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).

The confidence gap — Three tools to level the playing field

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

By Lora Sprigings


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

 

Just do it

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

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

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

 

It is not always about you

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

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

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

 

Find your voice

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

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

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

 

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Learning about leadership in the great outdoors

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

 

 

By Shelley White

 

 


 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

When Deviance Works to Your Advantage

Tired of mediocrity and negativity at work? Jana Raver, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Smith School of Business, offers five strategies to give you the power to inspire organizational change.

 

By Alan Morantz

 


 

When we think of deviance, we typically think of social outcasts who behave in some abhorrent way outside the norms of society. From an organizational perspective, deviance is also typically associated with such behaviors as slacking, not upholding the norms of the organization, unethical conduct, and even incivility and harassment.

But there’s more to deviance than meets the eye. And, there can be great benefits to going against the norm, especially when the norm isn’t overly positive.

According to Jana Raver, Associate Professor at Smith School of Business and E. Marie Shantz Faculty Fellow in Organizational Behaviour, the positive norms that we hope to find within organizations such as active engagement, growth, achievement, honesty, and benevolence, aren’t always as prevalent as we’d hope. “Constructive deviants” are engaged employees who challenge organizational lethargy and push for higher standards of behaviour.

 

“Constructive deviants” are engaged employees who challenge organizational lethargy and push for higher standards of behaviour.

 

When you’re able to demonstrate positive behaviours by acting in a way that’s outside of the norm, you have the chance to expose the standards that are actually dysfunctional. “This type of behaviour has been linked to improved job performance ratings, recommendations for rewards, and actual rewards including raises and promotions,” Jana says.

Smart companies realize that encouraging constructive deviance saves money and increases innovation. Research has shown that it exposes dysfunction and unethical behaviour, allows for social change, encourages growth and learning, and improves group decision-making.

But it’s not always easy. “If you sit back like a disengaged, apathetic employee who will simply tolerate mediocrity,” Jana says, “then you’re not going to be able to make that positive change.”

 

To inspire organizational change, Jana offers the following five strategies to stand up for what you believe in:
 

  1. Find your cause: Determine the issues you believe strongly enough in to stand up to.

  2. Pick your battles: You can’t resist and question everything, so check your motives and be sure that you’re committed to helping improve the group/organization rather than putting your own self-interest first.

  3. Know how to build a case: Know that the quality of your input matters, so draw upon principles of effective persuasion and social networking skills to support your cause. Do your homework to ensure that what you’re proposing has been well thought-out and can be clearly articulated.

  4. Be willing to do the work: High quality suggestions are those that you’re willing to execute yourself and to take ownership of, rather than passing on to someone else. Know that once you’re invested in any cause it will take work and commitment to bring it to life.

  5. Be persistent: Finally, realize that if you’re fighting norms you have to be willing to go the distance. Change isn’t going to happen overnight. If needed, know where to go for support in order to make change a reality.

 
“So, dig deep inside,” Jana says, “and be the change you want to see. You can choose to take action and be a constructive deviant to uphold the standards of what you believe in.”

 

You can hear more of Jana Raver’s discussion on constructive deviance in the workplace in this Smith Business Insight video, Building a Better Deviant.

 

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A Balanced View

As Chief of Staff, RBC Wealth Management U.S., Kristen Kimmel has a job description that doesn’t fit well into just a few sentences. But despite her broad role, she still makes time to be a mentor, and advocate for women’s advancement in the workplace.

 

By Marie Moore

 


 

Kristen Kimmell is one of those fortunate people who discovered at an early age what her chosen career would be. In fact, her path to becoming the chief of staff at RBC Wealth Management – U.S. had a very clear and memorable start: “My older sister brought home an assignment for her high school accounting class. I can still see the big portfolio, and the green ledger paper. I just thought it was the coolest thing ever.”

Kristen was so fascinated by the project — which included recording debits and credits in a ledger, and producing handwritten income statements — that she ended up doing most of her sister’s homework, even though she was several years younger. Her passion for accounting never faded, and she went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and Business Administration from Jamestown University, landing her first job as an accountant in 1993.

Kristen’s career in financial services continued to flourish, although the path wasn’t exactly linear. She joined her current firm in 1995 (which became part of RBC in 2000), and has held numerous positions including staff accountant, accounting supervisor, fixed income accounting manager, director of financial reporting and administration, and director of strategic finance. While some of her title changes represented a natural progression, she has admittedly “taken some leaps sideways and in different directions.” The promotion to chief of staff came in 2010, a position that she describes in its simplest terms as “a combined chief administrative officer and chief operating officer role.”

