Sunday, May 31, 2009

Recipe for a headache OR something for everyone

Crazy week!!. I've been trying to squeeze as many networking events into my schedule as possible - before they cease for the summer. So this week I attended 4 very different events for 4 very different reasons - Hydro, Cancer, KickAss and twittering Moms..... Frankly my brain is more than a bit full from the diversity that was my week. Am I really such an interesting person, or do I need to get a little more focus??

Wednesday lunch - Board of Trade, featuring Bob Elton, President of BC Hydro.

BC Hydro is on my top 10 places to work list, so I felt it was important to go and hear what Bob had to say about the vision of Hydro. I learnt a few things and realized some gap areas in my research. I won't give too much away here as I want to save the good stuff for my cover letter. The highlight of the lunch though, was the lady that I sat next to and with which I shared a great conversation over lunch (oh yeah, and I learnt salmon can remember back 80 years from before the hydro dam was built).

Wednesday night - Community Forum held by BC Breast Cancer Foundation.

This was relevant to me as I had my first >40 mammogram that week and it seemed appropriate and timely to go to this information session. BC is unique in that any woman over 40 can get a mammogram free of charge without a Doctor's referral - just call 1-800-663-9203. Early detection is key and a quick 10 minute test seems so easy.

This was the first ever Community Forum to connect CBCF with the community. We got to listen to an interesting expert talk about breast cancer prevention across the lifespan. The usual advise was heard... everything in moderation (especially when it comes to alcohol)... eat healthy to maintain a healthy weight.... be active... get screened. But I noted some interesting info that I hadn't heard before:

  • Breastfeeding has shown to lower incidence (in the baby & in the mom)
  • Activity at ANY age helps - never too late. But women who are active in their younger years have even lower risk than those who become active older in life.
  • Research is showing more and more evidence that 2nd hand smoke is a strong risk factor.
  • Some evidence that Vitamin D decreases your risk.
  • Hormone replacement therapy should be avoided if possible.

We also heard a very inspirational story from a volunteer. But the laugh out loud (but not really funny) moment came from another survivor in the room, who having lived a healthy, active life realized that perhaps growing up in an airtight winter proofed house in New Brunswick with 2 smoking parents might have contributed to her illness.

Thursday night - League of Kickass Business People.

Yes this group certainly wins the award for the best name. Smaller group event. A lot of marketing, advertising and social media types.

I went to this event with a couple of former colleagues from the Rick Hansen Foundation. We all knew a few folks so it was easy to mingle and chat with people. The topic was the 2010 Olympics and maximizing your opportunities. Frankly it could have been called "Its not too late". A great diverse crowd of presentations. Event was live tweeted by TrevorRoald under #LOK. He captured some good nuggets.

I have to say it is this type of event that is hard on you when you are out of work. You need to attend this type of event to network and find work. Brought me back to my blog about networking and the dentist But it really made me realize how much more I know about myself today and the confidence I put forward is about what I know and who I am. NOT who I work for.

Friday morning - MomCafe... Moms are all a Twitter.

Finally I went to my first MomCafe event. I wanted to meet other professionally minded Moms and hear what a couple of great mompreneurs had to say about using twitter (Anne Marie from @yoyomama_van and Sue from @raspberrykids talk). Lovely, casual event, easy to chat with mom's about all sorts of things (including whether we should half the healthy and non-healthy monster sized muffins and then we could have a bit of both... we did BTW). The frustrating part came from my lovely toddler, who just discovered separation anxiety about a week ago. Nannies on call had to find me about 30 minutes into the program. Thankfully he sat nicely with me for a bit, but then I had to walk him around to keep him amused. And yes, for those at the session he was the aspiring Canadian Idol at the back of the room. Event was live tweeted by yoyobelly under #mctweet.

MomCafe started me thinking that maybe I need to take a good look at what I've learnt about my self in the past 10 months. Meaning re-evaluating my thoughts on doing contract work OR just starting my own business. And that REALLY makes my head hurt.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I laughed, I cried, I danced like a wolf.

On Friday I attended the Women In Leadership Foundation's (WIL) 5th Annual BC Aboriginal Women in Leadership Forum: Seeds of Success. We encouraged women from all backgrounds to attend the event. But to be honest, until I was there, I wasn't really sure as a non-Aboriginal woman what I would take away from it. But at the end of the day I felt so empowered as a woman that next year I will bring ALL my girlfriends.

