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

 

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

 

By Marie Moore

 


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 


 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

The confidence gap — Three tools to level the playing field

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

By Lora Sprigings


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

 

Just do it

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

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

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

 

It is not always about you

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

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

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

 

Find your voice

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

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

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

 

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

Learning about leadership in the great outdoors

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

 

 

By Shelley White

 

 


 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 


 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

Meet Misty McLandress, a Junk-ette throwing misconceptions about women in dirty jobs to the trash

Misty McLandress manages not only the back-end and day-to-day operations of a JUSTJUNK removal franchise, but can also be found on-site and in the trucks, directly serving her customers, who are often surprised to find a woman ready and willing to haul their garbage. Yet despite the stereotype, Misty loves her work, and credits a mother who always encouraged her to not worry about gender roles when it came to picking a career for her success — and the fulfillment that comes with it. “I saw the value in the service that JUSTJUNK would provide to others in our city and families like ours. Helping others and seeing how pleased they are when the job is complete is a great feeling.”

 

 


 

 

My first job ever was… Working as a hostess in a beachside burger restaurant.

 

I chose my career path because… After working in an office 8-5 for over 15 years I had learned so much. I had also been very fortunate to work with a Vice President who always encouraged me to try something different, learn something new, and grow professionally. I knew it was time to focus my energy to grow something of my own.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… My family. I have two wonderful boys who keep our house full of energy, and a caring a supportive spouse who is by my side every day.

 

My boldest move to date was… Moving to Canada 17 years ago and leaving my friends and family.

 

Being a woman in a male dominated industry is… Exciting and frustrating at times. I was lucky to have a mother who worked throughout my childhood in a male dominated field. She told me to always stand up for myself and my family. Learning to speak up and assert yourself is not always easy, but it helps when you love what you do.

 

I get ahead by… Getting up early every day and constantly staying busy.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… I work in the junk removal business!

 

My best advice to people starting out in entrepreneurship is… Don’t give up. In the beginning there will be many ups and downs. Believe in yourself, learn from your mistakes, and enjoy what you do every day.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… I have had two people in my life who have told me the same thing repeatedly: “Invest in yourself.” They both believe in me and have supported me every step of the way.

 

“Believe in yourself, learn from your mistakes, and enjoy what you do every day”

 

My biggest setback was… I have been fortunate not to have any major setbacks so far. I like to believe it is due to the support and guidance of my family, friends, and mentors.

 

Work/life balance is… A balancing act every day. Being there to hear about my children’s day, attending their after school activities, exercising, managing a business, and finding time for fun are on the agenda, and some days require more effort to find balance, but it’s all worth it.

 

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m horribly afraid of spiders!

 

I stay inspired by… Learning new things and looking for new opportunities to grow.

 

The future excites me because… Every day is different and filled with new challenges.

 

My next step is… Continuing to grow brand recognition in Winnipeg and increasing our truck fleet.

 

 

Meet Gail Bell and Julie Freedman Smith, the duo with parenting power

With a combined 30 years experience in the education sector, Julie and Gail knew they had a unique perspective on parenting. So, in 2002 they founded Parenting Power, a business that helps parents face everyday challenges through a comprehensive suite of parenting tools, including coaching, courses and conferences. In 2013 they co-authored their first book, A YEAR of Intentional Parenting and as experts have been featured on several local and national broadcasts and in digital and print publications.

 

 


 

 

My first job ever was…

Gail: I worked after school 2 days a week, playing with kids in a daycare and then cleaning it when the kids went home.

Julie: I had my first job when I was 14, working as an elf in a shopping mall. I helped kids get to see Santa.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… 

Both:  We were inspired by a TV show about successful female entrepreneur partnerships. We decided to give it a try because we had found the right person with whom to work and we knew it would be a huge benefit for our family’s schedules, allowing us to be with our kids when we needed/wanted to be.

 

Our proudest accomplishment is…

Both: The thousands of families that feel more confident, capable and calm after working with us via media, courses, conferences and coaching. We love that we make a multi-generational change in a family — when parents shift the way they parent, kids learn a more respectful way of interacting that we hope they’ll use when they have their own families.

 

My boldest move to date was…

Both: Getting the courage up to ask world-renowned author and parenting expert, Barbara Coloroso to write the blurb for the back cover of our book. Having spoken with her many times, we realized that mentors are people, too. This has lead us to connect with others along the way, which continues to carry us forward.

 

We surprise people when we tell them…

Both: That our kids are normal kids and that we are normal parents who lose our cool too! We make many parenting mistakes, and we continue to learn from them.

 

My best advice to people starting out in business is…

Gail: Find the right people to work with and set clear boundaries between family time and work time.

Julie: Believe in yourself and find the courage to do the thing you dread early on every day. The day flows more smoothly once the tough bit is done and it helps one to feel even more capable.

 

Empowering parents is important because…

Both: It’s about normalizing the hard stuff and helping people see that they are capable of learning and making change. When parents set an intention to parent from values, using clear, consistent communication, they set themselves up positively to respond with respect rather than react in the moment. This results in the whole family feeling more connected and capable.

 

“Believe in yourself and find the courage to do the thing you dread early on every day.”

 

My best advice from a mentor was…

Gail: John O’Sullivan (from Changing the Game Project) encouraged us to be more active on social media. This has helped us to broaden our reach. John reminded us that social media is about sharing and working with others in the community toward a common goal.

Julie: Polly Young-Eisendrath encouraged us to build an entire course based on our learnings from her book, The Self-Esteem Trap. She was so gracious in sharing her material and supporting us in getting the word out to help many people. She taught us that we can work together rather than worrying about others taking our material.

 

Our biggest setback was…

Both: Facing the economic shift a few years ago. Our work came to a standstill and it was a tricky time. We felt like it might be time to give up.

 

We overcame it by…

Both: Ultimately, this down time helped us because we asked for help and ended up clarifying the vision for our company. Knowing what was truly important to us made the next steps much, much clearer. We are definitely better thanks to that process.

 

Work/life balance is…
Both: About setting clear intentions and following through. It is a choice. It changes over time.

 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…

Gail: What you can’t google about me.

Julie: What I want to remain private.

 

I stay inspired by…

Gail: Keeping up on the latest research and watching awesome kids every day!

Julie: Seeking and finding the light in every person. Getting to spend my days doing mostly what I want to do. Hearing from families that they used our tools and changed their lives.

 

The future excites us because…

Both: We continue to expand, share and guide families. Over the last 8 – 10 years, society has shifted life’s focus away from the family. We have an opportunity to shift the focus back to the family and connection, to what matters most for the development of healthy kids.

 

Our next step is…

Both: Sharing the latest research on brain development and how family connections positively influence the development of each child (and therefore every adult,) with as many people as we can. We will continue to make a very positive difference in the world.

