Author Archives: Randy Gaudreau

Feb 29, 2024

By: Zachary Murray and Meghan Boyer, Mann Lawyers, LLP

Eureka – you’ve developed an excellent business idea you are passionate about and want to see brought to life. Perhaps you found a partner or two that you get along with; your values, goals and ambitions are aligned – so you think…

As eager entrepreneurs, you jump in full throttle. You decide to incorporate – how hard can it be? You and your business partners jot down a business plan on a napkin with little thought to division of ownership, financial decisions, or profit sharing. 

As your business grows so do the assets (and often, liabilities which are (or are not) necessary for growth). The excitement of the vision carries the business forward for some time, but the day-to-day reality of being a small business owner brings a different set of expectations and responsibilities.  

Questions begin to arise. Who has decision-making authority? Is it the individual who invested significant funds for start-up or the individual who has invested significant time, energy, and expertise through services? Who is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business? Who is authorized to make financial decisions? Should you each be liable for any losses incurred by the other? I did not authorize the borrowing of that debt; can my partner do that? How do I get my partner out of the business? 

The business relationship begins to deteriorate. Maybe you and your partner disagree on the division of control or liability, or perhaps one partner begins to drift, not contributing their share to the business. The foundation is exposed; it is slipping out from under your feet.  

In the excitement of starting a business, it is easy to overlook long-term planning. Your focus is the success of the business, you’ll worry about that later. Unfortunately, this can have significant consequences for the business, but also for you personally.  

You went forth with incorporation, but what is the right decision? Selecting an appropriate business structure is crucial for several reasons, including:  

  • Ownership 
  • Business credibility 
  • Exit strategies 
  • Apportionment of liability 
  • Costs 
  • Delineation of roles, responsibilities, and control 
  • Tax implications  
  • Distribution of profits 

Give forethought to the ground on which you stand. Mitigate future risk by preparing for the storm.  

So, what steps can I take in planning?  

Speak to a professional

A professional may recommend incorporation, or the recommendation may be to start as a sole proprietor or as a partnership. Assuming incorporation is right for you, professional assistance when incorporating can ensure the business is tailored to the specific circumstances.

Ultimately, a corporation is an excellent business vehicle in that it allows for greater delineation in the business organization with shareholders, officers and directors operating according to legislation, fiduciary obligations, and the rules of the corporation and its by-laws.

But without time and energy into the ownership structure and organization of the corporation many of the benefits are lost. So, give good thought to having organizational documents for the corporation.  

Consider a shareholders’ agreement

A shareholder’s agreement can initiate tough conversations at a time when there is open communication, trust, respect, and cooperation among the various shareholders. A corporation is one of a few different business structures.

Having informed discussions about those different business structures can help determine if incorporating is right for you and a great step in building the foundation.

 

Zachary Murray is an associate with the Mann Laywers Business Law team. Meghan Boyer, is an Articling Student with Mann Lawyers.


Searching for legal advice and more resources? 

We regularly host free in-person, virtual and hybrid events to help strengthen your business. Check out the upcoming events on our events calendar.   

We know navigating business structure, contracts, and insurance can be difficult, especially if you don’t have a business background.  If you’re looking for advice tailored to your business, our experienced partners at Mann Lawyers provide legal support for businesses of any size. 

 

Posted in Blog
Feb 28, 2024

March has arrived, along with the promise of spring and all sorts of things to do around town here in Ottawa.  

While it’s a bit sad to say goodbye to many winter events, there are many activities to do with friends and family in Marchfrom enjoying the maple syrup season to taking children to the Canadian Museum of Nature for hands-on activities during the March break! 

Along with enjoying the warmer weather and having fun in March, you can also start exploring the job market which gets quite active this month!  

If youre seeking new opportunities or challenges, we have your back! Every month, Invest Ottawa’s Talent Team curates a list of 10 Ottawa companies that are actively hiring to support job seekers in their career exploration.  

Continue below to check out our list of hiring employers this month.


1. Bluink 

What it does: 

Bluink is an Ottawa-based, award-winning company that specializes in identity verification and digital ID as a service (eIDaaS), using a mobile device as a strong authenticator and secure digital wallet. Bluink’s services include identity verification, digital ID, password-free login, multi-factor authentication (MFA) login, and ID verification SDK. The company has 11 patents in the USA and Canada.

The perks: 

Bluink has an energetic start-up environment that provides opportunities for unique challenges and learning opportunities. Perks of working for this company include a competitive compensation package, comprehensive health benefits, office equipment, and professional development opportunities. 

Current job openings: 

PHP Developer, and more jobs.

2. Ciena 

What it does: 

If you describe yourself as a tech innovator or thought disruptor, a career at Ciena might be what you’re looking for. Ciena is a global leader in optical and routing systems, services, and automation software. As a telecommunications leader, Ciena provides powers its clients’ digital interactions such as calling, video chatting, and text to 1600+ clients worldwide 

The perks: 

As an employee of Ciena, you can enjoy a diverse workplace that takes a people-centred approach first. Employees are also offered extensive health and dental benefits, competitive PTO, flexible hours, global wellbeing programs and a competitive salary.    

Current job openings: 

DSP Engineer, Senior Software Developer, System & Solution Engineer, and more.

3. Fullscript  

What it does: 

Fullscript is the leading health technology company making optimal care easy for everyone. Through their care delivery platform, health practitioners can seamlessly design personalized health plans, provide support and education tools, and effortlessly prescribe and manage the use of healthcare’s best supplements for their patients — all in one place.  

Since 2011, Fullscript has enabled over 90,000 practitioners to deliver whole-person medicine and has helped more than 5.5 MIL patients follow a path to wellness. The best part? Ottawa was founded right here in Ottawa.  

The perks: 

Fullscript perks include but are not limited to, competitive compensation & stock options, RRSP matching, flex PTO, customizable health and wellness benefit plans, and employee discounts on the Fullscript products (including family & friends).  

Fullscript is also known for its ‘Work Where You Work Well’ philosophy – this means Fullscripters get to pick their own office — whether that’s in-office, at home, or a bit of both. And yes, both of their Ottawa offices are dog-friendly. 

Current job openings: 

WMS Technical Lead, Technical Program Manager, Senior Ruby Engineer, Data Analyst II (Merch) …and more! 

4. InDro Robotics 

What it does: 

Operating in Ottawa, InDro is a Canadian leader in ground, aerial, and marine robotics research and development. Having accumulated thousands of flight hours, InDro Robotics has a track record of collaborating with leading business and government organizations. In September 2023, the company took over operations of Bayview Yards Prototyping Lab, which was previously run by Invest Ottawa. The company also announced the completion of several milestones in 2023, including a collaborative research project on urban wind tunnels with the National Research Council and the design and fabrication of a “Street Smart Robot.”  

The perks: 

Employees of InDro Robotics get the opportunity to grow professionally, and receive generous paid time off, a competitive salary plus profit sharing, and health benefits. Other perks include casual dress, on-site parking, flexible schedule, and stock options. 

Current job openings: 

Sr. Full-stack Software Engineer, UI Software Engineer, Senior Engineer, Business Development Manager, and more jobs.

5. Infinera 

What it does: 

Originally from California, USA, Infinera is an Ottawa-based telecommunications networks solution provider. The company helps its client by providing innovative, industry-leading connectivity solutions including high-end subcomponent technology, systems for network infrastructure, automation software, and professional services. With 20+ years of experience and 1,400+ patents, Infinera supports thousands of clients in over 100+ countries and powers billions of dollars in service revenue.

The perks: 

Infinera offers a workplace with highly educated colleagues and strong diversity and inclusion values. The company offers stock-purchasing plans, competitive salaries, and health and dental benefits in addition to many other benefits. 

Current job openings: 

Sr. Technical Program Manager, Full Stack Software Development Intern, FW Engineering Co-Op, and more jobs.

6. Payments Canada 

What it does: 

Payments Canada is an Ottawa-based organization that is responsible for Canada’s payment clearing and settlement infrastructure, including associated systems, by-laws, rules, and standards. Payments Canada ensures that financial transactions in Canada are carried out safely and securely. In 2023, Payments Canada systems cleared and settled $112 trillion or $450 billion every business day.

The perks: 

Payments Canada provides tons of benefits alongside a competitive compensation package. Some of the perks are Flexible, hybrid environment, annual variable bonus and defined contribution pension plan with employer matching percentage, Comprehensive health and dental benefit coverage, minimum four weeks paid vacation, Rewards and recognition program, and Access to Office Gym Facilities. 

Current job openings: 

Manager, Information Management & Governance, Vendor Portfolio Manager, Manager, Security Governance, Senior Project Manager / Program Manager, and more jobs.

7. Solace  

What it does: 

A leader in harnessing the power of data, Solace ensures the seamless flow of data between data centres, mobile devices, and software applications at consistently high speeds as securely as possible. Solace helps enterprises adopt, manage and leverage event-driven architecture, with a complete event streaming and management platform. Trusted by the world’s leading brands such as NASA, Barclays, RBC, SAP, and the London Stock Exchange, Solace’s data movement technology connects 1.5 million vehicles in Singapore and processes more than 500 billion “events” globally per day. 

If you have an interest in event-driven integration and architecture, event mesh, and middleware, your work at Solace could directly benefit the end-user experience of many favourite household brands.

The perks: 

Solace’s employees benefit from a diverse and inclusive culture, exciting engagement events, a competitive employee benefits package, a hybrid work model with HQ located in a fresh modern space, top-notch training programs, and a stellar customer lineup. 

Current job openings: 

Senior Payroll Accountant, Senior Software Developer – AI Integration, Software Engineering Director, and more jobs.

8. Syntronic 

What it does: 

Founded in Stockholm, Sweden in 1983, Syntronic is a leading engineering design house with more than 35 years of experience of working with development, production and aftermarket services as well as all the related support during the product life cycle. The company works with leading tech companies to take an idea from its initial concept to a successful cutting-edge product. Currently, the company has a presence in 9 countries with 1900+ employees. 

The perks: 

Syntronic values its employees and shows that through a robust compensation package. As a Syntronic team member, you will receive 4 weeks of holidays, health and wellness benefits, company matching RRSP contributions. Employees also benefit from constant career growth opportunities and a positive company culture that provides a flexible work environment. 

Current job openings: 

Senior DevOps Software Engineer, Intermediate/Senior Software Developer – Mobile applications (iOS/Android), Software Developer – Embedded Systems (Linux/BSP/Drivers), Firmware Developer – Controls, and more jobs.

 9. Trexity 

What it does: 

Founded in 2019, Trexity is an Ottawa-based shipping service provider that makes local shipping/delivery service simple for users. Trexity supports local businesses, including solopreneurs, retail stores, and food businesses, by ensuring that they can effectively deliver products to customers in a direct, cost-effective way.

The perks: 

“Take care. Take ownership. Take off.”- Trexity aims to attract top talent by providing a competitive compensation package including health and dental benefits plans and offering employee stock options. Trexity also allows employees to work remotely with a flexible work schedule, and additional benefits include 3 weeks of vacation annually and equipment to get started remotely. 