Within moments of sitting down in the theatre next to my friend Marlis (who did all the graphic design for the event) I realized I had made a clear mistake. I hadn't thought to bring Kleenex. We knew we were going to experience something different when Maya Kanigan (WIL) and Sheryl Fisher (Squamish Nation) opened the day talking about how this event was about "Honouring the women warrior in us all". And then Sheryl's mother Audrey Rivers took us through a traditional opening prayer and a women's warrior song to open the day.

What really made this event different for me was the truly open, honest, authentic and sometimes raw stories told about how each of these women have been successful in their lives. Yes each had attained professional success, but their stories were really a testament to their personal success. The panel included a banker, chief, artist, entrepreneur and a business woman. Three of them were moms (and many at some point single moms). All had overcome significant obstacles to success such as: teenage parents, residential schools, being surrounded by addiction, foster care, poverty, suicide, divorce, single parenthood, loss of cultural identity and being a marginalized minority in the country of their birth. Each learnt from the stories told by their elders (Grandmothers were a significant theme). And while all of them faced adversity all their stories focused on the positive, the attainable, the future generation of Aboriginal women. The warrior in us all.

The session was moderated by Michele Baptiste, National Manager of Aboriginal Relations for Scotiabank. All the stories were fantastic. And I would love to tell them all here. But they seem too personal for an unknown 3rd party to try and give them their due. But I will summarize some of the great nuggets of truth that I took from their speeches.

Jessie Williams - Special Projects Officer, Four Host First Nations

Jessie provided a strong start to the day, with some relevant lessons for all of us:

  • We are responsible for who you are today and who you will be tomorrow. You need to know and believe in yourself = this gives you the power to make it happen.
  • Listen to your dreams NOT logic - as children we don't put limits on our dreams, we should be the same as adults.
  • Don't be afraid to make mistakes. For her fear was the idea of NOT accomplishing her goals and that motivated her.

Some of her inspiration came from:

  • her parents - who no matter how many problems they had always encouraged her to be/have more
  • her grandfather - who taught her to never let anyone tell you that you are less than you are
  • her grandmother - who taught her how to be a woman & a mother and how to be loved
  • mentors - you can't achieve anything on your own you MUST surround yourself with supportive people and seek guidance from others. By seeking their guidance you are honouring that person
  • herself - most inspiration comes from within
Chief Lisa Shaver, Chief of the Penelakut Tribe

Lisa is a fantastic story teller. She had us moving from tears to laughter again and again as she spoke. Her stories were laced with the theme of stubbornness that seems to have followed her throughout her life (and is likely one of her success tools). Her tips for success included:

  • Have to live your own life.
  • Cultural identity is a key to your strength - for her this came from the stories of her grandmother. You need to find your own path, but know and learn from cultural teachings.
  • Have to become the change you want. She has to be an example to her children, life and community. We are the answer to our children's future.
Denise Brillon Hill - Entrepreneur & Designer of

Denise clearly has a strong sense of self and her values. Denise believes it is never too late or too early to fulfill your dreams. To her the foundation is a strong set of values, these values create passion and that passion will lead to your success. Values are what give your life direction, and hers include:

  • Show honour
  • Never too young or too small to have a voice
  • Speak your truth
  • Speak for those who have no voice
  • Value originality and don't be afraid to step outside the box
  • Be yourself
  • Value of friends and family should NEVER be compromised for success.

Business to her is about relationships with people and NOT just exchanging money. We can show our community, business and government where our values lie when we make our own purchasing decisions. Is it really good value to drive to a big store to buy big bags of things that clutter our lives? Why not support the local family run vegetable store instead?

She also has a vision for Aboriginal goods and that is to move them beyond being just tourist items. Her company Artifaax is well on its way of helping Aboriginal products become part of the mainstream.

Renae Morriseau - filmmaker, actress and writer

Renae began and finished her talk with a quote (which I hope I got right): To create story you must be physically energized, emotionally attuned, mentally focused and spiritually aligned.

Her story was somewhat different from the others as she grew up in Urban Winnipeg amongst a variety of cultures. She even danced in a Ukranian dance troupe at one point.

Her role as a full time artist is to tell stories. The different stages of her life and career taught her the critical thinking of storytelling and to see the Aboriginal perspective. Something in her compels her to keep asking questions and telling those stories. She is looking for ways to continue to tell the Aboriginal story whether through comedy, drama or documentary. She also continually asks herself who do you attract? Who are the people around you that motivate you?

