Introducing: YWiB Toronto President, Sandra Riano

Sandra, our new Toronto Chapter President, has been with Young Women in Business since March of this year. An exceptional marketer and leader, she has extensive experience leading the successful development of marketing and business strategies for medium-sized organizations and Fortune 500 companies. A visionary and master collaborator, she specializes in Strategic Planning, Branding and Communications. Having recently completed her Master of Arts, Professional Communications program, at Royal Roads University, she brings to YWiB her fresh perspective, big picture thinking, and knowledge of the real-world truths faced by young women. Personally, she is dog-obsessed, but also an equal opportunity hugger of all species. On top of that, she loves food, comedy, travelling, dancing, meeting new people, and forgetting their names the second after she meets them (Yes, she’s working on that!).

Sandra Riano headshot

Describe what you're working on and why it's important to you?

I’m working on taking the right steps to advance my career. Two years ago I took a break from the workforce to work on my Masters of Professional Communication. I wanted to add a robust educational foundation to my already extensive experience in the marketing strategy field, and gained so much more. A challenging and invigorating experience, I expanded my theoretical and work-related skills, while gaining insights into the complexity of human communications and the nuances that impact organizations, society, and personal relationships.

Afterwards, I decided to continue to look deeper, and started by enrolling in a career advancement program run by working with an amazing leadership coach. I was able to uncover what fulfills me career-wise, and the values that underscore how I want to lead my personal and professional life. I discovered that I thrive most when leading teams, and helping organizations and their staff realize their potential. Most of all, I learned that female empowerment, inclusion and diversity are core to my identity, and instrumental to the organizations I want to work with moving forward.

How does your role empower you?

My role is driven by long term impact and short term results, so being able to immerse myself into a project, program, or organization to set its strategic direction is very empowering. Leading teams to be the best they can be and helping achieve career and personal heights they thought unreachable, fills me with joy and motivates me everyday. Understanding the marketplace, societal forces, trends, stakeholders and their motivations, the internal workings of each department, relationships, etc., to craft the right approach and being able to adjust and tweak as conditions change -- and they always do! -- is vital to my success. In fact, I see myself as a master Lego builder. While most people build what’s shown on the box and then move on to the next set, I see beyond. I take what could be generic, and turn it into masterpieces that are robust, awe-inspiring, and withstand the test of time. Isn’t that better?

What advice do you have for other young women looking to get involved in your field of work?

Take some time upfront in discovering what you’re passionate about. Forget about fads, what’s cool to your peers, or trying to emulate someone else’s path. Cultivate a curious mindset and take a ‘try it all’ approach to find your own path.

Knowledge is everything so take classes about the topics and skills you’re interested about - if they bore you to tears, move one! You can do this inexpensively: scour the web for webinars, use your Library card to access free courses in Lynda.com, enroll in open education classes at Coursera.org, or volunteer with organizations such as YWiB (join us!) which let you sharpen your skills and gain new ones.

If you want to explore the marketing field, take classes at the Canadian Marketing Association (www.the-cma.org) or the American Marketing Association (www.ama.org). If you’re looking for knowledge about a specific industry, search online for their trade magazines which are often free to access. There you’ll find information to help you understand the industry lingo, and more importantly, keep up to date on industry trends. Also, get as many coffee chats with marketing people in different industries. Doing so will help you gain a realistic perspective of their workdays, corporate culture and small nuances in each industry. The bonus? Doing so will help you build your network!

Who is your biggest role model, why?

This is always a hard question for me because I believe everyone has something worth learning from. For example: my mom and my sisters who have taught me to be strong, resilient, and not to take myself too seriously. My husband, from whom I’ve learned the value of meaningful connections and stillness. My female friends have taught me the value of thoughtful conversations and shared experiences. My male friends from whom I’ve learned to appreciate easy laughs and how to unwind. Their combined teachings and continued support propels me to continue to work to become a better human being. The process is never over -- don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise! -- and I’m immensely happy to have them in my life.

What book do you recommend every young professional should read?

