the world was that big when I lived in High Level.”

She had already relocated to Calgary by the time she made her 1999 move to the San Francisco Bay area, but that did little to make her feel prepared for the scale of her new environment. “I was scared stiff,” admits Joanne. “I didn’t know anything about living in a big city.”

Working with Deloitte as a consultant, Joanne was able to arrange a transfer within the company. The job gave her a quick introduction to the rapid pace in the Valley. Accustomed to a yearlong process for implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions for her Deloitte clients up North, Joanne found that at her new office, the expectation was to complete the process in three months. It was an overnight, drastic change, but being immersed in a new mindset enabled her to adapt quickly.

“You don’t have any time to think about what it is that you’re doing, because you are put into the middle of this pace,” she explains. “And everybody around you is doing the same thing, and thinking it is normal.”

In the near twenty years that she’s lived in the San Francisco Bay area, Joanne says she has never once thought about moving back — although she is a self-described patriotic Canadian. Her love for her original home and native land is evident in her recent career choices. Prior to launching her own business a year ago, Joanne was the Executive Director of C100, a non-profit association of Canadian thought leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area committed to supporting and accelerating the innovation economy in Canada.  

“At C100, I feel like I was really democratizing access in Silicon Valley for Canadians, and I loved it,” says Joanne. “Because of the privilege I had to run C100 and get exposed to the Canadian techie ecosystem, I saw what I thought was amazing opportunities from every stage and every province and every sector in Canada, from early startups to corporate to government.”

During her near two years in the role of Executive Director, Joanne built up an extensive network across Canada’s startup ecosystem, as well as an influential network in the Valley. It’s what enabled her to branch out on her own with Connection Silicon Valley, where she’s continued to create access and drive innovation strategy for Canadian companies, from all sectors and all stages. As Joanne sees it, exposing them to the passion, urgency, and collaborative big thinking that’s the norm in her new home can be critical to their success on a global stage.

“Because of my passion for Canada, I love coming back and being here. There is amazing technology, amazing people, and I think we really have a chance to play a more significant role — but it takes coming out of your comfort zone and thinking bigger,” says Joanne. “My fear for companies in Canada, even big corporations, is they aren’t thinking outside of their four walls. They’re not going to a place like Silicon Valley and getting a sense of urgency from seeing that people had their idea four years ahead of them and have $100 million in funding. They’re not looking enough to see who are the disruptors coming three, five or ten years down the line.”


“My fear for companies in Canada, even big corporations, is they aren’t thinking outside of their four walls. They’re not going to a place like Silicon Valley and getting a sense of urgency from seeing that people had their idea four years ahead of them and have $100 million in funding.”


While she’s quick to note that there are definitely some visionary thinkers in our tech scene, it will take industry-wide growth in both inspiration and aspiration for Canada to become a major player, competing at the level of Silicon Valley.

And that’s not to say that The Valley doesn’t have it’s own challenges. It’s impossible to ignore the many headlines that point to a boy’s club and issues with “bro culture.” She’s never let it stop her, but Joanne admits she has experienced sexist behaviour in the past, and she sees a long and challenging road ahead towards ensuring no woman is left wondering, would I have been treated differently if I were a man?

One of the efforts she’s championing to help bring about that change is TheBoardlist, an online curated marketplace that connects qualified female candidates with board opportunities. Founded in the US by fellow Canadian and Silicon Valley success story, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Joanne recalls being immediately impressed with the concept. “She launched TheBoardlist when I was still at the C100, and I thought, wow, that is such a cool idea.”

The expansion North of the border came after Joanne asked if the Canadian companies she was working with through Connection Silicon Valley could participate. With Sukhinder’s blessing, she spent a few months bringing it into the conversations she was having with local businesses, to understand what people’s reactions would be. She also looked into what was happening in Canada already, to figure out where this new initiative would fit in. “We are very collaborative in the Valley,” explains Joanne, “so TheBoardlist was here to get along and be a part of a solution, not the only solution.”

There was no denying the interest existed, from startups to corporate, and so Joanne helped lead the introduction of TheBoardlist to Canada. Since launching in April, almost 200 candidates have been nominated onto the platform by over 100 endorsers across Canada, and the next goal is to see that companies looking for female board members leverage TheBoardlist’s almost 2,000 candidates. It’s a success story that Joanne can certainly be proud of.

So what’s next for the girl from High Level, Alberta? She’s continuing to grow her business and focusing on her passions — helping Canadian companies succeed, helping women advance, and doing it all from her favourite place, Silicon Valley.

“There is no other place on the planet that is like the San Francisco Bay area. The pace that exists, the urgency, the dreaming big, thinking global, just the number of opportunities that are in front of you all of the time in different parts of tech — I admit it is a bubble that we live in, and the rest of the world doesn’t operate like we do, but it is magic what can happen out of it.”



