Issue 2 Podcasts Jan/Feb Issue
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Carla Kearns
Cyndee Sugra
Gloria Dona
Trisha Ryan

Issue 2 Podcasts Nov/Dec Issue
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Cathy Siskind-Kelly and Rob Kelly
Annette Mellor
Cora Tsouflidou
Vanessa Lee and Jessica Wong
Grace Cirocco

Issue 2 Podcasts Sept/Oct Issue
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Kathleen Hall
Erin Craven
Jacqueline Shan
Michael Staver

Chrissie Rejam Premiere(July/Aug) Issue
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Chrissie Rejman
Pina Sciarra
Barbra Williams
Dan Fortin
Tanis Helliwell
Elaine Dundon


Issue 2 Podcasts Jan/Feb Issue
Find additional portions of profiled interviews not found in print.
Carla Kearns Click here to listen to podcast segments of this interview

Carla Kearns is the innovative entrepreneur who has made it her mission to help businesses build relationships between North American and Chinese professionals. Here she discusses women in international trade, the importance of learning cultural customs, and balancing work-life demands.

Name: Carla Kearns
Owner and Managing Director
Company: TLI-The Mandarin School
Education: BA, Western Literature, University of Western Ontario
Marital Status: Single
Age: 37

Q: How do you balance work and life demands?

C.K: I’ve gone through times in my life where I worked non-stop. I was always either working at the office or working from home or on call or thinking about work, and you burn yourself out. You need the time to rejuvenate yourself. If you are working so hard, you can get into a place where it’s like, ‘I don’t have time to meditate, I don’t have time to do something for myself.’ For me, I am so much fresher, so much more effective when I do that. I meditate twice a day.

Q: How important is learning the culture and custom to fostering business relationships in China?

C.K: It’s really critical and people either learn it the easy way or the hard way. If they don’t recognize that it’s such an incredibly different business environment, they’re not going to be successful in doing business there. When people think about learning the culture and the customs, many people think about etiquette. They think about hand gestures, they think about the way you give your business card, and they think, ‘Well that’s easy,’ but really that’s not about getting business done. It’s all about the way that people process how business is done, the way that people see what’s important. For example, we have a very different concept of time in North America than they have in China.

Q: Are more women today affecting international trade and business?

C.K: There’s still a long way to go. I think that there are a lot of misperceptions when it comes to, especially Canadian women doing international business, that we’re going to have to change. Something like only 12 per cent of Canadian women, women-owned Canadian businesses, are actually exporting. We are a country that depends upon international trade. More than any other country in the G8, we depend on international trade, so we have to export. Because when we do export it's typically with the States, that’s no longer such an attractive option any more, with the challenges that are going on in the US economy. That’s why companies at least should be considering China, India, these other countries as the market, because those economies are growing.

Q: What keeps you motivated?

C.K: It’s really the meaning I find in what I do. It’s the sense of purpose. If I had to identify the higher purpose of what I do, you know, sure we teach people to communicate, we teach people to speak a different language, but really I feel that we teach, I help people of two very different backgrounds, set of assumptions, set of values, to understand each other on a human level- break down the barriers to understanding. That’s really meaningful to me. Also, watching my business grow, watching my profits increase, watching the positive feedback for what I do, that’s really meaningful as well.

Cyndee Sugra Click here to listen to podcast segments of this interview

Young entrepreneur Cyndee Sugra is making waves in multiple industries. She got her start in music as a teen and has gone on to develop three of her own businesses in technology, marketing, and music. HEART asks Sugra about her experiences and challenges.

Name: Cyndee Sugra
Founder and CEO
Company: Studio 7 Media, HOTLLAMA Media, and Tripp Factor Music
Education: Specialized music program, UCLA
Marital Status: Married
Age: 30

Q: What did you learn from your experience as a young woman in the rock & roll music industry?

C.S: Definitely the dedication that it takes and the passion. You really just have to love what you do, and it does take a lot of work. It definitely doesn’t come easy. You can’t just decide one day, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a guitar player,’ and then not work toward it. Having those obstacles of always being the younger one and being in a male-dominated industry, I actually am still in the same position where I typically am the youngest one in the room and in the technology industry, I’m usually the only female in the room. So it taught me to learn how to deal with my peers, which were older and mostly male. But really, just having fun with it and at the same time with the hard work that it is, just making sure that you are in it for all the right reasons.

Q: What challenges did you face when establishing your business?

C.S: Obviously not having a big bucket of cash. I had to really be savvy with how and where I spent the money. Being in that position at that time, I was never an executive at another company, so I was having to learn how to be an executive and learn what it meant to look at charts and figure out growth patterns. I really just had to step it up. I did a ton of research and studying and talked to as many entrepreneurs as I could about their experiences. I think it was challenging not having the financial flexibility initially, but I grew to scale.

Q: Where does your inspiration come from?

C.S: Just having a really supportive family. They are pretty simple, in a good way, and have always given me the encouragement I’ve needed just to do whatever I wanted. There was a time when I was doing music and I was really young and they were like, ‘You’re going to think of something else to do to fall back on’ but once I got past a certain age and they really saw my dedication, musically speaking, they were always so supportive. Same when I started my company, they didn’t question me. I think a lot of my inspiration came from the fact that someone was rooting for me and encouraged me.

Q: What is your dream job other than what you are doing now?

C.S: I would be an architect. I really love design and build. I’ve actually done, just on the side, interior design projects, as far as I can go not being certified. I really love architecture. I just think it’s fascinating to just build something from the ground up like that. You have all these challenges you have to work around and find ways to be creative with it. If I had the willpower to go back to school and do all that I would.

Gloria Dona Click here to listen to podcast segments of this interview

Gloria Dona, president and founder of Optionelle, a direct sales fashion business, shares her experience in the ever-changing fashion industry and the secrets behind Optionelle’s success.

Name: Gloria Dona
Company: Optionelle
Education: Diploma in Fashion Design, Fanshawe College
Age: 46
Marital Status: Widow, two children

Q: What do you consider to be the secret to your professional success?

GD: You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s a couple of things. My personal philosophy is never give up, commitment, and hard work. Keep your eye on the prize and know that there’ll be hurdles and challenges, but there’s always a solution. Believe that you will find those solutions and you will just keep going. Secondly, I think I have great people, so I don’t think of it as my success, I think of it as our success. When you have a noble intention, you will always win the day. If your motives are pure, your heart is pure, and your ideas are pure, then you’ll succeed. I don’t even think about whether it will work or won’t work; when the philosophy is one of helping others and creating a win-win situation, then how can you lose? I don’t think of it as a personal philosophy…I think it’s a rule of the world.

Q: What is the best advice that you can give new female graduates that are either starting out in the business world or as entrepreneurs?

GD: Don’t sell yourself short; keep your dream. Believe in it and work toward it.

Q: What has been your greatest achievement?