 

 

 

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

 

Meet Kristine Hubbard, the woman keeping Torontonians moving

Kristine Hubbard began working for her family’s cab company, Beck Taxi, over 25 years ago. Now, she serves as Operations Manager, ensuring Toronto’s most recognizable taxi service keeps getting people from point A to B. 

 

 


 

 

My first job ever was…  Beck! I had to beg my parents to let me work – I remember being at the dinner table playing the role of a call taker and telling them to be the customers. I was 15 when I finally convinced them to hire me.

 

I chose to continue in the family business because… I love the people. I love the busy atmosphere. Anything else seems boring in comparison. Not to mention my mother is my hero – having the opportunity to learn from her every day is invaluable…the only downside is that I can’t complain to her about my boss!

 

My proudest accomplishment is… My family. My husband and our children (that includes our dog Gus!) are everything to me.

 

My boldest move to date was… Convincing everyone here that we should design our own software and app rather than using a third-party system. I had a few people here on my side and we put up a good fight – it was terrifying but I knew I needed to follow my instinct.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… That I’ve been working at Beck for 25 years.

 

Running a company in a male dominated industry is… No big deal unless you make it one.  I never really think about it unless someone brings it up. Gail, my mother, has never showed an ounce of concern and I guess that rubbed off on me. She has a very powerful presence and personality, while being able to maintain a reputation of understanding and support for people in this industry. She’s tough!

 

“A setback is only a setback if you let it hold you down.”

 

My best advice from a mentor was… Listen. Sometimes that’s all you should do.

 

My biggest setback was… It’s difficult to say. There have been times that I’ve been overwhelmed and disappointed, but I’ve learned to view every situation as an opportunity for growth. A setback is only a setback if you let it hold you down.

 

I overcame it by… Staying positive and looking for ways I can improve myself to avoid similar situations in the future.

 

Work/life balance is… An ongoing challenge. Running a business and parenting are both 24-hour jobs, which makes it necessary to create boundaries. I’ve been better at taking time off this year, but it’s a learning curve I think all working mothers can identify with.

 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I was fired…thanks Mom and Dad!

 

I stay inspired by… Keeping connected with drivers as much as I can. I dispatch in the mornings as much as I can and talk with the drivers when they stop by the office. I love to hear their stories, to meet their children. We are all just trying to do our best for our families and I keep that in mind no matter where I am or who I speak to. We have much more in common than we have differences and that inspires me to work hard for our customers, both in the back seat and the front.

 

My next step is… To be a good role model for my daughters who will be teenagers soon! I am so proud of them and want them to be strong, independent women. Nothing is scarier than your children growing up, but I think they’re on the right track. 

 

 

 

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

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

 

By Terri Hartwell Easter

 


 

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

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

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

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

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

So we begin by asking hard questions, like:

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Samantha DeBianchi’s Six Tips for Success

There are more women business owners than ever before, which is great news. The bad news? Not all of them succeed. While there are many reasons for this (lack of funding, bad timing, mismanaged resources, etc.) often times success or failure starts with you. So if you’re ready to stop getting in your own way and rise to the top of your game, follow these six tips for business success.

 

by Samantha DeBianchi

 


 

1. Go Big

If you’re going to invest all your time, money and energy into your passion, be it your business or some other calling, you should either go at it 100%, or not at all. There’s no time for 50-70% effort. Full commitment is required for massive success. Don’t be the one in a million girl. Be that once in a lifetime kind of woman.

 

2. Be money motivated

Many of us were taught early on that money isn’t important, that success is not about the money. You were taught wrong. It’s great to help people and make a difference, but if you’re not focused on money you’re not truly in a sustainable business.

 

3. Don’t be your worst enemy

I can’t tell you how many times I am coaching an entrepreneur, and discover that the biggest obstacle they face is themselves. When their business is up, they don’t believe it and write it off as a fluke or lucky streak. When business is down, they’re ready to throw in the towel and go back to the 9 to 5. If you’re going to be successful in life and in business, you have to be your #1 fan and loudest cheerleader.

 

4. Don’t do it alone

Let’s face it: business can be tough and intimidating. One of the greatest assets for anyone in business is to get around other successful entrepreneurs. Who better to understand the ups and downs than someone else in the same boat? The secret is to find a coach or mentor who has already had great success in whatever it is you are chasing, who can help guide you along and make the journey a bit easier.

 

5. Expect failures and learn from them

Nobody likes to fail, but in business and in life, it’s inevitable. Instead of seeing failure as a negative event, view it as an experience to learn and grow from. Never let the fear of failure stop you from going after your dreams.

 

6. Ignore the naysayers

Some people are going to love you for who you are and what you’re doing, while others, no matter what you do, will never get on board. In the end, the only person’s opinion that matters is your own. If it makes you happy, do it. If it doesn’t, then don’t. Constructive criticism is one thing; being told you can’t or you’re chasing the pie in the sky is something totally different and should be ignored.

 

 

 

As the founder of DeBianchi Real Estate and the first woman to star on Bravo’s ‘Million Dollar Listing Miami,’ Samantha DeBianchi is a business owner who’s used her own six tips to build a life and a business full of success.

 

The Power of Negotiating: Get Your Ideal Salary

Did you know that only 7% of women negotiate the terms of a job offer? Marni Johnson, SVP of Human Resources and Communications at BlueShore Financial, wants to see that change, so women start stepping into their full potential and start closing the gender wage gap. 

 

By: Marni Johnson

 


 

In my career, I have been amazed at how many women do not negotiate – whether that’s negotiating an initial job offer,  asking for new responsibilities, or pursuing professional development. By not negotiating, women are missing opportunities to move their careers ahead and often leaving significant money on the table..

Research shows that 57% of men negotiate job offers, but only 7% of women do.  In one study, those who negotiated were able to increase their salary by over 7%. Over a career, that difference can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Why don’t women negotiate? Many of us have been taught it’s not “ladylike” to ask for what we want, believing instead that if we do great work, our efforts will be noticed and rewarded accordingly. We may not see an opportunity for negotiation, instead viewing a situation as “take it or leave it”.  We may view negotiation as a conflict situation with a winner and a loser, and we are afraid of the impact on our reputation.  Or, we may simply not know how to negotiate.

In order to succeed to their full potential, women must negotiate, and negotiate well. Fortunately, it’s a skill that can be learned.

 

“In order to succeed to their full potential, women must negotiate, and negotiate well”

 

Typically, in a business negotiation you will be working with the other parties well after the negotiation is over,  so you want to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs while maintaining a positive relationship.

Here are some ways to do that:

 

Know what you want, and why you want it

Start with a clear desired outcome in mind.  As Lawrence J. Peter said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”  

Understanding your motivation will give you more flexibility in the negotiation; for example, you might be willing to take less vacation if you are allowed time off work to pursue professional development.

