Peak interest: How Megan McDonald’s career decisions led her to Mount Everest

 

 

As manager of expedition fundraising with the True Patriot Love Foundation (TPL), Megan McDonald’s job takes her to some unusual places – like 17,598 feet up the world’s highest mountain. Back in Toronto following her most recent expedition, she shares details from the exhilarating experience, and the path that led her there.

 

By Hailey Eisen

 


 

Climbing is often used as a metaphor to describe the path to career success. But when Megan McDonald says she climbs mountains as part of her job, she literally means it. As manager of expedition fundraising with the True Patriot Love Foundation (TPL), Megan’s work involves strategy, fundraising, recruitment — and adventure travel.

Having just returned from an expedition to Mount Everest that brought together a group of influential Canadian business leaders with ill or injured members of the Canadian Armed Forces, Megan is still buzzing from the thrill of the experience.

Megan says the climb was especially tough mentally. The whole team climbed to Everest Base Camp but only a few went on to ascend the 20,000 ft. peak, Lobuche East. “Out of 21 in the group, only nine attempted the summit, and I was the only female in the group to make it to the top,” she says.  

For Megan, it was a well-earned boost of confidence. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she says, “but honestly you just had to take it one day at a time, one foot in front of the other.

So how did Megan end up organizing expeditions around the world to raise funds to support veterans in their transition to civilian life?

After obtaining her undergraduate degree in sociology, and after a few years working for the Canadian Cancer Society, Megan decided to go back to school to get her MBA. “I really enjoyed that job, but I wanted more of an opportunity for growth,” she recalls. Having an interest in business strategy, she decided an MBA would help take her career to the next level.

“I thought I would get out of the not-for-profit world and was looking for more corporate experience through the MBA,” Megan explains. After giving it much thought, she left her job and moved to Kingston to complete the 12-month, full-time program at Smith School of Business. “It was a lot of work — a similar mental game to climbing that mountain. You had to double-down, and work like crazy to get through it.”

All that focus and hard-work paid off. Megan completed the program and came away with an extensive professional network and friends she says she’ll have for the rest of her life. “I really learned how to think differently, how to strategize, and how to attain balance when things got really hectic.”

Though she originally intended to move her career into the corporate world, Megan was offered a strategy role with the MS Society after graduating, and leapt at the opportunity to put her newly acquired skills to work in a field where she already felt comfortable.

 

“What’s really incredible is to watch the group dynamic unfold. Everyone is so vulnerable, going through the climb together, and there’s a lot of invaluable discussion that happens along the way.”

 

From there, she was headhunted by TPL — an organization she hadn’t heard of at the time, but was intrigued by. “As I came to learn more about the foundation, I felt aligned with their mission, goals, and values,” she says. “It was a great opportunity to move up and expand my experience and knowledge through fundraising, recruiting, and strategy.”

Founded in 2009, TPL provides funding for innovative research and community-based programs in support  of military members, veterans and their families. The expeditions, which Megan calls “bucket list trips” are one example. These events bring together active military members, veterans and community leaders for a unique physical, mental and emotional challenge, while also raising much needed awareness and funds.

Part of Megan’s role is to manage relationships for all major expeditions. This includes recruiting participants on both the corporate and military side, and supporting corporate participants in their efforts to raise a minimum of $50,000 each, as part of their commitment prior to departing on the trip.

TPL has been organizing these trips since 2012 and has raised an impressive $7 million. Past expeditions have included Island Peak in the Himalayas, the Magnetic North Pole, Vinson Massif in Antarctica and a best of Canada series that took participants to British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Newfoundland. Having the opportunity to experience the most recent expedition first-hand, solidified for Megan the value these trips provide.

“What’s really incredible is to watch the group dynamic unfold,” she says. “Everyone is so vulnerable, going through the climb together, and there’s a lot of invaluable discussion that happens along the way. For soldiers, it’s a way to heal, to prove to themselves they can still physically do something like this, to work through mental health challenges, and to leave something at the top of the mountain.”

While Megan admits she was nervous heading into the climb, she’s now much more confident and ready for her next expedition with TPL in 2019 – the third highest mountains in North America, Orizaba in Mexico.

“I love my job. I plan to stay and grow here for as long as possible.

 

Thinking about getting your MBA? Tune in to Smith’s Women and the MBA webinar June 7 to hear the stories and challenges of women who have successfully completed their degree. Panel members will candidly share thoughts on managing balance, financing and reaping the career benefits of an MBA, and what they learned about themselves along the way.

 

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

 

Ready for a Promotion? A recruiting expert explains how to know you’re ready – and can prove it

 

As the ‎Managing Partner, Recruitment Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge, Samantha Wood has an insider’s perspective on how to move up in your career. She’s sharing her expert knowledge, not only on how to know when you’re ready for a step up, but also what you need to do to prove it.