GD: As a woman my greatest achievement is to have two beautiful children that are lovely. They are not adults yet, but I’m very proud of the children that they are—they have got great hearts. That’s a wonderful achievement to get them to this stage. From a business standpoint, I don’t like to claim the success of Optionelle as my personal achievement. There are lots of great people that are part of its success, so I can’t lay claim to that one. I think my greatest personal achievement is to find joy and pleasure out of everyday and I think that’s a great achievement. I think it’s challenging in today’s world as you can fall prey to a lot of pressure as the mentality of today’s world is to compare, or to want more, or to be dissatisfied with where you are. I really think that my personal greatest achievement is really to find the pleasure and the joy in the simple things in life, in everyday—in the journey. Remember what the important things are in life: making a difference, helping others, getting up, and sharing a meal with people you love. To stay focused on those small things is the way to building the business.

Q: What’s your other dream job?

GD: Being an Optionelle fashion consultant. One of the things that I tell people openly is that if I wasn’t the president of the company, I would be an Optionelle fashion consultant. It is a wonderful business opportunity and it is a great lifestyle. I guess the one thing that is still challenging today is to have balance. Everyone is so busy working the 9 to 5 and when you have a job and a family along with other commitments, it’s just non-stop. An Optionelle consultant works very hard but they have the downtime of the summer and some time off at Christmas, and they have the flexibility to take a week off in March. They’ve got that flexibility, but also the opportunity of their own business.

Q: What is the essence of Gloria Donia?

GD: I am a woman who wants to help others.

Q: What is a mistake that you have made that you would not make twice?

G: Something I’ve learned over the years is never base a decision on fear that it’s going to go wrong, or fear that “if I do this” it might not work. It’s always the wrong decision.

Trisha Ryan Click here to listen to podcast segments of this interview

Tricia Ryan is the founder of The Marketing Chefs, a Toronto-based marketing company that provides small businesses with the advice they need to take their company to the next level. Unlike other consulting firms, The Marketing Chefs is unique in that they offer businesses the chance to hone their marketing skills while also infusing culinary expertise.

Name: Trisha Ryan
Company: The Marketing Chefs
Education: BA, B.Sc., and MBA, University of Toronto
Age: 54
Marital Status: Single

Q: Where do you find time for all of your accomplishments?

TR: I look at it as ‘time is pretty precious’: how many minutes do you have in a day and what do you want to allocate your time to? I’m not a crazy time management person, but I am respectful of the fact that I’m not running around picking up kids and I’m also not commuting. That gives me back two to three hours a day that many other people do not have. I work in the evenings, but likewise, I can take an appointment on a Friday afternoon and then work on the weekends. I would say if I were to look at all the various people, over the years (especially if you’ve read successful business people’s profiles) lots of them would say that Sunday afternoon they spend a couple of hours getting ready for the week. I allow my work week to be longer than some people’s, but I would say that the boundaries between work and play are very blended, so maybe I get lots done because my work is play and my play is work.

Q: What would you say to young women entering the workforce and possibly considering entrepreneurship?

TR: I would say entrepreneurship is one of the greatest careers that you can have. I would recommend time in the corporate world to make sure which arena you want to be in—it’s not both. Also, I do believe in Masterminds and finding a mentor. I see a lot being written between Gen Ys, Gen Xs, and baby boomers, and I do believe there are some significant different view points on work, but I see a lot of young people have such broad lives and experiences that I think it’s a great opportunity to capitalize on that kind of energy and experience. Our parents weren’t traipsing us around the world in 1950 and 1960. We might have had the occasional trip, but today kids have just had such vast experiences with the Internet and the type of lifestyles their parents have been able to provide. I couldn’t even tell you the name of jobs that are going to be available in five years, because who could have ever known that there would be a search engine optimization expert five years ago or that there would be a blogger and a podcasting expert?

Q: Would you say that women in business have come a long way, or that there’s still a long way to go?

TR: I would say women in business have come a long way, because if you think of the entrepreneurs, we pretty much do whatever we want to do. There are lots of women in very senior positions in organizations and they appear to be thriving and really enjoying what they’re doing. I think that also is a life stage thing. I think particularly when you’re in your 20s and your 30s, you’re just trying to decide where family, marriage, career, and travel all fit with all those other things. Then those kinds of issues even out a little bit. As your kids get older, your ability to meet corporate demands and challenges is not as big of an issue. However, at this life stage you’ve got aging parents and kids moving away. I think life is pretty busy no matter what life stage we’re in. I think we have to look at how far we come at each one of those life stages. I’m pretty much surrounded by pretty successful women in corporate and entrepreneur environments and I get a mix of everything. I think we have come a long way and there’s certainly a lot of acceptance, but equally, people still talk about those glass ceilings. I’m not so sure that all of us want to break through them, so that’s why we do want to go the entrepreneurial route.

Q: What are the top three things that you can think of that small business should have on their website?

TR: One of the most important things that you need to decide is the purpose of your website. Is the purpose an educational brochure? Is your purpose to do some form of transaction? Number two then is to make sure that you’re clear around what your position is and what is that key copy line, that headline, tagline, cutline, whatever words you want to associate with the purpose. The reason we say that is that you have five to 10 seconds to get someone’s attention. In the online world you can get a very high bounce-rate: people go to your site and say that’s not for me. You have to have the correct placement above the fold (just like in the paper) and you’ve got to have that copy line. You tell people the reason they are on your site and if that’s not what they want then they will move on. Number three is to place an opt-in box on your website. What that means is that if you spent the money to drive traffic to your website, always get a name. Then you can market to them. They might come to the site and say I don’t need that product or service right now, but if you continue to email them over a period of time, when they are ready to buy your product or service, then it works.

Q: What would you say to the question: “Who are you?”

TR: I’m probably everything I wanted to be. Perhaps from a young child, I’ve come to be everything that I want to be. It would probably be someone who is successful, and who has integrity, and who gives back. There’s a physical acceptance, an emotional acceptance, and spiritual. Probably in every dimension I’m still growing. It’s certainly not a journey that’s ended. But what I can say, which comes with a certain amount of maturity and experience, is I really like where I’m at with me and my life.

Q: What is your greatest achievement in your professional experience?

TR: Probably being successfully self-employed for the last 20 plus years would be an achievement. I would say mastering the online world in three years is a great achievement. When you take a new job you know that you bring certain things with it, but you also know that you’re going to have to learn again. When I look at 12 months ago, I can say, ‘Wow look at where I’m at.’ I can go three years later and go, ‘Wow’ because I kept thinking I’ve got to take another course. Now I tell myself that I don’t need any more courses, but I need to continue to learn. I think when we’re younger we’re thinking we’ve got to fix something, or learn something new, or learn more, or take another course. Now I say, ‘No, I’ve got to implement,’ because I’m learning from implementing.

Issue 2 Podcasts Nov/Dec Issue
Find additional portions of profiled interviews not found in print.
Cathy Siskind-Kelly
and Rob Kelly
Click here to listen to podcast segments of this interview

Cathy Siskind-Kelly and her husband Rob Kelly are the founders of Black Fly Beverage Company, which produces Canadian-made vodka-based coolers and a frozen “vodsicles” called Spiked Ice. Through trial and error, the couple has made a success of Ontario’s first micro-distillery and has some advice for fellow entrepreneurs.

Name: Cathy Siskind-Kelly and Rob Kelly
Title: Founders
Company: Black Fly Beverage Company
Education: Rob: BA, University of Western Ontario
                     Cathy: 2 years at McGill University,
                     part-time at University of Western Ontario
Age: Cathy: 40, Rob: 43
Marital Status: Married, three children

Q: What was one of the biggest challenges starting up?

