chatting with...alex mitchell 'bout them Canucks? I know our team barely got out of the gate this year in the playoffs, and there was hardly any time to really let it sink in, but I'm still kinda mourning that we won't be watching any canucks hockey this spring.  Lucky for us, this week we talked with Alex Mitchell, Director of Community Partnerships at the Vancouver Canucks, to curb our post-season blues. In her role as Director of Community Partnerships, Alex is responsible for developing and executing all community outreach plans and programs for Canucks Sports & Entertainment by bringing the team into out of arena contact with their fans, and through the Canucks for Kids Fund charity initiatives.  A born and raised Vancouverite, Alex loves to cook, be outdoors and spend time with family and friends. Fun fact: her brother works for the Toronto Maple Leafs, so naturally they have maintained a good family rivalry.

name three people you'd have over for a dinner party.  If it was a girls' dinner I’d invite Tina Fey, Patricia Graham and Hilary Clinton.  And of course my mom would have to come too.

how would you describe your leadership style?   I try to encourage my team to feel confident and successful in their work. I want to motivate them by providing a positive and supportive environment, give them a voice and inspire them to come forward with solutions and ideas.

what's one thing that you think all women in leadership roles need or should have to succeed?  Confidence. A women’s instinct is an asset. Trust yourself in your decisions and push forward.

would you say that professional sports is a "boys' club" stilll, or is that perspective changing?   The ‘boys club’ doesn’t play a part in our business. They hire the right people for the right position and trust us to be experts in our fields.

how can a young woman break into this field?  Go for it as you would any industry and don’t be held back by perceptions that it is a boys' club or otherwise. If you’re the right person for the job, you’ll get it.

what's your favourite part of your job? There is nothing better than introducing a child (or adult!) to one of their hockey heroes – the smiles and reactions are equally priceless and rewarding.

when you're not herding canucks players around like cattle, what can you be found doing outside the rink?  Enjoying time with family and friends, entertaining and enjoying our beautiful city. I love Vancouver and all that it offers.

why do you think women's networks like YWiB and the YWiB philosophy are important for young women in the community?  It’s inspiring to have a network of peers and mentors to share ideas, challenges and successes with. Learning from each other is great motivation!

chatting with...sally parrott

Getting in touch with Aritzia's Sally Parrott for a YWiB chat was easy.  I only had to email once, and she replied within a couple hours.  Sally's efficient and innovative, and I'm guessing that's how she moved her way up the ladder at one of Canada's best-selling clothing retailers for women.  Here we talked about her journey to the top. name three people you'd like to have a dinner party with. That’s funny, I just had this conversation with someone the other day.  I have so many but I think three that are top of mind for me now are Maya Angelou (every woman should know her name), Anais Nin (I just find her life fascinating) and Mick Jagger (I know, he’s not the most intellectual choice but I bet he has some amazing stories).

you’ve been with aritzia for seven years, starting as a one-person department and now overseeing both marketing and creative services as vice-president of marketing.  what’s the biggest change or shift you’ve seen in marketing strategy during your time at aritzia? I think the biggest shift, and the most obvious, has been in the emergence of social media.  We now have both the opportunity and challenge of interacting with our customers on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.  Gone are the days of developing a campaign for a season and then leveraging it across three or four key mediums.  Now we have to be very clear about our brand and key messaging and then develop a content strategy and plan that can be leveraged across a host of mediums that are multiplying by the month.

after working at proctor and gamble for four years, you had an “early-life crisis” and travelled in southeast asia for 18 months.  what kind of influence did your overseas adventures have on your career?  I think the time away forced me to take a step back and identify what I really wanted out of my work and my life.  Ultimately I identified that I did like my chosen career (at that point I was open to anything from being a mountain guide to a travelling nomad) but that it was important to me to work in an industry I cared about and was fun.  Life is too short to be unhappy – we spend a lot of time at work so we’d better enjoy it.

That time also taught me to trust my gut and my instincts.  I don’t always succeed in this regard but it’s a lesson all of us should learn.