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

Meet Megan Anderson, Business Development Director at and co-founder of #GoSponsorHer

Megan Anderson is currently the Business Development Director at, after having proved herself as a stand-out associate at McKinsey & Company. Her latest passion project is co-leading #GoSponsorHer, a social campaign to accelerate the sponsorship of high potential women in Canada and beyond. The project was born out of a deep desire to empower the next generation of female CEOs and break the glass ceiling – for good.






My first job ever was… This is a complicated answer because I was a keener as a kid and loved working from a really early age, so I had many overlapping ”first” jobs. One was running my own business that offered babysitting services and running kids birthday parties. I went around the neighborhood starting at age 10 with flyers for “premium birthday parties and babysitting services” (I also had business cards which of course added instant credibility). I brought in a team (aka friends) and we would do everything from loot bags to organizing/running the programming. I also acted and sang up until my 20s. I worked on the Disney channel, in musical theatre productions and in several embarrassing commercials.


I decided to start my own thing because… I wanted to stop talking about what needed to be done and take action. When it comes to promoting gender diversity, it’s easy to become paralyzed by the magnitude of the problem. The final straw was hearing a young woman say that she avoided going out for meals with male clients because of fear of how it would be perceived. While there is no silver bullet, my co-founder Laura McGee and I knew sponsorship was a hugely important lever so we ran with it. We really wanted to encourage both up and coming women and senior executives to feel empowered to cultivate sponsorship relationships with a full spectrum of people (regardless of gender). We won’t move the needle if women or men shy away from these relationships – 80% of executives are men!


My education prepared me for where I am now by… Boosting my confidence. Going into university, I felt like a musical theatre kid who accidentally ended up at business school, but coming out, I felt like a badass business woman capable of anything.


My boldest move to date was… Leaving a great company and fast-tracked career at McKinsey to jump into the tech world. The opportunity to join the team at was too amazing to pass up. I am so excited to be a part of building a team, a product and, ultimately, a world-leading company out of Toronto.  


I surprise people when I tell them… I am messy. Because I am very structured in most areas of my life, it surprises people (until they live with me for any period of time.) At the same time I hate having a messy home, so the paradox there is a real struggle (for my poor partner too!)


My best advice to people starting their career is… No one has the right answer. I spent the early days of my career thinking that my job was to get the answers out of people who knew more than me. I quickly realized that everybody is doing the best they can with incomplete information. Smart people don’t know the answers, they ask good questions and make quick decisions once they feel like they have up to 70% of the facts (Jeff Bezos says any more than this and you are too late.) I became way more impactful once I changed my mindset from “I need to get the answers from other people smarter than me” to “I can create an answer with help from others.”


My best advice from a mentor was… It’s hard to pick just one, I have had many amazing mentors and sponsors. One is from Nora Aufreiter: “Create a vision of what you where you want to be in 20 years and work backwards.” Turns out it is much easier to picture what I want in 20 years than it is to figure out what I want in 5!



“I became way more impactful once I changed my mindset from ‘I need to get the answers from other people smarter than me’ to ‘I can create an answer with help from others.'”



My biggest setback was… I am not sure that I believe in setbacks; I am a believer in “everything happens for a reason”. Having said that, two days before #GoSponsorHer launched my partner and I were rocked by some potentially life changing health news. On the surface this was certainly a major setback, but we got through it and it reminded me what is important in life. It was also a good check to ensure that I was surrounded by the right team. My team at was amazingly supportive through everything – I could not imagine going through it without their support.


I overcame it by… Reminding myself of my mom’s favourite adage that everything happens for a reason. These challenges make me stronger and more empathetic to others.


Work/life balance is… A myth! To me it is about integration: I live one life comprised of a bunch of activities and I don’t feel that I have to turn work on and off with a switch. I have a few principles:

  • Realize that 9-5 is an artificial construct that doesn’t need to exist anymore in most knowledge jobs/industries. People give me energy so I still love going into the office most days and I do think that it is important to have some time for the team to be together for the sake of collaboration and creativity. But some Fridays I work from the cottage because I am more creative there, some Wednesday afternoons I do chores and some Sundays I work because I feel like I am “in the zone”.
  • Prioritize ruthlessly as an individual and as a company. Jason Silver (our COO at is a pro at this. Make sure you know what your 6 month objectives are as a company (there shouldn’t be too many!), identify your macro life priorities and set weekly and daily goals and daily priorities.
  • Find and build your tribe. I have an amazing network of family, friends and supporters that I could not live without. These range from my partner and immediate family to childhood friends to colleagues but they have one thing in common – they have my back and I have theirs. To me life is a team sport (forgive my cheesy line here): giving and receiving help is key.     


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I LOVE sugar. Gummy worms, licorice, peanut M&Ms – you name it, I love it.


