5 Minutes with Stacey Berry, Entrepreneur and Community Advocate

Stacey Berry is the founder and CEO of Bstellar Consulting Group, which provides soft skills and community development training, teaching practical tools for success. Prior to starting her own business, she worked for the Government of Ontario, as well as in private, non-profit sectors and gained federal policy experience in Washington, DC from America’s largest community development organization, Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

Stacey was appointed to the Toronto Board of Health and is a member of Maytree Foundations’ DiversityOnBoard. She was awarded the 2015 Outstanding Contribution to Student Experience from York University Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and the Young Leaders Award from Endless Possibilities of Hope.

Get to know what inspires her, and how her personal and professional journey led to her becoming one of the incredible women featured in 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women.

 

 

 


 

 

Why did you choose your field of work?

I wanted to work in a field that would allow me to monetize my skills, professional experience and talents. In my company, I wear many hats, such as workshop facilitator, consultant, event manager, project manager, public speaker and writer. Being an entrepreneur was not in my plan A, B, or C. My first career choice was to be a lawyer — I applied to law school but was not accepted. This led me to working in politics for about 5 years. While working as a political staffer, I was then motivated to become a policy advisor and obtained a graduate degree in Public Policy Administration and Law but I was unable to find a permanent job on the bureaucratic. I launched my company with the support of the Ontario Self-Employment Benefit Program, which provided me with the basics tools for starting my business, such as creating a business plan, marketing, budgeting, and business registration. My business allows me create job opportunities for myself by doing the kind of work I have done in the community for the last 15 years.

 

 

What education and training did you pursue?

I completed a college diploma from in Court and Tribunal Administration, as well as a certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution from Seneca College. I obtained a double major Honours degree in History and Law Society, as well as a Master’s degree in Public Policy Administration from York University. I also completed an internship at The Washington Centre for Academic Seminars and Internships in Washington. D.C., where I got experience in community development, federal policy, civic engagement and social advocacy.

 

 

Are there any elements of your upbringing that had an impact on your career choices?

I was inspired to pursue law originally due to a car accident that my late and beloved mother Winnifred Berry survived when I was in grade one. She did not have strong legal representation and had to change lawyers a couple of times. This bothered me so much at a young age that I was motivated to become a lawyer who would help others and protect them from being taken advantage of.

I was surrounded by books and educational board games as a child. Both my parents spent quality time with me and provided a caring, loving, faith filled and warm environment for my sibling and I. We had lots of family gatherings and birthday parties growing up. My mother and older sister went the extra mile by being involved in my studies and intervening when I was diagnosed with having a learning disability. They spent lots of time building my confidence and self-esteem. I was surrounded by supportive friends of my mother who treated me like their niece and provided me with strong mentorship. My mom instilled in me the love of learning and value of education. She inspired me to believe that I can do or be anything I desired. She was the most supportive and nurturing mother anyone could ask for. She would stay up with me until 4am editing my papers for while I was a student in university and college. She taught me the so many words of wisdom that she grew up with in Jamaica: “Labor for learning before you grow old; For learning is better than silver or gold. Silver and gold will vanish away, But a good education will never decay.”

 

 

How did you move from one position to the next?

Getting to the next level in business is based on who’s in your network. Make diverse connections with people from a variety of sectors, but ensure you know experts that can help you grow your business, such as accountants, lawyers, real estate agents, and graphic designers and videographers. Do not try to be good at everything or work alone. Delegate tasks to the experts.

If you want to know what it is like to be a CEO or journalist conduct an informational interview with people who are in that position. This is something I did while I was a student. I conducted several informational interviews of lawyers, a former CEO for General Motors, an Awarding winning American news anchor. The lessons I learned from each interview is priceless, like the importance of striving for excellence in all that I do, and how to select people for your team if you are the CEO of a company. The advice I received from these informational interviews is helping me so much today, especially now that I’m an entrepreneur.

 

 

What mistakes have you made and what did you learn?