 

By Samantha Wood

 


 

In the recruitment field, there’s a term for a certain type of job candidate: the purple squirrel. It’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek, of course, acknowledging  that the employer’s initial list of requested skills and qualities (paired with the compensation they are willing to offer) can only be found in a mythical candidate.

Fortunately, companies aren’t really looking for purple squirrels — in this age of disruption, their needs are quite different. As recruiters, we’re accustomed to finding tailored position/candidate matches, but potential applicants can find those catch-all job postings daunting. The truth is, future success in a role doesn’t require you to check all the “candidate must have” boxes starting out.

This is a lesson I find particularly important for women. Statistics suggest that women only apply for jobs if they believe they meet 100% of the listed qualifications, while men are comfortable with roughly 60%. It’s a problematic gap: if you want to move up in your career, you’ll inevitably have to tackle jobs where you don’t meet all the criteria. These “stretch roles” are meant to be challenging, requiring you to develop new skills and improve your capabilities quickly, so it’s important to overcome those “purple squirrel” reservations if you want to advance.

Doing this successfully is a two-step process: first, figure out if you are actually ready for a stretch role; second, position yourself as ready to those making the hiring or promotion decision.

 

Step 1: Just how “purple” are you?

This begins with some honest self exploration. You need to have an awareness of your skills, but it’s important to think beyond the bullet points on your resume. To better understand your true capabilities, try reframing your perspective, asking yourself “can I do that?” instead of “have I done that?”

In doing so, you’re certain to discover skills and experience you may not have considered but that are transferable to a new position, or that set you up for quick learning in a new area. If you find this exercise challenging (or maybe even a little too easy), approach a mentor or some other person you trust who can help you assess your true skills and where they might fit.

 

Step 2: Make them see what you know

Convincing yourself you’re ready to take on a stretch role is only half the battle — now you need to prove it to others. Start by showing a strategic mindset, demonstrating that you know how the role fits into the big picture. Rather than thinking and speaking in terms of how the role relates to the levels below it, focus on the impact it can have on the broader organization — and on how you are the candidate who can fulfill that potential.

This means demonstrating how your different skills and experiences translate to those required by the new role. For a position of authority, for example, you’ll need to show that you can handle and excel at leadership. Being able to manage people older than yourself is always a big plus, so if that’s in your work history, be sure to highlight it.

Keep in mind that proving your capability is often easier to do with an internal promotion. It can be challenging to be the step-up candidate or to change functions if you are also switching organizations. Staying within your current company means you not only have a known and proven track record, but you can also approach a manager for mentorship or direction.

Regardless of whether you’re interested in an internal or external role, or whether you’re in the “assessing ability” or “proving capability” phase of the process, take every opportunity to have open conversations where you express your goals. Making your ambitions known could be your proverbial foot in the door.

This brings me to my last piece of advice: be courageous. You don’t need to be a purple squirrel, but you do need to have the determination and ambition to push past any fears, take honest stock of your own potential, and go for that role that tests your limits and broadens your future.

 

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 us at www.lhhknightsbridge.com

 

Was That Coaching or Criticism?

 

We all rely on healthy constructive criticism in order to learn and grow as professionals. But what happens when coaching becomes straight up criticism? Christine Laperriere of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre is here to remind us all how heavy-handed coaching can backfire ― and how we can prevent our confidence from crumbling under the pressure.

 

by Christine Laperriere

 


 

As Lead Coach with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, I often am tasked with coaching some of the brightest women in an organization. Recently, one of my clients called and asked if I could support her on a complex issue.

On our call she explained that her manager had decided in his effort to help her advance, he was going to give her “extra coaching.” To many of us, we’d be thrilled to have additional coaching to support our efforts to grow. But this manager had started to repeatedly point out this woman’s flaws in her leadership style ― she accused him of coaching “too much.”

One day he commented she came off as aggressive, the next day he noted that she interrupted someone. After a few months of working for him, she had completely lost her confidence. She said every meeting she went into she was thinking, “don’t be too aggressive” or “don’t be too dominating” or “be sure not to interrupt.” The storyline in her head was so busy telling her what she should not do, she had no focus on what she should be doing in the moment. Ultimately, as a result of coaching, she felt her performance declining and she was worried her career had taken a turn for the worse.

 

“As a result of coaching, she felt her performance declining and she was worried her career had taken a turn for the worse.”