I stay inspired by… Taking lots of breaks by keeping up with my hobbies, getting outside and staying fit. I take brain breaks often throughout the day. I also love everything to do with the arts so I still do at least 1 musical a year (the last one was playing Elle Woods in Legally Blonde). I get to the cottage as much as I can during the summer, I take walks outside through the day and I make sure that my weekends are packed with outdoor activities. I love running and fitness so I exercise 5-6 times/week. I also have a 15K step goal/day which sounds aggressive but is pretty easy when you walk to work, walk during calls, and dance frequently at your standing desk (the last one is also entertaining for your team!)   


The future excites me because… We live in a time of unprecedented speed of change. This means that everybody, no matter what their age or career stage, has a huge role to play in shaping the future. This is enormously exciting as a young person because I don’t feel that the constraint of “you need 25 years of experience to have impact” holds anymore.


My next step is… I have no idea! Having just started my new adventure at and recently launched #GoSponsorHer, my focus for now is growing both of those and making them as successful as possible.



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

Alice Announces Close of First Financing Round

Alice (previously Circular Board), the world’s first machine learning business advisor and first digital accelerator, announced the close of its first significant equity-based funding round. In an era when inclusive entrepreneurship is a social and economic imperative, a diverse group of investors have put their money and time towards the only existing, scalable solution to business advisory. Signia Venture Partners led the $1 million seed round with participation from investors Jean Case, Sherpa Capital, Zehner LLC, Shatter Fund, Cathie Reid and Lovell Family Limited Partnership/Ann Lovell, president of Women Moving Millions.

Alice is also pleased to welcome Zaw Thet, partner at Signia, and Elizabeth Gore, entrepreneur in residence at Dell, to the Board of Directors. On the near-term horizon, Alice will also be announcing the addition of substantial non-equity capital to support the company’s growth trajectory.

While fulfilling a social mission, Alice is also committed to innovating technology that removes barriers and opens doors for entrepreneurs. “Advances in machine learning and AI are transforming the world around us. At Signia, we are particularly excited about Alice as a solution application to bias and sexism in business and in providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to build their companies faster and more efficiently than ever,” said Thet.

Deemed the “Siri for entrepreneurs” by media, Alice democratizes access to business solutions by connecting women and other underrepresented business owners to opportunities, knowledge and communities. Through the application of machine learning, Alice is also able to predict the unique needs of each founder and proactively recommend content to save them time and money and to accelerate growth. Since January 2016, the company has served thousands of woman-led companies from six continents, and its 268 accelerator alumni have raised more than $35 million in capital.

“At its core, Alice provides entrepreneurs with the tools, access to capital, advice and networks they need to succeed, regardless of where they come from or who they know,” said Carolyn Rodz, founder and CEO of Alice.

“Since the company began nearly two years ago, we have been fortunate to maintain a strong financial position through programming and partnerships with major organizations, like Dell Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, Urban Decay, Kauffman Foundation, U.S. Small Business Administration and the United Nations Foundation. The close of this financing round allows us to double down on our growth strategy and reach more underserved entrepreneurs throughout the globe,” Rodz continued.


“Have you ever seen innovation wheresomeone didn’t take a risk?” –Jean Case


Women and minorities are the fastest growing segment of business owners, yet the statistics around their access to capital and influential networks are not aligned with their potential to contribute to economic growth. Alice aims to create a new playing field for these entrepreneurs, with the simultaneous opportunity to use emerging technology to reach a $3.5 trillion global market.

Investor Jean Case, CEO of Case Foundation and Chairman of the National Geographic Society Board of Trustees, said about Alice, “Ensuring women founders and entrepreneurs of color have access to the same funding, networking and mentoring opportunities as traditional founders will strengthen our economy and make sure that anyone from anywhere has a fair shot at the American Dream. I am supporting Alice because it helps break down barriers and brings female entrepreneurs the tools they need to scale and succeed.”

Learn more about Alice at




Meet Nancy Foster, Senior VP of Human and Corporate Resources at Husky

As Husky’s Senior Vice President of Human and Corporate Resources, Nancy Foster is an experienced human resources practitioner with extensive oil and gas experience, both domestically and internationally. She is a graduate of the Harvard Advanced Management Program, and has served on numerous committees and is dedicated to giving back to her community of Calgary, such as the YWCA of Calgary. Yet despite her current success, Nancy’s journey hasn’t always been upward and linear. Find out more below.

Want to hear more from Nancy and two other power-house female energy executives? Join us in Calgary on October 4 for our luncheon event Women In Power: Calgary’s Senior Executives Weigh In.





My first job ever was… As a cook in a diner — I was 15.  My first professional job was working at Home Oil. I worked in special projects accounting and my role was to gather all the necessary information/documentation to submit claims for both the provincial and Federal Petroleum Incentive Program which was brought in as part of the National Energy Program in late 1980.


I chose my career path because…  I knew it would offer me exciting opportunities to learn and grow in my career. Most of my roles have required me to influence vs. dictate, which has led me to being able to influence culture to be more diverse and inclusive.


My proudest accomplishment is… That’s easy — my four kids and now grandkids too.