CSK: What we focus on almost exclusively is the way we can tell our story to the most number of people and have people try it. It’s a small company, so we work five or six different huge food shows where you get around 40,000 people attending. As a group, we have a small business philosophy; we try to get our product out there as much as possible and utilize as many low-cost marketing tools as we can. Our website is really big for us. We pick and choose very selectively from the LCBO programs, and we support a huge number of charities in all different cities. It’s a really nice way to be a part of the communities that are supporting you and you get to promote the product.

Q: How do you find your partnership as a married couple and a business team?

CSK: We met a couple this weekend at a food show that just retired and sold their business. They are married and had been working together their whole life. Rob and I said to ourselves: “How inspiring: you made it!” It definitely has its challenges. I think one of the benefits for us is that we have three children and we had those three children before we started. We are incredibly like-minded and when I look at the broader world as an example of how people work in a partnership, I think the ultimate partnership is parenting together. In the workplace, it’s challenging; in the home it’s a huge benefit. In the home, we can figure out our family schedule and that worked well for us in having a business together. However, you work, you get home, get everyone into bed, have a great evening with the kids, and then you’re working until two in the morning on your computer.

Q: What would be some advice you would give to new entrepreneurs?

CSK: Do it pre kids: you have more time! One is to really try to utilize all the contacts you have and all the people that are out there that can really lend you some sound advice and can share their experience with you to build as solid a foundation for your business as you can. Educate yourself as well as you can. I would say, whatever you think your business is costing in your business plan, whatever you think the cost is going to be, double or triple it, and make sure that you make a plan. It’s great to be enthusiastic and have an incredible dream about all the places that your business is going to go, but always have a back up plan. For example, if you don’t make budget that month, how are you going to pay your staff? I think that business owners need to make sure that they have enough access to capital so that they can make it through the tough times or if growth takes longer than hoped. I have met lots of business owners that said: ‘When we were first starting our business and we needed money we couldn’t get any financing. Now that we have a successful business everyone wants to give us money.’

Q: Any lessons you have learned?

RK: Don’t jump at every opportunity that comes, because you really have to do your research first. Build slowly into some of these opportunities. If you struck a deal with everyone who comes to you then all of a sudden you realize that you’re growing so much in one market that now you’ve got commitments somewhere else as well. If that happens, and you can’t keep your commitments, who do you say sorry to? We don’t ever want to have that happen and we’d rather grow more slowly and not take these opportunities.

Annette Mellor  

Name: Annette Mellor
Title: Studio Co-Owner, Yoga Instructor
Company: Moksha Yoga London
Age: 51
Marital Status: Single

When the bank she was working for as an executive assistant to the VP was sold to a larger financial institution, Annette Mellor did what most people would do: she started searching for another corporate position. She found yoga.

Of the decision to leave her corporate life (and a 30 year marriage) Mellor says, “It was a huge transition, but I believe this was what I was meant to do in my life. I had to take the journey on my own.”

The journey that she embarked on eight years ago has led her to become who she is today: a devoted yoga teacher, studio co-owner, and Reiki healer. She is also able to call her husband (they never officially divorced) her best friend.

Q: How did you first find out about yoga?

AM: About seven or eight years ago I took training in Reiki, a form of spiritual healing. I know that that was the start of my openness to the universe…I was in that high-level position at the bank for eight years, and with teenagers and a busy family life, I had to do something to chill out and de-stress. So I put it out there that eventually I would like to be a yoga teacher…I went to an information evening for the Forest Academy of Mind Body Medicine, and during that meeting they talked about Samadhi meditation. I realized then that I needed the meditation more in my life than anything else, so I took the meditation course, and I meditated religiously for quite a number of years. From that I started [doing] Bikram yoga (heated yoga).

Q: What are some of the benefits of this kind of yoga?

AM: From a regular yoga practice the key benefits are de-stressing and learning to breathe. Most people don’t breathe properly. They only use 20-30 per cent of their lung capacity. As you get older, if you’ve not had the full capacity of your lungs—they’re a muscle—it’s “use it or lose it.” When you learn to breathe properly, you can learn to de-stress. For the hot yoga that we teach, the room is anywhere from 98 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit. So you sweat! The biggest thing about the sweat is the detox element. Your skin is the largest organ so it’s integral to detoxifying your body. You’re cleaning from the inside out as well because of all the movements and the postures. With all the bending and twisting, the internal organs are getting a really nice workout. Eventually in your yoga practice, you really connect with what’s going on in your body.

Q: Did you instantly fall in love with Bikram yoga?

AM: I came and I tried it and I did not like the heat! I’m a redhead and redheads typically have a lot of internal fires, and naturally generate a lot of heat. So I did a class, but then I drove home and thought ‘I feel pretty good’.

Q: And at the same time you and your husband separated?

AM: I’d been with this wonderful person since we were 16 years old. I thought this is about me now, so I jumped with both feet into the fire. I was 46 and I was on my own for the first time ever in my life.

Q: How did that go?

AM: A lot of people are not comfortable being in their own company, but the most important thing that I would advise anybody is to live on your own, as soon as you can and no matter how old you get. Take some time for you. It is a bit of a journey and there are times when you think ‘I can’t do this,’ and there are times when I did question, but I just so much believed in what I was doing and where I was going. It was just faith. You have to have that belief in yourself.

Q: How were you able to make that transition?

AM: With age comes wisdom is the best way to put it. Listen to what your heart’s telling you and you act on that—the first thing you have to do is let go of the fear.

Q: What’s the biggest change that has occurred as a result of this career and life change?

AM: I was type A—a perfectionist to the point of being anal. I can admit that now. Coming [to Moksha] has learned me a lot of patience. It takes a little while to unwind and realize that there’s room to breathe and that you can give people space…[Also]This doesn’t feel like work. When I had that corporate job, I loved it, but it was still a job. This has never felt like a job. This has felt like a privilege.

Q: What has been the greatest benefit?

AM: For me as a teacher, it’s to see the evolution in [each] person…just to be a part of their yoga experience, [and] to help them evolve in their own journey.

Q: Do you journal?

AM: When I feel the need to journal, I journal, and I’ll journal for hours. I journal dreams more than anything, so when something is a powerful message, I journal it because I know I’m meant to. And when I feel the urge, I’ll go back and I’ll flip the page to the exact moment I’m meant to read it, because it’s relevant to something that’s happening now.

Q: Any regrets?

AM: I wish I would have found yoga when I was 20 years old, 25 years before I really discovered it. If I were to go back and change it would be to find that wonderful place of being, not to even be a teacher, but to be in a regular yoga practice, because it changes who you are. But I wasn’t meant to find that in my life until I was in my 40s and had raised a family and left my family in England and left my family here and gone through that whole process. I was meant to go through what I went through to get here.

Q: What advice do you give to your students?

AM: Live your truth. Be honest with yourself, not just in your corporate life, in every aspect of your life and in your relationships. And that means being true to yourself, first and foremost.

Q: What is your credo?

AM: To be yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.

Success is: living my dream

Inspiration comes from: my students

I want to be remembered as: yoga mum (I could say the crazy English bitch, but it might not look good in print! Or the crazy English redhead).