Renae is a strong, attainable role model who works in a field she is very passionate about, and through that work is also honouring her culture. Renae's most recent documentary "The Trail to Moose Lake" about the elders Fort McKay will launch next month.


Some of the best candid moments came during the Q&A. Daycare was resoundingly named an issue for becoming successful as a woman. And all women tend to take care of everyone else before ourselves. When the panel was asked how do you take care of yourself and your health, the answers ranged from:

  • Be your own best friend and not an enemy
  • laugh, love drink women
  • think health and happy
  • breathe
  • connect to your inner child... what gives you joy?
  • self awareness
  • shopping
  • Important not to focus on competing with the men, but to ensure you look after yourself first

The session finished with another song and a dance. We were all included and yes, my part of the audience danced like wolves - including howling. The session was followed by scholarships given to 2 talented young Aboriginal women to contrute to their education. And finally a sharing circle.

So what did this day mean to me? Well I'll quote Maya Kanigan, as she spoke about what WIL means to her...

"Every women in this room will be a role model to another women in her life. WIL is about bringing these individuals together to learn from, inspire and encourage each other to make a positive difference to the future of women's leadership in Canada. Each of us has the power to make a difference - WIL is about working together to get there. "

An event such as this brings women from ALL backgrounds together to work on our collective future.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Building Major League Loyalty

This week I attended the BCAMA breakfast speaker series - Building Major League Loyalty. The folks from the Whitecaps were there to parallel their experience of building fan engagement to building customer engagement. Now I'll say right off I don't know much about soccer at the professional level. My experience is at the local level working with Wendy's and McDonald's. Soccer is the biggest sport in Canada for both boys and girls. And I always wondered why that never translated into the professional sport. But I digress. My interest here was to see if there were any learnings that I could translate to use for my work with Women In Leadership Foundation or other clients.

Representing the Whitecaps was Bob Lenarduzzi, President and past player, coach, general manager, director of soccer operations; Kim Jackman, Director or Marketing; and Ryan McKee, Marketing Manager. I used to work with Kim at Ogilvy & Mather in what seems like lifetime ago. She was always a smart marketer and it was great to see her grow her skills over the years and land such an interesting and challenging role.

It is obvious from the beginning that Bob has the same passion for soccer that many of his fans feel. He lives his passion everyday and I think he could tell fun and interesting stories about soccer for days. He touches on his early days on the team and the slim days when the Whitecaps were barely holding things together. He talked about how there a lot of old time soccer fans out there that have lost touch with the Whitecaps, and how many of them are coming back with the MLS announcement. He talked about different owners over the years, and how the current ownership group really embraced a long term vision for the term (and soccer in Canada).

This brings us to point #1 in their five fan engagement strategy. What they called "Starting at the top". To many organizations this would seem to be a no-brainer. But it often isn't. In order to really succeed you need an organization where the most senior stakeholders (in this case the ownership group) have a focused long term vision, are engaged in making that vision happen AND their staff know they are engaged in it. It is too often you see Senior Management state their vision and then leave it to their executive team to get it done. In this case, everyone in the organization knows the vision, knows how they can contribute to it, and knows their ownership group is invested in the team's day-to-day progress.

The ownership group has 3 key objectives for the team - open and transparent to everyone as they are listed on their website. All staff and team use these objectives to screen key decisions (projects must meet at least 1 of the criteria to be considered to go forward):

  • To be one of the best small market sports franchises in the world
  • To grow the game of soccer in British Columbia & Canada
  • To be a significant community asset

#2 - No 5 minute solution

When you have a clear vision of where you are going and who you want to be it makes it easier to assess your environment for opportunities. But when your vision is unclear it is harder to do your due diligence because you can't focus. Who really is your competition and who shares your vision that can help you achieve it? Are you competing against yourself? This would have been a good question for GM to have asked itself many years ago - or perhaps they knew it but weren't brave enough to make the decision required to fix it... but I digress again.

In the Whitecaps case the new owners asked what relationship the Whitecaps had with BC soccer and Canadian soccer associations? The fast answer was 'we talk to each other'. The real answer was they competed with each other with duplicate programs. This overcomplicated things for players and their parents. So while at the grassroots things were booming it became more complicated to help the really fantastic players rise. Today the 3 organizations all live on the same office floor. They have audited their programs and are committed to creating great players together.