Finally, that adventure and the many I’ve had since have taught me that life is all about lessons and my career will grow and evolve as I do.  Taking a step away every now and again helps me to evaluate with a clear head.  To take the path less travelled means that I will make mistakes and sometimes find myself in a place I didn’t envision – and that’s ok…sometimes even great.   To walk this path takes courage and multiple life crisis and I’m convinced it’s all worth it.

what makes aritzia a great place to work? Aritzia is full of young, extraordinarily bright, motivated individuals (the majority of whom are women) who are all passionate about what they do.  I also think there is an enormous amount of trust in the leadership of the organization.  It’s difficult to maintain a successful company for over 25 years and Aritzia has done just that.  It’s confidence inspiring. Having respect for the leadership, right from the very top, is something I think is extremely important.

why do you think YWiB and the YWiB philosophy is important for young women in the community?  Regardless of our age, gender or career status I think having both a strong foundation of peers AND mentors is essential in becoming our best versions of ourselves.  I don’t think it’s wise to sit back and expect our educational institutions or employers to own our career development.  We need to own our owns paths and I think one of the best ways to do that is to reach out into the community and connect with people who are aligned in values and can help us to grow and learn.  YWIB gives young women that opportunity.  I’ve been so impressed and, frankly, awestruck by the talent and motivation of the young women (and mentors) I’ve met through the group.

chatting with...azita ardakani

When we first launched this series of YWiB stories, I knew I wanted to get my foot in the door of Lovesocial.  See, when I’m not chatting up women of influence for YWiB consumption, I spend my days as a communications and social media coordinator, and the work of Lovesocial and its founder, Azita Ardakani, is a daily source of inspiration for me.  I approached Azita about sharing her story with the YWiB faithful, and she happily obliged.  I was ecstatic.  We talked conscious communication and “making it” over a chai latte (me) and piping hot green tea (Azita) in the very new Lovesocial headquarters, housed in Gastown, Vancouver. Name three people you’d like to have a dinner party with. Wayne Dyer [internationally renowned author and speaker in the field of self-development], Eckhart Tolle [author of The Power of Now and A New Earth], and Jay-Z.  Jay-Z is so cool.  And can I invite one more?  Maya Angelou.  That would be a very interesting dinner party.

Describe yourself in five words. Creative, stubborn, hopeful, nostalgic and quirky.  Not necessarily in that order.

You started Lovesocial three years ago, and in such a short time, you’ve acquired some pretty amazing partnerships and projects in its portfolio: documentaries like Miss Representation and Gasland, Zooey Deschanel and Sophia Rossi’s, Summit on the Summit, Oprah Magazine...tons more.  Which project crystallized the “ah-ha” moment for you?  Was there a specific experience that really told you that you made it? I actually don’t ever like to think that I’ve “made it.”  That kind of thought results in almost a complacency, or it makes you stop trying.  But having said that, there have been a few moments for me over the past three years where I’ve stopped and gone, “Hey, we’re really doing something here.”  One moment was probably after HBO launched Gasland, a documentary that sheds light on the process of hydraulic fracturing or fracking, and the local stories of the many lives affected by that.  The impact of this process is devastating, both on the environment and on people.  After airing, gas companies activated their PR powerhouses, notably with automated social media operations called astroturfing.  We got under the skin of gas companies.  That was a turning point.  Between that and our flagship project, Summit on the Summit (a campaign focusing on the global clean water crisis) I got to see how immediate and how impactful this beast known as social media was.  We created a business for an ever-evolving industry.  It’s like building a boat on an ocean.  The landscape is always changing, and so our goals and benchmarks.

Is there a project that you’ve worked on that’s very close to your heart? I’m really proud of everything that we’ve done and the people we’ve connected with, because many were the result of an organic, natural partnership.  Recently working on Miss Representation has been fulfilling as there is a desperate need for alternative mainstream media targeted at women.  Optimizing social platforms to promote messages of worth, and campaigns like #notbuyingit help consumers take the power back into their own hands.