Ignoring my artistic gifts and not investing in them. Only my immediate family know how much I love to sing but I keep it hidden. Since everyone expected me to be a lawyer this is what I focused on becoming. Take time to invest in your gifts and grow your talents, then you will become who you were born to be and not what or who you think you should be.

 

 

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about singing, song writing and making a difference in the community. I am involved in supporting many non-profits, including the Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation, which builds and funds basic schools in Jamaica. I am a mentor and member for Inspire North, a non-profit that hosts free speaker series at Universities across Ontario. I volunteer as the Event Co-Chair for The Olive Branch of Hope’s annual We Believe Charity gala. The Olive Branch of Hope is a non-profit that provides educational workshops, awareness programs, resources and financial support for women of African Ancestry battling cancer. I am also a member of Black Pearls Community Service Inc., which provides scholarships and community development work for women of African descent.

 

 

Out of all of your accomplishments, what are you most proud of?

Being appointed to a municipal health board in 2015, where I apply what I learned in grad school and the grass roots health initiatives that I was involved in. Being on a health board, gives me the opportunity to bring my perspective on how to improve the health challenges facing the people of the Toronto. It allows me to be a voice for oppressed or equity seeking groups whose health needs may not at the decision table. I am also applying the governance training I completed through DiverseCity OnBoard a program that seeks to get more women and people of colour on government boards, agencies and commissions.

 

 

What would you like to be known for contributing to the community, industry or world?

I hope to be known as someone who is compassionate, innovate and genuine. I want to be known in the community for leaving a legacy that positively impacts the lives of others, especially the professional and academic development of youth. I want to be known in my industry for changing unfair public policies, being a voice for the voiceless and elevating those who are economically disenfranchised. Most importantly, I want to be known in world for living according to the motto of my company, which is “Helping People IGNITE their Inner Essence.”

 

 

Stacey Berry is one of the women featured in 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women, a book that aims to bring to light the accomplishments of Black Canadian women across every industry, from government to entertainment, celebrating the success stories, the trailblazers, and the posthumous heroes who have helped shape our country to date. Learn more about one of the authors here.

5 Minutes with Dauna Jones-Simmonds, co-author of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women

Born in St. Kitts, Dauna Jones-Simmonds migrated to Canada almost forty years ago and has first-hand experience navigating the roadblocks and challenges encountered by new Canadians — particularly those of colour. Today, as the President of DEJS (Diversity) Consulting, she shares her accumulated knowledge through consulting and diversity training activities, and providing mentorship and assistance for young Black women looking to advance their careers.

She is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors for ACCES Employment, a past Board Member at SKETCH, and has been the only Black female member in the Rotary Club of Toronto.

Get to know what inspires her, and how her personal and professional journey led to her becoming one of three co-authors of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women.

 

What inspired you to get involved in the writing of this book?

At our regular husband and wife Sunday morning breakfast, Dr. Denise O’Neil Green shared her frustration about finding Black female talent in leadership positions and turned to me for an answer. Embarrassingly, my response was so slow, and I knew immediately that I had to fix that response gap. Our husbands suggested that perhaps we should write a book about Black women. We then approached Hon. Dr. Jean Augustine, since she knows so many people in our community, to help us in our quest to spotlight our accomplished Black women. The rest as they say, is history.

Is there a particular story that inspired you in the book?

The stories in the book are very different, yet equally inspiring, so it would be unfair for me to point out one particular story. What I would say is that every women to whom I spoke was very humble. Their consistent response included –“who me?” “I didn’t do much” and “I have never been recognized before”. Each time we spoke to them, we gained more nuggets about their accomplishments.

Why did you choose your field of work?

Being an author was not my chosen field. I started off in banking and later on in life moved on to Human Resources. It is the field of Human Resources where I gained tremendous exposure to diversity issues in the workplace. I also recognized that people of colour had very little opportunity to maximize their potential and showcase their talent. I found out very quickly that “people don’t know what they don’t know” — if they don’t know that there are talented people in our community, they will not seek creative opportunities to find them.

What education and training did you pursue?