My boldest move to date was… Moving to Norway to take over as Country Manager. I had never been there and didn’t speak the language. My husband took a leave of absence from his busy career so that I could accept the opportunity.


I surprise people when I tell them… By the time I was 28, I had four children and a growing career.


My best advice to people starting their career is… Put your hand up. Although there has been no formula to my career, there has been one constant: a willingness to put myself forward for work.  


My best advice from a mentor was… To accept that while I could have it all — a family and a great career as a leader where I continued to learn and grow — I couldn’t necessarily have it all at once.


My biggest setback was… Beyond the numerous downturns that I have worked through, personally, shutting down the Norway office.


I overcame it by… I always tell people that it’s so important — no matter what your job is — to surround yourself with people who give you authentic feedback and a boost of confidence. Many of our traditional support systems — such as extended family members — are less available to provide support because of their own busy schedules. So we need to continue to build our community of mentors to embrace and empower us. And it’s important to remember that you don’t have to hang your hat on just one mentor. I like to think of mentoring in moments.  


Work/life balance is… About choices. I think you have to value quality over quantity. You have to embrace the imbalance because the work/life equilibrium will never be a 50/50 endeavor. Kids get sick on work days. Work projects blow up during hockey playoffs. Life happens and you need to forgive yourself and do what you can.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I have two dogs — big ones who are a great source of enjoyment to me and my husband.


I stay inspired by… Continuing to learn. Asking questions, reading — by staying involved in a not for profit which helps keep me connected to the larger Community.


The future excites me because I see so many opportunities for Husky, our city, our province and our country.


My next step is… To keep learning — through my work at Husky, through my volunteering and eventually through Board work at a for profit company.



Want to hear more from Nancy and two other power-house female energy executives? Join us in Calgary on October 4 for our luncheon event Women In Power: Calgary’s Senior Executives Weigh In.

Meet Krista Pell, Vice President, People & Performance at Ausenco

An experienced international business leader with 20  years human resources and talent management experience, Krista Pell is recognized for her strategic, exuberant and hands-on approach to people and performance. Throughout her career, she has proven her drive to develop and implement people management and organizational development strategies and solutions that create systemic change, enhancing the engagement and effectiveness of all employees. But did you know this impressive executive was once a star on the rugby field? Learn more about Krista below.

Want to hear more from Krista and two other power-house female energy executives? Join us in Calgary on October 4 for our luncheon event Women In Power: Calgary’s Senior Executives Weigh In.





My first job ever was… I had a newspaper route for the Guelph Mercury.  After that I worked at the mall food court for a small ice cream and snack shop called Fast Eddie’s.


I chose my career path because… I always loved the combination of coaching others and consulting leaders on how to improve their business outcomes. This evolved perfectly in to a career focused on People and Performance.


My proudest accomplishment is… My daughter.  She is 9 years old and is thoughtful, kind, well-traveled and understands diversity in our world.


My boldest move to date was… Leaving my successful role and moving across the world, which I actually did twice! Once from Canada to the Cayman Islands and then 7 years later I decided to leave that role and move back to Canada.


I surprise people when I tell them… I compete at a world level in CrossFit and that I have competed on the world stage in rugby and cheerleading. Quite a unique blend!


My best advice to people starting their career is… Ask a lot of questions and don’t be afraid to participate in discussions that scare you a little bit.  This is where all the learning happens.


My best advice from a mentor was… Be myself and use all the experiences I have had in life, that is when I will be most successful.


My biggest setback was… I think I have been fortunate in that I don’t look at any one thing as a big setback. There have been lessons learned but for the most part I feel that I have been on a forward trajectory.


I overcame it by… Anytime I have felt like I was being stagnant in my role or development I looked at how I could challenge myself to do something to change it!


Work/life balance is… Critical to happiness. It looks different for everyone and changes for me on a weekly basis, but I value my personal life as a priority and that is what makes me more successful in business.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I actually don’t know! Probably that I led the Cayman Islands Women’s Rugby team to a NACRA (North America Caribbean Rugby Championships) in 2010, I don’t think that is on the internet.


I stay inspired by… The fact that there is still so much learning and improvement I can do in everything I am involved in. It keeps me hungry!


The future excites me because… I feel that I am very comfortable in my understanding of how I can positively impact others and make a difference in my career and personal endeavours.  When you have a very clear understanding of who you are you also have clarity in how to maximize your accomplishments!


My next step is… I hope as exciting as the past 20 years of my career has been. I sense some changes in the future!




Want to hear more from Krista and two other power-house female energy executives? Join us in Calgary on October 4 for our luncheon event Women In Power: Calgary’s Senior Executives Weigh In.

Meet Queenie Best, the heart and soul behind queenie’s cards

It all began when Queenie received her first Valentine in kindergarten. This sparked her love of snail mail and passion for paper goods, and queenie’s cards was created. The cute, cartoony designs are inspired by everyday life, puns and inside jokes. After experiencing continued success on her Etsy store and at events such as the Etsy: Made in Canada Shows, queenie’s cards opened up a brick and mortar shop in May 2017 in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood. 