Cora Tsouflidou Click here to listen to podcast segments of this interview

Cora Tsouflidou is the founder of a multi-million dollar breakfast restaurant empire that spans across Canada. Though today she is rich in many ways, Tsouflidou’s journey came from humble beginnings as a young single mother, trying to feed her family. Now, she proudly helps to fill the bellies of families across the country. Tsouflidou spoke with HEART and shared some of her hurdles and successes.

Name: Cora Tsouflidou
Title: Founder
Company: Chez Cora Restaurants
Education: Disclosed
Age: 62
Marital Status: Single, three children

Q: How have you made everything happen?

CT: I don’t just sit on my couch waiting for somebody to come by the window to bring me what I need. I need action. Happiness is intelligence. It needs organization, and needs discipline. I understood that. It’s like business: it needs work. You may wish, but it needs work and needs to be organized.

Q: How have you grown as a person through this venture?

I would really educate myself by reading. This is my way of growing. I read I don’t know how many business books on franchising, on growing, on strategy, on branding. Then I read a lot of cookbooks; my house is a library. My other passion was self-growth and the evolution of my spirituality.

I feel the purpose of life is self-growth, approaching our divine source. From the beginning I said my passion is breakfast and my second passion has always been to try to stimulate or motivate women. What I discovered I could do [create a successful business], I’m sure every woman can do it. I have a passion for that because I want to make a difference.

Q: What was the catalyst to your success and growth?

I always say, no matter what type of business you are in, it is always the quality of the product that comes first and that decides if you have success or not. Especially in the food business, no matter the size of the restaurant or how expensive, or the decoration on the walls, if the food is no good, you don’t have success. It’s the quality of the product and of course in our restaurants, it’s the quality of the service because having breakfast at Cora’s is a whole experience.

Q: How have you managed to remain largely debt-free since the beginning?

It was difficult because my children were working with me and they would always complain that they needed more money and I would say to them, ‘listen, we need to make a lot of stores, we need to save’…thank god this attitude brought me where I am today with the huge company debt-free, because we never borrowed money, we always financed ourselves. I always thought it was cheaper than getting those loans, which sometimes don’t make you sleep well at night. Of course, I moved very slowly, one store at a time and then I started franchising where it was the franchisee, who was getting the money to start. But nevertheless, I had to get organized. I had to hire specialists. For the first 10 years we didn’t get paid big money, less than minimum wage. We invested ourselves: feet, head, soul, hearts, everything we had!


Vanessa Lee and Jessica Wong  

Vanessa Lee and Jessica Wong are the creative minds behind Domistyle Inc., specializing in fun and funky aprons for your cooking and entertaining pleasure. They gave HEART the scoop on their journey into entrepreneurship.

Name: Vanessa Lee
Title: Founder
Company: Domistyle Inc.
Education: BBA, Wilfrid Laurier University
Age: 27
Marital Status: Single

Name: Jessica Wong
Title: Founder
Company: Domistyle Inc.
Education: BA (comm. & soc.), York University
Age: 27
Marital Status: Married

Q: What is secret to success?

V. L: Passion, commitment, work ethic, unwavering belief in our product and our potential, and doing the right thing.

J.W: There is no set recipe for success – it involves lots of hard work, dedication, responsibility, conscientiousness, creativity, innovation and the ability to adapt and problem solve.

Q: What or who was your greatest source of support through this endeavour?

V.L: Jessica – We’ve managed to achieve so much and we couldn’t have done it without each other. Her commitment to making the business succeed has been an integral source of our success and she’s the best friend and business partner anyone could hope to have.

J.W: My family and friends have been completely supportive from the start – they are all my strength when times are stressful. My husband has also been the biggest inspiration and support for me since he has to deal with my stress first-hand!


Grace Cirocco Click here to listen to podcast segments of this interview

Grace Cirocco is the dynamic and engaging founder of Grace Cirocco Inc., a business dedicated to helping others follow their authentic paths. Her best-selling book Take The Step The Bridge Will Be There, helps to reiterate her message to audiences world-wide. Cirocco shares her insights with Editor-in-Chief Brenda Wood from her hometown of Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON.

Name: Grace Cirocco
Title: Author, Speaker, Coach, Founder and President
Company: Grace Cirocco Inc.
Education: BA (Hon) Philosophy, Queen’s University;
                     Graduate Studies in Philosophy, University
                     of Western Ontario; Certified Facilitator,
                     Self Esteem Seminars, California; Certified
                     Coach (CC) Training Intensive
Age: 48
Marital Status: Married, two children

Q: After your extensive traveling and living in big cities, why did you decide to move back to your childhood town of Niagara-on-the-Lake?

G.C: Five years ago we moved back here and it was a deliberate choice. It’s connected to nature, the trees, and the water. I think when I was in Toronto and Mississauga, I was a frenzy with things I felt I ought to do to grow my business. I thought, ‘Oh, I just missed this important networking thing, and I’ve got to go meet this person for lunch, I have to do this and this…’ I was scattered in a million directions. In Niagara, by distancing myself from the hub of the action, I have been able to create my most significant work. There’s a lot of fear with women who feel that they have to kind of do it all, do everything, go to every single networking meeting because you could meet someone, and you’ve got to bring your business forward. But you have to pick and choose.

Q: So your take on networking is to be selective?

G.C: Do less. Network with your soul. Network with your heart. Network with god. Network with your intuition. Plato said that we know everything and that the right teachers will come along to help us remember. That knowledge is innate. So women: you’ve got to trust that the answers are inside. You just have to find the right teachers to inspire, not give you the answers, but inspire.

What does a coach do? They believe in you. They’re in your corner. They’re blowing wind through your wings. You need to find somebody who will do that. Maybe two or three people, or maybe a community that will do that. You just need a little bit of inspiration because you’ve got to trust that the knowledge is already there.

Q: What are you most proud of in your career and in your life?

G.C: I am proud that I am different. When I was a kid I hated it. I didn’t fit in. I felt like an alien or probably more accurately, a salmon swimming up stream. I realize now that I am proud because I never gave up the swim. I’m just really proud of that, but I chose to be authentic and I was crazy and I was different. I think different is good, crazy is good. We need to be authentic. At my workshops, especially with the women, I tell them, ‘Look, I swear.’ Right off the bat I warn them I swear. This is what I mean by being authentic, being who you are instead of pretending all the time. I’m proud the most that I didn’t become a chameleon. I didn’t turn out like a nicey-nicey girl with no juice. That’s what I’m most proud of, not my achievements.

Q: Do you see yourself retiring?

G.C: I don’t see myself retiring. I see myself speaking and writing until the day I die. I think retirement is a poor excuse to finally achieve balance. I don’t think you really need time to achieve balance; you do it a little bit every day as you go along all your years. There are all these amazing 65-year-olds who have so much to give and yet we put them on the shelf. What a shame. What a tragedy that is. That is a collective error. I think that women need to learn that sacred balance along the way so that when they hit 65 they keep sailing through with the same sacred balance, picking and choosing what resonates and what doesn’t, and choosing priorities.