 

This client’s story reminded me of one important component of fantastic coaching: the observation of “current state” behaviours with heavy emphasis and direction around what “future state” looks like. As I listened to a number of observations her manager had given her, I started to ask her what behaviours she should focus on doing more of.  Pretty soon she concluded that she wanted to be a better listener who focused on hearing another person’s full thought. She also noticed that she wanted to stay calm in discussions with other parts of the organization so she could better work with them. By the end of the conversation, she realized that if she could simply bring her attention to staying calm, curious, and listening more, she could perform so much better than focusing on what she might do wrong.

She called a few weeks later to say that she had found a few simple mantras that she’d often play in her head during tough meetings; “stay calm, curious, and listen” was her favourite. She said that making this simple shift in thinking not only helped her create a noticeable shift in her presence in meetings, it was actually making work much more fun and less stressful for her. I know that more fun ultimately means more success, so I simply encouraged her to stay on this path in the future.

 

 

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

Why I’m Finished with Leadership Buzzwords

 

Recognizing when our unconscious personal bias is influencing how we perceive our leaders is crucial. Leah Parkhill Reilly of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre urges us to base judgment on facts rather than feelings, and stay on high alert for meaningless buzzwords.

 

by Leah Parkhill Reilly

 


 

When I was in corporate HR, we would conduct talent roundtables to assess the readiness of the next levels of talent to move forward in the organization.

 

I would occasionally hear the comment that “so-and-so” lacked “gravitas” and was not ready for the promotion or a more challenging assignment. Often, the person lacking “gravitas” was female and the individual who was providing the opinion was a male executive with many years of experience.

 

This is not to say that the opinion was unfounded, but when I would question the individual on tangible evidence of what “gravitas” looked like, and examples of when the person being assessed was found lacking, often they had nothing to share. It was purely a gut opinion with nothing to validate it. Occasionally, it was a comment that the person had heard through the corporate grapevine. Opinion had become fact, and actual evidence was no longer relevant. This admittedly was an extreme example, and thankfully didn’t happen on a regular basis ― but it did happen, and still does.

 

“Opinion had become fact, and actual evidence was no longer relevant.”

 

We are all susceptible to unconscious bias, and part of the work that I did was to be very aware of this bias in these settings. In another example, I encountered a leader who wanted to hold back on an assignment for a female colleague because he thought she was considering having children. His implicit association was that if you’re female, then you’re going to be the primary caregiver and thus would not be interested in the next level of leadership. Thankfully, the discriminatory view of this dinosaur did not stand, and the female colleague did receive the assignment.

 

If you’re curious about the concept of unconscious bias and implicit association, one of the best sites I can recommend for further exploration is Project Implicit and the associated Implicit Association Tests. Project Implicit is an international collaboration between researchers run out of Harvard. The focus is on understanding our own social cognition: the thoughts and feelings outside of our conscious control.

 

You can complete any number of tests ― on age, gender, sexuality, and race, all in connection to career and the workplace ― to better understand the hidden biases that might affect your own decision-making process. If you’re really keen, I’d also suggest reading Blind Spot, which dives deeper into the causes of stereotyping and discrimination.

 

This is the time of year when performance assessments have been completed, but soon enough, mid-year talent roundtables will begin and it’s important to have your own radar on alert for the buzzwords that are flung around. As strong leaders, it behooves us to dig into the comments and understand what lies beneath the surface.

 

If someone “lacks presence,” tell us an example of when this failing was observed, give a comparative example of what it should look like in the firm, or provide options for how that person can develop their “leadership presence.” We can’t just readily accept opinion without actual supporting evidence. Leadership comes in many shapes and forms, and we need to be aware of our own biases of what leadership “looks like” ― instead focusing on the actual work, and impact within the organization and beyond.

 

Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.

Overcoming the Imposter

 

You probably don’t have to think too far back to recall the last time you diminished yourself and your work, brushing off moments of success as simply “good luck”. It’s called the Imposter Syndrome, and it is real, and it is rampant — an estimated 70% of people will experience it at least once in their lives. So how do we move past it and own our triumphs? Leah Parkhill Reilly of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre has some tips. 

 

by Leah Parkhill Reilly


 

 

Have you ever had a day when it seems like the stars are perfectly aligned for you? When someone has reached out and hit the easy button on your behalf? I had one of those days this past Friday and it was brilliant, everything managed to fall into place and several people offered some much-needed support to make the day successful.

 

My initial reaction to the day falling into place was “what a stroke of luck, thank goodness things happened that way.” But when thinking about things again I realized that there really was no luck involved. Friends stepped up to help out because I had done the same for them many times before. I was offered a project for my business because I had established a track record and proven my worth. My initial reaction of “wow, what luck” diminished the work and my own capabilities that had led to a brilliant day.