This didn't happen overnight, and the results of this new cooperation won't be fully seen for years. But they now have a structure that touches players/parents at all stages of their life cycle. This will also help gain momentum with sponsors and fan engagement too.

Point # 3 is "Let them in/be honest". This is when Bob suggested losing your credibility was like your virginity - you only lose it once. An old analogy but never more true than in today's very transparent world. People will forgive mistakes and respect your point-of-view, but they will NOT forgive being manipulated, spun or lied to. Being honest with people gives them something interesting to engage with. So the team is transparent in its information and looks for opportunities to make themselves accessible. Whether it is the team signing autographs, the head coach doing a Q&A with a supporters group or Bob doing a meet n'greet in the lobby at a game.

Of course when you give people the opportunity to engage they will ask tough questions and you must be prepared to answer them truthfully and honestly... and not telling them what they want to hear. Just like in real life people where people may not like it they will respect you more for it.

#4 - Revist Relevance

Again could be marketing 101, but often gets overlooked in the excitement for a new projects or innovative medium (ie: twitter). The Whitecaps has several core, but distinct target audiences - fan groups, parents/kids, original fans. Each of them is so important to the future of the organization, but each has very distinct needs. You can't do everything for everyone. So must be sure what efforts you make are relevant to that audience in the way they use or interact with the product. Otherwise your efforts are wasted.

#5 - Finish What you Start

Kim describes this as the bridge between engagement and loyalty. I'd call it ignore your customers at your paril. If you invite them in, allow them some ownership of your brand, then you must be prepared to act upon what you hear. You also have to be prepared that you may not like what you hear. A request could seem as simple as repositioning garbage cans. But if ignored it could lead to fans becoming resentful and then throwing a lot of beer cans on the field instead of in that garbage can.

During the Q&A they talked about how they pull in new fans. And the answer really is to engage their current fans in one-on-one opportunities, and that will grow them new fans.

The best example of how this 5 point approach is put into play is with their support group strategy. The Whitecaps have some very passionate supporters. But to put their opportunity into perspective their supporter clubs are maybe 30 members and in Toronto they are 1,500. A fantastic opportunity, but requires some long term efforts. For years these groups were all but ignored by the organization. Today the Whitecaps are including them in the vision for soccer in BC by listening, engaging with them, following through and providing them an opportunity to openly engage with the team. Relevant events such as pub nights with the head coach, where they get his honest opinion, go a long way to building loyalty and credibility (Plus getting those garbage cans helps too).

Their story feels like the tortoise in the hare (although I had to compare the Whitecaps to anything slow). They are willing to do the work that will pay them long term dividends. They are maximing all their available channels; engaging one-on-one with their very passionate fans and giving them ownership through open honest 2 way communication, due diligence, relevant response and follow through. But to me most important is that they have included those fans in the shared vision, so everyone can be as passionate as the ownership group in the story of the newest MLS team.

So how does this in the end apply to my Women In Leadership Foundation challenge. Well we have a lot of passionate women supporters, who will soon be better included in our vision for the future, engaged more with the brand AND will hopefully start sharing that passion with their friends.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My take on the season finales

So I've been blogging on a lot of marketing topics lately, so I thought I'd bring it back to my tv obsession. It is a sad time of year for the TV addict - season finales. Now it certainly is better today than it was 10-15 years ago when the summer was dead for TV. But even as I turn to my summer friends (Dexter, Entourage, So you think you can dance) I am sad to wish my regular season friends farewell for a few months. And I am certainly going to feel that big black hole of Friday night Sci Fi. Maybe Space will bring the next Season of Torchwood to air this summer (please, pretty please...).

So what did I think of the big season finales...
  • BSG - LOVED it. Even after a few months to digest it I think the shows went out in style. Answered some questions nicely... left a few ambiguous... gave due to the original. (and yes I might still be a bit in denial that this was a series finale and not just a season finale)

  • Doctor Who - Again a bit old now, but still can't wait for more. The last show to air in Canada was the Christmas 2008 special called the "the next doctor". Knowing that we only have a few more David Tennant specials and that a new Doctor is on his way in 2010, this was a nice bit of fun.