You speak about “conscious communication” and “sharing with intention” – so the opposite of many companies trying to leave an indelible footprint in the social media landscape by throwing anything and everything at it and hoping it sticks.  Were you always so enlightened about conveying messages in the most authentic way possible?  How did you develop the Lovesocial philosophy of connecting people with things that matter? Sharing with intention and communicating consciously – these are the human components of all things business.  I have a degree in sociology, not business or marketing, so that is the lens out of which I tend to see things.  I think people want to connect with what’s real and what’s valuable to them.  Cluttering up Twitter and Facebook feeds with too much of anything – charities to support, TV shows to watch, food to eat, politicians to follow – creates a climate of apathy and over saturation.  Why should we create or contribute to such a convoluted space?  Share things in a way that matters.  Be innovative.  Add value.  That’s when you’ll affect change.

Why do you think YWiB and the YWiB philosophy is important for young women in the community? A network, a support system, a community – those things are so important for young women who have all these thoughts and ideas swirling in their heads.  Ideas can be scary.  YWiB offers that pillar of support and connection that can help breathe life and direction into those ideas.  Organizations like YWiB build confidence so that young women learn earlier that there is absolutely no reason why you can’t reach out for something you want today.  To me, boundaries aren’t real – they are by-products of our society and culture.  People create their own walls and they invent these notions of needing permission to go out and live their best lives.  Why?  Give yourself permission.  That’s enough.

Can't get enough of Lovesocial?  Stalk 'em on Twitter at @lovesocial.  Get on Azita's radar at @Azita.

chatting with...cybele negris

Cybele Negris learned to juggle at grade 7 camp.  Okay, maybe not, but she certainly does keep a lot objects in the air!  Cybele is a founding partner and President - Canada's original domain registrar and a one-stop convenience for the online needs of individuals, small businesses, nonprofit organizations and corporations. Cybele has diverse experience in both management and operations, including prior directorships and officer positions in several public and private companies. Before, Cybele ran her own management consultancy, working closely with crown corporations and private companies.  Cybele has been a recipient of numerous awards: Canada's Top 100 Most Powerful Women (2011), Business in Vancouver's Influential Women in Business Award (2010), PROFIT W100 - Canada's Top Women Entrepreneurs, (2004 to 2011), Finalist, YWCA Women of Distinction (2006), Finalist, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Pacific (2005); and Business in Vancouver’s Top 40 Under 40 (2003).

name three people you'd like to have a dinner party with. Richard Branson – he’s the epitome of entrepreneurial spirit and has fun doing it! I think he’d be a blast to hang out with and learn something from at the same time.

Depeche Mode – You’ve got to have entertainment at a dinner party so I’d love to have the whole band, but if not, then at least lead singer Dave Gahan!

Martha Stewart – Why not have the queen of entertaining at the party? I’d have her (and her team) take care of the planning, cooking, all of that. When it comes to the art of delegating, I say why not delegate to the best?

the path your career has taken hasn’t necessarily been linear – you tried a variety of different roles and industries, and ultimately wound up working for yourself.  what would you say was the biggest challenge you overcame, and how did you do it? I always had the confidence and the work ethic to get the job done no matter what the challenge was. Whether it was a new role, a new project or something I had never done before, I’d figure it out along the way. But the one thing that was always a huge issue for me was public speaking. I did not (and still don’t) like being in the spotlight. This fear was an impediment to me taking on leadership roles, speaking in front of the media or at public speaking engagements. I took the Dale Carnegie course many years ago and one of the keys to becoming a better public speaker is to just keep doing it. You need to get out of your comfort zone. It took many years and it is still not my “comfort zone”. I got to the point where in the past few years I was doing about fifteen a year and then last year it became even more than that…I think I did about eight in one month. Whether they are dynamic and engaging or not, I have huge respect for anyone who gets up in front of a crowd to speak.

you are the co-founder and president of the very successful  would you say there is an increase in the number of women working in the IT/web sector?  what can women bring to this industry? When I was President of Wired Woman Vancouver in 2006/2007, we saw our membership rising in terms of women who were looking to pursue careers in technology. However, many of those were in areas of marketing or graphic design rather than in systems or coding/software development which continued to grow but slowly. And the number of women in executive levels in technology were few and far between. Anecdotally, I’m not seeing a huge change since then.