Issue 2 Podcasts Sept/Oct Issue
Find additional portions of profiled interviews not found in print.
Kathleen Hall Click here to listen to podcast segments of this interview

From her farm in north Georgia, author and stress expert Kathleen Hall talks about her love affair with stress and how we must all learn to manage it in our own lives.

Name: Kathleen Hall
Title: Founder & CEO, The Stress Institute; Author, Alter Your Life, and A Life in Balance
Company: The Stress Institute, founded 1997
Education: Bachelor of Science in Finance from Jacksonville State University
                     Masters of Divinity from Emory University
                     Doctorate in Spirituality from Columbia Theological Seminary
Age: 56
Marital Status: Married, two grown daughters

Q: How did stress come to be a central part of your life’s work?

KH: We decided to focus on the issue of stress because the American Institute of Stress came out with the data that 90 percent of physician’s visits are directly related to stress; the World Health Organization said depression will be one of the top two leading causes of disability in the world by 2020; Harvard released a study that said stress is the epidemic of the 21st century. At that point I said, that’s what I do. I came out of the womb of stress, from a childhood to the World Trade Center to me ferreting out a life in the womb of stress, the nest of stress. So I know it. I know the DNA of it…everyday of my life I still wake up looking at it in the face and I love it; I’m in a love affair with it. So I understand it and I know how to help people with it.

Q: Is stress something that anyone can ever avoid or is it something that we just have to deal with?

KH: You can avoid it in this way: if it’s something like a toxic person, a toxic job, a task that you have to do that really stresses you out, then look at it. You may need a divorce, you may need a marriage counselor, you may just need a heart to heart talk with your partner, you may need to leave your job, you may need a heart to heart talk with your boss. It may be making you sick, but not necessarily. There are two things you can do: you can leave it, but you may miss the experience of working through it. Take my husband and I: do you think that we haven’t almost gotten divorced dozens of times in this long, rich 33-year marriage? But each time we came back together we said, ‘We can leave this, or we can dig deeper and see if there’s something we need to learn about it.’ So that’s what I do with stress. Every time I’m stressed I ask, ‘Do I need to fire this person? Do I need to not write this? Do I need to do this?’ Or, ‘Is this telling me something about myself that I need to go deeper?’ And that’s where maturity, that’s where support systems, that’s where education and knowledge, that’s where all of that stuff comes in to teach you, ‘Do I leave it? At what point?’ If you’re getting sick—migraine headaches—if you’re at the point when you start having physical symptoms then it’s moved from the mental and maybe the relational to the physical: that means you better get cracking. Pay attention, that’s what it means. Pay attention, because it’s just going to get worse at that place or move on to another place in your body. And it’s great, because if we didn’t have a physical symptom we wouldn’t change! We would keep telling ourselves lies. Is the answer leave it? Maybe…if you have to. I had to leave Wall Street and leave that stuff and come here. But then every time I got stressed, whether it was putting an animal to sleep or if I had a panic attack when I got here—no. I had made a commitment that those were things I had to go deeper into and not leave.

Q: How can your philosophy of SELF-care help people manage stress?

KH: It becomes the rhythm of your life and it becomes a spiritual rhythm. As you age and ask questions—should I leave this person? Should I divorce him? Should I marry him? Am I gay? Do I hate my job? What about global warming—you can sit there and (breathe) and instead of freaking out and drinking or doing drugs, say: maybe I need quiet my mind for five minutes; maybe I need to take a mindful walk; maybe I need to call my friend and tell her that I love her and ask her what she thinks about his problem and get some advice. Or, what about food? Maybe I just need to have a warm bowl of pumpkin soup for lunch so I feel loved and I get all of that serotonin in there.
People need to be mindful.
Instead, though, what they’ll do is either grab a pop tart for breakfast or not eat breakfast because they’re in a hurry. Well, we know that that slows down your metabolism, so that’s strike number one. Two: I think I’ll have a glass of wine at lunch so I can calm down, or I’m going to have a burger and fries…grease, sugar, salt…that drives up your stressors and leads to depression. Then by supper: I can’t wait to get home and have a drink or a bottle of wine and I don’t want to talk to my friend because I’m stressed out…she made me mad this morning, or something. The whole day you’re reacting instead of being proactive.
We know that people who feel in control have much less stress.

Erin Craven Click here to listen to podcast segments of this interview

We spoke with Erin Craven at her London, ON, office about having it all, the bitch-factor, and creating harmony in work and life.

Name: Erin Craven
Title: General Manager
Company: Graceway Pharmaceuticals
Education: BBA from Richard Ivey
Hours worked each week: 50 (plus additional travel)                    
Age: 33
Marital Status: Married 14 years, two children (son 15, daughter 8)

Q: How do you manage your career and your family life?

EC: Compartmentalizing is one way, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do; you have to put a lot of focus into that. For me I know how difficult that is so I try and be very respectful of that and create a place where that’s valued. I worked in a company before where your children weren’t allowed past the front door of the company. That used to drive me crazy, because I’m trying to become a good role model for them and help them understand what their mom does everyday, but they could never see me doing that. That’s one of the things when I started Graceway that was not going to happen here. My kids were going to be allowed to come in and see where I worked. And that’s what happens here. I think that is so important—especially for my daughter. That helps me alleviate some of that mothering guilt that we all bring to the table as working moms.
I was able to go see my dad at work many days growing up. I got to see what he was doing and what he was up to and what an office environment was like and if he was having fun. It’s a little thing but I hope it makes a difference.

Q: Do you have it all?

EC: I think all is how you define it. There are some people that will never have it all, because they always want more. For me I do think that we have a really nice life, we’re very happy with where we’ve come from, but it’s because we struggled a lot in the beginning. I always say there’s no strength without struggle; that’s what got us where we are today.
It’s about being happy with where you are, being grateful, feeling harmony. I’m grateful for what I have in my life and what I’ve achieved. Being focused on that in the moment and not what’s next is key. Those questions of five and 10 years down the road are very tough for me because I don’t usually go there. I try to stay in the moment at work or at home, whatever that moment is. If I can stay in that moment then I find there’s a lot of harmony.

Q: Have you ever encountered any gender nuances (for example, the bitch factor) at work? Is that something you have to be mindful of?

EC: I think it’s out there for sure. I try not to get sucked into that, because it’s not a healthy place to be. In terms of competition, to be where I am today, you have to be a competitive person and I definitely am.

Q: Would you say your management style is intolerant to the bitch factor?

EC: I definitely don’t like it! To everyone I’ve hired for this team I’ve said from day one, we check our egos at the door. There’s just no place for that. It’s such a cancer in an organization when that’s going on. We do have a lot of women in this organization and I’m very proud to say there isn’t any of that. These people really and genuinely enjoy each other’s company and enjoy working together. But I do think that it takes focus and energy to make sure that it doesn’t come in and if it does come in, you deal with it right away.

Q: Do you have any regrets?

EC: Not really. If I were to do my life over it would probably be the same. I find especially in this role with so much of my team in Quebec, not being bilingual is a real challenge. I wish I had learned to speak French and I hope to do that some day, although it’s hard to find the time and as a child you learn it so much easier.

Q: Do you feel that you’re self-aware, or as self-aware as you’d like to be?