 Current job openings: 

Full-stack Software Engineer, Sales Representative, and more jobs. 

10. Warner Bros. Discovery  

What it does: 

Warner Bros. Discovery is a leading global media and entertainment company that creates and distributes the world’s most differentiated and complete portfolio of content and brands across television, film and streaming. Some of the most iconic brands and products of the company include Discovery Channel, Max, discovery+, CNN, DC, Eurosport, and HBO, which are available in more than 220 countries and in 50 languages.

The perks: 

Warner Bros. Discovery hires talent across the globe and offers career-defining positions, carefully curated benefits, and the tools to realize their employee’s best self. Some of the perks the company offers are generous PTO, financial planning tool, parental leave, mentorship support, tuition reimbursement, paid volunteer time, and discounts from thousands of brands. 

Current job openings: 

Staff Software Developer, Android Developer II, Director, Software Engineering, Software Developer II, and more jobs. 

 


Interested in hearing more about tech opportunities in Ottawa? Follow the Work in Ottawa LinkedIn page. 

Are you a technology company looking for tech talent to fill important roles? We have hundreds of skilled technology candidates. Let us how we can help.  

 

 

Feb 27, 2024

A text based logo for International Women's Month - written in black over a white background. This featured story is brought to you by the Power of Why Podcast in collaboration with Invest Ottawa, with critical support from BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund, the Title Sponsor of International Women’s Month 2024.

We teamed up to produce this special series to celebrate women leading in Ottawa for International Women’s Month and shine the spotlight on our IWW 2024 featured leaders to unpack their passion and purpose.

Five inspirational leaders are selected each year to represent International Women’s Month. They are role models who significantly impact our economy, community and society and embody the spirit, goals and values of IWM.  


“Never give up on yourself” –  

These were the words Angela Ashawasegai repeated to herself for years. They became her mantra, helping her find and build her inner strength. 

Angela was removed from her mother at birth and was placed into the child welfare system. Throughout her tumultuous childhood, she had no safe place to call home. From surviving abuse and homelessness, Angela emerged as her hero, crediting her survival to education, spirituality, and art. 

Today, Angela leverages her decades of training and expertise to help others empower themselves. She consults with organizations on workplace wellness, puts pen to paper on her forthcoming book, and coaches individuals on overcoming their trauma.  

Here is how she identified her inner strength and resilience in adversity. 

This episode is for you if: 

  • You want to reclaim your identity in the face of adversity. 
  • You’re looking for practical insights to navigate your own healing journey and empower others in their journey. 
  • You want to explore how creativity can be a tool for resilience. 

Looking for a specific gem? 

[3:40] Angela was removed from her birth mother at birth and placed in the child welfare system. 

[4:29] Angela escaped an abusive home at age 16. 

[5:30] Didn’t know that she was part of the Sixties Scoop until her 40s. 

[7:10] Realized that she needed more education when she didn’t have viable employment prospects. 

[7:39] Graduated high school at age 19. 

[7:40] Still dealing with adversity, homelessness, living out of garbage bags, house surfing. 

[8:00] Angela’s high school guidance counselor helped her get her Indian status card. 

[9:31] Her first steps toward self-empowerment were through education. 

[10:00] Asking “What happened to you?” vs. “What is wrong with you?” 

[12:17] Stability and processing trauma. 

[16:44] Angela leaned into journaling without mental health supports. 

[20:14] Angela was truly never alone. 

[24:33] The power of art and self-expression for finding your voice (and using it). 

[32:40] The lifestyle and life that you want is within your reach. 

[34:20] There is a massive need for mental health care services for Indigenous people 

[38:00] The process of writing a memoir Lost In-between Two Worlds: A Sixties Scoop Survivor’s Search for Belonging. 

[45:10] There are many pathways to heal. 

[47:00] Let’s normalize mental health. 

People and Resources Mentioned in This Episode 

Sixties Scoop – Indigenous Foundations 

Trauma-informed approach to care 

All My Relations 

Connect with Angela 

On LinkedIn

Website – coming soon. 

Connect with BDC 

LinkedIn – BDC Capital (Canada) 

Twitter – @bdc_capital 

Tune in to the podcast or take the time to dive into the article found below.

Regardless of the format, great content is headed your way!


Naomi Haile: What is your origin story? What was your journey to where you are today? 

Angela Ashawasegai: I am from Henvey First Inlet First Nation. I was removed from my birth mother at birth, and I was placed into the child welfare system. I was adopted at age one into a non-Indigenous Euro-Canadian family. And in that family, unfortunately, something beyond my control happened to me. As young as I can remember, I was being abused physically, mentally, spiritually. I endured all of that, and I escaped that abusive home at age 16. 

It was like jumping from the fire into another frying pan when I came out of that situation. The child welfare system did not acknowledge that I had been abused. I was in a state of shock. At that time, my mind had shut out a lot of what had happened to me, and I was removing myself from an unhealthy environment and then putting myself into the real world so suddenly. 

And then, I didn’t even know that I was a victim of child abuse. I didn’t know I was part of the Sixties Scoop until my 40s. The child welfare system grossly neglected me. They didn’t give me access to mental health care services. No one asked me the question, “What happened to you”? And even if they did ask me what happened, I probably wouldn’t have had the best answers because, like I said, the mind shuts down. When you’re living through trauma, your mind shuts down. 

Then, I aged out of the child welfare system at age 17. There I was, mentally ill. I didn’t know what had happened to me, and I was out on my own without any education or mental health care. I was left to fend for myself. 

At some point, I was struggling with poverty, I was working menial jobs, and I struggled with employment opportunities. And no wonder – I was a high school dropout, so I had nothing to offer. And I fell into the idea that I need more education because when I looked at my resume, it was clear, “There’s nothing on this [resume]. No wonder nobody wants to hire me. There are no credentials. I’m a high school dropout. 

I decided to go back to school. When I was 19, I graduated from high school. But I was still dealing with a lot of social issues like adversity and homelessness; I was couch surfing and living out of garbage bags; I was living in homeless shelters; it was really stressful. 

One of the greatest things that happened to me in high school was meeting a guidance counselor who got me my Indian status card. He told me what the benefits of the status card were when I was in high school. He said, “You’re going to get your medical prescriptions paid for, you’re going to be able to go to post-secondary school…” 

And that was the catalyst for me. Gaining self-empowerment, believe it or not, was through my status card. And because I was dealing with homelessness, my living allowance allowed me to have a roof over my head, and I could feed myself with the allowance; I could buy myself food, and I didn’t have to worry about a home anymore. I went to college after high school, which allowed me to have a bit of stability.  

“Education was a tool of self-empowerment in my life. That’s what got me out of despair. I was able to take the first steps of self-empowerment through education. That was the origin of what got me to where I am today.” 

Naomi Haile: You said something so subtle. That “No one asked what happened to me.” That question takes a trauma-informed approach, right? Asking, “What happened to you?” instead of asking, “What is wrong with you?” 

Naomi Haile: You said something so subtle. That “No one asked what happened to me.” That question takes a trauma-informed approach, right? Asking, “What happened to you?” instead of asking, “What is wrong with you?” 

Angela Ashawasegai: You’re absolutely. You’ve hit the nail. And that needed to happen to me when I was 16 years old. And that never occurred to me. It was a complete oversight on the part of the mental health care system because I was placed into a psychiatric evaluation for 30 days, and not a single person sat with me and said, “Angela, what happened to you?” I was released back into the world again after 30 days. And it was back to business as usual, me struggling in silence with my mental health challenges. 

Naomi Haile: How did you get to a place of stability? And what came from finding stability as well? 

Angela Ashawasegai: That is a fundamental question. Stability is one of the first steps in recovering from trauma. Suppose you don’t have stability, which is what I was dealing with a lot throughout my life off and on. When you’re busy dealing with social issues of homelessness – that’s not stability. If you can’t feed yourself, that’s not stability. 

“If you don’t have a stable home, you’re not in the mindset of being able to work on yourself because you’re too busy and stuck in survival mode. And that’s what I’m speaking to. It’s living in survival mode versus stability. What you need is to have stability first before you can begin the second phase of recovery, which is processing trauma.” 

When I started processing trauma in my 20s, and that happened once I found stability when I moved to Ottawa. I had a beautiful relationship with someone financially stable. We lived in a townhome, and I decided I was ready for college. But unfortunately, my mental health issues were taking control of me. And I had to drop out of school because my mental health was weak at the time. This is how I’ve come to know what is needed to heal, by lived experience. And then what happened is that I started having nightmares. My brain asked, “You’re not in survival mode anymore? Well, now you can work on yourself.” 

And at that time, little did I know that trauma is your helper. 

Your trauma is trying to get your attention when you are having nightmares and flashbacks. When you have depression, when you’re having anxiety. Those are all post-trauma symptoms: your body or mind is telling you to pay attention. I have something to say to you. It’s all about the wisdom and the knowledge that trauma carries. Once you start to be more curious about the trauma, you need to build yourself up as an observer of the trauma and begin to speak to what you’re experiencing.  

When I was having nightmares, it drove me to suicide ideation, where I didn’t want to live anymore because the quality of my life was so poor, and I was experiencing sleep deprivation. And my daily life was very stressful, too. But I didn’t know that trauma was my helper at that time. And I nearly died as a result of that. And it was over the years that I started understanding that there were patterns in these dreams. These animals kept coming into my dreams, trying to tell me something. So then I began to study animal spiritual totems linked to my culture and learned their purpose. And knowing what their medicine is. 

I used to write these dreams. They were so powerful I had to write them down. And so I started journaling, which was another therapeutic process. Because I didn’t have any mental health support, I leaned into journaling and learning what these dreams were about. 

I learned that these animals were my helpers. In my daily life, I started learning how to communicate with animals because they were communicating with me. And I started realizing that I have a connection to the animal world. In my culture, we believe in All My Relations. I finally understood and realized I am connected to the animal world. I am connected to the land. I am connected to the earth, to the moon, to everything. And that’s why we say All My Relations. I felt very close to the ancestors. 

Naomi Haile: Right now, you’re in a position where you now help other people through their recovery journey. I can only imagine how difficult that was, especially when you didn’t have the language for what you were going through. But you talked about your helpers and that you genuinely were not alone. You had a lot around you. 

Angela Ashawasegai: Yes, I could say that now. As I was navigating this journey, at no point did I feel that humanity supported me. I felt that my life didn’t matter. That was the biggest thing I had to grasp – that I wasn’t alone. I was able to tap into the spirit world through my spirituality and being able to connect with the animal world and how they helped me to process trauma. 