The longer explanation she offers more accurately captures the broad scope of her work: “I tie everything together — from the business perspective back to the execution — with all the functional groups,” Kristen says. “I’m connecting the dots, making sure we have the right priorities and are executing appropriately, and keeping everything running behind the scenes.”

She credits RBC’s culture of development for enabling her to climb through the company’s ranks. “They really provided some incredible growth opportunities. It’s just a culture where we are always looking to cultivate talent,” she says. From leadership training to formal mentorship programs, Kristen has taken advantage of the many initiatives designed to help high potentials succeed. She also hasn’t been shy about creating her own channels for learning.

“I’ve had a lot of people that didn’t even know they were my mentor,” she says with a laugh. “I just looked at people who I admired, and when I had an opportunity to be in meetings with them, I used those as an informal guide on how they handled things. What did I see that they did well that worked? What was something that they were frustrated by? And I would always find opportunities to migrate to work with those individuals.”

“I just looked at people who I admired, and when I had an opportunity to be in meetings with them, I used those as an informal guide on how they handled things. What did I see that they did well that worked? What was something that they were frustrated by? And I would always find opportunities to migrate to work with those individuals.”

As Kristen progressed in her career, she herself became an integral part of the development culture. At her peak, she’s had seventeen simultaneous mentees, coming from a combination of formal programs, outreach by managers, and personal requests. She has an innate desire to share her experiences with others to help them find their own solutions, and knowing how much courage it can take to ask someone to be a mentor, she rarely says no.

In addition to her work with individuals, Kristen is having an impact on a broad scale in the area of women’s advancement. She was named Co-Executive Sponsor of the Women’s Association of Financial Advisors (WAFA) in September 2012. In the role, she provides input and leadership to WAFA on their goals of recruiting and retaining female branch directors and financial advisors, and increasing the productivity of financial advisors. Kristen is also on the board of RBC Wealth Management’s Women of Wealth (WoW) global women’s network. Developed within RBC, WoW brings together women representing different business units from across the globe, with the aim of getting a unified approach on activities related to helping women advance in the workplace.

One of the initiatives she strongly supports is providing women with access to visible role models, who can speak authentically about their successes — and struggles. “As women, we tend to think that our issues and our challenges are unique to us, so we don’t reach out, or think that anybody else would understand them. We hold ourselves to this unrealistic standard, thinking that everybody else has achieved it,” says Kristen. “I want to help spread the message that women who are successful have the same faces as the women who are working their way up. I’ve come to work with different coloured shoes on, and I think people just appreciate knowing things like that.”

“I want to help spread the message that women who are successful have the same faces as the women who are working their way up. I’ve come to work with different coloured shoes on, and I think people just appreciate knowing things like that.”

This belief that women often carry — that everyone around the table has the answers but us — can lead to a fear of asking what we don’t know about. Kristen sees this combining with our natural tendency to overbook ourselves, and leading to another issue for women, outside of the workplace: relying on our partners to do the finances. “We divide it up like it’s a household chore. Not because we’re not interested or capable, but because it’s one more thing on the plate and it’s an easy one to pass on,” she says. “It may seem like another chore, but it’s a life skill.”

Alleviating a packed calendar can help, but she also feels we need to have a more honest conversation on the subject of work/life balance. “A balance indicates to me that once you get the weight setting on each side, then it’s done and you can walk away from it, forever balanced. But you can’t think of work/life balance as an end state. It’s an evolution,” Kristen explains. “Sometimes you’re going to get heavy on one side or the other, and having the ability to recognize that and being able to adjust it when you’re out of balance, is the best possible thing.”

 

 

Stay Put to Move More: How a long career at one organization can lead to unique opportunities

It’s no longer the norm to spend twenty years at the same company, but Allison Hakomaki has done just that — and it’s enabled her to live in cities across Canada, better her education, and climb to a role in senior management.

 

By Hailey Eisen

 


 

Changing jobs every two to three years has become the norm rather than the exception — but contrary to popular belief, it’s not the only route to interesting experiences and opportunities for growth. There’s something to be said for carving out a meaningful career within the same company.