 

Know your bottom line

Know what your bottom line at the outset; if you don’t reach an agreement, what’s your best alternative?  You’ll likely face tradeoffs; for example,  an opportunity to work on a special project may require longer hours. Knowing your priorities and where to draw the line can stop you from accepting an offer you’ll later regret.

 

Know what they want and why they want it

What are the other person’s concerns, assumptions and values? Knowing what’s important to them can help you negotiate a deal that meets their needs as well as yours. For example, if you want to take on a new project and your manager wonders whether you’re ready, what checkpoints can you build into your plan to address their concerns?  

Knowing what’s important to them can also help ensure you maintain the relationship by focusing on the positive outcomes not just for yourself but for the organization as well.

 

“Knowing your priorities and where to draw the line can stop you from accepting an offer you’ll later regret”

 

Ask what is negotiable

Find out what’s negotiable so you know where to focus your efforts. Even if salary isn’t negotiable, something else may be, such as hours of work or certain benefits.

 

Establish your credibility

Do your research and  find out what comparable roles are paying.  Be clear on why you deserve what you are asking for — don’t assume it’s obvious. Focus on the value you bring: what you’ve done or can do to help them solve their business issues. Show them what’s in it for them using the language of business, which typically involves money or numbers.  

Consider your tone of voice and your language. Some women tend to raise their voice at the end of a sentence, making them sound unsure. The phrase “I believe” imparts more credibility than “I think”.

 

Negotiate in good faith

You can be honest in a negotiation without laying all your cards on the table.  People like to win, so be prepared to concede on some things, but don’t give too much too quickly. If you’ve prepared well, you’ll know where and how much you’re willing to compromise.  Avoid ultimatums –  you may damage your relationship, and if you give an ultimatum you may need to act on it or else lose credibility.

Recognize that “no” means “no, given how I see things today”.  Even if you don’t get what you want today there may be an opportunity to try again later.

 

End on a positive note

Close all negotiations by clearly outlining the agreement you have reached. Close on a positive note by reviewing progress made, how the solution meets the parties’ needs and so on.

Every day in our personal and professional business we have opportunities to negotiate.  Practising this skill leads to greater comfort and success in negotiating, creating mutually beneficial outcomes for all involved.

 

 

Marni Johnson is SVP of HR and Communications at BlueShore Financial. Want to know how – and why – she became an expert in the field of Human Resources and negotiation? Get to know her personally.

 

 

 

Meet Tanya Van Biesen, Director of Catalyst Canada and #GoSponsorHer Advocate

Tanya van Biesen is Executive Director of Catalyst Canada, the leading global non-profit working to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion, and a founding partner of the #gosponsorher initiative. As a recognized influencer with deep experience in the executive search sector at the most senior levels of corporate Canada, Tanya has over two decades of industry research to share on why sponsorship is so effective in advancing women. On June 21, she’ll speak on a panel of sponsorship experts at The Sponsorship Summit: How Corporate Canada is Investing in Female Leaders. Get to know her a little more personally here.


 


 

 

My first job ever was… Delivering newspapers for my brother when he was too tired to cover his route.

 

I chose my career path because… I am passionate about people.

 

The best part of my job is… The incredibly interesting people that I meet every day.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… My 2 children – Jack and Meredith.

 

My boldest move to date was… To leave the security of a partnership position at a world class firm.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… That I have always wanted to be a back-up singer.

 

My best advice to people starting their career is… Work hard, work with great people, and learn as much as you can as quickly as you can.

 

Sponsorship is important because… It is intentional support and advocacy for the career success of another.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… To plan my career out as I would a marathon, and not a sprint.

 

Work/life balance is… Looking forward to both being at home and being at work.

 

I stay inspired by… The people that I meet who are committed to gender equity.

 

The future excites me because… I believe that Canada is on the cusp of amazing change.

 

My next step is… The same as my last. Continue to advocate for women in Canadian business.

 

Want to hear more from Tanya van Biesen? Get your ticket to The Sponsorship Summit today.

 

 

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.

 

 

Meet Phoebe Yong, a Risk-Taking Communications Entrepreneur with More than a Thing for Sports

With over 20 years of industry experience in B2B marketing and a degree in Communications and an MBA in Marketing, Phoebe Yong, Principal and Founder at Magnolia Marketing Communications has led marketing campaigns with some of the biggest brands in the world, including Dell, HP, and Microsoft. She’s known in the industry for her tenacity, work ethic and passion, and in her day to day life? For being one of the Dallas Cowboy’s biggest fans.

 


 

My first job ever was… When I was 17 years old and I was the cashier at Woolco (now Walmart). I always loved playing with toy cash registers when I was a kid, so at the time, that was my dream job.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted the flexibility to create my own schedule. Having 2 and 4 year olds in the family, I wanted a schedule that could accommodate a young family lifestyle. Second, my passion is being creative. As an entrepreneur, I would have the opportunity to create stories, ideas, and campaigns and explore never ending possibilities with my creativity.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… My children and family life that I’ve created with my husband are my personal pride and joy.  Related to work, it would be building a business that’s successfully sustained itself in a highly competitive and crowded space. Every day I get to go to work and love what I do.

 

My boldest move to date was… Early in my career, I left a comfortable government position to join a high-technology company to start a new career in marketing. I gained the necessary experience in sales and marketing to get a job of a lifetime in a leading-edge company specializing in wireless data.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… I’m a sports fanatic. A dream day is being at a Vegas hotel and betting on sports book in the NFL.

 

My best advice to people starting out in business is… Develop a passion to never give up and be obsessive about creating the right customer experience. There will be hard days to go along with the good days. Also, get a really good accountant to help you plan cash flow, taxes and keeping your books up to date. I learned the hard way and paid the price for not having good bookkeeping when I started my business.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… Have clarity in what you want to achieve. Be as clear as you can on what type of customers you want, what you want to offer them and what markets you want to serve. Having clarity will serve you and your team well.

 

Mentorship matters because… It’s a wonderful way to pass on your experience to another person. To give them advice that that they might not have otherwise known and help them immediately. I can’t imagine my career without my mentors.

Work/life balance is… Hard to achieve. When you have your own business, it’s hard to turn things off. I try my best to find time for my women friends who fill my soul with stories of similar challenges and opportunities. Journaling also helps me reflect and keep life into perspective. Golfing with my husband allows us to laugh at life and being parents.

 

“I try my best to find time for my women friends who fill my soul”

 

I love my job because… It fills me with pride and joy when I get to work with an amazing group of talented women, and we do amazing work for our great clients. Mostly, I love my job because every day I get to do what I love – be creative in telling people’s stories.

 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That my dream job would be working for the Dallas Cowboys marketing team. Or that I drove on the Charlotte Motor Speedway (NASCAR racetrack).