  • Dollhouse - How GREAT is it that this show got renewed. It certainly took some time gathering steam, but the brilliance that is Josh Whedan was really starting to show by the end of the season (frankly I felt Buffy took a season to start really building some solid characters and chemistry between the cast too). I loved the switch of Paul Ballard from hunter of the dollhouse to employee. Some interesting foundation has been laid and I can't wait to see where Josh takes us next year.

  • Sarah Connor Chronicles - So sad that this got cancelled. After a rough first half season this was really starting to get interesting. I did like the way the ending left room for more, but also could be closure too. John ends up in the future ready to take the helm with his 'new' family that only he knows are his 'real' family. Could be that this was what was supposed to happen for John to lead the resistance.

  • Friday Night Lights - I can't believe I almost forgot about this one because it ended weeks ago. Still one of my all time favourite shows. And this was yet another season of great story telling, and the last scene is heart wrenching seeing Coach Taylor and Principal Taylor standing in that broken down field at the end. Can't believe I have to wait until 2010 to see another episode.
  • Lost - can't wait to see where the bomb takes everyone next season. I never try to figure this show out. - I just really enjoy the ride. My husband the physics guy tries to analyse the time travel options, but I really like the story about the human dynamics. How people change in these unusual situations, how they grow (OR don't), the chemistry between people (both platonic and non) as well as how people manipulate others to get what they want. The big question for me is who really is the 'bad' guy on this show? Because all of them have shown both the good and the bad of their personality. Is Jacob good or bad? Who is the guy that found the loop hole and killed him? Is this a classic devil vs god story?
  • Heroes - the last half of this season was really about trying to fix the earlier mess and bring my favourite characters back together and focus them for next year. And I'm really looking forward to where they go with the Nathan/Sylar story line... could be a little Jekyl and Hyde there.
  • Fringe - JJ Abrams and his team left a nice wide path of bread crumbs to the tomb stone revelation. I hadn't paid any attention to the teasers and I could see the Peter/alternate reality storyline coming a mile away. But overall JJ has really outdone himself on this one. I just love how the abnormal is normal in this show. Even the idea of alternate realities doesn't seem strange to me on this show. Plus LOVE how he integrated Star Trek into the 2nd last episode in a conspiracy theory (and LOVED him using Clint Howard in that small role). But most of all I thought the Leonard Nemoy casting was fantastic - and location of his office in the twin towers could lead us in all sorts of GREAT directions. But my big questions for next season are: (1) how did Charlie get that awesome scar in the alternate reality, and (2) why Astrid, as Olivia's assistance, is only ever seen in the lab assisting Walter? Will she ever get a story line? Will she ever leave the lab? I mean Charlie finally got a personal story, isn't it about time Astrid got her due?
  • Project Runway Canada - My fix while the US version has been tied up in law suits. Iman is not Heidi. But she will do in a pinch. Oh yeah, the obvious guy won.

  • Amazing Race - Great race to the finish, as usual. And the right team won - anyone but the Cheerleaders would have been the right one for me.

  • Brothers & Sisters - Please remind me why I still watch this show?

  • Survivor - Yup Coach was the most entertaining contestant since Richard Hatch. Yup I was disappointed that Stephen didn't win. And yup I still watch and LOVE this show. I think it is the human dynamics that keep me coming back for more. This season shows how GREAT this show can be. Now please lets not follow it up with a boys vs the girls OR racial separation concepts again.
  • Grey's Anatomy - I cry every time I watch this show. Sad, but true. I sometimes wonder why Kleenex doesn't advertise during this show (sorry the marketer came out for a second) it is so perfectly set up each week for a cry fest. But I did NOT cry during this finalize. Not sure why. Maybe I just don't care enough about Izzie or George. Or I just figure there is no point in worrying about their fate as it is all caught up in contract negotiations anyways. Or maybe I thought the best bits were in the less GRAND story lines... the human-ness of Owen & Christina in the boiler room; the irony of Bailey turning down her fellowship in order to leave her husband who gave her an ultimatum that he'd leave her if she took it; Callie eating her words... again.
  • How I met Your mother - I have to say I was a little disappointed in this episode. Why? Did it have great appearances by all its characters, including Lilly? Check. Did it have great Barney/Robin chemistry? Check. Did it have a goat? Check. Did it have ridiculous pregnancy hiding props? Check - and double check for Lily body double jumping. Did it have a reference to the crazy Swedish architecture firm? Check - and double check for that even crazier than ever though possible rib restaurant. Did it give us some fulfilling answers about the mother? Nope... just another tease.