My first job ever was… A summer high school job at Tilley’s Endurables. It was a great first experience in the retail world, I had a lot of fun!


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to set my own rules, I believe in my work and I wanted to test my creativity.


The best part of my job is… As cliche as this sounds, making people smile and laugh! I cannot count the number of times customers have laughed so hard that tears would be rolling down their cheeks, all from seeing illustrations that I created.


The hardest part of my job is… Not being able to work 24/7. I’m not even a workaholic, I love a good vacation, but being the sole proprietor of a business means there is always something that should have been done a week ago.


My proudest accomplishment is… Opening up a brick and mortar shop! In May of this year, my pipedream of owning a gift store came true!


My boldest move to date was… Definitely quitting my full-time job as a graphic designer/photographer at a children’s toy company to exhibit at the National Stationery Show in NYC.


I surprise people when I tell them… Queenie is my real name, and yes, all of my cartoons are drawn by me!


My best advice to people starting their own business is… Do all the research. From your business name, if there’s a market for your products, who your possible competitors are, what your start-up costs will be, setting budgets, to how long until you will profit from sales and when it’s time to move on.


My best advice from a mentor was… Sometimes you have to work backwards to get to the start.


My biggest setback was… Copyright infringements (and still is my biggest daily nuisance).


I overcame it by… Public support and hiring a trademark lawyer. Not cool!


Work/life balance is… Incredibly hard. Everyday I feel mom guilt, as much as I try to set work hours it’s impossible to turn on an out of office message when you’re running two online shops, have wholesale and distributor accounts, and now a physical store which requires round-the-clock attention.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… What my home office looks like, because it’s a total sty!


I stay inspired by… Reading, travelling, going to museums and doodling random thoughts.


The future excites me because… I have no idea what the future holds!


My next step is… Preparing for the Etsy Made in Canada Show in Toronto! I’ll be at the MaRS building for the third year, and I can’t wait to see returning customers and meet new ones. It’s a sweet annual reunion for the vendors too, and I love discovering new talent. It’s where I first met the majority of my fellow maker friends.





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



Meet Sarah Walters, Vice President, Human Resources at Cenovus Energy

As Vice-President, Human Resources at Cenovus Energy, Sarah Walters knows how to build a team that is effective, skilled, and inclusive. With more than 20 years of international strategic HR and organizational development experience gained within the rail, National Health Service and oil & gas industries, bringing large scale, multi-skilled teams together is her bread and butter. But her journey to the top of HR hasn’t been without risk, setbacks, and surprising twists.

Want to hear more from Sarah and two other power-house female energy executives? Join us in Calgary on October 4 for our luncheon event Women In Power: Calgary’s Senior Executives Weigh In.





My first job ever was… Debt Collection Officer for local government in the UK


I chose my career path because… I love the impact people can have on organizational performance and I just love the variety that comes with my role.


My proudest accomplishment is… My current role and position on the Leadership Team of Cenovus Energy.


My boldest move to date was… Asking my husband to quit his career and move to the USA with me, especially when he had a far more senior role than I at the time.


I surprise people when I tell them… I took an assessment to be a train driver and passed.


My best advice to people starting their career is… Be open to all opportunities, make the best out of all of them, be positive, be inquisitive and always be kind.


My best advice from a mentor was… Be confident, be authentic, dive in and embrace the challenges that are put in front of you.


My biggest setback was… As with many people, we all suffer from setbacks during our careers but I am a big believer that this is how we learn, develop and grow.


I overcame it by… In all the setbacks I have had in my career, I do my best to find the positive, find the learning and focus on finding the best outcome possible. Then share those learning’s with others to help them avoid the same pitfalls!


Work/life balance is… Having the discipline to know when to stop and go home! Finding efficient ways of working and keeping it simple – don’t overcomplicate things. Recognizing the importance of your support network outside of work and being as committed to them as you are to your work.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I am a grannie to a 6 year old boy.


I stay inspired by… Surrounding myself with positive and driven people and finding the positive in any situation.


The future excites me because… Who knows what new learnings it can bring and how it can make things better for everyone – I love to see progress.


My next step is… Who knows! I have never really planned any of my moves but have always embraced them when they have presented themselves!




Want to hear more from Sarah and two other power-house female energy executives? Join us in Calgary on October 4 for our luncheon event Women In Power: Calgary’s Senior Executives Weigh In.

Meet Laura Murray, a classical ballet dancer turned communications entrepreneur

Recognizing the need for a marketing agency dedicated exclusively to the arts and culture sector, Laura Murray launched Laura Murray Public Relations in 2011. As the principal of what is now known as Murray Paterson Marketing Group (MPMG), Laura has built a company founded on the passion, creativity, and integrity that define the artistic process. A classical ballet dancer and journalist by training, she brings the strength and discipline of dance to her leadership with the insight and exactitude of reporting to her work. Now six-years-old, the agency has grown from a two-person operation to a 15-person company that has earned numerous accolades for its innovative, full-service marketing and communications. Most recently, Laura was recognized as a 2016 Business in Vancouver ‘Forty Under 40’ winner, acknowledging the city’s most successful entrepreneurs under the age of 40 and the ones to watch.