Suppose people want to start working with their dreams. I have the skills to help people to process trauma through recurring nightmares or dreams. I’m able to work with people with forward-moving questions. And how trauma has affected them on a conscious level and an unconscious level. In the last ten years, I realized that I was never alone. One of the lessons that I learned from adversity is that it can make you stronger. As I went through the journey, I never saw it that way. You only see it after you go through it. When you’re in the midst of it, you think, “Oh my life, it’s worthless. I’m worthless.” I’m sure many people can relate to that because we all deal with that side of ourselves, with the inner critic always trying to stop us. But our inner critic is there to protect us. And so we must learn to make friends with our inner critic. 

I just had to keep going at every stage of my life. Yes, I’ve had many setbacks. Yes, I’ve had many doubts. Yes, I’ve had many moments on this entrepreneurial journey of feeling like, why am I doing this? Where I feel like I have impostor syndrome, that I’m a fraud. Because I’m still processing trauma, I will probably be processing it for the rest of my life. But it’s okay. That’s fine. 

Deal with what’s going on in your life at that moment. You have to keep moving forward. Adversity does make you stronger. And that’s what it did for me. It started when I was 17 and aged out of care. I made a choice: either I’m going to give up and live on the streets, or I’m going to go to school and try to get better chances at employment. 

Everything is self-empowerment. It’s really about the choices you make and the actions that you take to keep moving forward. No one will save you because that was one of the things I was waiting for. Especially in my youth, I was waiting to be saved. I was waiting for someone to rescue me. And when I got out of that home, no one told me, “Angela, your nightmare is over. No one’s ever gonna hurt you again”. I never heard those words. 

“I had to learn to become my own hero.” 

Naomi Haile: You’re also an artist and a poet. How have art and self-expression helped you on your journey? 

Angela Ashawasegai: I began to find self-expression. In 2010, I started to take on a journey of advocacy for the Sixties Scoop. At that time, a class action lawsuit was taking place. I became involved in that, and I started to speak out about the Sixties Scoop and its impacts on my life, as well as being able to ask for social justice. That is the beginning of me finding my voice. In my childhood, I was completely shut down; I didn’t have a voice. At that time, I didn’t realize I needed a voice. Nobody was advocating for me. 

It was a pivotal moment when I started to find my voice. And the other way that I found self-expression was through writing; I have always loved writing. So, I began to write a blog because I had a setback in my mental health in 2009. I experienced a mental breakdown because I got tired of the toxic work culture. I recognized that I needed to change my mindset and that it wouldn’t help me to feel sorry for myself. I’m sure people can understand that. 

I found writing to be cathartic. Some of my poetry has been published, which was wonderful for me to express myself. 

For instance, I used to do self-harm, and I had scars all over my wrists, and I always had such shame about them. Until I realized that it wasn’t my fault; I didn’t ask to be part of the Sixties Scoop. I didn’t ask to go through a system that neglected my care. So, I wrote a poem about my scars. And I really turned it around, and I saw that instead of owning all the shame, I put the shame where it belonged. And I said, “Shame on Canada, shame on you for taking me away from my culture – away from everything. And the scars are the scars that you’ve done to me. This pain that I was feeling belongs to you, Canada. These scars belong to you, not to me”. That was the kind of poetry that was coming out with me. It was another way of processing trauma. It was finding my voice and reclaiming it again. 

 Naomi Haile: The first thing that comes to mind is that art is a connective tissue between people. There’s also a lot of courage in sharing your art. How important is your environment and what do you choose to surround yourself with? How does your environment influence how you perceive reality? 

Angela Ashawasegai: Sometimes, people can carry trauma unconsciously. They’re not even aware of it. Awareness has a lot to do with beginning to work with trauma. There needs to be an acknowledgment that something needs to change. 

The environment that we put ourselves in can be detrimental to our mental health, or it could be it could support our journey. If you’re living in a place where you don’t have stability or not enough income, it’s tough to begin processing trauma because you’re living in survival mode. 

Surround yourself with things that are uplifting and environments that are clutter-free. Have you ever seen the Netflix series “Queer Eye”? That’s a great example because they go into people’s lives and change their environment. 

“Make your living space healthy and surround yourself with beauty – whatever beauty means to you.” 

It could be the color you like, it could be the type of furniture you have. It’s about the life and lifestyle that you want to live. It’s in your hands. It’s in your power. Just watch a few episodes of “Queer Eye”; it will give you a starting point. It shows how your environment is critical to your recovery. 

When I work with people, I like to help them with where they’re at. What is your vision? For your wellness, I allow people to find their empowerment. Everyone has their journey; everyone has a unique healing journey. I give respect to people as they’re going through their journey. I’m there to support and help them to find the wisdom and knowledge in their trauma through one-on-one coaching.

I also do workshops for communities, responding to grief and trauma for Indigenous communities and organizations. I have the training to work in that capacity and know that our people are suffering. There’s still a lot of intergenerational trauma that’s happening. There’s such a need for mental health care services for Indigenous people in Canada. And that was why I became a social entrepreneur. It’s because I realized that “I did it!” I came out on the other side. And if I can do it, so can you; you can do it. I wanted to inspire hope. It’s essential to keep getting back up again. I would carry on where I left off and keep on going.  

Naomi Haile: That’s so that’s so layered. And even sharing your story is a testament of hope. I keep using the word power-power-power because when you’ve found power in who you are at your core, you are reconnected to your most authentic and highest self. Dr. Gabor Maté talks a lot about a disconnection from self as being the root of stress, inflammation, and various health disorders that we, as people, face. And so when you talk about connecting to your culture, your spirituality, and yourself, there’s so much meaning in that. 

Could you talk about your journey writing your forthcoming book? Why was it important for you to get this down on paper and share it with the world? 

Angela Ashawasegai: Thanks for asking that. One of the reasons why I wanted to tell my story was because I couldn’t believe what happened to me. I wanted to write my story after I escaped that home. I knew I had a story to tell, but I didn’t know how to be a writer at that time. So it took me until I went to university in my 40s – that was my whole objective: I will learn how to write a book when I go to university. And that didn’t happen either. 

Unfortunately, I did learn a lot about the history of colonialism and what had happened to my birth family, mys, elves included. I have no regrets. There are no regrets about education. Education is a very powerful tool for self-empowerment. And I’m always grateful for my education. I’m always in school, and I’m constantly training. We must stay on top of the ever-changing evolution of mental health care and self-care. 

I started writing it about ten years ago. Writing that story took a long time because it was so darn triggering… the emotions that came up. And sometimes, I would either get writer’s block or walk away because I needed to hold space for myself. And sometimes that space looked like weeks, months, years. That’s how long I needed to write this book.  

One of the things that I just realized is that I had become my hero in unpacking the historical trauma that had happened to me. I had these ‘aha moments,’ recognizing that what I had achieved was impossible. I’m writing about the four different pillars and exactly how those pillars helped me. My book is “Lost In-between Two Worlds: A Sixties Scoop Survivor’s Search for Belonging.” My current objective is to complete writing that book; it will be a success story. And I’m sure other Sixties Scoop survivors will want to read this. 

The first part will be challenging to write because it’s an explicit story about what exactly happened to me and how I survived. The rest is the empowerment journey. So, people have insights into how I was able to navigate my healing journey. But like I said, I didn’t do it alone. I was never alone. I had my ancestors, and I had my culture. Reconnecting with our culture is what Sixties Scoop survivors are looking for today–  a sense of belonging. Nobody was there to help Sixties Scoop survivors transition back into knowing who we are.  

Last year, I got this pendant from a garage sale. And it was a compelling, meaningful experience because there was a Thunderbird symbol on it. I didn’t know what that meant. But I recognize that it brought me back to a time in my adoptive home, where I was given two pendants from a teacher who was there to support me. She gave me these necklaces, and I was conflicted because I knew my family wouldn’t allow this. 

I came home after school one day, and my pendants were gone. They had disappeared. And I know what happened to them. It was really sad. Because I know my teacher had been trying to instill pride in my culture. She was teaching us about Native history. And I was excited about what I was learning. Unfortunately, my family was not was not happy about that. So when my mother took away those pendants, it absolutely devastated me. So when I found this pendant a year ago, it brought me back to that moment where I had lost my culture, and I felt the pain of it. And I learned the symbol of this pendant. It was the Thunderbird, which represents power and strength. And I started wearing the pendant proudly. And I recognized that I was taking back my culture and had no more shame. I was no longer ashamed of my culture and identity. Because that’s what the Sixties Scoop had done to me, it almost killed the Indian in me. But to have this pendant was the first step to realizing that I was taking back my culture. Just a week ago, I made my very first pair of moccasins. And again, that was the big moment in my life – I realized I’m walking in my culture now that I’ve got my moccasins. 

“Everything that happened to me happened. It doesn’t define me anymore. I’m living my truth. I am doing all that I can to make a social change.” 

I’m doing everything I can to bring meaning to my life now. I can help others to achieve that as well. That’s why I want to be a social entrepreneur. 

I want to help others to know that trauma recovery is possible. And that there are many different pathways for wellness. There are many pathways for healing trauma. 

It is never too late to go back to school. It is never too late to start a healing journey.  

You can begin that journey today and allow yourself to be okay with where you are. Because where you are is okay. 

Naomi Haile: Thank you, Angela. As we wrap up, what are your hopes for the future – personally and with your work at Indigenous Wellness Coaching? 

Angela Ashawasegai: What I see for the future is that I’m hoping to make a social change and help others understand and make real the possibilities for them to heal their lives. There’s hope, and they are more than what happened to them. You are more than your trauma. I want to make this world a better place by sharing what the experience has been like for me. You have to empower yourself. That’s where it all begins. That’s what I’ve done; if I can, so can others. 

And I’m speaking to the non-Indigenous populations as well. It doesn’t matter what race you’re from; trauma is prevalent in every nation. 

We need to normalize mental health because there’s still this stigma of mental illness. One of the biggest challenges I had to go through was self-stigmatization, being ashamed of my mental health when it wasn’t even my fault. And so, like Gabor Maté, we need more compassion for ourselves and each other. To start those conversations around mental health, we first have to have compassion for ourselves and others to be able to carry on. I could be an extension of Gabor Maté for Indigenous people and bring that awareness – that we are strong people. We are still here, and many of our people are very strong. We are getting to a point where we are reclaiming our power and self-governance. 

My contribution is definitely around mental health and normalizing. That is what I want to do with this book. There’s a lot that needs to be reformed in the child welfare system, and I’ve witnessed it firsthand as a trauma coach. I’ve been helping youth who have gone through and those who are going through what I went through, and the healthcare system is not acknowledging or taking their claims seriously. I’ve seen it, and I’ve witnessed it. And when I was working with Indigenous youth in 2022/2023, I couldn’t believe this was still happening. 

There’s a lot of room for calls to action to reform the child welfare system. That needs to happen. If I can be a voice for that, I will share my story to bring about change in the child welfare system. It needs to change now. We need to have a better future for our youth. 

Naomi Haile: you. Thank you, Angela. Thank you for using your voice for positive impact and calling for reform. What is the best place for people to connect with you and support your work? 