 

I stay inspired by… The pace of today’s technology and society’s insatiable need for the best and coolest thing. The yearning for excellence at a breakneck speed creates societies with boundless opportunities. I get inspired by Elon Musk, Sergey Brin and Larry Page in their pursuit of new frontiers.

 

The future excites me because… I work with many millennials and I appreciate their longing for humanity, community and yet there is a strong appreciation for self-worth. This makes for a future generation with self-confidence to make a difference.

 

My next step is… To shoot a round of golf under 85, and if I’m lucky, to continue to build a sustainable business where I  help influence the young talents that have the drive to move the goal post every day and make a difference.

 

 

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

 

This Website Just Launched in Canada and Every Professional Woman in the Country Needs to Know

Women hold just 12% of board positions in corporate companies worldwide, and chair only 4% of them. This is a startling statistic considering that it’s proven that when women are in the boardroom, companies are more prosperous — a 2016 Catalyst report found that companies with the highest percentage of women board of directors outperformed those with the least by 53%.

Let us introduce you to an initiative that’s launching in Canada on April 24, and is posed to up those statistics — for good.

theBoardlist is a curated talent marketplace for the tech community to recommend, discover and connect highly qualified women leaders with opportunities to serve on private and public company boards. Initially launched in the U.S. by Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, a technology executive and entrepreneur with experience at Google, Amazon, News Corp and Polyvore under her belt, theBoardlist is the answer ambitious women everywhere have been waiting for to address issues of exclusion from the top ranks of companies.

With 1,600 exceptionally qualified female board candidates on the platform, theBoardlist was created as a solution to help address the lack of board opportunities for female leaders while providing companies with a stellar talent pool and the benefit of diverse perspectives around the table.

We’re thrilled to see this service now available to professional Canadian businesswomen, and can’t wait to see our WOI community members featured.

 

 

Built from the Ground Up: Meet the Woman Who Has Made a Career Out of Defying Expectations

Amanda Shuchat was given the keys to Vision7 International’s newest PR agency, The Colony Project, at an age when many doubted her capabilities. Yet in just over a year as Managing Director, she has made a name for the shop as one that offers something the big guys simply can’t compete with. Which to those who know her well comes as no surprise  — Amanda’s career is defined by exceeding expectations, and bringing those she leads along for the ride. 

 

By Teresa Harris

 


 

“I like to think of The Colony Project in terms of Goldilocks — we’re not too big, not too small.” Amanda Shuchat says with a laugh.

It’s an apt description from the Managing Director of the year-old Toronto-based public relations agency, which combines the tight-knit, personal service of a boutique shop with the backing klout of a large parent company, industry heavyweight Vision7 International. With access to the resources of a global network of agencies, and the trailblazing, creative mindset of a smaller firm, The Colony Project provides a blend of services that many agencies by nature can’t compete with.

“We’re a full service PR agency, but we’re not your traditional PR agency,” she emphasizes. “We focus less on niche markets, and more on bringing brands to new people, using innovation and out-of-the-box thinking to stay one step ahead. Every campaign we tackle begins with one question: How can we help this brand reach a new audience?”

This unconventional approach is clearly working — having already won over global brands like Nando’s and La Roche Posay, The Colony Project has flourished since its inception in January 2016, with Amanda at the helm.

And as she reflects on where the last decade of her own professional life has taken her, Amanda acknowledges her own quick rise in the ranks was also pretty unconventional — she was hired to start the agency with little more than ten years of industry experience to her name. But one thing she has learned, both in watching The Colony Project and her own professional trajectory change and grow, is that our paths are rarely expected.

“Success doesn’t have to be in a straight line — with every opportunity, you never know what you’re building towards.”  

IMG_9924Amanda graduated university with a degree in journalism, yet quickly realized that an extroverted, business-minded, people person like herself would be a better fit for the world of PR. So she secured an internship at a boutique PR agency, and kicked off her career promoting consumer brands. A change in focus led her to technology, then to the U.S. where she worked with Gwen Stefani’s fashion team and pitched Canadian natural resource products south of the border. Upon returning to Canada, she joined Citizen Relations. Five years and five promotions later, she became Citizen’s youngest-ever Vice President, was named one of PR in Canada’s Top 30 Under 30, and was ultimately appointed to launch and lead Vision7’s newest PR shop.

 

“Success doesn’t have to be in a straight line — with every opportunity, you never know what you’re building towards.”

 

Amanda always knew that experience was relative, and that with hard work and an entrepreneurial mindset, anything was achievable. “It’s about being hungry, taking advantage of what’s in front of you and making it your own.”

She credits much of her hustle and drive to her upbringing. “I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and my dad always pushed my brother and I to pick what we liked and do whatever it took to make a career in that happen.”

Beyond her formative family ties, Amanda is also able to recognize how influential professional mentors — even “unofficial” ones — have been in shaping her work ethic and future aspirations.

“At each agency, I identified someone who was driven and dedicated to growth and advancing their own career,” she explains. “Someone who has their ear tapped to the ground and is always thinking of innovative ways to do things is a great person to model yourself after. Someone with emotional intelligence. At the end of the day, a mentor should leave you thinking, ‘This person gets it’.”

Amanda now focuses on being a role model for her own team, aiming to instil in them the same confidence and ambition that led to her own success. Developing a strong team is both personally rewarding and of great value to the business, not only in delivering the best possible outcomes to clients, but also in creating a working atmosphere that feels nurturing, exciting, and — most importantly — collaborative.

 

“At the end of the day, a mentor should leave you thinking, ‘This person gets it’.”

 

“Culture is a big thing in an agency. In a lot of cases, you’re with these people more than anyone else in your life,” Amanda explains, describing the natural camaraderie that agency life often catalyzes. But this emphasis on fostering interpersonal relationships within the office speaks to more than just ensuring everyone gets along — although she’s the first to encourage birthday celebrations, communal lunches, and grabbing a drink together later in the week.

“If you don’t have a sense of real, day-to-day, in the trenches collaboration and support from the people you work with, you get burnt out.” She has seen the impact a toxic and over-competitive workplace can have — not only the people, but on the bottom line — and is dedicated to preventing that environment at The Colony Project.

“It’s so crucial that as a company, we have each other’s backs. Nobody is above any task. We’ve created a strong team full of talent, because that’s what serves our clients best.”

 

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.

 

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

 

Meet Marni Johnson, a Passionate HR Guru with an Unconventional Path

With experience in several industries and over 25 years in financial services, Marni Johnson provides overall leadership and strategic direction in the areas of human resources and corporate and internal communications at BlueShore Financial. Her passion for human resources developed after a bold career switch, and since then she has fully embraced her role, becoming a Trustee of the BC Credit Union Employees’ Pension and Benefits plans, and serving on the boards of the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of British Columbia and Yukon. With a background in math and marketing, Marni is the perfect example of what a woman can achieve when she realizes that boundaries are in fact merely suggestions, and forges her own path. 