My first job ever was… A very brief stint at Dairy Queen.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… Truthfully, I never set out to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to wake up every day and do meaningful work that I was extremely passionate about, which meant circling back to my first love: the arts. Following my gut and heart, I started my own full-service marketing company – at the time of launch, it was called Laura Murray Public Relations – dedicated exclusively to servicing the arts & creative industries.

Transitioning from the arts to the business world was… Exciting, nerve-wracking, and challenging, but also filled with endless opportunities. Walking away from a career in dance was a difficult decision, given this had been my dream from the time I was six years old; I definitely mourned the loss of my former life when transitioning from the studio into an office environment. But I still carry a piece of the studio with me, and attribute much of my professional success to the drive, discipline, and persistence ingrained in me as a dancer.

My proudest accomplishment is… Being selected as one of Business In Vancouver’s 2016 ‘Forty Under 40’ winners. It was a tremendous honour and incredible validation of the countless hours, the sleepless nights, and the tremendous emotional & physical investment made as an entrepreneur. Being recognized by BIV for work I feel privileged and grateful to do every day meant everything. I’m still pinching myself!

My boldest move to date was… Taking the risk to launch my company, with no business degree or formal education, while remaining steadfast in my vision to work exclusively within the arts (despite the critics).

I surprise people when I tell them… My business partner, Brian Paterson, is also one of my best friends. We couldn’t be more different – he’s the yin to my yang – but I believe our complementary partnership and distinct roles are what has made MPMG so special. We recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses, respectfully challenge one another, and collaboratively develop big, audacious goals.

My best advice to people starting out in business is… Love what you do. You are going to eat, sleep, and breathe your business 24/7; it will become your greatest obsession, your biggest stress, and your most fulfilling joy. Beyond that, draft a solid business plan, hire an excellent accountant, persist in the face of adversity, prepare to hustle, trust your gut, ask for help, and dream big.

My best advice from a mentor was… “Go for it. What do you have to lose?” Growth is only possible when you’re prepared to take risks and make real change. If something scares you, chances are it’s worth doing.


“Growth is only possible when you’re prepared to take risks and make real change.”


My biggest setback was… To be honest, I don’t believe in setbacks. A willingness to try and fail is the cornerstone of innovation, creativity, and success. Every challenge I have faced throughout this entrepreneurial journey has been an invaluable learning experience and ultimately helped me grow stronger and even more determined.

Work/Life Balance is… I’m still trying to figure that out! It truly is a balancing act, and as a result, it is never static. Setting clear boundaries and priorities while also remaining adaptable is a constant exercise in discernment.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… Fun fact: my father, Hugh Murray, was Senior Vice President and Executive Producer at IMAX before entering retirement last year. He was a pioneer in 3D film technology, working on films such as Avatar and Harry Potter, as well as many of the films screened on the OMNIMAX at Science World.

I stay inspired by… The people in my life. My husband and family always inspire me, as do the dedicated, driven, insanely talented dream team at MPMG. I also draw inspiration from the artists whose visions we have the privilege of promoting across Canada.

The future excites me because… It’s full of endless possibilities. I believe that your dreams are only limited by your imagination and work ethic. In many ways, I feel like I’m just getting started.

My next step is… Discovering the answer to that is the fun part! In the not-too-distant future, I would love to create a foundation that focuses on supporting the needs of start-up artists and arts organizations. Creating an opportunity for burgeoning artists to excel is one way for me to give back to the community that has been instrumental to my success.

Meet Rosanne Hertogh, founder of Sololu

Rosanne Hertogh is the founder and designer of Sololu, a lifestyle brand that specializes in ethically made, seasonless women’s clothing. As an avid traveler, Rosanne’s mission is to inspire women to live life to the fullest and empower them to feel beautiful and confident while doing so, all while making ethical and sustainable clothing choices.





My first job ever was… Being a babysitter to my little cousins –I loved spending time with them. I was quite young, but simply loved it (and the fact that I was making a bit of money for the first time).


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to do what I am passionate about, make my own rules and create something I was missing.


My proudest accomplishment is… Receiving a government grant after putting in a lot of time and effort to get my business plan and presentation in front of a jury approved.


My boldest move to date was… Moving to Canada from the Netherlands.


I surprise people when I tell them… I auditioned for the Dutch versions of American Idol and X-Factor when I was 16.


Starting a business with an ethical purpose is… What a lot more entrepreneurs should do. I can’t imagine my clothing designs being made under terrible work conditions. I like to treat people the way I’d like to be treated and that’s why the choice for being ethical was simple. I find it important to have my clothing made in an ethical work environment and keep our planet, the people we share it with, the environment and our future generations in mind.