Angela Ashawasegai: You can reach me through LinkedIn at Angela Ashawasegai. And on there is the platform of my services. You can also contact me through my Facebook page, Indigenous Wellness Coaching. Finally, I will have my website up by the end of April. 

Naomi Haile: Angela, thank you. I appreciate your time. 


A profile picture of smiling Naomi Haile, Talent Strategy Consultant & Podcast Host - who's standing in front of a light blue background.

Naomi Haile, Talent Strategy Consultant & Podcast Host

A human capital professional and inclusion strategy expert, Naomi Haile understands people. With 7+ years of experience spanning international tax compliance at the Canadian federal government and consulting at specialized boutique firms, Naomi leverages data about how people interact with systems and filters them through her unique lens to build responsible organizations. Using innovative design thinking strategies, she works with executives and their high-performing teams to co-create sustainable solutions for even the most complex of human capital challenges.

Currently, she is a Senior Talent Strategist, Office of the CEO, at WritersBlok, a white-glove ghostwriting agency that helps business leaders, celebrities, executives, politicians, and athletes turn their personal stories into brand assets. In addition to her consulting work, Naomi is the producer and host of the rising Power of Why Podcast (which boasts over 30K downloads and 200 active monthly listeners), where she interviews top global and local industry leaders. Most notably, her recent interview with Netflix’s Chief of Human Resources Officer was featured on Business Insider.

An avid traveler, Naomi has explored over 25 cities and 11 countries, and loves to connect with new cultures through her passion for food. When she’s not monitoring her investment watchlists, she is boxing or enjoying a Broadway show.

 

Feb 20, 2024

A text based logo for International Women's Month - written in black over a white background. This featured story is brought to you by the Power of Why Podcast in collaboration with Invest Ottawa, with critical support from BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund, the Title Sponsor of International Women’s Month 2024.

Five inspirational leaders are selected each year to represent International Women’s Month. They are role models who significantly impact our economy, community and society and embody the spirit, goals and values of IWM.  We teamed up to produce this special series to celebrate women leading in Ottawa for International Women’s Month and shine the spotlight on our IWW 2024 featured leaders to unpack their passion and purpose.

In support of its Women Founders and Owners strategy, Invest Ottawa offers programs and services that enable and accelerate the growth and success of women entrepreneurs from every walk of life. Visit www.investottawa.ca/women to learn more! 


In a landscape where barriers often overshadow opportunities…

Mary Yazdani is curious about impactful results. 

Drawing insights from those who have successfully carved paths before her, she studied their strategies and implemented the advice that worked. At the age of 32, she started a new life in Canada with her family.

Leveraging her expertise and resourcefulness in navigating unfamiliar terrain, she established a business aimed at propelling others. 

Leading two innovative ventures – as the Founder and CEO of GenesisLink and Co-founder and CEO of RoboSafety –  Mary is committed to empowering individuals to navigate the complexities of transitioning to a new country, securing employment, and launching businesses. 

Recognized for her commitment to investing in people, potentia and purposes, she was honoured as an Immigrant Entrepreneur by the City of Ottawa in 2021, and received the Top Ottawa 40 Under 40 Award in 2023. 

This episode is for you if: 

  • You want to apply results-driven strategies for job search as an immigrant in Canada. 
  • You want to formalise your business by leveraging what you already assist people with. 
  • You are a leader aiming to invest in people, potential and purpose. 

Looking for a specific gem? 

[3:18] Mary grew up with strong and kind parents… her role models. 

[4:12] Started a new chapter in Canada in 2016 at 32 years old. 

[5:32] Her entrepreneurial spirit developed later in life, joining a start-up for the first time in Canada. 

[6:28] Chief Operating Officer or ‘Chief of Get This Shit Done’. 

[7:31] Mary noticed and appreciated the support available to female entrepreneurs in Canada. 

[10:19] The most challenging part of being an immigrant. 

[11:20] Who Mary decided to surround herself with when she first arrived in Canada. 

[12:21] How Mary got four interviews within ten days of moving to Canada. 

[16:53] How I leveraged government grants and funding to help a start-up boost its financial position. 

[19:44] From demonstrating results to formalising her business. 

[23:16] Success Story: even one seemingly small action and support can have a generational impact. 

[27:22] Motherhood and building a business. 

[34:19] The most significant misconceptions that she sees among immigrant job seekers. 

[35:48] Remember to build your network.. This is key. 

[36:25] Volunteering, building my network, and supporting others in my community were also part of my employment strategy.  

[38:45] Creating a strategy that yields results through participation. 

[39:40] Investment in people, potential and purpose. 

Connect with Mary 

Website – GenesisLink 

LinkedIn – ​​Mary Yazdani 

Connect with BDC 

LinkedIn – BDC Capital (Canada) 

Twitter – @bdc_capital 


Naomi Haile: What is your origin story? What was it like growing up in Iran, and how did you come to Canada? 

Mary Yazdani: I was born into a loving family in Iran. My childhood was filled with strong role models. I studied computer engineering. I started working as an IT expert and was then promoted to IT manager working for an enterprise-level company. At the age of 32, I immigrated to Canada to join my husband and raise a family. 

Naomi Haile: What were some of the early conversations you had around education and being an entrepreneur in your household? Were you encouraged to follow the narrow, traditional path, or were you inspired to do your own thing and explore? 

Mary Yazdani: My mother was a teacher, and my father worked in the public sector. Most people around me were with the mindset of staying within the lines. I liked going beyond the lines and thinking out of the box. So, this idea of entrepreneurship came from somewhere other than my family. It was not something I had thought about from childhood, nor did I see many entrepreneurs around me.  

When I moved to Canada, I was looking at other immigrant business owners and speaking about my experience starting and working in a startup. In Iran, most of the companies I worked for were enterprise-level companies, not startups. So that was a new experience for me. And that’s the flexibility I had here while working at a startup. My role as a Chief Operating Officer involved different tasks from HR, financial and technical operations, and anything else you can think of in a startup environment. You are wearing different hats, which allowed me to regain my confidence in Canada. Usually, when you immigrate, you see so many more hurdles. You may think that you have to take a step back. Still, it was eye-opening because I saw so many opportunities in Canada and much support for women fostered by the community and the government. 

My parents were kind and helpful members of my community growing up. They were supportive of others, and great examples of my core values. So, what I always enjoyed and saw from childhood were my parents helping others. They never hesitated to help others. And that was one of my success points: I always want to be able to help others. 

Naomi Haile: What compelled you to give working at a startup a shot, and how did you know the environment that would help you grow? 

Mary Yazdani: What I know about myself and what I heard from others who have been through this immigration journey. I was talking to the successful people around us before coming to Canada. And most of them were saying that the most challenging point or part of the immigration process is leaving everything behind and building from scratch. Mentally, it can be too much pressure to accept where you are. You had a great foundation, connections, and financial stability, and then you have to forget everything and start from scratch. That was what I heard. 

Even before moving to Canada, when I originally planned to move, I asked myself how to overcome these challenges. How can I make this path faster? And 90% of the stories I heard immigrants share were mostly negative.  

My advice? First, forget about the people with a negative mindset. Surround yourself with people with a positive attitude; the positive energy will come to you. Subconsciously, you will adopt what you surround yourself with. 

Second, create a plan. You have no idea how much I accomplished in the first 40 days that I moved to Canada. No one could believe my results. I had four interviews in the first ten days after arriving in Canada.  

“I followed any good advice, like volunteering, going to open houses, networking, anything that was recommended and positive. And I saw amazing results. I found my first job. And although I prepared myself to start at junior positions and prove my skills/capabilities, I didn’t have to. These results came from following the right directions, having a positive attitude, and having a plan.” 

Naomi Haile: The mindset shift started before you got to Canada. What was it like entering the technology space here? Was it simple to find and immerse yourself in the ecosystem? 

Mary Yazdani: I love working, and I accept the responsibility when I’m doing something. I work with my full energy and focus. So why not start doing something for myself that aligns with my core values, purpose, and intention? An encouraging aspect of wanting to create something was also seeing young entrepreneurs in Canada experience great success. 

When I was working on another startup, they were in a bad financial situation. And I told myself it’s my role to think and strategize how to help them. So I started searching and needed to figure out how. I heard one sentence from someone about government support that is available. I found so much grant funding in different areas that I took advantage of that company; after a few months, they were in a much better place and not struggling financially anymore. That helped me understand the environment and see how supportive it is. 

Naomi Haile: Yeah, I’m glad you are surrounded by that. It’s also a testament to you and your energy and how you show up in spaces. What were your initial thoughts on what you could offer and how you would position your business in the marketplace? 

Mary Yazdani: As an immigrant new to Canada, I was fortunate enough to have my husband. He was a great mentor and a great support from the beginning. Several years before me, he moved to Canada and went through this path. So he knew the challenges and was helping me overcome them and go through them the fastest and best way. He was one of the people who encouraged me to do something for myself. 

The idea of GenesisLink was initiated through conversation. Our friends, relatives, and family were talking to us about their stories or willingness to move to Canada to establish their companies or study there. They were also talking to us about their stories of experiencing fraud – where someone who was supposed to help them stole their money and didn’t deliver anything. 

We were helping them move to Canada. Then, I mentioned to my husband that we were spending a few hours daily on this. I asked: “why are we not doing this as our official business?” And here, since immigration is a regulated occupation, we registered the business to help people move to Canada. 

I was building GenesisLink while working full-time for that particular startup company. And even before newcomers arrived in Canada, I showed them various paths, connecting them with the centres I knew were helpful. We started generating revenue from our services. And I was building a community. Eventually, I quit that job and started working full-time on GenesisLink. I expanded our services, and this is how the business goes. You see other opportunities coming, and you use those opportunities. 

Naomi Haile: I’m sure you have many. What is a particular story of how you advised an organisation or an entrepreneur, and what was their result from working with GenesisLink? 

Mary Yazdani: GenesisLink offers different services. One of the services we offer is finding job opportunities for people outside of Canada and willing to move to Canada. And connect them with employers who are facing labour shortages. The other service is helping foreign entrepreneurs establish a business in Canada and expand a company in Canada with innovative ideas. 

Success Story: “One of my first clients was a referral from a friend. She asked, “Can you help him find a job?” I said, “Send me his resume.” At the time, he was a young guy aged 22 or 23. My first intention was to help this young person build a future in Canada and provide access to the opportunity he deserves. So that’s what I did. He was among one of the first clients that I had. I helped him connect with an employer in Canada. He moved to Canada. He got his permanent residency and gained so much experience.” 

Now, he’s working at an enterprise-level company and earning an excellent salary. He’s supporting his family and helping his parents come to Canada. 

“I’m not involved with that person daily, but when I hear his success story, if this is the one thing I did to change someone’s future, and that’s the impact I had in life, that’s good enough for me. I’ve supported many other families and individuals where even one sentence can make a big difference.” 

I enjoy every moment of what I do because I see this impact. 

You mentioned referrals earlier. Over 90% of our clients are referrals. 

