I was really excited to attend the Women in the IT Channel Recognition Luncheon last Thursday as a guest of Roberta Fox of the Fox Group. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Growing up in the hospitality industry, having a fully inclusive team and workforce is natural to me. And as a former CIO I know “the Channel” is the cornerstone to delivery and execution.
There was boisterous activity at the registration table as I entered Vaughan House at Sunnybrook Estates. The pre-luncheon workshops on Exceptional Leadership and The Human Network Effect were about to begin. I quickly registered and made my way upstairs to the Leadership session.
It is natural for me to sit at the front of the room. I always do as I am better able to focus on the speaker and presentation without being distracted by anyone else in the room. When I entered and sat down in the last spot at the front the talking amongst everyone stopped and someone said “is he allowed to be here?” No one answered. I was the only man in the room. The moment of silence continued and Karen Hanna, the leadership coach, said “Sure he can stay”, and everyone resumed their conversations. I was in!
It turned out I had sat down beside Leagh Turner, chief operating officer of SAP Canada, who was co-presenting the “17 ideas of Exceptional Leading” session with Karen. As Karen described each idea Leagh shared real-world examples of each one in action based on her time at SAP rising from an Account Executive to COO.
The ideas included practical strategies on managing talent, creating team synergy, coaching effectively, sharing leadership, delving into the detail, growing capacity and influencing effectively. While Leagh shared many vibrant examples the ones that stuck with me the most were about resiliency and grace. Leagh sees growing resiliency in her team members and organization as one of her key roles. This way her people and organization can perform at their best.
She accomplishes this by connecting with people at all levels in her organization, even sitting amongst the junior analysts once a week to see what they are up to and thinking. Leagh purposely paces herself throughout the “stream of the day” with what she calls “ease, grace, and contemplation”. She finds this approach gives her the ability to be more real and effective with her people, clients and business partners.
Everyone came together at the luncheon part way through the day to recognize the 2014 Women in the Channel Honourees. First, Paolo Del Nibletto, associate publisher and editor of Canadian Dealer News, welcomed everyone and reported on the modest growth of women in leadership roles in the IT channel. He highlighted the story of Anne Mulcahy, one of the first Fortune 500 women CEOs, who turned around Xerox when it was floundering in the early 2000’s. Then Fawn Annan, president and group publisher of IT World Canada, spoke about the importance of women being assertive by communicating clearly with confidence and expressing their intent without being self-conscious.
The 2014 honourees who were recognized were Lesley Andrews of Compucom Canada Co., Julie Cloutier of ESI Technologies, Joanna Strong of Commerx and Janice Siddons of TUC Managed IT Solutions. Laura Wittig of Clear Concepts won the new “Rising Star” award. Joanna spoke about women needing to be courageous in business while Janice described leading with swagger as the key to success. Dini Petty capped off the day sharing her insights around the importance of continually nurturing one’s inner-strength and self-esteem through food, water, rest and exercise.
What impressed me most about the attendees and speakers was their collective energy, enthusiasm and certainty. I was truly inspired by their stories and them reaching their potential. While male leaders in IT still outnumber women, they should know that women are successfully working together to blaze a path of success to fill the top leadership roles in IT organizations throughout Canada. As they should be.