EC: I think I’m a work in progress. I think I’m further down the continuum of self-awareness probably than a lot of people my age, strictly because I’ve lived a lot of life in the last 14 years. But am I where I want to be? No. I think I’m getting there, but it’s definitely a work in progress.

Q: Do you find it a joyful process?

EC: Yes. There’s so much more wisdom and I’m enjoying that. You laugh at yourself 10 or 15 years ago, but I’m able to do that a lot more now. It’s definitely a process and I do hope to spend more time on it, as life gets a little saner.

Q: You seem to have gained a greater sense of peace. Are you able to project that to your team and to your family?

EC: I hope so; life is pretty good right now. I know I worked very hard for what I’ve created, but it’s rewarding. If it wasn’t rewarding I wouldn’t be doing it and if I wasn’t growing I wouldn’t be doing it. I’m very much in a good place right now.

Jacqueline Shan Click here to listen to podcast segments of this interview

Dr. Jacqueline Shan, co-discoverer of Cold-fX, spoke with us via phone from the Edmonton, AB, headquarters of her company, CV Technologies. We asked her about fears, mistakes, and a more positive topic: the future.

Name: Jacqueline Shan
Title: President, CEO, CSO (Chief Scientific Officer)
Company: CV Technologies Inc.
Education: D.Sc. Pharmacology, Peking Union Medical College
                      PhD Physiology, the University of Alberta
Age: 44
Marital Status: Married, 2 children

Q: What’s your favourite part of your job today?

JS: There are so many, but my favourite part is sitting down with our scientists. That’s when I feel most comfortable, because deep down I am a scientist. To create a new product, to have a scientific break through, that makes me so happy. Another favourite part for me is to talk to [the media], to talk to pharmacists and doctors, and to really see the cause be accepted by more and more people. It is pretty dear to my heart because I know more than 12 years ago when we started the company there were very few people listening, but now I see there are more and more people listening. To me, I enjoy that quite a lot.

Q: Can you think of any mistakes that you have made that you wouldn’t make again?

JS: Everyday! Everyday you learn something and you say, “Darn, I should not have done that!” but it’s all about learning, that’s the beauty of being a scientist. I get used to facing challenges whether I’m doing the research or doing something else. I know we’re in a good cause, we’re working hard and we have a great intention. I tell myself and I tell my staff, “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.” There are times when we’ve made mistakes, but when you’re [looking] back, you can say don’t do that again, but [you can] also view that as a tuition fee we have paid. And it’s a valuable, valuable lesson we have learned. Even doing the science, we think ‘okay this is the experiment, but maybe the design is not good’ and then we’ll find a new design based on that. Business is the same thing. We went to the United States and we didn’t achieve our goal in the first year, but you know what, we learned lots of valuable lessons, which will help us long-term.

Q: Are there any fears that you have had to overcome?

JS: I always have a fear of things I do not know. Even when I was s student and then I went to industry and started creating the company and started working, the biggest fear for me is of what I do not know. If I know there’s something I do not know and I cannot do it, I’m going to find the right people and get help, but the biggest fear is if it’s something I’m not aware of. It constantly bothers me. It’s the only one thing that can drive me so mad sometimes. When I was a student I used to try to remember every single word for one big textbook, and I did that at the time, because I had such a fear of if on an exam I wouldn’t know something, even if it was just one paragraph from one page of one textbook. So then I’d study day and night and remember everything from page one to page 300!
That kind of fear is always with me, even today. The company’s growing very nicely; we’ve had some setbacks and we’re moving forward, but I want to grow this company into a global success story. Then you fear, what if I do not know about international structure? Or what if I find the wrong person? That’s always the fear and that bothers me. Even with a great intention, if there are things you do not know, you can get into trouble. So far the track record seems to be okay, which means I think that probably it’s an advantage sometimes. That makes you prepared, but it’s very hard.

Q: How do you get inspired?

JS: I get inspired in many ways. I look at life differently now than 20 years ago. Every day I see a little progress I get inspired. And the thing is, I always stick with our vision. I never change it. So everyday, if I see a little progress, that inspires me. If the challenges come, you tell yourself “Don’t be bogged down.” When you are in a company, you will always have challenges, whether it’s money, or whether it’s sales that are not as much as you want, or whether it’s the experiments and the results are not as you expected, you just have to stop yourself and not get too desperate. Think about the bigger picture. In the bigger picture, this is just a small scale. Look at the positive progress.

Q: Other than what you’re currently doing, what would be your dream job?

JS: My dream job? Maybe we could say it’s a hobby, I really don’t know, but I’d like to be a communicator working with journalists, maybe working in broadcasting.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

JS: In 10 years I still see myself working in my capacity. I think I’m still going to have fun doing it. Moving to a different product, working on a few maybe for cancer, maybe anti-aging. I see that the company will grow and become a global success. And I see myself enjoying seeing my children growing up. Hopefully my children will go to university and then I’ll have more free time to read more or maybe go back to university taking totally different classes.

Michael Staver Click here to listen to podcast segments of this interview

From his office in Fernandina Beach, Florida, executive business consultant Michael Staver spoke with us about personal challenges, control, and his advice for our readers.

Name: Michael Staver
Title: CEO
Company: The Staver Group, founded 1992
Education: BBA, California Baptist University
                     MA (Couns. Psych.), National University in San Diego
                     Cert. in Cognitive Behavioural Psychology, Center for Cognitive Therapy
Age: 47
Marital Status: Single

Q: When starting the Staver Group, what was your biggest challenge?

A: Probably the biggest challenge I had to face in the beginning was submitting myself to rigorous feedback about my performance and who I was in my work. I had professional critiquers critique me for the first couple of months I was out on the road and that was a big challenge for me. I had to overcome, I don’t know how you want to word it, but basically I had to create a space in my head where I could be wide open to people challenging me to improve myself; it’s very difficult to do.

Q: You encourage your clients to occasionally take a moment to be still; how can we all initiate this kind of thinking? In other words, how do we get our racing thoughts under control?

A: I have a Harley Davidson and I took riding lessons several years ago. The guy who was training us was a motorcycle cop and he said something that I’ve never forgotten. He said, 'Look, when you go out in your yard to cut the grass, you cut the grass. You use a mower, you push the mower, you ride the mower, but you’re in control of the mower; when you get on a motorcycle, ride the motorcycle, do not let the motorcycle ride you'. It occurs to me that our brains are like that. Sometimes we allow our external world to control us instead of saying, ‘wait a minute, I’m an intelligent person with a good head on my shoulders’. The earth’s not going to cave in. The harshest reality that we have to face is that if we died tomorrow, the world would go on. Let’s just do something behavioural to start: take off your watch, go sit down, don’t worry about the time you’re there, and see what happens.

Q: What advice do you have for our readers?

A: It has to do with yeses and nos. It has to do with boundaries. They need to say yes to the things they need to say yes to more often and no to the things they need to say no to more often. Most of the time we get ourselves in trouble because we have unclear boundaries. I encourage people to be courageous enough to say, ‘no, I’m not going to spend that time’. There are some of us who have family members, friends, colleagues that suck the life out of us, and I’m really about encouraging people to say, ‘you know what, not today, not today’.
The other thing is boundaries: who do you let into your space? Who do you let out of your space? Some of us have people in our lives that we need to cut the time down with; it’d be like somebody lifting a cinder block off our shoulders.
The final thing I would recommend they do is really examine the have-tos in their lives. How many times do they hear themselves in a day say ‘I have to’? I have to pick up the kids, I have to go to lunch, I have to do this, I have to do that… As opposed to saying I choose to do this or I’m going to do that. Any time the brain hears a ‘have-to’ it drains energy, because ‘I have to’ implies I have no choice. I believe in getting in a mindset that says I do have choices. Now there may be some consequences for those choices, but I do have choices. Then embracing those choices puts us in an even better spot.