Take Allison Hakomaki, for example: her 20-year career with BMO has taken her across the country from coast to coast, giving her the chance to live in a number of different cities, work across a variety of business lines, and pursue academic advancement including earning a CMA and EMBA.

Upon completing her undergraduate degree, Allison began her career with BMO when she entered into the commercial banker training program in Toronto. Fresh out of business school she was eager to apply her learnings to the real world. While she was being encouraged by her employer to go back to school to pursue an MBA — something the bank regarded highly for its leadership-track employees — Allison decided she would first complete her CMA and get as much work experience as she could under her belt.

It would take more than 10 years and a move to Calgary (for a promotion to Managing Director, Corporate Finance) before Allison decided it was time to further her education. “The majority of the leadership team within BMO had MBAs, and I knew that in order to move into an executive role this was the next step,” she recalls.

Because her job already required quite a bit of travel, Allison was eager to find an EMBA program that she could complete without having to hop on a plane to attend classes. Queen’s Executive MBA at Smith School of Business presented itself as a great option that would allow her to learn out of a boardroom learning centre in Calgary while joining students from across the country in a live, interactive virtual learning environment.

Working with this diverse group of students turned out to be an invaluable experience — one that Allison was able to leverage as she moved up within the bank. “Professionally, the diversity really helped me. I now have a network of classmates from across the country, and from different industries — not just financial services, but also manufacturing, medical, self-employed, a real variety. It provides a number of different perspectives, which is really nice.”

Allison also learned invaluable lessons about working on a team with a diverse set of skills and backgrounds. “You have to be dependent on your teammates to be successful,” she says. “And to make that work, you’ll need some rules to live by. Like the expectation that everyone has to contribute. If people aren’t pulling their weight, you have to learn to call them out on it.”

“You have to be dependent on your teammates to be successful, and to make that work, you’ll need some rules to live by…If people aren’t pulling their weight, you have to learn to call them out on it.”

In keeping with the Queen’s approach to team-based learning, Allison suggests that these team expectations be laid out and revisited, just like you would with a set of business goals. “Revisit them on a regular basis, to ensure everyone is performing at the level that’s expected. At the same time, allow them to evolve. As you learn to trust your team, you can operate more efficiently and effectively.”

The emphasis on teamwork in the Smith program was also an excellent opportunity for Allison to hone her leadership skills. “We all had to rise to the occasion,” she says. “At some points you had to lead and at some points you had to follow, and the key to success was to learn the strengths of your team members and leverage those.”

Allison’s growth was certainly noticed at BMO. Part way through the EMBA program she was promoted to her first executive position: District VP of New Brunswick and PEI. She moved with her husband to Moncton, New Brunswick, and, thanks to technological innovations in the program, was able to continue her EMBA. More moving vans were in the cards for Allison upon completing her EMBA: she and her husband relocated first to Halifax and then back to Calgary, where she took on her current role of Vice President and Head, Prairies Region, Corporate Finance Division. In that time, she also managed to have twins. As Allison says, “I was used to juggling multiple priorities.”  

Almost three years into her current executive position, Allison hasn’t stopped her learning trajectory. “I consider myself a fair, empathetic leader, but I’m also serious — which can be a little intimidating,” she says. “I’m learning to show my fun side too. It’s a work in progress.”

 

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Meet Bridget Russo, CMO of a design brand with a bigger purpose

Bridget Russo joined Shinola in 2012, relocating from her native Tribeca to the company’s Detroit headquarters in 2014. As Chief Marketing Officer she oversees global marketing and communications, building the American design brand through storytelling and well-made products. By bringing skilled manufacturing jobs back to Detroit, Shinola is also having a positive social impact on the community — a key element of their brand. It’s a perfect fit for Bridget, who made a name for herself in the fashion industry by pursuing projects she found ethically compelling, including the establishment of her own consulting firm focused on fashion ventures with a philanthropic angle.

 


 

My first job ever was… At a store in New York,  which is now closed, called FAO Schwarz. I worked in the doll department.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… Somehow impressing my mother, who is not impressed, ever.

 

My boldest move to date was… Moving to Detroit.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… That I moved to Detroit.

 

The biggest marketing challenge companies face today is… Considering how much information is getting thrown at consumers on a minute-to-minute basis, the ability to break through and capture their attention is increasingly more challenging.

 

My best marketing advice for companies today is… Be authentic. Go with your gut. Stay true to the brand.