 

How many of us do this on a regular basis? Diminish ourselves and our work and brush it off as luck? As it turns out, a whole bunch of us do. There have been numerous articles written about Imposter Phenomenon, and a study from 2011 asserts that “…it is estimated that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of this Impostor Phenomenon in their lives.”

 

The person dealing with Imposter Phenomenon can be summarized as an individual who attributes the success in their life to external factors and internalizes the failures within their life, and they experience some degree of fear at being discovered as an intellectual fraud. They may tend to discount their success if it’s not a match to the ideal standard that they’ve envisioned for themselves. They may discount the success that comes with hard work and perceive it as not being due to their innate ability, or they may just attribute their success to luck.

 

Some have asserted that there is a correlation between the Imposter Syndrome and success, as it drives a cycle of ambition. Anxiety over failure leads to hard work and preparation, leading to success, leading to positive feedback which is discounted, leading to the next task that will prove capability and debunk fraudulent feelings and so on. However, a cycle of ambition based on fraudulent feelings doesn’t feel like an ideal long-term approach to managing a career or life.

So how does one manage the fine balance of accepting one’s role in the successes in life without tripping too far over the other side of the line of having a whopping big ego? I’m not a therapist but in thinking through this for myself I’ve come up with my own list and think it might be helpful for you.

 

  1. Acknowledge Success: accept that you’ve had some part in your own success and that hard work counts just as much as innate skills.

  2. Reinforce and Reward: create a reminder for yourself of your positive accomplishments, such as a journal, tweet, text, or celebratory token – the point is recognizing it in yourself.

  3. Be Proud but Humble: for me, part of the unwillingness to acknowledge is not wanting to be seen as boastful, but there is a balance between openly showboating and feeling an internal sense of pride in accomplishments. Find that balance and try to stay on the side of humble.

  4. Learn from Failure: the point of this post is about owning both your successes and failures, so ensure that in your process of acknowledging, you identify what can be learned from the failures along the way.

 

 

Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.

How Brenda Rideout became the first female CEO of a major Canadian financial institution

In just one leap of faith, Brenda Rideout entered the new world of fintech in the 90s, kick-starting a nearly 20 year tenure at one of Canada’s most innovative financial institutions, Tangerine Bank, where she is now CEO. Learn how her personal passion, several influential women, and a desire to be bold has helped shape Brenda’s impressive career.

 

By Shelley White

 


 

Tangerine Bank CEO Brenda Rideout has never been afraid to take a risk.

“When new opportunities presented themselves, I raised my hand for them,” she says of her impressive career path. In March, Brenda became the first female CEO of a major Canadian financial institution, a remarkable milestone in an industry where women in top jobs are still few and far between.

Brenda recalls the leap of faith she took when she first joined ING Direct in 1999 (which rebranded as Tangerine in 2014). She was at Shoppers Drug Mart at the time, when she heard that ING Direct founder Arkadi Kulmann was looking for a director of software development to give the bank an Internet presence in Canada. After a meeting with the iconoclastic CEO, Brenda was inspired by his vision of branchless, Internet banking.

“That was in the 90s, so there were organizations that had static websites, but nobody had a truly transactional website,” says Brenda. “So I went home that night to tell my husband, ‘You know what? I’m going to leave my nice, secure job at Shoppers to go work for this direct bank and help Canadians save their money.’”

It was a bold and risky move, but Brenda liked the idea of being able to create something innovative from scratch. “It was a startup, so I wouldn’t have to worry about legacy systems,” she says. “I would have the opportunity to build and shape from a technology standpoint.”

Technology had been a passion for Brenda ever since high school. Growing up the youngest of six kids in a “typical, middle-class family” in Toronto, Brenda took an introduction to computers course and learned early programming languages like BASIC and FORTRAN. She was instantly hooked.

“My parents were encouraging me to become a nurse or a teacher, so you can imagine their surprise when I told them I wanted to study computers and program,” she says. “They didn’t know what that was. There was no such thing as the Internet at that time, let alone videogames and the gadgets we have today.”

After high school, Brenda studied computers at Seneca College, then began working as a programmer. Craving opportunities for advancement, she took a job with Imperial Life Insurance Company, where she worked her way up into management. It was at Imperial Life that Brenda met her first mentor, Carole Briard (who would go on to become Chief Information Officer at Bank of Canada).

“Carole played a key role throughout my career,” says Brenda. “There were very few [women in technology at the time], and that connection with another female leader who was trying to advance in technology was very important. To this day, we are still very close.”

 

“There were very few women in technology at the time, and that connection with another female leader who was trying to advance in technology was very important.”

 

Brenda also believes in continuous learning. She holds a number of technology certificates, and completed an Executive Program at Queen’s University in addition to a Masters Certificate in Innovation at Schulich School of Business.