Issue 1 Print Interviews Premiere(July/Aug) Issue
Find additional portions of profiled interviews not found in print.
Chrissie Rejman Click here to listen to podcast segments of this interview

Over lunch in downtown Toronto, our Editor-In-Chief spoke with Chrissie Rejman regarding the truth about women in business.

Name: Chrissie Rejman
Title: Producer, CityLine on Citytv
Number of years with Citytv: 20+
Age: 58
Marital Status: Single, two sons

Q: Are women still at a deficit in the business world?

CR: No, I don’t think I would say that. I would say that it’s tough out there. I would say that the difficulty comes when you have kids, of course. It’s hard to do that balancing act. It’s very, very tough.

BW: Is that one of our biggest challenges?

Q: Women still shoulder that responsibility. It may have evened up a bit, but women are still shouldering it. Make no mistake, when your kids are young, it’s a tough haul. You’re tired; you’re constantly tired, constantly guilty. Guilty: am I doing enough for my job? Guilty: am I doing enough for my kids? For my oldest son—he was adopted—I had three weeks notice before I got him, and we had a new show. I got him in August and we had a new season started and a new host, and there was no questions that I could take time off. You can’t do that when you have a live show. You have to be responsible to your show. So, I had a baby, and we had already booked a kitchen renovation that ended up happening, but I was back at work within ten days. The stress level was unbelievable. When I gave birth to my second child it was superb. Three months mat leave, but I couldn’t do the full three months. After two months, I worked half days, because you can’t leave your live television show, you can’t do it. There isn’t anybody who can pop in and take over your job.

Q: How can, or how does, networking benefit women in business?

CR: I think so much of business is done on the golf course with men, or at the clubs, or over the sporting activities. I think that women feel guilty about it. I think that’s a bit of a secret. Women are so used to giving, giving, giving, that instead of viewing certain things as business, they think, because they might enjoy it, that it’s not allowed; that it isn’t as much about business as anything. I think they’re wrong. I think that men know that social relationships are what make business partnerships and women have got to learn that. It’s about whom you trust and how you know them. Really, over a more informal conversation, that’s when you have the best ideas and you come up with things that are mutually beneficial. Men have known it forever, but women don’t do it, because they’re too guilty and they say, “I won’t do that, I need to go home to my kids.” Their husbands, meanwhile, are saying “I’m going to play golf with so and so.” It’s a mistake.

Q: What can women do to improve their current position?

CR: Change your mindset. You can’t pretend that there’s not a cost to what you do—somebody pays. What you have to look at is the overall picture. Is it better for you to have a decent amount of money so you can support your family? Is it better to be happy and not miserable in front of your kids? If I could encourage women to do one thing: Don’t beat up on yourself! Nothing is perfect. Everybody’s got terrible choices to make, but once you’ve made your choice, just go with it. Stop apologizing. Don’t apologize. Yes, you make mistakes, everybody does. Women who stay home make some mistakes; women who go to work make some mistakes. But choose what you want to do, and if you have joy in it, if you truly have joy in it, I think it’ll all work out. You just have to embrace it. I’ve stopped apologizing for the choices I’ve made a long time ago, and I’ve certainly made mistakes.

Pina Sciarra Click here to listen to podcast segments of this interview

We spoke with Pina Sciarra, VP of Marketing, Strategy, and Innovation at the Coca-Cola headquarters in Toronto about her strategy for building a successful team.

Title: VP of Marketing Strategy & Innovation
Company: Coca-Cola Canada
Education: MBA, Queen’s University
Age: 41
Marital Status: Married, two children (Daniel, 18 months, Rachel, 7)

Q: You’ve been identified as an individual who can build outstanding teams; how did you discover you had this ability?

PS: I realized I can’t do everything myself, nor am I good at doing everything myself. So surrounding myself with really great people, not only strong people, but diverse in their thinking. I select people not only based on are they going to fit, but are they going to add something that I don’t necessarily have. I like to be challenged and think diversely; thinking of areas that I personally haven’t thought of is what I like to surround myself with.

Q: Does this exceptional skill come naturally to you or did it develop over time?

PS: I think the best training was just experiencing different people working for you, and understanding what their limitations are. Some are raw talent that are moldable, and some you’ve got to work a lot harder with. I do have a knack for finding really great people that may not be great on a resume, but I can see from their thinking that they’ve got something there. If you can nurture that, it can go a long way.

Q: When you are considering adding another member to your team, how do you ensure that they will assimilate well?

PS: I think part of that fit is being flexible and understanding how to work with the whole diversity. Fit to me is a bit of instinct and it’s hard to pin down.

Q: What is your biggest strength right now at the VP level?

PS: I think you touched on one area, which is finding good leaders to run the business, because much of what I do may be a bit of direction, but having a great team makes my job a whole lot easier. Being able to coach and mentor them and I sort of take pride in stepping back and seeing the team be real successful, and seeing the transformation of someone fairly junior who’s learning the ropes getting their key successes. One of the first things I look at is does this person really, really have a passion and yet that can also be a show-stopper, because sometimes they can be so passionate it gets in the way of the thinking. There needs to be a real balance there. They’ve got to love what they are going to do everyday, but they also need to be able to make sound business decisions.

Barbra Williams Click here to listen to podcast segments of this interview
Barbra Williams  

Over lunch we spoke with Barbara Williams about climbing the corporate ladder and the importance of mentorship.

Title:Senior VP Programming and Production
Company:CanWest Media
Hours worked each week: ?
Age: ?
Marital status: ?

Q: Do you find a difference in style between men and women?

BW: There are some differences, but I think, my caution around that is, I know some women who are more different from each other than women are from men. So there’s a lot just about personal style, regardless of gender. I feel that way about my kids. I have two girls and a boy and everybody said to me when I had the boy, ‘oh now you’re going to find out what boys are really like’. And there’s no doubt that my boy is different from my girls, there are some basic things, but my two girls are more different from each other than I think one of my girls is from my boy, if that makes sense. Gender plays a role, but it’s not the whole story. And I would say mostly you find the classic stuff: you find women are more collaborative; women are more team-centred, a little less territorial, a little more focused on the end-result as opposed to the ‘me’ in the process, but those are generalizations that I think we all need to be careful of. I think it changes with every person, it changes with every organization, it changes with every company culture. So you need to be a little bit careful going into any new situation that you don’t go in and label up the table before it’s even started.

Q: What are some of your personal skills that have helped you become who you are today?