Naomi Haile: Yeah, and it’s not surprising that they would want you to be a part of other things they’re building. It’s also about quality of life, building and sustaining a livelihood, and supporting your family and all these other critical areas. Could you talk about what was crucial for you to continue managing everything on your plate and everything else you had responsibility over? 

Mary Yazdani: As a mother and having the responsibility of a business… I can tell you that it’s overwhelming. I mean, it’s rewarding. Last year, I learned that a key and what is crucial for success and your well-being is asking for help. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. 

The other thing I want to mention is the pressures that are on women. I have some statistics that I wanted to share with you and your audience. In Canada, like other nations worldwide, women’s work is never done. A study by Statistics Canada estimated unpaid women’s work at home is valued between $17 billion and $900 billion, depending on how you calculate this value of the work. And another study puts the value of that work at 25% of GDP. Add on to that mental stress that they are experiencing. 

So it’s about harmony. I don’t believe in work-life balance. You should always have harmony and prioritise based on your needs at each time.

“You have to decide which parts of your life need more attention and then slow down on the other side. Resilience, optimism, and dedication are also key to this harmony in your family and professional life.”  

Naomi Haile: You mentioned some insights you’ve learned about work-life harmony. How can people assess what they need for their own lives when it comes to prioritising the ebbs and flows of work or raising a family? What have you learned that has resonated with you? 

Mary Yazdani: I have a high sense of accountability for all my responsibilities, from being a good mother and an entrepreneur to being in charge of and supporting my team. As I mentioned, I created that harmony by understanding my priorities. From the first day my daughter was born, I knew I would not sacrifice those hours with her after daycare. I wasn’t going to jeopardise that. So, my work was better postponed for after her sleep time. 

We must understand and prioritise our needs, having a concrete plan for each specific time. Sometimes, the priority is taking care of yourself and your well-being. This is a part of what was missing for a while in my life. I have to be healthy, and I have to have enough energy even to begin to support others. 

Naomi Haile: I’m also curious about your deep commitment to community building, mentoring, and supporting newcomers. What are the biggest misconceptions for immigrants, especially those seeking employment in a new country or pursuing their entrepreneurial ventures? 

Mary Yazdani: One of the biggest misconceptions is that you can’t find a job unless you apply to more than 100 job postings. This is just not necessarily accurate. If you are applying for 100 jobs and everything [on your application] is okay, you should receive a response. When I’m talking to my mentees, I recommend that they assess what went wrong and understand why no one was interested in giving you a call or a response. It’s not about repeating what you did the last six months. It’s about finding the problem, analysing it, and resolving it to ensure you get a positive response. 

The other misconception is that when people move or immigrate to Canada, they think the first thing they should do is validate their credentials or upgrade their certificates. People think they need to be better to get opportunities in Canada. One of the first things that you should focus on is building relationships. I believe in surrounding yourself with positive and successful individuals. Don’t just sit at home and send resumes. Go out and start networking. 

“That’s how I found my first job very quickly. And it was not because of the resumes that I sent.” 

I participated in a few community activities and attended open houses and workshops. One day, I met someone who had a conversation with their neighbour who was looking for someone to help in their business. They said, “I know a superstar,” and he connected us. That’s how I got the job. 

I also see two different groups. One group is overconfident and thinks they are overqualified for any position here, so they are getting rejected or not receiving any response. The second group thinks they are not good enough, so they get rejected.  

Both are wrong. 

We need to balance and know ourselves. First, we must know our capability, understand the culture in Canada, and build on that.  

The ‘barriers’ I thought were stopping/slowing me down- being a woman, a newcomer, and not being a native English speaker – were not. I realised that my results come from my work ethic and professional attitude. Dedication, accountability, and a positive mindset are the keys to their success. 

Naomi Haile: Would you say that those are some of the things that were very critical in terms of investments that you made in yourself? What are some other investments that you made in yourself? 

Mary Yazdani: As I mentioned, I was trying to surround myself with positive people and asking for advice. I was also using Google a lot. When I read something useful, I followed it. So, I read about volunteering. And right away, I signed up for volunteer activities. And I was not waiting for the organisations to send me volunteer opportunities. I asked anyone that I met if they needed help. 

“I was jumping to help others and participating, which was one of my best investments. It was an investment in people, potential, and purpose. It’s a combination of time, money, and resources. I was investing in human potential.” 

That aligns with my core principle of living with intention. 

Living my purpose is empowering everyone to succeed, thrive, and grow together. It’s not about being selfish and seeing how you can get an advantage over others without giving anything back.” 

Whatever I like for myself, I like for others to have. That’s how all of us can grow together and build a more thriving community. 

Naomi Haile: That’s beautiful. And that is very true. For those who are listening and resonate with what you are saying, what is the best place for people to connect with you? How can people support what you’re working on? How can they connect with you and learn more about what is happening in your world? 

Mary Yazdani: People can connect with me online by following my LinkedIn profile, where I share my insights and updates about my work and advocacy. Reach out for collaborative opportunities. These are all great ways to support my mission of empowering the next generation, immigrants, and newcomers and contributing to meaningful change together. 

Naomi Haile: Beautiful. Thank you, everyone, for listening to this episode of The Power Why podcast. We will catch up with you in the next episode. 

Mary Yazdani: Thank you so much for having this discussion. 


A profile picture of smiling Naomi Haile, Talent Strategy Consultant & Podcast Host - who's standing in front of a light blue background.Naomi Haile, Talent Strategy Consultant & Podcast Host

A human capital professional and inclusion strategy expert, Naomi Haile understands people. With 7+ years of experience spanning international tax compliance at the Canadian federal government and consulting at specialized boutique firms, Naomi leverages data about how people interact with systems and filters them through her unique lens to build responsible organizations. Using innovative design thinking strategies, she works with executives and their high-performing teams to co-create sustainable solutions for even the most complex of human capital challenges.

Currently, she is a Senior Talent Strategist, Office of the CEO, at WritersBlok, a white-glove ghostwriting agency that helps business leaders, celebrities, executives, politicians, and athletes turn their personal stories into brand assets. In addition to her consulting work, Naomi is the producer and host of the rising Power of Why Podcast (which boasts over 30K downloads and 200 active monthly listeners), where she interviews top global and local industry leaders. Most notably, her recent interview with Netflix’s Chief of Human Resources Officer was featured on Business Insider.

An avid traveler, Naomi has explored over 25 cities and 11 countries, and loves to connect with new cultures through her passion for food. When she’s not monitoring her investment watchlists, she is boxing or enjoying a Broadway show.

Feb 12, 2024

A text based logo for International Women's Month - written in black over a white background. This featured story is brought to you by the Power of Why Podcast in collaboration with Invest Ottawa, with critical support from BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund, the Title Sponsor of International Women’s Month 2024.

Five inspirational leaders are selected each year to represent International Women’s Month. They are role models who significantly impact our economy, community and society and embody the spirit, goals and values of IWM.  We teamed up to produce this special series to celebrate women leading in Ottawa for International Women’s Month and shine the spotlight on our IWW 2024 featured leaders to unpack their passion and purpose.

In support of its Women Founders and Owners strategy, Invest Ottawa offers programs and services that enable and accelerate the growth and success of women entrepreneurs from every walk of life. Visit www.investottawa.ca/women to learn more! 


Relationships are key. Through experience, you’ve sharpened your problem-solving skills, infused love into your creative self, and deepened your leadership acumen. Yet, these strengths may not always be apparent on paper… 

It’s about transforming your most vital skills to your next opportunity. 

Keira Torkko has consistently demonstrated this throughout her 25-year career across various sectors. From leadership roles in government agencies focused on science and technology research, to national sports coaching organizations and the banking sector to small technology companies early in her career. When Keira least expected it, her relationships enabled her to navigate unconventional career paths and build a compelling narrative. 

Today, Keira is Assent‘s Chief People Leader and Chief of Staff, cultivating a culture of growth, excellence, and high performance. Her dedication has been instrumental in positioning Assent as a magnet for top talent. Keira is also a board member at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and chairs the Ottawa Heart Institute Research Corporation. She is also actively engaged in her passion for community sports. 

How can you create your own non-traditional and extraordinary opportunities? Keira shares insights on where to begin. 

This episode is for you if: 

  • You want to improve how you give and receive feedback for maximum growth. 
  • You’re a leader looking to embed your values in everything you do. 
  • You want to position yourself as a problem-solver where you are today. 

Looking for a specific gem? 

[3:22] Keira grew up on a farm. 

[5:22] Moved to Ottawa for the technology boom. 

[8:04] A sports injury ended her competitive sports career, but it started her coaching career. 

[9:32] A story about building your network. 

[14:00] Transferring your most vital skills to your next opportunity. 

[14:53] Keira’s job is to think about business puzzles through the lens of people. 

[15:23] Non-traditional career path through non-traditional means of applying to jobs. 

[16:00] Relationships are your key! Your approach to problem-solving and leadership acumen may not always be obvious on paper. 

[17:06] How to position yourself as a problem-solver where you are today. 

[19:08] In 2023, approximately 23% of Keira’s organization took on a new adventure (people mobility – changed role, promotion, move to another team).  

[21:04] People pay attention to the small things.  

[24:51] Peer recognition tool with over 95% usage (both in receiving and giving feedback) at Keira’s current organization. 

[25:15] How to embed your values at all levels of your organization. 

[28:00] I am relentless about asking for feedback. 

[30:38] How can you prepare to provide feedback?  

[37:20] PSA for women’s heart health. 

[41:40] Taking courses in unrelated topics. 

People and Resources Mentioned in This Episode 

Breaking Career Growth Stereotypes 

Bonusly.com – Peer Recognition Tool 

Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance (CWHHA) Program 

Connect with Keira 

LinkedIn – Keira Torkko 

Connect with BDC 

LinkedIn – BDC Capital (Canada) 

Twitter – @bdc_capital 


Naomi Haile: Tell us about your origin story. 

Keira Torkko: Thanks, Naomi. My teenage boys will be thrilled to hear that I have an origin story – I think that’s a comic reference. I grew up on Vancouver Island, on the west coast of Canada. I was raised on a farm, which is foundational to my belief that “hard work pays off”. On a farm, you just do what needs to be done, roll your sleeves up, and know that rewards will come eventually. 

So, I grew up on the West Coast; I went to university in Victoria, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My family did not talk about university; I didn’t even know what options were available to me. Someone came to the school and presented about computer science and business. And I thought “great”. I started out in computer science, and in the early 90s, I didn’t want to program for my whole career. So, I moved into business and got a business degree. I’m also an accountant with an accounting designation. But I never really practiced either computer science or accounting. I just always used them as secrets in my back pocket. 

My partner and I moved to Ottawa during the high-tech boom. We lived here briefly and knew we wanted to start a family. So we decided that one of us needed a little bit more stability. That’s when I decided to go to the National Research Council because there was still a really heavy tech involvement, but I had more stability. 

Naomi Haile: I didn’t know you grew up on a farm. Were you encouraged to color outside of the lines or stay within them? 