A strong advocate for the advancement of women in the Canadian workforce, Brenda has led the women in leadership program at Tangerine for several years. She says that mentoring can be a valuable way for women to support each other.

“I think that lack of confidence and fear of failure can hold us back, myself included,” she says. “I definitely reach out to my female network. And it’s not about just seeking a mentor to say you have a mentor, but being willing to ask for help.”

The late Mona Goldstein, Toronto marketing guru and CEO at Wunderman, was another important mentor in Brenda’s life. After successfully taking on several operational-type roles at ING Direct, Brenda was asked to head up marketing for the company, a position she found daunting.

 

“It’s not about just seeking a mentor to say you have a mentor, but being willing to ask for help.”

 

“It was not necessarily in my wheelhouse and I certainly felt inept at times, wondering, ‘What am I doing here?’ My confidence was wavering,” says Brenda. “But Mona provided me some tremendous insight and encouragement and was one of the smartest, most inspirational women I’ve ever met.”

As a mom with a high-profile career, Brenda says work-life balance could be a challenge, especially when her son was young. In the tech world, working after hours is a necessity. Because it was hard to control her afternoons and evenings, Brenda says she felt strongly that she needed to control her mornings.

“I needed to connect with my son in the morning, so I would have breakfast with him every morning, I’d give him a hug, I’d put him on the bus. In banking, it’s quite common to have breakfast meetings starting at 7:30am, and I really had to be strong about saying no to early morning meetings,” says Brenda. “If you say no often enough, and say, ‘I’m happy to meet with you later in the day, but I’m not coming in for a breakfast meeting,’ people get used to it.”

Brenda says she still makes mornings with her family a priority.

“My son is 14 now and we still have breakfast every morning, although I think it’s more for me than him now. It’s getting harder to get that hug,” she laughs.

When she’s not carving a path for women in leadership roles, Brenda says she craves time in the outdoors with her family – hiking, golfing, skiing and walking their two dogs.

“I also enjoy cooking and baking,” she says. “If my husband will get the ingredients, I’m more than happy to put on some music and cook in my kitchen.”

Brenda attributes her career success to a strong work ethic and ample curiosity. “And having family and friends and mentors – people you can talk to and trust – is a must,” she adds.

Her advice for women hoping to emulate her success? Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn, and raise your hand when opportunities arise.

“Joining ING Direct was a risk,” she says. “But the journey has been amazing.”

 

 

 

Your responsibility in navigating a bad boss

The quality of your relationship to your superiors is critical to your professional success ― yet, it’s not always easy to overlook your boss’s shortcomings. Christine Laperriere, executive director of our Advancement Centre is here to help.

 

by Christine Laperriere


 

In my work as Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, I get invited into conversations with top performers who are navigating serious challenges in the workplace, and the topic of working for a “bad boss” comes up often.

I find it interesting how many of us, when working with people we start to experience conflict with, anchor feelings of frustration, resentment, or hopelessness to each interaction we have with that person. After a while, just the sight of that person in a meeting will draw out a feeling of frustration, and that person hasn’t even begun to speak yet!

As I was working with one women, she admitted that each time she walked into the same room as a particular senior leader, she immediately started to think about how frustrating it was to work with him and how she just knew he was going to shoot down her ideas. At one point, I invited her to think about what part of this dynamic she was responsible for. She didn’t see herself as responsible for any part of it.

As our conversation unfolded, I asked her what it would be like to lead a team if they walked into a room already thinking about their resentment for her and anticipating what she would do next to frustrate them. She explained that it would be hard, because they would assume whatever action she took was creating what they already believed about her. She pointed out how important it is that her team show up prepared to be open-minded, leaving past judgments and baggage behind.  

 

“She pointed out how important it is that her team show up prepared to be open-minded, leaving past judgments and baggage behind.”

 

Within a few seconds, she went quiet and I could tell she realized the irony in what she’d just shared.

We’ve all worked with challenging people, and sadly there is no “magic bullet” that transforms these tough working dynamics overnight ― but I know that your individual mindset predetermines the potential outcome in any dynamic. If you start the discussion in your lowest state of mind, don’t be surprised that the outcomes of the discussions look unsuccessful and similar, time and time again.

Your job when navigating a bad boss is to reach for your internal resources to stay creative, curious, and collaborating ― bringing your best tools and thinking forward in every working environment.

 

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

Meet Carolina Parra: An Executive That’s Balancing Career and Family

Carolina Parra is the Vice President of Corporate and Commercial Risk at Scotiabank Chile. She’s also a mother, wife, and adamant advocate for the value of diversity, recognizing that when a diverse group of talented individuals is heard, incredible things can happen for both business and culture. 