 

My biggest setback was… Leaving a job that I really loved too quickly for silly reasons. I would have eventually left, but I probably had a good five years to go before I did that. I did it in haste. I was turning 30 and thought I needed to grow up.

 

Work/life balance is… Never checking your emails after work, unless absolutely necessary. Keep two separate phones: one personal, one work.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… Take time to congratulate even the little successes of your team.

 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I am socially awkward and shy.

 

I stay inspired by… The people I work with everyday.

 

The future excites me because… I have hope, despite everything that’s going on in the world today. Human beings are human beings, and we’ll continue to do great things.  

 

 

See more from Shinola.

 

 

Meet Susan McPherson, the Angel Investor Women Want on their Team

Susan McPherson

Susan McPherson is the kind of woman women want on their team — and we don’t blame them. She’s the founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, a communications consultancy focusing on the intersection between brands and social good, and currently is focused on investing in and advising women-led technology start-ups. She serves on the boards of several organizations focused on women’s well being and advancement, and was recently selected as a Vital Voices global corporate ambassador, named one of 40 Women to Watch Over 40, Fortune’s 55 Most Influential Women on Twitter, Elle Magazine’s Top 25 Women on Twitter and Fast Company’s 25 Smartest Women of Twitter.

It’s safe to say that when we talk about women’s advancement, Susan is truly leading the charge.


 

My first job ever was… Waitressing, which provided incredible insight as to how people behave, make choices, and treat their fellow citizens.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… A tie between travelling to Afghanistan in 2005 to help train women entrepreneurs for peace and visiting refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda with UNHCR in 2014 to better understand the harrowing world they face on a daily basis.

 

My boldest move to date was… Launching my business, McPherson Strategies, with no prior training as an entrepreneur.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… That I don’t have children and that I’m single.

 

The biggest misconception about Corporate Social Responsibility is… That it’s only for the big guys  Fortune 500, multi-national corporations. CSR can be baked into start-ups at the get go. You don’t need to have massive revenues to build “good” into your business.

 

My best advice for anyone that wants to follow in my footsteps is… Build and constantly nurture your network, not because you are trying to get ahead, but rather, because you are truly interested in what inspires and connects people. Doing so for many years truly made launching our consultancy feasible and successful.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… From my late father, stating: “Nothing is a prison sentence.” Meaning, you can take a risk without fear and always turn around.

 

My biggest setback was… When I lost my mom to a hotel fire on New Year’s Eve at the age of 20.

 

I overcame it by… Wish I could say that I overcame it. Her tragic loss devastated me and now looking back on what will be 30 years ago December 31, 2016, I can honestly say that I have overcame it by doing my best to continue the life she was living, aka always connecting and supporting others, helping meaningful causes and never burning bridges. 

 

Work/life balance is… Absolutely loving the work I do. It actually often doesn’t feel like work.

 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I as a teenager had a date with a star of the film, Bad News Bears, and I ran 6 marathons (but before social media).


I stay inspired by… All the incredible friends I have in this world and the powerful work each are conducting, as well as my three brilliant nieces who are the voices for our future.

 

The future excites me because… There is always a new road to take and so many places left on this planet yet to visit.

 

 Meet Lesley Lawrence, another senior executive devoted to making entrepreneurial dreams come true.

Living, working, and having it all — Lessons from a life in progress

“At this point, “having it all” is a balance of being reflective about the past and looking ahead at what’s possible with clear focus, determination and resilience.”

By Roberta Hague


Can we “have it all” in terms work and family? The answer to that question has changed throughout life as I’ve reconsidered what “all” means for me. Generally, it has been about living passionately, having fun, aspiring to more, and feeling satisfied at the end of each day that it was another good day.

What has been consistently clear is that life doesn’t unfold as planned — that we all hit the occasional bump and have opportunities to take an interesting turn. How we move forward in those moments is a big part of what shapes our definition of “all.” A few things have shaped mine. Here are some highlights from those moments.

 

Define your “all,” and then be flexible.

My current position is senior vice-president of Communications and Public Affairs, at OMERS, the defined benefit pension plan which invests and administers pensions for almost 500,000 members from municipalities, school boards, emergency services and local agencies across Ontario. I love this role and feel a deep sense of commitment to the members of this plan. But being here, in this role, was not part of a long-term career plan.