Keira Torkko: It seems like a long time ago now. But one of the things that remains with me is I get up every morning at 5am. We had 180 acres [of land], and all had to work on this farm. When we weren’t in school, we were working. I don’t know that I was encouraged to color inside or outside the lines. For me, that just developed me. I had a chance to observe others around me who were doing cool, different things. 

Naomi Haile: Could you share your career journey and what drew you to health research, sports organizations, and banking? Did it have anything to do with those sectors, or was it more about the leadership you would be called to do in those roles? 

Keira Torkko: Wow, that’s a great question, Naomi. I was always an athlete growing up. I was always outdoors playing basketball, field hockey, and softball. I was a pretty good athlete, but then I had an injury. So, my competitive sports career had to take a back seat then. And I started coaching after that. I still played sports, but when you have a competitive mindset, it’s hard not to play sports as competitively as you did in the past. 

Throughout my career, I always looked for great leadership because I had that in team sports growing up. I loved being a coach. And so I coached various different sports. I joined the NRC because I was interested in the tech they were doing, like working with world-class researchers. Over the 12 years I was there, I had two kids, eight different jobs, and constantly moving and evolving. But I got to a point where I knew that I’d reached my cap there. I don’t have a PhD in molecular sciences. 

When I started to think about what was next, I applied for a job in a sports organization. It was the first time I’d put together a CV in years. I also had a career coach who was helping me think about things differently at that time. And so I went to this interview, and I thought, you know, I nailed that interview, I got this. And they phoned me to say, you didn’t get the job, there was somebody who just had a lot of really specific knowledge of that organization in that space. But this woman told me, “We were really impressed, and we’re going to find you a job in sport.” And I thought that was the nicest “no” I have ever received. Not long after, I received a call that they found me another place to interview, and that was at the Coaching Association of Canada. So I got to live that every day, and it was a very purpose-driven, valuable part of my career. 

Naomi Haile: Wow, what a story. And it’s not something that you could ever plan for. How have you brought in that coaching mindset and that people-centric mindset to your role? 

Keira Torkko: Another really great question. What’s interesting about my role at Assent is that it also came because of somebody I knew. I’m the Chief People Officer and the Chief of Staff role to the leadership team. And so, my coaching sometimes covers a broader perspective. When I was offered the VP of Employee Experience (originally), I said I’d never been solely in HR. I’ve led it as a chief operating officer (COO) or general manager, but I have yet to focus solely on it. 

Then I started to research some big companies in the U.S. and the paths that their Chief People Officers have taken; they weren’t necessarily coming from traditional pathways. They were bringing a lot of different experiences. And so I can get knowledge of technology, licensing, and commercialization, from driving high performance through coaching leading a business development team. It gives me a different insight into people’s issues. All the roles that I’ve had, and I’m you’ve probably heard this on your show a lot, Naomi, I’ve gotten them because of, you know, somebody who I knew. 

I have a non-traditional path, and going through traditional means of applying for jobs, I would have never been screened for an HR role. If somebody didn’t know me and know how I thought organizationally, how I lead people, and how I felt about moving that team forward.  

And so a lot of my coaching is how do you take what you’ve got and demonstrate yourself differently? Naomi, what’s your unique brand? And how does that show up in all the things you do so that people remember what Naomi brought to the situation? And so, I think of always using that as the lens and asking how I apply something from my experience here to a different place. That is really meaningful. 

Naomi Haile: How do you look at development for the people on your team? Also, when it comes to designing experiences for development, what are some of the things you’re thinking about? 

Keira Torkko: A phrase I use often: 

“I believe culture is the accumulation of meaningful moments.” 

It’s not always about the big values written on your kitchen wall (which we do have because it’s important to be reminded of them), but it’s also the decisions you make daily. How you treat people at all levels of the organization is powerful. Everyone must know the phrase what gets measured gets done. And, you know, people are driven by targets. We’re quite purposeful about a target around new adventures in the organization. And that means somebody taking on a changing role in their team, receiving a promotion, or moving to another team. 

“Approximately 23% of our organization took on a new adventure last year.” 

We publish the new adventures and talk about them. We share that data with our teams and with our board. It is essential to ensure that people’s abilities are public. It is the small things that matter. 

I have run a January health challenge in the company for the last four years. We have teams from all over the world. This challenge is about how much we can walk from Ottawa to Eldoret, Kenya because we have hundreds of employees in Kenya. Teams track their steps. If you do an hour run, it’s equivalent to X number of steps. I would see somebody in this challenge and acknowledge an increase in someone’s step count every day for the last week. And I would send random/weird gifts — an exercise ball or a funny neck exerciser. 

I got so swamped this year in early January that I didn’t tackle this challenge. About 10 people have reached out to me to ask about the health challenge, and I thought, oh my goodness, people pay attention. Those make the culture of the organization.

Naomi Haile: What a great way to tie many of your worlds into your current role. Leadership is not connected to a person’s position or rank. When it comes to inspiring or empowering specific teams in the organization, how do you align organizational values with talent strategy? 

Keira Torkko: It’s even more relevant now that I wear two hats in the organization: the Chief People Officer and the Chief of Staff. The Chief of Staff role gives me more space to be involved in more operational and organizational initiatives, so I can think about it with more intent now. My most important role in the organization is recruiting the leadership team and ensuring our leadership team reflects the organization’s values. I take that really seriously. 

When I first started the organization, two women were on the leadership team. Then, for a period of time, I was the only female on the leadership team. Now, there are four. Diverse perspectives bring different values. Now, 47% of all people leaders at Assent are female, which is quite powerful, and we’ve got amazing representation.  

But as I said, small moments make the difference. We use a tool at Asset called Bonusly, a peer recognition tool. We have over 95% usage in receiving and giving feedback across the organization. And every time you reward somebody with something, you must use a hashtag. And our hashtags are primarily driven by our values. So, we embed our values in tools into our performance reviews and different community initiatives. We try to show what our values mean on an everyday decision-making basis. 

Naomi Haile: I’m so glad you brought up recognition tools. They inform and help build a culture of trust. 

Keira Torkko: You asked the question about being an effective coach, and being an effective coach really is about delivering great feedback. Everyone will use the phrase “feedback is a gift” until they get it. It takes a lot of work to create a culture of great feedback and requires meticulous preparation to be a good coach.  

I remember a situation where I was given feedback by a leader of mine a few organizations ago. I am relentless in asking for feedback, so I asked for input. And I always try to make it easy for the giver. So, I asked for feedback about a specific thing. For example, “Naomi, can you please give me feedback on the speed of my speaking during our podcast?” And I remember asking a leader of mine previously what specific skills I needed to get to the next level of the organization. I was in a role at that time that required no financial knowledge, certainly to be able to manage a budget. The leader at the time said to me, “Well, Keira, I think you can probably learn to up your game in finance.” Do you realize I’m a CPA? I am actually an accountant. And it was clear they hadn’t done their homework. They could have been more thoughtful about providing that feedback. From that moment on, my trust in the feedback I got from this person was lost. 

When you talk about trust, it’s a loop with feedback. You can give feedback; you’re in a trusted relationship. But the trust goes down if you need to be more honest about your feedback. I can remember where I was sitting, what I was wearing, and how I was feeling when I got that feedback. 

Naomi Haile: What are some helpful things to know as someone prepares to give feedback? 

Keira Torkko: If you’re not a genuine, authentic person, people can see through it right away. This is why meticulous preparation makes sense. 

“You want to show that you’ve done your research and deliver it in a way that they’re going to receive it in the spirit in which it’s intended.” 

I received an email once. Ruth Raman sent me an email with some feedback 15 years ago. That email started with, “Please accept this feedback in the spirit with which it’s intended to help us both work on this project better.” It was one of the most meaningful phrases I’ve heard.  

People know what your intentions are when you’re delivering feedback. So you’ve got to be really, really genuine. When thinking about coaching somebody and delivering feedback, I often think about how it makes somebody feel. Even if it will be feedback that they may not want to hear, I want them to leave feeling that I’m invested in them being better. I’m not giving them this feedback because I want them to feel bad about it. I’m giving them this feedback because I want them to think, “What am I going to do to ensure that the next piece of feedback is how I’ve progressed.” 

Naomi Haile: I appreciate all these stories and moments you’ve recalled from 15-20 years ago! 

Keira Torkko: You know, it’s so funny; any great strength can also be your weakness. As my husband and two boys remind me, I have an elephantine memory. And so yes, I remember these things that my family and colleagues probably wish I didn’t. 

Naomi Haile: What drives you every day? In the different positions that you hold, what is your purpose? 

Keira Torkko: Underlying my purpose is authenticity. My purpose is to be honest and help people develop and grow. I joined the Heart Institute as a board member because I’ve had a lot of family members impacted by heart health. I also knew I could contribute because I’ve worked in a research organization for many years. I tried to think about how I could have an impact using my unique set of skills. When I think about the purpose, it’s about embedding some of those innate values and skills in people and helping to bring out what they already have. 

Naomi Haile: You mentioned your role as a board member. Big themes in our conversation have been coaching and supporting others, which is also a valuable leadership perspective. Please share the importance and significance of your board position, specifically on the board of the Ottawa Heart Institute and the Chair of the Heart Institute Research Corporation. What insights have you gained regarding health, especially women’s heart health, and the importance of self-care specifically? 

Keira Torkko: Great question. I will do a public service announcement right now about women’s heart health because I’m passionate about it. Women are underdiagnosed, treated, researched, you know, and are unaware of their own heart health. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, and it’s not just by 2%. It’s actually the number one killer of women by a big gap. I’m not a doctor, so I’m not going to tell you the specifics, but I’m going to use this moment to encourage every woman listening to this to look up what those symptoms are. 

You can look at the Women’s Heart Health Alliance program; just increase your knowledge and know your numbers around cholesterol and lipids because I want everyone to have a long, happy, healthy life. 

Early on in this particular board experience, I learned that having a unique non-traditional path to the board is just as valuable as any other leadership capacity. At my first board meeting at the Heart Institute, I didn’t know much about provincial health care, so I was nervous about coming to the board. I stayed up all night reading how hospitals are funded, which made me a bit late for the meeting. 

Finally, I get in, and I sit down with all the papers I printed off and the notes I made. I was over-prepared and suffering from major impostor syndrome. And I sit down, and the person next to me goes to shake my hand and says, “You must be the new board member, Keira; I’m Dalton McGuinty.”

And for those who don’t live, because you’ve got global listeners, Naomi, good for you. He used to be the Premier of Ontario, which means he used to run the provincial health care system. So here’s somebody with 15 years of experience and me with 15 hours… And I tell the board chair, “I’m never going to have this level of experience.” And he says to me, “Of course, you’re not; we didn’t bring you on the board because of that. We want people with completely different backgrounds to add to that experience; you’re running sports organizations, you lead people, you know, research, and that’s what we want you to bring to the table”. 

