What can we learn from the career experience of others? What lessons can we draw from our own experience? That was the focus of the latest in Wired Woman Toronto‘s ongoing series of networking events.
“Five Career Perspectives – Inspiration for Success” packed the room at Toronto’s Sutton Place Hotel, as five women in tech and tech-related communications roles shared their thoughts on career advancement during these busy, competitive times. The result was an evening of inspiration.
The five panelists, all determined, hard-working and successful professionals, included:
- Carol Ring, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives for Rogers Communications
- Salima Syerah Virani, Editor-in-Chief & CEO, MyBindi.com, Founder & CEO, Zentrepreneur.ca
- Hessie Jones, Vice President, Social Media, Due North Communications Inc.
- Lally Rementilla, Co-Founder, Digital Media Start-Up (stealth mode)
- Vaithegi Vasanthakumar, Leadership Development Program – Business Analyst, TELUS
Each shared tips on how entrepreneurism, collaboration, mentoring, continuous learning and hard work have been keys to their success.
Carol Ring of Rogers Communications began the discussion. Ring graduated with a degree in environmental biology, but looked to job ads to see what people were hiring for and furthered her credentials by obtaining a CMA. Her entry position at Rogers was gained through networking. “Never discount the importance of networking.” was her advice
Ring imparted several key tips learned during her 20-year career with Rogers:
- Don’t be a passive passenger; you must determine your own career path.
- Align personal values with career goals as both must align or else you will experience discord.
- You cannot always say ‘yes’ to every project or else you will become overwhelmed.
- Work in partnership with your boss. Understanding your boss’s needs and meeting them as well as your own will ensure that everyone is working together and in partnership.
A former lawyer, Salima Syerah Virani, founder of two online startups, MyBindi.com and, Zentrepreneur.ca also shared lessons learned:
- Know Your Passion and turn it into the job you love.
- Read, Read, Read. Find inspiration in a book. Learn your lessons from others.
- Work with those who are smarter than you. Work smarter by working with people who have the knowledge or contacts you need to be successful.
- Marketing is a story people can buy into: There are two ways to market your product: In “Top Down” marketing people create a product and the try to find a market for their product. In “Bottom Up” marketing people identify a need in their market and then address that need by filling that gap with a product or service. The bottom up marketing approach is a much more successful strategy.
- Purple Cow: Be fantastic in your marketing of yourself or your product. Don’t swim in a crowded pond. Create your own market if that is what it takes to grow your business.
- If You Are Not Going Up – You Are Going Down: Do everything you can to help yourself to grow as an employee.
- Embrace Technology: Let technology help you to get ahead.
Hessie Jones of Due North Communications joined Yahoo, when it was just starting up. Life was crazy but through all the effort, she found her passion for technology and realized the drive it took to truly be entrepreneurial. Her key lessons learned include:
- Entrepreneurs live and die by their own hand. The more work you put in at the beginning, the more success you will have over the long term.
- There is no glass ceiling! You can make it in IT.
Lally Rementilla, Co-Founder, Digital Media Start-Up (stealth mode), was inspired by the movie, “Working Girl”. In fact, her lessons learned over her 20-year career, including 8 years spent at Lavalife, were actually framed as ‘Tess’ Lessons’:
- Set an Ambitious Vision: Rementilla’s vision was to be a “hip” accountant; as an MBA graduate she realized she needed to become a CMA and then she joined Lavalife (became an accountant for a hip company).
- Play to Your Strengths: 80% of the time at work you should be playing to your strengths.
- ‘Love the Boys’: To get ahead in your career you need to go to where the power is. In many cases, this means joining male dominated trade associations therefore Rementilla joined an all male venture capital group.
- Be an “MBA”: ‘Master of being accessible’; social media is a way of being available.
- Spend time with your team/staff – you learn a lot from them.
- Have great hair and stay healthy (i.e. Physical looks are important!).
TELUS’ Vaithegi Vasanthakumar told us: “The secret in my career journey is that it wasn’t luck that got me to where I am now. What helped was that I took ownership of my career, defined my goals, executed on them and when obstacles came my way, I worked through them.” The lessons she shared include:
- Define your goals (values, strengths and passions), as well as how they fit into the organization’s culture and how to ‘check up’ to see that your goals align with your organization.
- Accept that goals change. As a process, you have to start somewhere to help guide you in the direction that you want to take your career. Vasanthakumar left a stable and secure job in the government to start with TELUS’s Leadership Development Program, which pushed her career to the next level.
- Applying new learned skills benefitted her career, for example, and was able to apply organizational strategy and technology to social innovation.
- Obstacles arise – how you handle them determines who you are as a person.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people – they will provide you with a valuable support network.
- Taking ownership of your career. Look for development and advancement opportunities, on one’s own. Vai shared her special news with us – she’s off to the UK to do her MBA at Cambridge University!
The women who spoke were not the only ones who made an impact. The audience included women who worked for Rogers, KPMG, BMO, as well as many younger women just coming through the colleges. No matter where we are in our careers, I believe that we need to be grateful when women who have made advancements in similar fields or roles ahead of us so afford us opportunities to learn from them.
I felt, as did Ring, who subsequently wrote to me, “I was inspired myself at the end of the evening.”