As a kid I was sure I wanted to be a lawyer. An understandable goal, for an 11-year-old who admired her father. But that goal changed. At university, I was exposed to so many interesting people and compelling ideas that I shifted my aspirations toward business.

An ancient Roman philosopher described luck as what happens when preparation meets opportunity, and I feel like I have been very lucky! While I had a clear plan at a young age, I was prepared for opportunities that shaped a very different outcome.

Throughout my career I have always had a plan, yet tried to be open-minded. An active curiosity has led me to live abroad, to take on a variety of roles, to take uncomfortable risks, to even co-author a book, and to always look forward to what’s possible. “Having it all” has been about being prepared for the opportunities.

 

Understand the resources you’ll need including both financial resources and champions.

Early in my career, I saw first-hand that even the most well-established business can fail. And I learned that you need to manage your personal finances thoughtfully — have the resources lined up so that when the unexpected strikes, you can take the time you need to find the right next role.  

“Having it all” has been about being prepared for the opportunities.

I also learned the value of having champions. Every great opportunity for me has come through someone who knows me. Champions can come from across a spectrum of our networks. These are the people who have seen how we perform in good, and not so good times. They have confidence in us. We often think they have to be senior, but they can be our peers or people who have been on our teams. Ultimately, they are someone who knows you and who is willing to vouch for you and sometimes even create opportunities for you.    

 

Be bold know yourself and overcome your fears.

Some of the bumps we hit are bigger than others. When I was 30, I awoke one December morning with an indescribable headache. It turns out a vein in my head had burst, and it wasn’t clear that everything was going to be ok.

Days passed in the hospital, mostly in a blur. Then, early on the morning of December 25, a Santa-suited neurologist doing rounds whispered in my ear that my prognosis for a full recovery was the miracle of that holiday season.  

In spite of this good news, it was hard to be bold. It took a while to get back to being myself, but first I had to get past my fears. My confidence had hit a low point and I was anxious that people might see me differently. As it turns out, they did, but in a good way. They viewed my recovery as a reflection of strength and resilience.

The lesson here was about having capacity to reach deep inside myself to find strength. To never let self-doubt chip away at my spirit. I’ve had to relearn this lesson a few times over the years, but always know that I can!     

At this point, “having it all” is a balance of being reflective about the past and looking ahead at what’s possible with clear focus, determination and resilience. It is enjoying a life that’s still in progress, with a sense of purpose, terrific colleagues, deep friendships and a great family — every day.

 

We’ve partnered with Ricoh in engaging our community in important discussions about the advancement of women, focusing on “having it all.” How you define it, what factors enable you to achieve it, and how you have worked differently to meet your goals. Ricoh is a global technology company specializing in office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems and IT services.

Put your hand up, take a leap: career advice from Suzanne Morel, Chief of Staff to the CEO, Mastercard

Suzanne Morel

From Parliament Hill to New York City, Suzanne Morel has a multifaceted career that has made her an advocate for women putting their hands up, jumping at every learning opportunity, and never underestimating the power of a good team.

By Hailey Eisen


Suzanne Morel’s career has taken her on a unique journey from her very first job as Chief of Staff to an MP on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, to her current role as Chief of Staff to the CEO of Mastercard in New York. Along the way she earned a Master’s degree and an MBA, negotiated everything from regulatory outcomes to free trade agreements in both the public and private sectors, and spent time living and studying in China.   

Given the scope of her experience and her commitment to mentoring young professionals, she’s often asked what’s the one piece of advice she’d give women in pursuit of success. “Put your hand up!” she says. “As women, we tend to hesitate and question ourselves as to whether or not we’re capable. But all the experiences I’ve had have come from taking leaps of faith and not knowing what the outcome was going to be. And it’s been incredibly rewarding.”

The confidence to leap is a theme that’s surfaced throughout Suzanne’s career. One of her first significant leaps was working full-time for former Liberal MP Paddy Torsney while completing her graduate studies as a full-time student. During the final few months of that period, she was living out of a suitcase in the riding of Burlington while working on the MP’s re-election campaign,  and spending nights writing the thesis that she was committed to completing within the standard two-year period. “That ended with satisfaction on both sides,” Suzanne recalls. “Paddy was re-elected and I finished my thesis.”

The next leap was to leave politics for public service, taking a role with the then Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade as a Senior Trade Policy Analyst. After six tremendous years in this role, she was ready to leap again. “People don’t typically step away from public service jobs at the level I was at,” Suzanne says.