BW: I’m an opinionated, fairly aggressive, very competitive person and I have been since the day I was born, or so my father would say. So some of that is just innate and I’ve been able to use that to my advantage. I think where the maturity comes is that I use those skills more thoughtfully now as opposed to randomly as I probably did when I was younger. I’m more careful with where and how to use your aggression and your competitiveness and your opinions and I’m more refined in those opinions now and those perspectives, so they’re more thoughtful and probably more helpful to the process or to the strategy. But I think the core of me is the core of me. I think I’ve always been the same. I don’t think I’ve changed very much at all. I’d like to think I’m better.

Q: Is mentorship a priority for you?

BW: Yes, we mentor both officially and unofficially; we do have a mentorship program at CanWest, so I have mentored a couple of women through that program. I also belong to the CWC, the Canadian Women in Communications, and it has a mentorship program within that organization that I’ve been a part of. Unofficially, yeah, I think a critical quality in leadership today is to be developmental in that leadership, to really be constantly thinking about where the development opportunities are within your team, ultimately that’s a selfish goal, how to get the best out of people, but along the way they get the best out of themselves too, if you help them find those avenues, so. Yeah, I would hope that I’m looked upon as a leader that sees mentorship and development as a constant not just as a once in a while.

Dan Fortin  
Dan Fortin  

For the male perspective, we spoke with Dan Fortin, president of IBM Canada, about key leadership skills, mentorship and the significance diversity.

Q: What do you believe are some required skills in today’s corporate environment?

DF: If you ask, what characteristics do we see as successful in this new business area and global economy, there are a number of them that emerge. First of all is passion for the business. Trust.
Empathy: empathy for employees and empathy for clients. Probably one of the strongest leadership traits that comes out is what I would call horizontal thinking or the ability to think laterally on a problem. And teaming, because all of a sudden you now need to team with your client, perhaps you need to team with a competitor of yours in a particular environment, or team with new business associates overseas or even overseas business partners here in Canada.

Q: What are some key values at IBM Canada and how are they implemented?

DF: We have three values. We had values for the first 90 years of our company, but two-and-a-half years ago we adjusted those values. The first is being dedicated to every client’s success, the second is innovation that matters for IBM and the world, and the third is trust and responsibility in all of your relationships.
That is very much with our clients, and it’s also very much internal: trust and responsibility in all of your daily relationships. Then we also have mentoring programs. We encourage all of our employees to have a mentor, and it’s a formal program within the company. We encourage everybody, not just women, not just visible minorities, everyone to have mentors. And you may for different purposes have different mentors. For instance, I have two mentors formally in the business, one of them is a very senior executive on a global scale, the other is one of our Sikh employees here in Canada because I happen to be white and male, and I have a lot of learning to do to understand all of our cultures here in Canada.

Q: Would you say that mentorship is a priority for you?

DF: I currently mentor six or eight people, men and women, so that’s very important to me. I’ve had mentors in the past, I’ve also had numerous different bosses and managers and to be honest with you, I’ve taken a lot of strengths from both men and women through the years.

Tanis Helliwell  
Tanis Helliwell  

In the wake of a devastating west coast windstorm, Tanis Helliwell (our very own Personal Development columnist) took time between stoking her wood stove and clearing debris from her Northern British Columbia property to speak with us about flexibility, mentorship, and her greatest reward.

Q: What is one skill that has enabled you to become who you are today?

TH: I think that flexibility is really key. Keep your flexibility on where you want to go long-term; don’t lose your focus, and ensure your actions are congruent with what that long-term goal is. At the same time that you have that in your mind, you hold it lightly, and are immediately accessible to whatever the universe presents with you in the present moment. A lot of people do not live in the present moment; they’re always thinking about what are they going to have for lunch, what are they going to have for dinner, and what are they going to do tonight and meanwhile, these wonderful opportunities in the present are passing them by.

Q: At any time during your life have you had a mentor?

TH: I was not fortunate enough in my life, call it destiny or whatever, to have a mentor. Not that I wouldn’t have wanted one, but there was none that appeared. I could say absolutely that I’ve done lots of courses and studied with lots of people and I’m very grateful; and not just living people, because sometimes my teachers have been in books, whom I didn’t physically know but they’re just as important as far as influencing us.

Q: What has been the greatest benefit of founding the International Institute for Transformation?

TH: It has taken an amazing amount of time, an amazing amount of money, an amazing amount of commitment. It has been the greatest challenge of my life and it has been the greatest gift. I’ve discovered from everything that it has asked of or asked for, from people asking me, to circumstances asking that it has caused me to go way, way, way beyond what I ever thought was possible for me to do or give or be into this total area of the unknown and from that I’ve become relatively fearless. I’ve opened my heart again and again and again and this great gift that’s come back is one of gratitude, deep gratitude for my whole life and for all these wonderful people who’ve been journeying with me and who’ve been trusting me and I’ve been trusting them. I’m just deeply grateful.

Q: What is the essence of Tanis Helliwell?

TH: I’m just an ordinary person doing the best I can, showing up.

Q: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

TH: Doing the same thing I’m doing now, showing up.

Q: So if there was any question regarding retirement, for you that’s not in the cards?

TH: No, I don’t think it’s in the cards, because retirement only exists when we think of ourselves as having segmented lives; you have a life where you’re now working and then that ends and you now are retired. Or you’re already retired while you’re working. If you’re already on retreat while you’re working, sitting by the ocean, writing your book, going out for a hike, coming back, having an interview, it doesn’t matter. The boundaries break down and there’s no separation. So what does that mean? It means, in ten years I will do whatever gives me joy and whatever I feel is of use to others.

Elaine Dundon  
Elaine Dundon  

Author, Consultant and Speaker, The Innovation Group Consulting Inc., Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Elaine Dundon shares her early experiences in business and her views on leadership.

Q: In your experience, do you find women support other women in the workplace?

ED: As I progressed through my career, I joined a great organization, Procter & Gamble where 50% of the junior staff in brand management/ marketing were female. It was a very competitive yet somehow, collegial atmosphere at P&G. We competed against each other but at the same time, were very supportive of each other as we learned how to hold our own in the big world of business. At P&G, it was the work that spoke for you, not your gender.

Q: How has mentorship become a part of your role as a leader and innovator?

ED: As I continued in the corporate world, I worked in Marketing at Kraft Foods. I remember late one afternoon, one of the young females on my marketing team came into my office and shared with me that the group of young female executives were discussing me at lunch and commented that I always wore great suits! Instead of being pleased that they were complimenting me on my style, I remember being quite disappointed and told her that I expected them to be focusing on their work and their contributions to the organization. She explained to me quickly, “Don’t get us wrong. Your suits are only 1% of what we watch. We watch your every move – what you say, how you say it, how you deal with tough situations, how you deal with the President etc.”  That was the day I realized that my job was much more than just tasks and getting the job done. That was the day that I realized that, although my mentor gave me good advice to focus on the quality of my work, he might have only been giving me part of the advice I truly needed. That was the day that I realized that I had a much greater responsibility to the females I worked with, to all the people I worked with, to the organization as a whole.

Q: How do you view your role as a leader when you worked in the corporate environment?

ED: As a leader, it was my responsibility to create the environment where everyone on my team had the chance to actualize their potential. Just as I wanted to learn and experience my full potential through my work, so did the others on my team. No matter what the person’s background or education or experience level, they were hired for a reason and have a particular job for a reason, and it is our responsibility as leaders to support them and encourage them to grow.


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