Apart from my basic university education, I attended conferences and took courses that were relevant to my passion. For example, I was interested in training, so I pursued a master’s level of facilitation – this would come in handy for developing and facilitating diversity workshops. I also focused on building my communication skills, completing courses to strengthen my written and oral communication. The point is, if you are to succeed in your career, you have to invest in yourself. You have to be the best that you can be! This is advice I have given to all my mentees.

What do you wish you had known when you started out?

My biggest regret before co-writing this book is that I had not been so deeply engaged in my community sooner. If I had known that so many women had made such impactful contributions in our community – and to Canada at large – perhaps the start of my career would have been different. Who knows?

What are you passionate about?

I have two passions – supporting people with disabilities, and helping our Black youth succeed in their career goals. I have never turned down the opportunity to provide some words of advice when sought, or to link that individual to a potential opportunity, be it a mentor or job opportunity.

What would you like to be known for contributing to the community, industry or world?

 I have always been and continue to want to be known as a person who quietly, yet strongly through my words, helped people with disabilities. In addition, I want to be known as someone who was passionate about participating in recognizing and documenting the efforts of accomplished Black Canadian women. Their work is critical and must be part of the Canadian history books, particularly as we celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. Ultimately, it’s not about me, but that our future leaders and youths will know about, learn from, appreciate and share the historic stories of these incredible women.

Five Minutes on Mentorship with Dr. Samantha Nutt, Founder of War Child

Dr. Samantha Nutt is an award-winning humanitarian, bestselling author, and founder of War Child Canada and War Child USA. A respected authority on the civilian impact of war, international aid and foreign policy, she has worked with children and their families on the frontlines of many of the world’s major crises — from Iraq to Afghanistan, Somalia to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone to Darfur, Sudan. She has not only been a mentor to many women within her organization and out, she has also benefitted greatly from mentorship in her own career. Dr.Nutt shares her advice for women looking for their own mentor, including what qualities to look for.  

 

 


 

 

How can mentorship impact your career?

Mentorship at different times in my life and my career have made the world of difference. We all need someone who believes in us — people who are willing to invest in you, have confidence in you, support you unconditionally, and make you believe in yourself. There are many examples that I could give you, that started in adolescence and went into medical school, and professionally in the international work that I do.

 

What advice would you give to a woman looking for a mentor?

I firmly believe that you have to seek those people out, and sometimes that can be hard. I’m not talking about randomly sending off emails to solicit mentors — it tends not to work that way! It’s about looking around yourself as you go through your career and identifying those people that you believe in, that have achieved the kinds of things that you would like to achieve, or that have skills and strengths that are very different from yours, in areas where you may want to grow and improve. Really try to make those introductions, start cultivating a relationship, and hope that becomes something deeper and longer term. Whether you are formally calling it a mentorship, and acknowledging it as such — or maybe it’s informal, just the occasional email, coffee conversation, or phone call that helps provide some perspective and support when you really need it.

 

What are some of the qualities of an effective mentor?

Fundamentally, a mentor is someone that you feel that you can trust, that you can can be painfully honest with, that you can reveal your deepest insecurities to, and that will give you honest, non-judgmental advice. For it to work effectively, you are putting yourself out there and being boldly honest about where you want to go in life and what you think your strengths and your weaknesses are, or what’s holding you back — your fears and insecurities. And so you want someone who is going to take that information and understand what to do with it and understand how to help you work through it.

 

In what ways does War Child support mentorship in the organization?

We are very much an organization that believes in the advancement and promotion of women all around the world, and so mentorship and helping and supporting other women is absolutely critical to everything we do. Many of the organizations we partner with are female-headed, local civil society organizations. So making sure we are nurturing their leadership, their potential that we are mentoring them in this work so that their own organizations can grow and thrive, even outside of their relationship with us as a partner, that’s part of our philosophy as an international organization. Our entire development philosophy has an element of mentorship, capacity building, and leadership development for people in all corners of the world affected by war, and the vast majority of those would be women and girls.

 

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.