 


 

My first job out of school…At a financial institution in Toronto in a back office role. In my role I identified a gap in processes, which I raised to my manager. It was dismissed. I decided to trust my instinct and explored this further to realize that in fact there was a gap, which had financial implications for the company. I learned a very valuable lesson from this first job and that is to trust your instincts even if you are a junior in your role. Each person can bring a great deal of value to the table no matter their place in the org chart.

 

I decided to enter the world of HR because…I was given an incredible opportunity for a career change from marketing to HR by the CEO of BlueShore Financial (back then the name was North Shore Credit Union). She offered me the role of VP HR because she believed I had the right leadership attributes and could learn the technical aspects of HR. The switch was the best career decision I ever made.  

 

“Trust your instincts even if you are a junior in your role. Each person can bring a great deal of value to the table no matter their place in the org chart.”

 

My proudest accomplishment is…Having worked with my teams to create and maintain a very positive culture and a great place to work that is client-focused, results-driven and nurtures diversity and inclusiveness, since research shows a clear link between a strong culture and organizational business performance.

 

My boldest move to date was…Making a career change from Marketing to HR at the executive level. I faced some skepticism because my formal experience was not in the HR function. I persevered, achieved my CPHR designation, and over time established my credibility as an HR leader. I learned a lot about empowering and trusting my team, as they had more technical expertise than I did. I believe as women, we need to allow ourselves to reach for stretch goals and pursue them with confidence in our abilities to learn and grow.

 

I surprise people when I tell them…That I have an undergraduate degree in math, because often they don’t see that math and HR go together. To be successful in HR, you need to understand and be able to speak the language of business, which is usually numbers and money. Having strong math skills has been an enormous benefit throughout my career.

 

“As women, we need to allow ourselves to reach for stretch goals and pursue them with confidence in our abilities to learn and grow.”

 

My best advice to people starting their career is…Take responsibility for your own career by seeking  opportunities to gain experience and transferable skills. Ask for “stretch” assignments even though they will take you out of your comfort zone — you’ll be amazed at the skills and lessons you’ll learn that you can take with you as you build your career.

 

My best advice from a mentor was…Don’t expect anyone else to care as much as you do, or to look after your best interests. This advice instilled in me a strong sense of accountability for results. It’s equally applicable to managing your personal life and career; you must take ownership for getting what you want and not abdicate that responsibility to someone else.   

 

My biggest setback was…In my early 30s I accepted a job with a company that enabled me to move from Toronto to Vancouver, but it required that I take a 10% pay cut. That was a big deal, not just because of the reduction in income but because of my perception that career success meant making more money with each job change. I almost didn’t take the job because of what I saw as a step backward.  

 

I overcame it by…Taking a longer term view of my career and the potential the new job represented. It was the right decision — if I hadn’t taken that job, my career would have taken a very different direction and I wouldn’t have ended up at BlueShore Financial. I learned through that experience that a great career move doesn’t always have to be a move “up”.

 

Work/life balance is…Different from person to person, both in terms of how much of each feels right, and how that balance is achieved. For me, it’s more of a “blend” vs. a strict delineation. I frequently check my work emails in the evenings and on weekends; but also have flexibility in my days where I can attend a meeting if needed for a not-for-profit board that I serve on.

 

“A great career move doesn’t always have to be a move “up”.”

 

I feel successful when…I can see the impact I’ve had on my team’s or the organization’s results. One of my favourite things is coaching my team and seeing them develop their abilities and confidence as an outcome.  

 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…That I am a hobby chocolatier. I’ve taken several courses over the past 25 years, continually learning new techniques and creating recipes. I take a week of vacation from work in early December and make more than 2,000 chocolates. Not surprisingly, my colleagues are incredibly supportive of “Chocolate Week” and the product of my time off!

 

I stay inspired by…Connecting with people who have a positive outlook and a passion for what they do. That kind of enthusiasm and commitment is infectious, and a source of energy for me.   

 

The future excites me because…As an organization we have a very strong vision and an aligned and engaged team to execute on that vision. That’s a magic combination, and there’s no end to what we can achieve.

 

My next step is…To be determined.  I’m loving my role at BlueShore and am continually looking for ways I can make an even greater contribution. What that will look like, who knows, but I’m open to the opportunities!

 

Want to hear more from seasoned HR professionals? Purchase your ticket to our April 26 Luncheon, Untapped Resources: How to Hire, Advance, and Retain Women.

 

 

Meet Yana Barankin, a Woman Challenging the Fashion Industry to do Better for People and the Planet

Yana Barankin is the female lead of TAMGA Designs, a clothing line with integrity at its center. Before embarking on this journey, Yana and her business partner asked themselves two simple questions is it too expensive to produce a socially and environmentally responsible piece of clothing? Does style have to be sacrificed for accountability? The obvious answer was no  so they set out on a mission to prove it. Here’s her story.

 


 

My first job ever was… sales clerk at a clothing store!

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I realized that I can have much more of a positive social and environmental impact by pursuing my passion rather than sitting at a 9-5 desk job. 

 

My proudest accomplishment is… Getting my Masters in International Development from Kent University.

 

My boldest move to date was… Taking a leap of faith and buying a one-way ticket to Indonesia with my fiancee to set-up a responsible and transparent supply for the company.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… I lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh for 2.5 years working in international aid.

 

My best advice to people trying to get an idea off the ground is… Surround yourself with creative and like-minded people! Know what your weaknesses are and don’t be afraid to ask for help and inspiration!

 

My best advice from a mentor was… It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

 

“Know what your weaknesses are and don’t be afraid to ask for help and inspiration”

 

My biggest setback was… My personal biggest challenge was moving to Canada at the age of 12 and what felt like at the time adapting to a whole new world.

 

I overcame it by… Giving it time.

 

Work/life balance is… Knowing when to a call it a night (laptop and cellphones OFF) and enjoying the weekend with family and friends.

 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m a self taught photographer.

 

I stay inspired by… Being outdoors.

 

The future excites me because… There are endless possibilities! We’re starting to see a shift where businesses can’t just take away from people and the planet — to get customer loyalty they have to show how they’re giving back. Combining profit and purpose is the challenge of our generation, and there are so many amazing entrepreneurs and companies working on it.

 

“Combining profit and purpose is the challenge of our generation”

 

My next step is… My next steps are all about TAMGA at the moment! We’re developing some amazing new pieces and prints with our team in Indonesia, and will be introducing some awesome new eco materials to our line. This summer we will be doing lots of in-person festivals, pop-ups and markets in the Toronto area. And we can’t wait for lots of sunshine, TAMGA clothing, and meeting all our amazing customers.

 

Meet the founder of Lucky Iron Fish, a company with social responsibility at the heart of its business model.