My best advice to people trying to get an idea off the ground is… Start working on it as soon as you can, before someone else does, and start small – you can always invest in it more (money and time wise) once things take off. Also, do your research of course. Nowadays there’s a ton of information available online and there may have been others who have done or launched something similar to your idea that could be helpful to you.


My best advice from a mentor was… Trust your instincts.


My biggest setback was… Finding a right manufacturer for my clothing collection who is ethical and shares the same values.


I overcame it by… Not giving up and keep searching for that right manufacturer.


Work/life balance is… A healthy combination between living life to the fullest and working on your passion.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’ve lived in Italy for an internship.


I stay inspired by… Traveling – visiting new places and meeting new people.


The future excites me because… I have so many ideas for my business and lots of fun things coming up with family and friends.


My next step is… Creating and adding new clothing designs to Sololu’s current collection that contribute to a better everyday life, whether at home or abroad. I’d love to add more collections as well, such as swimwear and loungewear. My goal is to become as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible. It would be nice to become an inspiring go-to brand for women that travel on a regular basis or lead active lives.




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

Meet Heather Barnabe, CEO of G(irls)20

Earlier this summer, Heather Barnabe was named CEO of our charity of choice, G(irls)20. With over a decade of experience in the not-for-profit sector, Heather knows what it means to manage complex, multi-country education interventions. Her career has thus far taken her across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America for Right To Play, advocating for women’s and girl’s rights around the world. 





My first job ever was… Working at the movie theatre. We were allowed to eat popcorn on our break and after our shift. It was heaven.


I decided to start my own thing… I was fortunate to move into this role after Farah Mohamed, now the CEO at Malala Fund, started G(risl)20.


My education prepared me for where I am now by… Teaching me multidimensional thinking, reasoning and analyzing… the good, the bad and the ugly. It also opened me to the world of political, economic and feminist theories that have, in many ways, shaped my values and guided many of my career choices.


My proudest accomplishment is… Having worked around the globe, I’m proud of the incredible network of colleagues and friends that teach, motivate, inspire, amuse and push me to do awesome things. 


My boldest move to date was… I’d say bold is a character trait many of my friends would use to describe me. Whether that be my career choice, my statements, my values, the type of wine I bring to a dinner party, or my strong eyebrows: I’m no stranger to bold moves. In fact, jumping into this CEO position felt bold – it’s exhilarating and terrifying and incredibly rewarding, like any bold move.


I surprise people when I tell them… How many countries I’ve visited.


My best advice to people starting in their career is… Understand this is a long game and adjust accordingly. Find a mentor, have a strategy, seize opportunities when you can and, most importantly, speak up.


My best advice from my mentor was… Go into every meeting, job interview, sales pitch, whatever it is, with a few well-formulated, critical points you want to make and don’t leave until you’ve made them. It seems obvious and simple but it has helped me stay focused when articulation and brevity are key.


My biggest setback was… I once found myself heartbroken, with a job coming to an end and living in a city I didn’t love. When everyone else seemed to be moving farther ahead in their lives, I felt lost, stuck and heading in the wrong direction.


I overcame it by… Besides leaning heavily on family and friends (and wine), I focused entirely on my career. I worked hard, ended up in a job I loved and found a fulfilment in my career that I hadn’t had in my personal life. When I look back at that time now, I feel like I dodged a bullet as that life was never going to be a satisfying one for me.


Work/life balance is… Finding time for self-care and fun. Self-care for me means exercise and proper eating. Fun is Greg, friends, family, laughter and getting outside. The balance is easier when you have a job you love and you find joy in work.


If you google me, you still wouldn’t know… That I’m a Jeopardy fanatic and my bucket list consists of one thing: becoming a Jeopardy contestant.


I stay inspired by… Look what I do for a living! I’m inspired every day by the young women who come into the G(irls)20 family to grow their leadership skills and give back to their communities in the most amazing, innovative and meaningful ways.  


The future excites me because… When everyone else is complaining about millenials, I think they are the greatest generation. They care about the world around them, they are less prejudiced and they have innovative, creative minds that we already benefit from daily.


My next step is… To take G(irls)20 to the next level, growing existing programs, creating new programs and continue to raise awareness about the importance of access, resources and agency girls and young women need to reach their potential.



Like this? Meet Caroline Riseboro, a CEO leading another one of Canada’s leading organizations advocating for the advancement of women and girls.


Meet AriAnne Sproat, a woman who worked her way up from receptionist to COO in the manufacturing industry


At age 37, AriAnne Sproat proudly wears the label of trailblazer for women in business and, in particular, the manufacturing industry. As COO of ITC Manufacturing in Phoenix, one of the world’s leading supplier of steel products, she has spent the last 18 years as a role model, demonstrating to the company founders and all employees that there is no task she can’t handle – and handle successfully. At just 19, she started her career as a receptionist. After 18 years and a college degree earned in night school, she is now COO. 