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury. It covers something that most people struggle with: win-win negotiations. The books covers the negative connotations associated with negotiation, its roots, how to turn them into tools for understanding rather than domination. It explains the concept of ‘principled negotiation,’ aka how to navigate conflict at work, home, etc., without getting lost in the minutiae or losing sight of who we are as people. It’s practical, insightful and uncomplicated. The latest editions have even more insights so I’d recommend to read those. The book has helped me deal with tough situations, fine tune my negotiation style, has broadened my understanding of the topic as a whole, all this while opening my eyes to how we all need to get better at it - go read it!

If you could go back to your 16 year old self, what would you say?

You are a work in progress and always will be, because the self-discovery journey never ends and that is okay! Life would lose its luster otherwise.

Why do you think groups like YWiB are important?

Organizations like YWiB are important because they give access to women to the tools and strategies to help them realize their potential, in a supportive and caring community of like-minded peers. What I particularly enjoy about YWiB is how it recognizes that we are complex and multilayered beings, and works to provide content that covers all facets, in meaningful and thoughtful ways.

What can our readers do to help you?

I love meeting new people from all walks of life so drop me a line and we’ll chat. I’m currently seeking my next opportunity. If you, your company or the company you work for is seeking to hire a masterful marketer and strategist, connect with me at sandra.riano@ywib.ca or smriano@gmail.com

You can follow me at my Instagram at @sandraandmaple. Fair warning though, it’s mostly pictures of dogs and food, heh.

 

Being a Unicorn: How YWiB Helped Me Launch My Career

Walking into any YWiB event, a few things are clear: There are TONS of young women in Toronto looking to grow their network and start their career, and there is (unfortunately) no formula that can be shared for launching a career. Since launching YWiB, I’ve met women looking for their first job, trying to leave a job they’re unhappy in, women considering entrepreneurship, or sometimes, a unicorn: a woman happy with her job and career trajectory! We all want to be that last woman, and it’s entirely possible – YWiB just happened to help me get there.

In 2015 a friend of mine told me about an interesting organization based out of Vancouver. She wanted to launch a chapter in Toronto. Nearly a year later, we launched YWiB Toronto with a conference uniting 80 women and men interested in our mission.

I became the Events Director for the organization and our team produced vastly unique monthly events, each one bringing in new women to meet, with many of them becoming members and volunteers. Each month we secured a new venue, tried a different caterer, and facilitated a different activity or panel topic. My favourite was a yoga class that ended with free pressed green juice. The events weren’t perfect, but we learned a lot – working with different vendors and partners can give you a pretty comprehensive understanding of the events landscape. More importantly, it ignited my desire to pursue events full time.

A year after launching YWiB Toronto, I began my career search. At the time, I was a community manager for a shared office space and was enjoying the relaxed and social nature of my job. Unfortunately, growth was stagnant and I needed a new challenge. My first challenge, however, was to figure out how to make the move to launch my career.

I looked at all we’d built with YWiB – an active community of women interested in attending our events – and realized this could be a full-time job. YWiB took over the top spot in my resume, I highlighted some of the community events I had organized at my job, and took to my career search.

My search took 6 months but eventually I found success – I entered an industry I had never worked in before into a role where I’m responsible for organizing conferences of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of attendees! The company is small and appreciates the fact that I had a hand in many sides of the YWiB events, and since none of my colleagues have experience with meetup style networking events, I bring something new to the team. Everything I learned from a year with YWiB is being put to use. I’ve reached Unicorn status - finally, I'm happy with my career trajectory!

YWiB has the potential to help you become a unicorn too. It’s simply what we do – whether you meet someone hiring for a job you want, get inspired by the entrepreneurs on a panel, or even something as small as asking for help on the Facebook Group. Keep in mind that unicorns don’t last forever. After a few months into the new gig you’ll undoubtedly begin wanting something more, some job growth, or a whole new career change… and the cycle continues. Become a unicorn, and I encourage you to use YWiB to help you get there. While you’re there, try helping someone else become a unicorn. Thrive, learn, and grow – then start the journey to become a unicorn all over again.

Written by: Olivia Kitevski, Founding Member & Emailing Marketing Coordinator @ YWiB