 

 

Meet the Woman Revolutionizing Toronto’s Events Industry, One Soiree at a Time

As the founder and President of The Concierge Club, a nation-wide event and staffing agency, Monica Gomez is behind some of the best celebrations Toronto has ever seen. But she’s not only owning the events industry  — she’s making it a better place for women, too.

 

By Teresa Harris

 


 

Some leaders have a strong business sense, while others know how to take care of their employees. The great leaders? They’re known for both.

A savvy businesswoman, entrepreneur, and mother of two, Monica Gomez manages to embody the combined personas of a whip-smart executive and the warm older sister you never had.

Monica is the founder and President of The Concierge Club, a full service, Canada-wide event and staffing agency that provides event coordination and staffing for high-profile brand and celebrity events. Having launched just five years ago, the agency now boasts a regular roster of high-profile clients including Ciroc, Guerlain Cosmetics, and even the Bieber family.  

Yet despite her current status as an event industry heavyweight, Monica got her start in the financial industry, where she worked in office administration. However it didn’t take long for the creative and energetic people person to realize that she wasn’t passionate about the administrative side finance.

“Event planning kind of fell into my lap,” she recalls, having been involved through the financial industry in planning and executing the hospitality suites for the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) trade show. But when the stock market crashed and the future of finance seemed bleak, she realized it was time for a change and moved east to Toronto.

Craving the creativity and social networking opportunities of the entertainment industry, and armed with the knowledge that she couldn’t work for anyone else, Monica decided to start her own company.

Under the mentorship of prominent Toronto event planner Elvira Muffolini, Monica quickly developed a name for herself, and The Concierge Club was born.

“Elvira is one of the people who helped make me who I am today and is now my Director of Events,” Monica reveals. “I don’t burn bridges, because you never know who’s going to come back into your life. This is also why I always treat everyone with the most respect no matter what.”

 

“I don’t burn bridges, because you never know who’s going to come back into your life. This is also why I always treat everyone with the most respect no matter what.”

 

Monica’s staff of brand ambassadors often refer to her as a second mother, a title she’s proudly earned by being attentive to both their professional development and their personal lives. From tax trouble to boyfriend problems, very little is off limits.

“From day one I treated the girls with respect. If they made a mistake, there was always an open line of communication ― even personal issues are on the table, because I get that sometimes they affect work. If I can help, I want the opportunity to do so.”

With over ten years of industry experience under her belt, Monica has seen the worst side of the events and promotions industry first-hand. Many staff, particularly younger women, are regularly taken advantage of, often being scammed of their pay and disrespected by management.

“With The Concierge Club, I wanted to do the opposite of what I was witnessing,” Monica says. “When you instill in your company a foundation of respect and communication, you get that back from your employees. Clients notice ― they see the difference in our brand ambassadors.”

Several of those brand ambassadors have graduated from in-field to now run the day-to-day operations of The Concierge Club, and whether it’s giving bonuses or passing along positive client feedback, Monica always makes sure her staff feels appreciated and valued — because they are.

“It’s rare to see that kind of investment in people in this industry,” Monica explains. “Because of this so many staff contact us and ask if there’s anything they can do to grow with the company, and we’re always receptive.”

 

“When you instill in your company a foundation of respect and communication, you get that back from your employees.”

 

When it comes to growth, Monica sometimes can’t believe how fast things have changed in the last few years. In 2016 the Concierge Club expanded its services to include total event planning, and has since pulled off some of the biggest events the city has seen. These include Justin Bieber’s dad’s engagement party, which made it into every big media outlet globally; the Dragon’s Den season 11 launch party; and most recently the nationwide events for cosmetic powerhouse Guerlain cosmetics. “This launch was very special for us.” Monica says “This was the biggest fragrance launch to date for Guerlain, with Angelina Jolie as spokesperson, and they entrusted us to plan it for them.”

“I’m a hustler and won’t take no for an answer.” Monica says.

Monica’s family has also doubled in size; in past few years she’s become a mother to two-and-a-half-year-old Adriana, and six-month-old Ayden.

“It’s a challenge to balance,” Monica admits. “And there’s a lot of guilt, a lot of the time. But in the end it’s all for them. I want my children to see their mom working hard and succeeding.” And despite being a self-proclaimed hustler who is rarely satisfied, she doesn’t hesitate to provide credit where it’s due. “My mom lives with us and is a huge help ― the company wouldn’t be where it is without her. And my husband has been my number one supporter since day one, constantly giving me the confidence I need to keep moving forward even when times are tough.”

It is those moments to stop and feel thankful that Monica relishes. She can often be found having celebratory dinners at Harbour Sixty, or treating her management team to spa days.

But her generosity extends beyond the walls of the company. Last year The Concierge Club raised almost $100k for various charities, and this year they have plans to add a new program to their charitable contributions — but they can’t announce it just yet.

“It’s easy to get lost in this world, and sometimes we don’t realize how lucky we are. It’s important for me that we set an example as a company, and have our staff get involved in giving back.”

It’s this commitment to excellence and integrity that Monica believes sets The Concierge Club apart. And she doesn’t plan on changing her business model, even while eyeing expansion in the future.

“I want to be known for changing the event staffing industry. I started doing things differently, and now everyone else is following suit. I want to keep that going. We have become a leader in this industry and will continue to do so.”

 

Photographer: Dexter Quinto

Designer: Caitlin Power

The Hardest Workin’ Mom in Showbusiness

Catherine Reitman, the creator, producer, writer, director, and star of CBC’s Workin’ Moms, is adapting scenes from her own life to tell an honest story of working mothers.

 

By Liz Bruckner

 


 

Ask Catherine Reitman when she knew she wanted to be a writer and actor, and she’ll point you to her six-year-old self.
 
“My nickname was ‘Bossy’ a lot. I did them at home, too, but I vividly recall customizing plays when I was at school to suit whatever lesson was up first. I’d throw together a script, convince my friends to act in it, and beg my teachers for seven minutes at the top of class to perform in front of the class.”

The daughter of iconic Canadian director and producer Ivan Reitman, and actress and director, Geneviève Robert, she attributes part of her early appreciation for writing and acting to her parents’ passion for artistic ventures. “Even from that young age, though, I remember being aware of how much I loved the almost tangible power I’d feel when the class would laugh at my scripts, and how passionate I was about figuring out how to parlay my interests into something that would appeal to a large group of people.”
 
Fast forward to today and she’s all but mastered her craft. An accomplished actor with myriad roles to her credit (including Blackish, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and How I Met Your Mother), she’s now the creator, executive producer, writer, and star of Workin’ Moms, a popular CBC comedy that highlights the lives of four women juggling careers, motherhood and love. She plays Kate, a PR executive who’s fresh from maternity leave and trying to wade through the unexpected realities of being a working mother.
 