Women can bring a lot to this industry. I hear often that women are more detail oriented or are better able to multi-task. I don’t like generalizations like this. I know plenty of men who are great in these areas too. What I think women bring is more diversity and another pool of talent who in the past may not have chosen technology as a career path. I would encourage young women to look at technology as a fun, high-paced, exciting and engaging career and not be afraid of the “lack of women” in the industry as an impediment. Look at it as an opportunity to stand out.

besides running your own company, you’re also a prominent member of the Vancouver business community and a mother.  how do you find balance between all the balls you juggle? I learned to juggle in grade 7 camp!  But seriously, I get asked this question about “finding balance” probably more than any other. Besides running, I’m Vice-Chair of Small Business BC and I’m also on the board of two other organizations, the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and the Small Business Roundtable of BC. I was also on another board (the Vancouver Economic Development Commission) up until about a year ago and also chaired the annual Canary Derby (a charity event bringing together the Vancouver technology community to build and race soapbox cars to raise money for early cancer detection). And yes, I am a single mom of two young children and as part of the sandwich generation, helped my mom take care of my ailing father who passed away last year after a decade long battle with cancer.

So to me balance seems like this unreachable concept yet, if you put your priorities right and have the right team of people behind you to support you, then it is all doable. I’m known for not needing a lot of sleep (for many years I would sleep 2, 3, 4 hours a night for extended periods of time). I don’t watch TV and all my free time is spent on quality activities with the children. The rest is just time management. I do have a spread sheet where I have columns for each company/organization/activity I’m involved in and then line items in priority order of what I need to accomplish against each one every week. This helps me keep organized and not drop the ball on anything.

Every once in a while, you do end up with times of imbalance and your body will tell you. I ignored these signals for years but I am slowly learning to listen to my body more especially as I get older. After all, I need to be here for my kids.

why do you think YWiB and the YWiB philosophy is important for young women in the community? Networking, education and mentorship are key ingredients for success and YWiB facilitates all of these. I have personally seen YWiB in action having been involved as speaker, panelist and advisor. When you attend an event such as the Beyond Pink Conference, you can see, feel and breathe the energy in the room. Simply put, I recommend YWiB to every young woman I meet.


chatting with...michelle rupp

Michelle Rupp is an entrepreneur and founder of her own business, a certified Executive Coach, and an active member of the non-profit community in Vancouver.  As Principal and founder of Lighthouse Leadership, Michelle Rupp brings over 20 years of diverse business experience to her work as an Executive Coach.  Prior to her professional transition into leadership development, Michelle was a communications and marketing specialist in her role as Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications with a leading North American investment firm.   During this time, she was recognized as an innovative and results-oriented leader with excellent presentation and interpersonal skills.  Michelle was also a speaker at YWiB’s Beyond Pink Conference in 2010, and is a huge cheerleader and supporter of the YWiB philosophy.  We chatted with her in between the end of a workday and what she believes to be one of the most important parts of her life – dinner time with her family.  Read on and you’ll see why. name three people you'd like to have a dinner party with. normally with a question like this, i would name what i call “the usual suspects,” like mother teresa – pivotal change agents who’ve had a profound impact on humankind.  but because i am a working mother with an equally busy husband and two very athletic teenage boys who i’ll soon be launching out into the world, i’m going to bestow this honour on my family: my husband and two sons.  Sometimes dinner is a movable feast – we’ll eat at 6 pm one night or 9 pm the next, but it’s very important to me to have that time with everyone.  We check in with each other and spend time together.  It’s important.

what's the harder job: executive coach and founder of your own company, or mom/wife in a house full of boys? it’s really a constant balance between the two.  I couldn’t choose, and i wouldn’t want to, because i love what i do, and i wouldn’t be who i am without my professional life.  Conversely, I wouldn’t be who i am if i weren’t a mother.  i do know that my family is a priority, and that juggling that and my work is the best adventure i’ve ever embarked on.