My first job ever was… As a waitress. I only dropped one tray.


I decided to enter my industry because… It was a fluke. I was hired as a receptionist and fell in love with the company. I guess you could say the industry chose me!


Being a woman in a male-dominated industry is… Challenging at times but overall very comfortable for me. I grew up with three brothers so I have never been afraid to speak my mind.


My proudest accomplishment is… My son. Being promoted to COO of my company is second.


My boldest move to date was… Continuing to work while pregnant and on bed rest for 4 months, 1 month of it from the hospital.


I surprise people when I tell them… That I work in the steel industry.


My best advice to people starting their career is… Do the work that others won’t. Jumping in and helping out even if it isn’t “your” job is how you learn other aspects of an organization.


My best advice from a mentor was… The true measure of a leader is the people they inspire.


My biggest setback was… When my organization had to make the strategic decision to file bankruptcy.


I overcame it by… Staying positive and looking at it as a learning experience.


Work/life balance is… Hard, especially for moms. I deal with a lot of “mom guilt” but I know I am best as a parent when I feel happy and fulfilled and my career does that for me.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I have a twin brother.


I stay inspired by… Other women. I am proud to share what I have learned with other women and help build up other women.


The future excites me because… I see how bright it is.


My next step is… Continue to learn and grow within my role and help others within the organization learn and grow as well.



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.


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

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.”


Meet Marcia Woods, an entrepreneur bringing fresh produce to the masses

Despite the increased demand for farmers’ and micro-produced crops, logistical challenges have prevented farmers from entering the commercial market, forcing buyers to pay high prices for imported items. Marcia Woods is addressing that problem as Founder and CEO of FreshSpoke, a innovative new platform that is disrupting the traditional food distribution process by connecting producers and wholesale buyers using tools that streamline the process. It’s a timely solution that, having launched in late 2016, has already grown to 125 food producers, selling over 700 locally produced products. But Marcia’s career hasn’t always been defined by success. Learn her story. 





My first job ever was… Picking cucumbers as a young teenager. I was so excited about the job and had big ideas about all the money was going to make. It turns out I was the slowest cucumber picker ever and since you got paid by weight, my wages were dismal. Needless to say, I didn’t last long but did develop a deep appreciation for the stamina of farmers.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… When the Internet was burgeoning in the mid 90’s, I was completely blown away – it was going to change everything and I wanted in. So, I gave up my day job and started a web design company. Becoming an entrepreneur was not a deliberate career path for me. Starting in my 20’s I always had a gig or two on the side of my day job so the idea of running a business wasn’t a foreign concept.


My proudest accomplishment is… The work we are doing right now at FreshSpoke to improve the health of our fragile food system. For too long distribution challenges have kept our local food producers out of the supply chain. We are changing all that with a marketplace platform that connects local food producers with wholesale buyers using an innovative shared delivery system that leverages the excess capacity that already exists in the distribution system.


My boldest move to date was… Making bold moves that have taken me out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. It’s hard to isolate just one.


I surprise people when I tell them… That I much prefer to be behind the scenes.


My best advice to people starting out in business is… Build stuff that matters! I teach entrepreneurship and occasionally judge pitch competitions. The idea that gets me excited isn’t the next great social network but rather disruptive products or technology that solve real problems for people or businesses, and one that your customer is willing to pay for.

Secondly, we’re all in love with our own ideas but it’s important to be coachable. Seek out potential customers, mentors and experts in your space and really listen to feedback and heed advice. It can be really tough but it saves precious time and resources in the long run.  


Pitching for venture capital is… Is serious business. You can never be too prepared.


“Seek out potential customers, mentors and experts in your space and really listen to feedback and heed advice. It can be really tough but it saves precious time and resources in the long run.”  


We can support more women entrepreneurs by… Continuing to to tell the stories of women in entrepreneurship.


My best advice from a mentor was… Brevity! Be as clear and concise in your pitch.


My biggest setback was… In 2012, the bottom completely dropped out of my life professionally and personally. My second start-up failed which set a series of unfortunate events in motion.


I overcame it by… Being resilient and resourceful by nature (and one bottle of scotch later), I moved to Barrie, Ontario and began to design my life in such a way that would afford me one more chance at launching a successful tech start-up around something that really mattered — that turned out to be local food.


Work/life balance is… Challenging when you’re in start-up mode but oh so necessary if you want to be at peak performance. We trick ourselves into thinking that working 18 hours a day is productive when in fact it has the opposite effect.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I am a political junky.


I stay inspired by… Listening to the stories of our customers, and local food producers. Their passion and determination against all odds is inspiring.


The future excites me because… I hear lots of negative commentary about the generation coming of age but I don’t share that mantra. I love the way millennials think, live and work. They are driving a positive economic and cultural shift in our workplaces and marketplaces.


My next step is… Looking forward to continuing to be involved in the local food movement and sustainable farming beyond FreshSpoke.



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

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!

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.” 

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

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.”

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