“I think part of what is so exciting about doing a series like this is the fact that it’s raw and real. When I returned to acting after having my first son, Jackson, I was experiencing postpartum depression and saw firsthand how flawed the structure around working moms is. I’d talk to fellow moms and we’d commiserate about how our stories weren’t being properly told by TV networks, how the attempts that were made weren’t anywhere near realistic or funny, and I think that struck a chord in me,” she says.
 
It must have, because weeks after delivering Jackson, while shooting away from home, the concept for Workin’ Moms was birthed. “I was on-set for my first Mother’s Day, and no one told me that that’s the day your social media feeds blow up with people congratulating you on being an amazing mother. Ironically, I wasn’t even being a mother that day, and it hit me hard,” she says. After grappling with hours of self-inflicted guilt in her hotel room, she joined a crew of male actors and comedians for dinner, where “they jokingly gave me shit for being away from my son on the first real day that mattered,” she says. “I cracked. Started sobbing, chest heaving — all the stuff you see in the boardroom scene from the first episode of the show.”
 
After an emotional phone conversation with her husband — actor Philip Sternberg, who co-stars in the show as Kate’s husband, Nathan — she began to write. “At his prompting I started to scribble things down and was alarmed at how quickly ideas came, and at how much emotion was bubbling. My son was only six weeks old and I had story after story. That was my ‘aha’ moment.”

Catherine Reitman 2

Months of writing followed, as did a second pregnancy. She found out she was expecting the day before presenting a bare-bones, eight-minute sizzle reel to Sally Cato, head of programming at CBC-TV. “Sally watched it and green-lit it for 13 episodes on the spot. From the beginning, she gave me the freedom to direct the show as I’d intended without the worry of it being mishandled. I’ve never felt so professionally encouraged,” she says.
 
Reitman spent the next few months pregnant with her youngest son, Liam, and holding the Workin’ Moms reigns. She ran a team of writers in LA and churned out 13 episodes before relocating to Toronto, where the show is based and shot. She handpicked the crew and actors — all this while balancing being a mom and wife.
 
“It’s been a struggle to manage my home life with my professional goals, without a doubt. I’m hard on myself. There have been times where I feel like I’m having an identity crisis, because as women, we’re taught to survive whatever challenges are thrown at us while also thinking of others first.” Add a child or two to the mix and there’s this expectation that you’ll automatically be selfless and loving, and while some people nail it right off the bat, she says she doesn’t think it comes naturally to most.

 

“There have been times where I feel like I’m having an identity crisis, because as women, we’re taught to survive whatever challenges are thrown at us while also thinking of others first.”

 

“Having my sons is the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever done, but I know from experience that brushing off the difficult emotional situations that come with motherhood can lead to a pretty dark place. There was part of me that didn’t feel like I had what it took to be a worthwhile human being for a while, let alone a good mother. Things I relied on before to make me feel like me seemed to be gone after I had my first son — I didn’t see myself in the mirror anymore.”
 
Thankfully, she says, her work enabled her to reconnect with herself. “Getting back to something I have always loved was cathartic, and showed me that I need to listen to my gut. Women have this drive to play by the rules and be liked by everyone around us, and while I think it’s important to listen to people in your life, you also have to listen to yourself. Sometimes that means pushing all other opinions and fear away so you can hear what’s happening inside. That’s how we hear what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Meet Emily Rose Antflick, a Chief Community Cultivator Bringing Women Under One Roof

As the founder and Chief Community Cultivator of Shecosystem, a co-working space that nurtures the personal and professional well-being of women, Emily Rose Antflick is a champion of working with integrity and fostering a positive sense of community. And this has served her well — while walking away from both an ill-fitting career and relationship simultaneously was a challenge, she has since emerged energized, hopeful, and fueled by a true sense of work-life integration, which she believes beats the mythical “work-life balance” any day. Here’s how she does it. 

 


 

My first job ever was… Working at a vintage store/art gallery in Kensington Market, my soul’s home in this city and the neighbourhood where my ancestors first settled in Toronto in the early 20th Century.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I had creative energy that needed to be released, and after bouncing around different education institutions for over a decade, I still hadn’t found a workplace place where I would want to show up every day. Everywhere I worked I felt like I had to compartmentalize or present a certain way, and I wanted to truly show up authentically at work.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… Taking Shecosystem from a dream to a bricks and mortar business in just over a year. I worked hard to build community and to shape the business around that community’s needs, and as a result I opened the doors with twice my target number of Founding Members.

 

My boldest move to date was… Walking away from my teaching job and ending my engagement in the same week. I had gotten to a point of such acute energetic depletion that only a bold move would give me the opportunity to reshape my life from the ashes.

 

My best advice to people trying to get an idea off the ground is… To get it out of your head first — write it down and talk it over. And then let it exist in the world in its perfectly imperfect state, because if you wait until it’s perfect to launch, it won’t happen.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… To stop playing small out of fear, but instead to listen to what that fear might be telling me. Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

 

My biggest setback was… Not having all of the operating policies and procedures firmly in place when I opened Shecosystem. There were lots of uncomfortable conversations and lost opportunities in the early days, but in the end it meant that these policies arose from a more organic place. They took shape around real learnings rather than being imposed based on some hypothetical idea of how things “should” work.

 

I overcame it by… Cultivating a healthy trust in the unknown, asking for help and input from stakeholders to develop these policies cooperatively, and as one of the members put it, continuing to move forward “bravely and tentatively.”

 

A sense of community is important to your career because… Working for yourself shouldn’t ever mean working alone. I see my challenges and my successes mirrored in the women who work at Shecosystem. Knowing that I am supported, seen, and celebrated by this sisterhood gives me the courage to move forward with my business.

 

Work/life balance is… A myth. I prefer to talk about work-life integration. If we are going to cultivate sustainable businesses and abundant lives, self-care needs to be a part of our business strategy.

 

“If we are going to cultivate sustainable businesses and abundant lives, self-care needs to be a part of our business strategy.”

 

My past experience helps me today by… Reminding me that I am resilient and  resourceful. Also my background in curriculum design, teaching and facilitation means I have a toolkit that can be applied to lots of different contexts because, after all, I’ve always believed that real learning happens outside of the classroom.

 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… My bank account number, but that’s about it. If you go back far enough you’ll uncover my travel blog, old teaching resources, even the story of my first menstrual period.

 

I stay inspired by… Dancing and getting into nature as often as possible.

 

The future excites me because… The feminine is rising and more people are waking up to our potential to discard broken systems and return to more human scale, soul-centric and eco-centric ways of situating ourselves in the world.
My next step is… Simply taking time to observe how Shecosystem works — then refining, modifying, and preparing to scale based on the insight drawn from these observations.