 

By Shelley White

 


 

Carolina Parra is an executive at one of Chile’s banks. She’s also a wife and mother to a 7-year-old daughter. But whether Carolina’s in the boardroom or at home, she makes it clear which role comes first.

“Balancing is hard, but I’m a wife and mother first and that’s my priority and there’s no discussion about that,” says Carolina, Vice President of Corporate and Commercial risk at Scotiabank Chile. “Building a family takes teamwork and my husband is my teammate. He is a husband and father first. Our family is central to what we do and it is a balancing act to ensure that one or both of us is always in our daughter’s life.”

Growing up in Bogota, Colombia as the eldest of two daughters, Carolina says her upbringing had a huge impact on her career aspirations and future success.

“Both my parents worked when we were growing up and had successful careers – my dad in business and my mother as a dentist,” she says. “Seeing their passion for their work was what inspired me to focus on studying and challenge myself, making sure I could reach whatever goal I wanted.”

Watching her parents successfully balance rewarding careers and family life was an important influence on Carolina’s life. “They ensured we would always spend time together at the end of the day to share our activities and celebrate whatever we had accomplished,” she says. “That really was the basis for what my family is today.”

After completing her industrial engineering degree at university in Bogota and a stint in consulting, Carolina found herself drawn to the world of commercial banking. She says she always liked the financial side and enjoyed numbers. Over the next two decades, Carolina expanded her expertise, working in different areas of banking as well as several different countries, including Colombia, Puerto Rico, Chile and Canada. She says her experiences enhanced her appreciation for diverse cultures, as well as the need to understand context when entering a new environment.

“Each culture has its wonderful sides, and its quirks,” she says. “The first thing you need to learn is that each culture is shaped by what the people have lived through in the past, and you need to understand, respect and enjoy that.”

In addition to leading a team of 60 people as a vice president at Scotiabank Chile, Carolina is also a proud member of Chile’s diversity and inclusion council because “that’s the world’s reality now,” she says. “Attracting and retaining talent is key to our success and, by definition, the talent we attract is diverse.  Failing to attract or retain that talent isn’t an option. Diversity provides such a variety of perspectives, knowledge and experiences and it reflects our customer base.”

“Attracting and retaining talent is key to our success and, by definition, the talent we attract is diverse.  Failing to attract or retain that talent isn’t an option. Diversity provides such a variety of perspectives, knowledge and experiences and it reflects our customer base.”

To promote diversity at Scotiabank Chile, the council has created an internal communications campaign to educate the workforce on the benefits of diversity and inclusion, as well as hosting multicultural lunches with staff to celebrate the different cultural backgrounds of employees. The council also recently launched an initiative to recruit more people with disabilities.

“At Scotiabank, we’re all working to create awareness that there’s value to diversity, that we need to cherish and create that shift in culture to challenge our unconscious bias and create that inclusive environment,” says Carolina.

She notes that women can undercut their own progress by not “raising their hand” when it comes to promotion opportunities. That’s why she believes it’s important for senior management to help identify women who are ready for career advancement.

Coaching can also be a powerful tool to help talented women progress in the business world. “It’s that constant feedback to employees to focus on how they can improve, how they can expand their influence and improve their technical skills,” says Carolina.

For women who want to excel in their chosen industry, Carolina says her first advice is always, find what you love and do it very well.

“You have to love it, you have to own it and show people that you are good at it,” she says. “The second piece of advice is make your voice heard. In a discussion, raise your hand and speak up. The third piece of advice is in order to advance and be a leader, you need to learn to coach and develop other people, because that speaks highly of how much of a leader you can be.”

When she isn’t leading her team or coaching the next generation at Scotiabank Chile, Carolina’s focus is on spending her leisure time with her family, in activities like swimming and playing tennis.

She hopes to raise her daughter with the same confidence that she grew up with, and the knowledge that it’s possible to have both a family and a fulfilling career.

“Family has to be the priority in my world,” she reiterates firmly. “If it’s not, I’m only making a living, I’m not making a life. Life is what matters in the end.”

 

 

 

Questions to build the relationships you need for an amazing year

Are you looking to add some goals to your plate? Christine Laperriere, executive director of our Advancement Centre, suggests you start with a baggage removal plan: clean house of your toxic relationships, and you’ll have more energy to focus on success.

 

by Christine Laperriere


 

As many of us look to add goals to our plate, we often forget one critical element: what are we going to remove from our lives to create space for something new?

 

It’s time to design a baggage removal plan. Let’s clean house in a common area that so many of us feel challenged by: relationships. Knowing where our support network lies and what relationships are toxic can help us build an action plan to free up emotional energy to use elsewhere.