who do you admire most and why? I would have to say my mother, who raised my sister and i on her own from when i was 13 years old.  We lost our father in an accident, and after that my mom took on the roles of both parents.  She was and is a fantastic role model, someone i have tremendous respect for and who taught me the importance of family and is a shining example of what a person is capable of in the face of adversity and tragedy.  Even now, at 83, she’s still running around like she’s twenty years younger!  She’s an inspiration.

advice you would give to someone wanting to start her own business? Surround yourself with great people.  Know yourself – find out what you’re good at, and perhaps more importantly, what you’re not that great at, or what you don’t like.  From there, build a community of people who can help you out with that stuff!  For example, I’m not a financial guru, so one of the first things i did was get myself a good bookkeeper.  I’m also not incredibly detail-oriented at times, so I found an excellent administrative assistant.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help, because it can be lonely when you’re trying to start a business.  Find mentors – people love to be asked for advice and feedback.

as chair of the minerva foundation and a speaker at YWiB’s Beyond Pink Conference in 2010, what is the greatest success you’ve witnessed working with young women in the community? i think the greatest gift i’ve been given as someone who is part of the YWiB community is seeing the profound level of confidence in the young women who get involved.  Everyone is so talented, and has so much energy and passion for contributing to the world around them.  When i spoke at Beyond Pink, I thought maybe the excitement was there because it was a conference, and that kind of environment breeds ideas and dreams – not necessarily execution.  However, after the event was over, I saw – and continue to see – follow through.  I see action and results.  It’s amazing.  That’s probably the greatest success I’ve witnessed.

why do you think YWiB and the YwiB philosophy is important for females in Vancouver (and beyond)? I think YWiB and all those involved really do have the potential to change the face of leadership in BC – not just in getting women in more leadership roles, but changing the way that leadership is done.  There is tremendous value in the way women lead.  The loads we carry and how we do that transfers from our personal to professional lives all the time, and I think that can change our communities and our places of work.  it already has.  YWiB celebrates what women can achieve together, and it’s an incredible model for all females to pattern themselves after.

chatting with...anne giardini

Anne is what people have called a “petite powerhouse.”  A lawyer called to the bars of both Ontario and British Columbia, much of her career has been spent as in-house counsel and, more recently, as a corporate executive.  Since 2008, Anne has been President of Weyerhaeuser Company Limited, a subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser Company, an integrated forest products company with a head office in Federal Way, Washington, and a presence in 13 countries.  She works closely with senior management on both sides of the border on corporate, legal, policy and strategic issues. Anne is active as a volunteer in the community.  She is also an author, journalist, and frequent public speaker on a range of topics, in addition to being a great supporter of YWiB.  We were lucky enough to get inside her busy mind for a quick chat.

name three people you'd like to have a dinner party with. Limiting myself to people who are alive, and people I don't normally have dinner with, I'd chose the writers Malcolm Gladwell, David Mitchell and Hilary Mantel. We would talk about writing, naturally, as well as creativity, the way our minds work, and how to positively affect human behaviours in order to change the world.

as a novelist, do you ever get writer’s block?  how do you push through it? I was a non-fiction writer years ago, but have been a fiction writer since I started to write novels. I do get writer’s block. It is an odd affliction because the cause and the symptom are both the same - not writing.  The cure is to write. You need to write fluently and vigorously, regardless of quality. Over time, the quality and quantity do return.

how do you balance life as the CEO of Weyerhaeuser and a mother? I am fortunate to have healthy, independent children, a healthy independent spouse, and reliable household help. Also, I have abundant energy and a positive spirit. I am constantly astonished at how many people who are young and in the peak of health comment that they have too little time to read, create, exercise, see friends, do volunteer work, etc. Assuming you work, as I do, 7 to 5, that leaves five or six hours every evening free, as well as many weekend hours.  Use these hours to do something you love.