 

We met Emily Rose Antflick, the founder of Shecosystem, at the 2017 Feminist Art Conference held at OCAD, where she sat on a panel of feminist entrepreneurs, alongside Petra Kassun-Mutch and Valerie Fox. Check back to meet more of the incredible woman entrepreneurs that attended. 

 

 

Meet Valerie Fox, Canada’s Reigning Queen of Innovation

Meet Valerie Fox, the woman who’s been at the center of innovation since the 80s as a designer for IBM. Since then she co-founded the Ryerson DMZ, North America’s number 1 university business incubator, and started a new venture which helps build successful incubation models with corporations, academic institutions and regions, and brings communities of diverse skills together to collaborate, design and deliver impactful innovation, world-wide. With over 30 years in the creative digital industry, Valerie has been recognized for multiple awards, including the 2016 Canada Innovation Leaders team, and the Sara Kirke Award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, CNE Woman of Distinction. Get to know her here.

 


 

My first job ever was… As a printing press operator, graphic artist and camera room operator in a print shop. Up to that point, I had gone to university and college for art and design, and wanted to illustrate children’s books.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… In the 80s I could see that tech was changing the landscape of design, communication and education. I wanted to be on the bleeding edge of what I knew was going to be the future of everything.  I had an incredible career at IBM as an intrapreneur. From there I was asked to join Ryerson University by the then President, Sheldon Levy to help in its transition to become a leader in entrepreneurship and innovation.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… My family, and meeting the many professional experiences I’ve had, like being the creative director of the Sydney Olympics web experience and co-founding and growing the Ryerson DMZ business incubator to be recognized as number 1 in North America and number 3 in the world. 18 months ago, started a company to help develop incubators and entrepreneurial ecosystems in towns, cities, academic institutions and corporations in Canada, the U.S., and Internationally.

 

My boldest move to date was… Getting the gig for the Sydney Olympics for our Canadian IBM team. We had a week to prove to the executive producer in Australia that we had what it took to design and deliver an exceptional online experience to the world. We super-stretched the capability of the internet in the year 2000 to create an incredible interactive and immersive experience. It showed what happens when design and technology work closely together.   

 

I surprise people when I tell them… I’m 63 and a grandma.

 

My best advice to people starting out in business is… To hold on tight. It’s filled with the most incredible high’s and lows. The best things you can do is to stay in perpetual motion, learn, iterate, team, share, and create long lasting relationships.

 

Mentorship is important because… It’s a beautiful way to learn and build mutually beneficial relationships.

 

“The best things you can do is to stay in perpetual motion, learn, iterate, team, share, and create long lasting relationships.”

 

My best advice from a mentor was… Not to worry about what others think, but listen, learn, apply, while continually holding on to core values.

 

My biggest setback was… Health related. My back went out and I was house-bound for 3 months. It stopped me cold. I realized how important health is, to do anything.

 

I overcame it by… Changing my perspective. It’s okay to take time to eat, sleep, take care of oneself and enjoy that too.

 

Work/life balance is… I don’t believe it’s a balance. For me it’s integrated. I love my work, it’s a part of my life. But it’s not the only thing in my life.

 

Something you can’t learn in a classroom is… So many things. Life is learning. Experience gives perspective, relevance, and application. But I would add that it depends on the classroom. There are some amazing classes out there that encourage team and project building, and knowledge sharing.

 

To me, innovation means… Change that makes a difference.

 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m a pretty open book.

 

I stay inspired by… Hanging out with people I love and learn from and meeting new people to learn from. Also reading, walking, traveling…never standing still.

 

The future excites me because… It’s filled with possibility.

 

My next step is… Continuing to help build connections and learning opportunities that will shape our world to be a better place.

 

We met Valerie, the founder of The Pivotal Point, at the 2017 Feminist Art Conference held at OCAD, where she sat on a panel of feminist entrepreneurs, alongside Petra Kassun-Mutch. Check back to meet more of the incredible woman entrepreneurs that attended. 

 

 

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.”

 

 

Meet Petra Kassun-Mutch, a Former Executive Turned Feminist Entrepreneur

Petra Kassun-Mutch wants to revolutionize the way entrepreneurs do business, bringing social consciousness and a feminist mind-set to a space that is all too often profit-centric and male-dominated. A former executive turned serial entrepreneur, Petra is determined to demonstrate how a business can be both responsible and profitable, widening the definition of innovation to be more inclusive and altogether more exciting.

 


 

My first job ever was… a fry girl at McDonald’s — I also had lobby duty.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to be able to show up authentically, create opportunities for others, and design and launch innovative, values-led enterprises that helps transform institutions and systems.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… leaving my 18-year corporate career and role as President for a $46M division of a multinational publishing company to found, build and grow a Platinum LEED (first in the world), a mid size award winning artisan goat and sheep milk dairy in Prince Edward County — even though I had no experience in cheese, farming, or the food processing industry. I didn’t even know you could milk a sheep! But I do now! We won the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation two years after opening.

 

My boldest move to date was… Combining activism with scalable entrepreneurship.  

 

I surprise people when I tell them… I was once a certified milk and cream grader, licensed HTST operator, and drove a milk truck.

 

My best advice to people starting out in business is… Everyone should start their career in sales. You will learn about markets, people, and learn how the world really works. For me personally it was transformational.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… Be the market you intend to serve. In other words, don’t try to sell something to people (or markets) you don’t truly love, respect or understand.

 

Women can support other women by… Leading with intersectional feminist values at the heart of all you do. Investing in women, including trans and gender non-binary female entrepreneurs.

 

My biggest setback was… Having to sell the business I loved and started because of an ill-timed divorce. In entrepreneurship, business is personal, and the personal is business.

 

I overcame it by… Taking a break, reflection, lots of self care, trying new things (not always successful), and surrounding myself with dynamic, diverse, creative kick ass women friends.

 

Something you can’t learn in a classroom is… How to cope with and recover from major loss.

 

To me, innovation means… A lot more than just high growth/extreme cheap scale tech.  Today’s definition of innovation is too narrow and leads to a gender gap in innovation policy that goes under recognized.  We need to support process innovation alongside product innovation.

 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I know how to macramé.

 

I stay inspired by… Watching The Walking Dead and working with entrepreneurs.

 

The future excites me because… I believe we can and will create a human-centric, values-led economy in the future, one that will promote individual, community and global wellness, a world without fossil fuels, a future where structural and cultural gender driven inequality for women, trans, queer-identified people (anyone experiencing discrimination based on gender) are a thing of the past.

 

My next step is… To pioneer what it means to design and operate an enterprise based on feminist business best practice.  

 

We met Petra at the 2017 Feminist Art Conference held at OCAD, where she mediated a panel of feminist entrepreneurs. Check back to meet more of the incredible woman entrepreneurs that attended. Until then, hear more from Petra at liisbeth.com

 

 

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.”

 

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

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.