So now onto the F Word and Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmare from BBC Canada sitting on my DVR (not sure why I LOVE the British Gordon Ramsay so much, I'm certainly not normally a food show kind or girl AND I dispise the US versions of him). And I have hours and hours of The Hour waiting to satisfy my intellectual needs. But what about my summer brain candy? I mean "So I think you can dance" can only take a girl so far. Any suggestions?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Managing Change to Survive & Thrive

I attended the Women In Leadership Foundation's (WIL) Annual BC Women In Business Luncheon last week.

Four women, from different industries with very different career paths gave us their perspective on overcoming change. Overally a very insightful afternoon with a lot of common themes to success in managing change. There were certainly a number of 'light bulb' moments that had personal relevance for me. But I expect that each woman in the sold out Hycroft ballroom took home something different.

Below are some of the key insights into each woman's success.

Rita Rogers, Senior Manager Events, Canucks Sports & Entertainment

The always charming Rita, acted as moderator for the event. She opened with a story relevant to me when she received some great advice just as she was about to have her first child.... "It will pass". It is often hard to imagine that things will change or that "it will pass", especially when you are up at all hours, with no sleep and are staring at the shopping channel for hours on end. But when you look back you realize that this advice is true. For all aspects of our lives.

Andrea Scott, Co-owner Skoah & Chikki Munki

Andrea has had an interesting career path from teacher on the lower eastside to fashion sales to owning her own business as well as being a marketing consultant at the same time and also being a Mom (she was very pregnant with child #2 while giving the speech). The big theme for Andrea is that you need to have a vision of your career vs a master plan. Now given, Andrea is the type of woman who LOVES change. But it is true that with an overarching vision of your career you are able to adjust and take advantage of new opportunities, while never losing sight of your vision. It also helped Andrea to have an attitude that "very little in life isn't completely irreversible". She felt that if a new opportunity didn't work she could always go back.

Now I have to ask myself what is my vision? Being a strategic marketer I really should know the answer to that question. I tell clients and peers everyday that you can't go forward and be successful without a vision. This certainly gave me something to think about.

Silvia Livingston, District VP, TD Canada Trust

I'll be honest I wasn't expecting to learn a lot from Silvia's talk. She has worked in banking (and at TD) for her entire career. I'm a marketer, who has spent much of her career in advertising agencies, and I didn't think there would be a lot of parallels for me to draw from. I was wrong.

Silvia spoke about 3 key themes to success in her career.

Knowledge is key - you build credibility through knowledge - both top down and bottom up. For Silvia this was particularly important when she had a staff with more years and more experience than her. She felt strong knowledge and leading by example helped her build the necessary credibility with her team.

Check your ego at the door - No job is too small and we all succeed if we get their together. This is true in group dynamics but also in your individual career path. Getting the career you want is not always a straight line. Silvia took 2 different lateral moves or demotions in her career in order to achieve the position and success she has today. These positions were challenging, but they allowed her to broaden her experience. She credits these moves as a key part of her success.

  • This was a light bulb moment for me. As I continue to struggle to find full time work I wonder if there aren't some great opportunities out there that could help me broaden my skill set and help me advance my career in the long term. Hopefully I will be able to check my ego at the door.
Know your own weaknesses - when dealing with mistakes & failures it is important to learn from the mistake, take ownership and then get over it. But most of all understanding your own weaknesses can potentially help avoid future mistakes. For Silvia this was about talking less and listening more - this one conveniently is also relevant for me.

Claire Smith, VP Sales & Marketing, Vancouver Convention Centre

Claire had a career epiphany in a magazine store while in Frankfurt during a business trip when she found a book called "Managing your career". She notes that the book itself wasn't necessarily that profound, but it spoke to her at the right time in her career. At that point she felt she needed a change after 17 years in the same organization. So she went out on her own and became a consultant. Not the right step for everyone, but the one that made the right sense for her at the time. Her advice:

  • there is a momentum to change... taking the 1st big step forward starts the ball rolling
  • take charge of your career - there are no bad decisions as everything you do adds to your tool kit
  • don't be afraid to take risks professional and personally
  • ask for help
  • don't let self doubt take over - push through it
  • 3 degree of separation - there are a lot of people who can help you or they know someone who can
For me Claire reminded me the most of me - with the exception that she has gone out and taken charge of her career. I'm still in that 1st big step stage.

