Sunday, April 19, 2009


I saw Adrienne Clarkson speak a few weeks ago at UBC (before all the fun with my husband's ski accident concussion). She spoke at length about an English teacher she had at Lisgar - the same high school she and I both attended although many many years apart. And this got me thinking about mentors and people who have influenced my career (coincidentally I was asked this question in an interview 2 days after the presentation).

There are 2 key career mentors that easily come to mind. They were my two first bosses at Cossette and are still friends today. I worked twice for Glenn Stanley-Paul and am currently guided in my foray into blogging by Chris Morales (his blog is Now that I'm out west I don't get to see them as much as I would like, but they are still good friends and 2 of my most trusted professional allies.

But I have to say one of my biggest breaks didn't come from them, it came from a former client. She had a profound influence on me at a key point in my career.

My first job in marketing was at Cossette in Toronto in the early 1990's (see former post for more on those Melrose Place flashbacks...). I worked on the GM account - specifically the female friend Saturn. I was one of the few women on the team. But our client was a woman named Susan Docherty. I had been in my secretarial 'start at the bottom' position for about a year. Our Account Executive Lili had recently resigned and there was an opportunity for me to take on more - really show that I was more than a great excel wiz at building complex competitive charts. But the men that I worked with were a bit anxious about moving me up too quickly on such a male dominated client such as GM. Our team lead was concerned the client may not take the former 'secretary' seriously. And Chris and Glenn seemed to be concerned that if I faltered I may not get a second chance with them. But Susan thought I could do more and she fought to get me a couple of opportunities to show my stuff. My bosses had no choice but to give me the opportunity.

And I needed Susan's help. I totally screwed up my first presentation to a small dealer co-op. She bailed me out about half way through the presentation - without my losing face with either the dealers or my bosses (who weren't at the meeting). She coached me and then pushed me forward again at the next opportunity. She knew I'd get there and I did.

I don't have a long term relationship with Susan. She and I weren't friends outside our client/agency relationship. I have no idea if she is still with GM today. But she was a strong female role model for me at a point in my career where the men around me needed a little push. Those men are still my friends and mentors today. But it is Susan I really need to thank for giving me the opportunity to fail.

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