“The premise here is that a different background is a benefit in so many ways. You always have to be thinking creatively about how you apply it and not feel like an impostor just because you don’t have the same experience as somebody next to you. I think that’s really important to keep in the front of your mind.” 

Naomi Haile: Are you someone who writes a lot? How do you intentionally think about your past experiences? And what’s the best investment you’ve made in yourself? 

Keira Torkko: Yeah, I don’t write much, but my brain is really, really active. My brain is constantly trying to gather information from different sources to develop a trend or insight. And there are probably two areas of investment that I’ve made that I’ll mention. Taking courses in things that are unrelated to what you’re doing. As an accountant, I’m required to do professional development (PD) every year to keep my accounting designation active. When I do PD, I ask myself what I do not know much about. 

The other investment I’ve always encouraged people to buy is something physical that you can have as a reminder that hard work pays off when you receive a bonus or an unexpected sum of money. I have an amazing team member; when I asked her what she would do with a bonus she received a few years ago, she said, “Oh, we’re going to buy a new toilet.” *laugh*. Even if it’s $50 of this bonus, I want you to buy something that you wouldn’t buy (a luxury, even) so that every time you look at it, you can say, “Hard work pays off.” And it’s a memory of what you did and how you felt when rewarded. 

“It’s not just you what you did, but how you felt when you were rewarded.” 

I have two pairs of ridiculous shoes, but every time I wear them, I’m reminded that I did this and was recognized for it. 

Naomi Haile: You talked about investing in things you’re curious about, whether it’s psychology, brain health, women’s health, or taxes. What are two things you are curious about? 

Keira Torkko: This may be an unusual answer. Yesterday, I asked a friend to teach me how to do cryptic crosswords. I am a crossword junkie. I love them. And I always see the cryptic crossword in The Globe and Mail on Saturdays. And I’ve learned that these crosswords are deliberately misleading, and they force you to think differently. So, you have to be creative and think about things beneath the surface. And for me, it’s forced curiosity. And I’m having a hard time learning it because it’s forcing me to think completely differently. And I’m also really curious about development because I am living the craziness of teenage boys in my home.  

Naomi Haile: I love it. Thank you so much, Keira. It was a pleasure to meet you and have this conversation so that others could benefit from learning about your non-traditional career path.  

Keira Torkko: Thanks, Naomi. You had great questions. 


A profile picture of smiling Naomi Haile, Talent Strategy Consultant & Podcast Host - who's standing in front of a light blue background.Naomi Haile, Talent Strategy Consultant & Podcast Host

A human capital professional and inclusion strategy expert, Naomi Haile understands people. With 7+ years of experience spanning international tax compliance at the Canadian federal government and consulting at specialized boutique firms, Naomi leverages data about how people interact with systems and filters them through her unique lens to build responsible organizations. Using innovative design thinking strategies, she works with executives and their high-performing teams to co-create sustainable solutions for even the most complex of human capital challenges.

Currently, she is a Senior Talent Strategist, Office of the CEO, at WritersBlok, a white-glove ghostwriting agency that helps business leaders, celebrities, executives, politicians, and athletes turn their personal stories into brand assets. In addition to her consulting work, Naomi is the producer and host of the rising Power of Why Podcast (which boasts over 30K downloads and 200 active monthly listeners), where she interviews top global and local industry leaders. Most notably, her recent interview with Netflix’s Chief of Human Resources Officer was featured on Business Insider.

An avid traveler, Naomi has explored over 25 cities and 11 countries, and loves to connect with new cultures through her passion for food. When she’s not monitoring her investment watchlists, she is boxing or enjoying a Broadway show.

Feb 6, 2024

A text based logo for International Women's Month - written in black over a white background. This featured story is brought to you by the Power of Why Podcast in collaboration with Invest Ottawa, with critical support from BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund, the Title Sponsor of International Women’s Month 2024. We teamed up to produce this special series to celebrate women leading in Ottawa for International Women’s Month and shine the spotlight on our IWW 2024 featured leaders to unpack their passion and purpose.

Five inspirational leaders are selected each year to represent International Women’s Month. They are role models who significantly impact our economy, community and society and embody the spirit, goals and values of IWM.  


Recognized as a “fixer” in the business world, Susan Odle has played a significant role in the lives of leaders grappling with complex problems through hands-on transformational change. How? By adopting the Successful Change Mindset. With a gift of discerning patterns in a business and amplifying what works, Susan’s latest entrepreneurial venture, 8020CS, and book, Successful Change, are examples of her mission in action. 

Leading global channel teams, holding VP of Operations roles, working with PE teams in the U.S., navigating multiple M&A events, founding three advisory agencies, raising her daughter as a solo mom… 

Here’s how she earned the moniker of “fixer” and never lost her self-belief.  

Listen to the episode on Spotify / Apple Podcasts / Google Podcasts 

 Tune in to the podcast or take the time to dive into the article found below.

Regardless of the format, great content is headed your way!

This episode is for you if: 

  • You’re an entrepreneur eager to learn the successful change mindset 
  • You’re seeking a robust framework for problem-solving 
  • You have personal or professional ambitions, but don’t know where to start 
  • You’re learning to build your self-belief even in times of adversity.

Looking for a specific gem? 

[4:59] The daughter of immigrants. 

[7:17] Susan went where opportunity and adventure was. 

[13:20] The best operations people are those who have set in the shoes of those they are leading. 

[15:05] Susan’s track record of trust and evidence that gives people confidence that she can do things she has never done before. 

[16:24] Earning the moniker of “fixer”. 

[17:38] I have the ability to see patterns in a business which helps to amplify the things that are working and fix the things that are broken. 

[19:40] What personal attributes have made me successful? (try this!) 

[27:20] Do you have a personal goal? This blueprint is your game plan for action. 

[35:25] Curiosity is what enables you to scratch beneath the surface. 

[37:05] Susan does not believe in micromanagement. 

[43:20] It hasn’t all been glamorous, I had to sell my house during a downturn. 

[43:50] The best entrepreneurial start: clear vision, value and intention. 

[44:40]: The best investment Susan made in herself (hint: self-belief). 

People and Resources Mentioned in This Episode 

Order “Successful Change” by Susan Odle on Amazon. 

Ottawa Music Industry Coalition 

Connect with Susan 

Website – 8020CS 

LinkedIn – Susan Odle 

Connect with BDC 

LinkedIn – BDC Capital (Canada) 

Twitter – @bdc_capital 


 Naomi Haile: Tell us about your origin story.  

Susan Odle: I was born in England and had a very British upbringing. I’m mixed race. So I have African, Indian and European roots. My parents were born in Guyana, South America and I had quite a conservative upbringing. I was not the compliant child. But that’s just the creative streak in me and not being bound to a defined box. 

Naomi Haile: Were you encouraged to color outside of the lines or stay within them? 

Susan Odle: I was not encouraged to color outside the lines. I’m an immigrant to Canada, my parents leaped three continents and we finally ended up in Canada. When you come from an immigrant experience, you’re under a certain amount of pressure to conform in order to get ahead. You sacrifice a little bit of the freedom in order to open doors. You can judge that or not, but that’s the way it was. 

I was definitely raised to stay within the boundaries. But when I felt the need to color outside the line or break through the line and paint my own mosaic, I’ve done it 100% My whole life. 

Naomi Haile: Describe your journey to Canada. 

Susan Odle: I was about six and a half. When I came to Canada, my life here was good. Growing up in southern Ontario, Pickering. Outside of Toronto, a small town, next to a big city. That big, multicultural experience and opportunity was massive. 

I’ve seen different experiences within Canada. But Ottawa is an amazing city. It is this happy medium of everything Canada has to offer. I’ve called it home for the last 18 years. And this is where I will be home for the rest of my life. I’ve experienced a lot and just going where opportunity and adventure has taken me. 

Naomi Haile: What was your entry into technology? You read about it in a newspaper and knew you had to enter this space. 

Susan Odle: I’ve always been around tech and I will thank my father for this forever. He has passed away. He was always into the latest gadget. He lined up at RadioShack to buy the first VIC-20 computer, which was the first home computer accessible to working class families.  

When I was reading the Toronto Star, there was an article about this new, booming industry. I was the top sales rep and high-end furniture store in Toronto. It was the premier kind of job, but boring as all hell. And that wasn’t enough for me. I started applying for jobs with no credentials in order to get a job in tech. I didn’t give up. And I finally got a call from a company called CentriFax and they offered me a straight commission job. I walked away from my salary job because I knew I wanted to be in tech. 

I kept my nose down, worked hard to build trust, took on new challenges, produced results, which inspires leadership to give you more challenges. When I think about my first software job — 24 years ago. 

You better be passionate about what you’re doing. If you’re going to sustain that level of performance and curiosity and drive over that many years. It’s got to be something you really enjoy doing.

Naomi H: How did you develop your craft and expertise? 

Susan Odle: I am a generalist. I’m a senior generalist. My career started off carrying in sales. Then, distributed sales – channels. I’ve also been an entrepreneur. This is actually venture number four. When you operate your own business, you are finance, marketing, sales, delivery. And my last role was VP operations. Operations from a technology point of view are holistic. If you haven’t performed in multiple functions, how can you possibly know what’s going on to a certain degree in a particular function? You can’t. 

My success as an operations lead has been because I’ve performed in sales, professional services, channels, and in being a hack in marketing as an entrepreneur, I run my own business. 

The best operations people are those who have sat in the shoes of people they are leading and giving guidance to. You can’t speak the same language if you haven’t lived it. Being a generalist is huge. If you have an ambition to advance your career or if you have an ambition to start your own business, that broad experience is critical. It’s important. 

Naomi H: Did you did you know that when you first started or how did you know 

Susan Odle: Absolutely not. I can’t say enough about the people that have given me opportunities over my career. Based on the potential that they saw in me backed up by my results. I’m not happy to just take a paycheck to do the same thing over and over again. When Mark, our VP of Sales at Omnimark Technologies at that time, decided they needed a channel strategy. He asked if I wanted to take that on. I took a number of courses in channel management from respected organizations. We started the channel and drove revenue through it. 

Hard work produces evidence of progress. Then that produces results. That trail of evidence is critical. And when you do that, people will notice. Then they will trust you to take on new opportunities that you may not be qualified on paper to take on. 

I am not qualified on paper to do much of what I’ve done. But I’ve got a track record of trust and evidence that gives people confidence that I can do things that I may not have done before. That’s been my narrative my entire career.

Naomi H: You earned this moniker fixer. What has been critical for you to lean into your gifts? 

Susan Odle: Great question. I didn’t know the fixer thing was a thing until three years ago, when someone mentioned it to me. When I looked back, I realized its truth. In 1999, I was pulled in to take over a channel team that was just driving trickling revenue, we needed it to be a lot better. We reorganized everything we were doing and we produced amazing results in 18 months. That was my first real fixer accomplishment. I kept working. C-suite members and, on a few occasions, board members would call me and ask to help companies. And I would do it. I would fix the problem. And then I would be bored. And it was time to move on to the next problem. 