Taya Hawes-Puiu, Chief Marketing Officer, Cossette West

I know Taya, we used to work together at Cossette. We never worked on any direct project together, so we know each other from those short little conversations at social functions, in the hallway, elevator, etc. I learnt a lot about Taya this day. She is a bold and brave woman who has seized opportunities when they presented themselves and on at least one occassion asked for advice from the Universe (giving them a deadline for their response). She also came to a realization of her own vision while lying in a hospital bed in Hawaii. The secrets to her success are:
  • be bold and brave
  • the only constant is change
  • trust your instincts
  • seize opportunities
  • if you don't know how - make a list
  • cherish your relationships

To me this last one is the most important one as a human being. Jobs are not who we are. It is the people we know and the relationships we have that we cherish most in life. Don't let them get forgotten while you are busy doing something else.

Now what?

For a lot of years I took myself out of the drivers seat of my own career. And decisions made weren't really mine, but the one that came up at the time. I've been nervous to step out there and be bold, in part because that little 'friend' self doubt crops up. I really hate asking for help. And mostly I'm afraid if I make a mistake, go the wrong direction, take a demotion that I'll never be able to climb back to where I was before. At the same time I want to be flexible for change - I just don't want it to bend me like it has in the past. Somewhere in there is a happy medium - plus time for lunch with my girlfriends.

A note about Women In Leadership Foundation (WIL)

Women like to stick together. We are there to support each other, keep each other company and help each other succeed. This is true for women at all stages of their careers. Each of the speakers mentioned a friend (in the room) who helped support or mentor them towards their current success. To me this is the key to continued development of women in leadership. WIL gets that and it is this type of event that helps bring us together to learn from, support and celebrate each other's success. I'm pretty passionate about this. And it is for this reason that I volunteer on WIL's advisory board and lead their volunteer brand/marketing team.

Friday, May 1, 2009

In honour of Mom

With Mother's Day fast approaching I've been thinking about the women in my family and their affect on me. I come from a line of strong and interesting women. And I know my vision of myself, women, and our role in society was composed by watching them. Now my Dad was a key element in who I am today, but divorce and geography meant that my Mom and Grandmother were the main influences in my day-to-day life.

My Mom was a single mom from the time I was 14. And I have to be honest we had a pretty rocky relationship through my teens. But we both made it through and have a good relationship today.

Mom has always worked hard and I never resented the time she spent at the office or travelling... in part because she worked in something that she was passionate about. I just figured that was the way it was - if you wanted something then you worked for it. My definition of feminism was working at something you loved and having the choice to do it. So yup the work-a-holic gene didn't fall far from the tree.

My Mom also always let me make my own decisions and mistakes. She tried hard not to 'tell' me what to do with my life. With a few exceptions like when I was 15 and we had that 'talk' about my blue hair and new wave wardrobe. She rarely asked the questions my girlfriends often complained about getting from their mothers..."what do you want to do when you grow up", "when are you going to get married", "when are you going to give me a grandchild"... I did not understand or appreciate this when I was young, but as an adult I'm glad she let me set my own goals and become who I wanted to be. And I also appreciate that I kept her waiting a long time for that grandchild to spoil.

My Mom was influenced in her parenting style by her Mom. My Grandmother was in many ways the opposite of my mom...always nosey about what was going on in our lives and always had an opinion about it. The good part was she always talked more than the rest of us so you could usually get away without saying much.

My Grandmother was my 2nd mother growing up. She drove me to my skating lessons, cooked me scrambled eggs for breakfast and moved with my Grandfather to live down the street from us during my teens years. But the biggest influence she had on me was marrying my Grandfather. In the late 1930's in depression era Saskatchewan my Scottish Grandmother married my Chinese Grandfather. To put this in perspective women got the right to vote in 1918 and Chinese Canadians didn't get this right until 1947. I'm sure she must have been ostracized because of it. I know she didn't speak to one of her sisters for over 30 years because of it.
So I grew up thinking a multi-cultural household was the norm. I never realized that that was different until I was older. That was just the way it was. And to me that is the greatest gift my grandmother could have given me.

When my Mom was visiting a few weeks ago we went to see Adrienne Clarkson speak. She spoke about the need for more understanding between cultures and in her opinion the need for more mixed marriages. I was proud to look at my Mom and say that the women in my family helped pioneer that concept.

Has your mother inspired you in some way? Please add your story in the comments.