But despite the many naysayers who expressed their doubts about her decision, Suzanne felt the time was right to enrol in an MBA program. “One of my champions, the former Deputy Minister of Trade, really supported my decision. She said to me, ‘I wish more people would step away, as you’re going to do, and gain experience in the private sector’.”

“As women, we tend to hesitate and question ourselves as to whether or not we’re capable. But all the experiences I’ve had have come from taking leaps of faith and not knowing what the outcome was going to be. And it’s been incredibly rewarding.”

Choosing the right MBA required foresight. Suzanne knew she would benefit from a program that took a team-centred approach. “I already knew my own strengths and I had been developing these, but I wanted the benefit of working with people who had strengths that I didn’t have, who were coming [to the program] with different backgrounds and experiences,” she says. “I knew how powerful it could be for a team to come together and perform at such a high level.”

She also wanted an opportunity to do part of her year-long MBA abroad. “I had come from an international role and had been doing a lot of travel, and I wanted to spend a significant amount of time abroad. I loved the fact that the Smith MBA offered that.”

When she enrolled in the MBA program at Queen’s University and moved to Kingston she was ready to spend a year focusing one-hundred percent on school. Working closely with a diverse group of students, with whom she still keeps in close contact, was an invaluable experience. “The team approach enables you to learn not only how to led but how to be lead — you challenge one another, support one another, and learn to harness your individual strengths for success.”

For the last four months of her MBA, Suzanne completed her studies at Peking University in China. “I had the benefit of working with these incredible professors and gaining all these insights in a market that is one of the world’s largest economic forces, one that’s rich in culture and history,” she says. “I’ve been to China many times in my current role with Mastercard and I still draw on those experiences today.”

“The team approach enables you to learn not only how to led but how to be lead — you challenge one another, support one another, and learn to harness your individual strengths for success.”

Following her MBA, a number of opportunities opened up for Suzanne, first a role with the CPP Investment Board as Director, Government Relations — joining during the financial crisis in 2008 — and then Vice President, Public Policy with Mastercard. In her current role as Chief of Staff to the CEO she says she’s challenged daily. “I draw upon our resources throughout the company and collaborate with colleagues around the world in order to drive results. From this vantage point, I can see across the organization and use this privileged spot to make things happen.” Suzanne frequently travels with the CEO and uses the time between meetings to connect with colleagues and customers, gaining insights to better inform decisions from the centre.

“There’s no doubt that there are challenges for women to get ahead and get noticed — no matter what type of role you’re in — but it requires thinking creatively about how you differentiate yourself,” she says. “That’s why I challenged myself academically, pursing three degrees, and have always sought rich professional experiences — because it’s more difficult to dismiss someone who has the credentials and experience.”

 

 

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Women of Influence Luncheon Series – Gender Diversity Summit

On September 28th, 2016 we hosted the Women of Influence Luncheon Series in downtown Toronto, featuring a panel of diversity champions. We sat down with Mike Henry, Philip Grosch and Anna Tudela to hear about the best practices and transformative thinking that is critical to accelerating organizational change.

What we learned:

  • What was the inspiration behind becoming an advocate for women’s advancement? Philip Grosch says it started with needing to keep top talent. “We cannot afford to lose this amazing talent group”
  • Words of wisdom – “Diversity is the act of inclusion, one thing to encourage people to do is to take action, we have to all commit to doing something” – Mike Henry
  • What Philip Grosch says to the Audience – Everyone has a role to play, we have to engage people in the conversation, and tell people when we see an injustice
  • Anna Tudela’s advice is to start practicing amplification – Amplification started in the white house when women noticed that they weren’t being heard, they came together and whenever a woman had a point to make another women would state that point again until everyone in the room heard

Congratulations to Nicole Pitt from Scotiabank!  Concluding the afternoon events, we announced the winner of our VIP Membership Experience Giveaway. Thanks to the generous contributions from our sponsors, Nicole has access to a spot at the short-format executive education programs offered by the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, back-up child care from Kids & Company and training sessions from Captivate.

Photography by Kevin Gonsalves Photography

Encouraging an entrepreneurial culture in your company

An entrepreneurial culture emphasizes accountability and ownership. It values the end game, not the process. It encourages measured risk. It certainly embraces change. These are a few of the reasons President of Jones Group Canada Carrie Kirkman encourages leaders to instill entrepreneurial culture and values in their employees.

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