 

In order to do this relationship assessment, you need to ask yourself some tough questions:

 

1. Which relationships drain me?

 

2. And of those relationships, which can I choose to change and which can I choose to eliminate?

 

3. If I choose to change the relationship, what steps do I need to take?  What difficult conversations do I need to have the courage to start?

 

4. Which relationships energize me?

 

5. Who are my “board of advisers” or ultimate support network? Who can I rely on in my life for a bit of support even if it’s just a laugh and a smile on a rough day?

 

6. Who do I provide support to? Do I feel good when supporting them or do I feel taken advantage of? How can I shift this dynamic?

 

Often, we are so busy with the day-to-day challenges of our work and personal life, we don’t notice how many relationships drain us, or take full advantage of the wonderful people who support us. But by spending some time to reflect on each critical area of our life, we can find simple ways to improve ourselves and our relationships — with just a little bit of courage and effort.

 

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

The Case for Why Companies Should Recruit More Military Veterans

There is a key recruitment channel that employers and recruiters may not be tapping – military veterans. Many have the skills and experience organizations need, but it’s up to executives like Maureen Neglia, Vice President, HR, Global Recruitment at Scotiabank to read between the lines and see how veterans can strengthen both a company’s bottom line, their diversity and inclusion efforts, as well as veterans’ transition to the civilian sector. Bob Berube, former military director and now Director, Channel and Executive Operations at Scotiabank is a perfect example. Here’s his story.

 

By Shelley White


 

When Bob Berube decided to leave the Canadian military after 25 years of service, he spent two years preparing for his transition to the private sector.

Bob had joined the military in 1989 at the tender age of 19, and for most of the next 25 years, he was deployed to operations in far-flung locations, from Germany to the former Yugoslavia to Afghanistan. But despite his wealth of experience and successful record in the armed services, Bob realized that he would need to “re-educate” himself if he was to thrive in the private sector.

“The challenge was understanding where my skills would be best applied, in what type of industry and at what level,” he says. So Bob hired a career coach and began making connections with non-military business leaders from a variety of industries.

“Tapping into networks was vital for me to really understand how I could work in the private sector.”

Bob’s preparation helped him successfully transition out of the military and into a robust private sector career – he is now Director, Channel and Executive Operations at Scotiabank. Making this sort of career transition can pose some challenges for veterans.

 

“Tapping into networks was vital for me to really understand how I could work in the private sector.”

 

Because of the rules and regulations governing fitness requirements in the military, Bob points out that most members have a set end date for their careers.  The majority are required to retire at age 55, leaving them to either find other employment in the private sector or rely on their military pension. And many will leave the military before retirement age.  It can be a challenge for veterans to make the transition to careers in the private sector because employers and recruiters may not realize that veterans have the skills and experience they need in their organizations.

“My experience has been that the civilian sector speaks in a completely different language,” Bob explains. “Because the military is a very unique organization – has its own policies, has its own procedures – a lot of the certifications or experience levels that the private sector might be looking for may not be required for a profession in the military. A recruiter might not be able to understand how someone’s military experience would actually be a huge benefit to the organization.”

 

At the same time, military people may have difficulty presenting their skills and experience in a way that private-sector employers will understand, says Bob.

 

“Many veterans don’t really prepare themselves for the cultural shock that they’re going to face. They don’t transform their language,” he says. “They may be articulating in their own military jargon a high level of skill that would be perfect for roles that they’re applying for, but it’s not understood at all because they’re speaking in military acronyms that mean nothing in the corporate sector.”

 

Helping military servicemen and women transition to a successful civilian life has been a priority for many years for Maureen Neglia, Vice President, HR, Global Recruitment at Scotiabank. It’s part of her commitment to ensuring a diverse and inclusive strategy when attracting talent to the bank, she says.

 

“Most organizations recognize that the more diverse and inclusive the workforce, the stronger the results are for the organization.”

 

Veterans and reservists – who are members of the military reserve force and carry on civilian lives in peacetime, “offer a unique set of skills and experiences that shouldn’t be overlooked,” says Maureen.

 

“Members of the military are often in roles where they need to be strong, strategic thinkers and leaders. They’re doing a lot of their work under pressure. They’re often managing big, complex projects. And in many cases, they’re having to be leaders at a very young age. They’re having to mobilize and engage teams of people on a regular basis. We find that they can be very successful in project management-type roles, people leadership roles, operations roles and engineering,” says Maureen.

 

Scotiabank supports veterans and reservists in a number of ways, notes Maureen. The company sponsors organizations like True Patriot Love, a national charity that provides mental and physical health support to veterans and their families, and Canada Company, a charitable organization that helps connect business, community leaders and the Canadian military. In September, Scotiabank sponsored an event at the Scotiabank Conference Centre in Toronto called Vets on Bay, bringing together military reservists and veterans with business leaders from leading Canadian corporations.