advice you would give to someone wanting to go to law school? There are two kinds of people who do well in law. First, people who are very good at details. Second, people who are very good at higher level strategic thinking.  The best lawyers are both. If you are only one or the other, you may struggle from time to time, in law school and in practice, but once you learn to play to your strengths you can do fine, especially if you work with people who have the opposite skill set.  You must in any case be very hard working and you should relish hard work, in fact take delight in it.

why do you think YWiB and the YWiB philosophy is important for young women in the community? Women in particular do seem to benefit from role models. It gives us a sense of what life could be like, so we can visualize it, effectively try it on for size to see if it suits us.  Organizations like YWiB provide a wide range of examples of the path forward, and show young women what can be possible. We tend to doubt ourselves, so it is important to have a forum in which to air both certainties and uncertainties so we can share the former and address the latter.




chatting with...maili wong

YWiB is lucky to have super inspiring women in our network, and couldn't be more pleased to bring you up-close-and-personal with some of these ladies through our series of blog interviews.  today we're chatting with maili wong, vice-president and investment advisor for CIBC Wood Gundy, and member of YWiB's board of advisors!

name three people you'd like to have a dinner party with. Hilary Clinton, Ayn Rand (author of Atlas Shrugged) and my Grandmother Poh Poh Yen (who passed away about 14 years ago).  These are some mighty women from different generations but oh the conversations we could have over dinner! what's the harder job: vp, portfolio manager and investment adviser at cibc, or mom of an 18-month-old? both roles are equally challenging and yet rewarding.  I would say the harder job is balancing the two!  I would love 48 hours in a day to spend my time doing both.

fill in the blank: i wish i could stop __________________ but i just can't! I wish I could stop my mind running and thinking all the time but I just can't!  Sometimes I get my best ideas as soon as I wake up in the morning and just let my mind play and wander.

advice you would give to someone wanting to make it big in the investment banking world. I would suggest trying to get some early and relevant work experience at a big firm (investment bank or wealth management company) in a major city like New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai or London.  Big firms often can give people starting their careers a broader perspective of the various roles within the investment banking world, while providing mobility and mentorship across departments.  Also, seek out really great mentors who will take the time to listen to you and coach you.

you lived and worked in new york city, which is something so many people only dream of.  how did that shape your career, especially being in the throes of 9/11? It was a total game changer for me, both personally and professionally.  Living through the crisis of 9/11 taught me to be resilient and to face challenges without turning back.  I was lucky to have had the chance to start my career in New York and also lucky that I was able to take that risk without having to be responsible for a family.  Facing those challenges early on in my career helped give me the confidence to take on other challenges in life knowing that if I fail, I am lucky to be alive and to live to fight another day, and that in the end life is too short and can end too suddenly to not just go for it.

what do you wish for your future self, and your daughter? I wish for my future self to continue to be happy, healthy and surrounded by the people I love.  I wish for my daughter to live in a world where she can and does achieve all of her dreams and that she makes a positive impact on others.

why do you think YWiB and the YWiB philosophy is important for our community? I believe passionately about what YWiB provides to its members and our community because it's all about empowering the right people.  Give young women who have the enthusiasm and ideas the right mentorship, confidence and resources to follow their instincts and we all will benefit from better businesses, stronger leaders and a more vibrant community.  YWiB fills a very necessary gap and provides so much value to people who are willing to step up and take advantage of it. I feel so fortunate to have been involved since the very early days of planning the first Beyond Pink event.  The girls came to me for my advice at a 7 am coffee meeting at the nearby Caffe Artigiano and I was blown away by their excitement about the idea (did I mention it was 7 am?) and all I think I said was "it's a great idea - do it" and here we are today.  Over the years I have enjoyed being a part of the YWiB experience as a speaker, a supporter, as an Advisory Board member and as a Mom to the Youngest YWiB member yet (she's 1.5 yrs old but has already attended her first YWiB panel discussion)!

for more on maili, check out this great article feature in the vancouver sun!