 

When it comes to recruiting, Scotiabank recently launched a page on their career site that targets veterans and reservists, profiles former members of the military within the organization and gives them a direct line to the Scotiabank recruiters.  

 

“We’ve also hired reservists on the Scotiabank recruitment team who are well-versed in the lingo that you might see on a military resume, because military resumes look very different than civilian resumes,” says Maureen. “When we do bring those individuals into the organization, we try to make sure they have coaches and mentors that have had similar backgrounds to help them make the transition.”

 

“We need to have better conversations on both sides in order to help veterans and reservists succeed.”

 

Bob is also an integral part of Scotiabank’s commitment to recruiting veterans and reservists. He has partnered with Maureen and the recruitment team to identify and channel key military talent for the organization.

 

As well, in 2016, he founded and is the president and CEO of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment Association, which helps people from that military unit to prepare for civilian careers.

 

“There is some amazing talent and disciplined individuals, some really motivated people,” he says of his military compatriots. “I look at the struggles that some of my former colleagues have faced on the path to success in the private sector, and I can see why we need to have better conversations on both sides in order to help veterans and reservists succeed.”

 

 

Maureen notes that in addition to the tremendous value military personnel can add to an organization, there’s another important reason for Canadian organizations to recruit them.

 

“It’s a group of individuals, men and women, that often pay a very heavy debt to society,” she says. “In many cases, they put their lives on the line when they join the military. So I think corporations have an obligation to, at minimum, be looking at their resumes, to better understand how their military skill set could benefit the private sector. In my experience it has been a win-win for all parties involved.”

 

 

Five Resolutions to Boost Your Career in 2017

woman sitting with laptop at cafe

 

This time of year, we are inundated with ideas on how to improve our lives. From drinking more water to unplugging more often, there’s no doubt that starting the New Year on a new path to wellness is a good idea. But what about starting the year on a new path to success, one that’s proactive, and nurtures your continued professional growth?

Here are the 5 career resolutions we want to challenge you with in 2017. From daily habits to yearly goals, do these 5 things and we can almost guarantee you’ll end the year on top.

 


 

Daily: Wake up 30 minutes earlier

But, counterintuitive as it may sound, don’t use it for work. Instead, wake up and use the first 30 minutes of your day to meditate, journal, exercise, cook a delicious breakfast anything that tells your subconscious you value your health and well-being, but also feels productive and restorative. You’ll be energized, more focused, and ultimately better able to tackle the challenges of your work day.

 

Weekly: Ask your boss if there’s anything you can do to make their life easier

Unless you’re running the company, chances are you report to someone, and even though we usually assume our bosses have their ducks in line, chances are there’s something extra they could use your help with. Proving you’re willing to go a little bit beyond the job description (within reason) to make your superior’s job easier will teach you knew skills, and paint you as a hardworking, reliable, and an indispensable resource at your company qualities that just might earn you your next promotion.

 

Monthly: Reach out to someone in your LinkedIn network

It’s easy to neglect your LinkedIn network when you’re not actively seeking a new position, but nurturing your professional connections is one of the most valuable practices you can do for your career. Send a message to a past colleague, teacher, or friend and see if there’s an opportunity for you to help them out they’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness and generosity, and chances are, they’ll be more likely to return the favour in the future.

 

Quarterly: Read the biography of a woman whose career you admire

Reading the stories of women who have already made it is an effective way to get inspired and begin to chart out your own career path. Their struggles and the lessons they learned along their unique route to success will help you navigate your own setbacks, and persevere when things aren’t flowing smoothly. Knowing that someone else had a rocky beginning or middle but still made it to a fruitful and satisfying end is sometimes all it takes to stay motivated. We especially like this one, 100 Accomplished Black Canadian WomenStay tuned for the Spring 2017 issue of Women of Influence magazine for a list of more of our favourites!

 

Yearly: Have the “money talk”

Yes, it’s awkward, and if you’re like many professional women (and men, too) you may gauge your worth based on the salary you’re offered, rather than what you deserve. This year, instead of settling, do some research, summarize your skills and accomplishments, and build that case for why you deserve a raise. The worst that can happen is you get a no. The best? You get more money! It’s always worth it to ask.

 

What’s Holding Women Back: A Look at Female Ambition in Canada

Can women have it all? New research commissioned by American Express Canada and Women of Influence suggests a more pertinent question for 2016—do they even want it all? With the workplace and landscape of life changing rapidly and the word success being redefined, this research examines the state of female ambition in Canada, looking at what, if anything, is holding women back.

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