It might be my music background. I have the ability to see patterns in a business and hone into those variances in the melody. Amplify the things that are working and fix the things that are broken.

I don’t I don’t see hierarchy. People are people at every level. The combination of being able to have an open mind, see trends, and then bring people together to take action efficiently. That’s my secret weapon. I enjoy the work. I enjoy the challenge. 

Naomi Haile: Why did you start your latest venture 8020CS and what is the concept behind the name?  

Susan Odle: 8020CS is six letters and numbers that mean a lot. I remember sitting in my office and asking myself: “what is it that has made me successful in my career? What are the personal attributes that have really aided my career? 

The CS in 8020CS stands for “Core Strength”. CORE is an acronym that stands for Confidence. I’m a very confident person. I have a lot of confidence in myself to take on challenges, take on new things, and see things through. I’m very Open to new opportunities and new adventures and challenges. I am absolutely Resilient. It’s in my blood from generations way back. And I work hard. I’ve been working since I was 13 years old. So C stands for pretty important things in my experience of being successful. And then the S is a measure of CORE. 

In the book, there’s a scoring model. And 80-20 is the Pareto Principle. The 80-20 rule. It is about focus. What are the 20% of things that you should be amplifying? And what are the 20% of things that you should be mitigating and those things that have a multiplier impact on your activities. 

The blueprint and model is applicable to your personal life and to your business life. It’s a mindset model. It’s about alignment and buy-in. 

Naomi Haile: I haven’t finished the book yet. I believe it’s a guide to consistently reference. Can you walk us through the framework for a hypothetical challenge? 

Susan Odle: I’m happy to share a personal story about how it would have been helpful to give me guidance at a challenging time in my life. The 8020CS blueprint is a tool. And it is something that you can go back to and refer to. But if people apply it enough, it will become a part of their mindset. It’s about adopting this successful change mindset. 

It gives people a repeatable way to work through how they’re going to approach capturing an opportunity that’s important to them. And when you have an opportunity, or want to go after a problem you want to solve, you need other people to participate in those things. Then alignment and buy in is important. It helps people feel validated that they’re on the right path through this buy-in model. 

In sales we talk about an elevator pitch. If you’re trying to accomplish something, you need to be able to communicate based on the homework you’ve done. In preparation for presenting an ask, you really need to be able to nail that. 

Gate number two, if you were to succeed at that ask, what’s the payoff? What’s the ROI that you’re going for? That needs to be something that you can measure. 

Gate number three is all about the strategy. What are the things that you’re going to do? It’s not tactical, but what’s your approach? When are you going to do it? Where are you going to do it? How are you going to do it? 

Gate four gets into the tactics. What are the time bounds and milestones I’m going to commit to? What am I going to get done this week, this month that’s going to support the strategy and deliver the ROI. 

Gate five is your sustainability plan. How will you ensure that you don’t fall back to the old habits that got you into the problem in the first place? Or if you’re doing something new, how you’re going to protect that thing and nurture it along? It’s all about buy-in. 

Through all of the gates, there is a scoring model that lets you scratch beneath the surface. 

If you are an individual who has a personal goal. You want to release an album. Do you know how to play an instrument? Okay, even if you don’t, maybe you’re a lyricist. And then you team up with a musician that can co-write with you. The gates. What’s the ask? What’s your goal? What’s your strategy? What’s your timeframe? It’s universally applicable, but obviously, from a monetization point of view, my career is really focused on the business front. 

Naomi Haile: How do you decide whether to say yes or no to a particular opportunity? Additionally, what are some of the fascinating problems you’ve navigated in your work? 

Susan Odle: Every time I walked away from one of my advisory firms, it’s because there’s been an executive or board member that has asked me to come back full-time to become a strong member of the team. I’ll say yes if the problem is interesting enough and that I would not be bored. 

It’s hard to say no to people that have been your advocates and your trusted allies in business for a long time. The reason for the jumps in and out of self-employment are related to being pulled in to address specific problems on a full-time basis. 

In terms of one of the most interesting and complex opportunities that I’ve been through, I would say it was 100% the EBITDA turnaround that I had to deliver within a year. We had a very short window of time to significantly improve the bottom line. I was brought in specifically to do that, dropping into a large organization cold. I have to build relationships and establish trust. And then we reorganized how the organization functions in order to turn the bottom line around. That was daunting. And we succeeded to the benefit of many, many families. And I’m very proud of that. 

Naomi Haile: How do you build trust? 

Susan Odle: I’ve seen a lot of wealth over my career. As you go up the management ladder, you get exposed to different levels of wealth. And at the end of the day, people are people. Treat people like people. Imagine your organization is flat, and take an interest in people. For people coming up in their career, don’t pose. Be yourself. And be open to learning, be open to failure, and learn from failure. And treat people with respect. 

As you move into senior management, forget that you’re in senior management. Just do your job, do the work. And be curious about all of it. That’s what leadership is. On a human level, everybody is just who they are. Treat them like that. And you’ll be amazed at what you’ll get back in return in terms of the level of motivation of teams and people to move as one unit towards a common goal. 

Naomi Haile: A critical part of building trust is being curious about people and being genuine about who you are. 

Susan Odle: I think curiosity and being genuine is just fundamental to being successful in life. Period. It’s a bit lazy not to be curious. And if you’re not naturally curious, then you need to work on those skills, because curiosity is what enables you to scratch below the surface of something and understand what lies underneath it. 

As you know, statistically 70% of all transformation initiatives fail. And even though they’ve only captured that, from a business point of view, I think the same is true on a personal level. A lot of that is because people kind of go on the surface of what something is. It’s all the gray stuff underneath the surface that will trip you up at the time when you least expect it. And then, it’s really hard to recover from that. So do the work early, instead of waiting for it to break and then doing a lot of work to scramble and fix it later on. Just do the work. 

Naomi Haile: Scratching beneath the surface is something that needs to be embedded through your process. 

Susan Odle: That’s what the scoring model is all about at every gate. You’re using that scoring model at an individual stakeholder level. You’re not just doing it once and thinking that you’re fine. You’re holding yourself to account. 

Naomi Haile: Where do you start to understand what drives your team, and how we can motivate very different people to get on one accord? 

Susan Odle: I do not believe in micromanagement at all. The only thing that matters is measurable progress, which drives results. As a leadership team, if you are focused on providing clear guidance on the North Star, and how that trickles down to functional units, then let people work how they want. But hold them to account by measuring their progress towards whatever it is they’re responsible for delivering. 

If companies could take that approach, then you have a more flexible way of supporting people in their 60s, 50s, 40s, 30s, and 20s. 

Why does everybody have to operate under the same behavior when they’re very different people? We have to recognize the difference in how people are adapting and being raised into this world. I think leaders need to focus on measuring progress and producing results and give people the flexibility to do whatever they need to do to get there. Obviously, it can’t be completely boundless. But you can’t put everyone in the same bucket and behavior because they’re not the same. 

In tech businesses, we have customer advisory boards (CABs). Software companies will go out and pick a representation of customers from around the world to advise product development and go-to market strategy. Companies would be well advised to have a generational board within their businesses and learn and make some adaptations based on that. 

You don’t have to sacrifice results for understanding. You can have both. I think that’s the challenge of leadership is being open to doing something new. 

Rigidity in processes, matrix, and organizational design is not going to stand anymore. Things are changing way too fast. So take care of your people without sacrificing performance. You can do both.

Naomi Haile: In your book you mention that short-term thinking is expensive, through a layoffs example. 

Susan Odle: That’s right. I have to give credit to The People’s Court (television series), Judge Milian. She’s the one that used to say it. It’s an expression well-known in Latin culture. It’s brilliant. The quick slash and burn to improve the bottom line demotivates the people that are left behind. Yes, sometimes that has to be done. But if you are more proactive in managing your business, you can affect change before it comes to that. That won’t happen successfully in every business because there are factors that can be out of one’s control. But in many cases, businesses can avoid those types of situations, if they just are more proactive about facing a problem head on. 

What if you don’t have the people within your team that know how to resolve it? Then bring somebody in who can accelerate that with your team. Ego serves no place and benefits no one when you fail. So drop it and do what you need to do to help. 

Naomi Haile: What have you learned about people and leadership? And when you think about where you are today, on this new venture and coming out with your book, what do you appreciate most about where you are today? 

Susan Odle: I have experienced a lot. Nobody’s done everything, but I’ve experienced a lot broadly and deeply. I feel very well positioned to help a lot of people in a lot of different circumstances. That is exciting for me to be at this point in my career, where I have done enough to be a credible and valuable advisor and partner to leaders that want to do something new. 

Whether that’s changing a problem or capturing an opportunity. It feels like a milestone where I have enough experience to document it in a book. I wrote the book intentionally as a conversation, versus an academic, dry piece of reading. I feel very grounded in my experience — positive and negative. My journey hasn’t all been glamorous. I had to sell a house because of a downturn in my career at one point. I’ve learned a lot and I want to help people. 

With 8020CS, it marks the best entrepreneurial start for me, in terms of clear vision, value and intent. My intention is to help as many people as possible in achieving success. 

Naomi Haile: I often say purpose is not attached to any job or opportunity and the way that you’ve been able to, to help people in so many different facets of your life is truly remarkable. 

What is the best investment that you’ve made in yourself? 

Susan Odle: Hands down, it is belief in myself. 

And you can quantify that. From age 13, I tried to get a job at Burger King and I couldn’t because legally you have to be 14. So I worked for my dad for a summer. But I’ve always had a belief in myself. 

I’ve always ignored my credentials and just gone after what I’m passionate about. I’ve always shot higher than my rank.

People feel confidence. Confidence is not arrogance, by the way. Confidence is substantiated in some evidence and some experience. So when you’re in your early 20s, you can have confidence and belief in yourself with no experience and people will support you because of that energy. 

When you keep on practicing that investment of belief in yourself. It’s fair to call it an investment because when you hit hard times, your belief gets pummeled. You have to work hard to bring yourself back up to the point where your belief in yourself is where it was, before you got pummeled. 

I’ve been in tech and I’ve been a songwriter. Why the heck do I think I can write a book? Well, I did it. So that’s belief. 

When you go after your dreams, it’s a lonely journey. Even if you have supporters, which I have tremendous support. But your supporters don’t do the work for you. You have to do the work. That certainly takes a tremendous amount of commitment, and the commitment is fed by belief. 

Naomi Haile: Thank you, Susan. What is the best way for people to support you and connect with you online? 

Susan Odle: Number one, Naomi, thank you this is your questions were just wonderful. The conversation was broad and thanks for the opportunity. The best way for people to share the good news is to definitely buy the book, it’s on Amazon. If you just type in “Successful Change”. 

If you know of any leaders, I mentor people one-on-one, my whole business model is extremely flexible. You can literally book me for an hour once in your life. I want to help as many people as I can. I help leadership teams think through problems. I am also a keynote speaker. Visit 8020CS.com. I am happy to chat with anyone. 

Naomi Haile: Thank you for listening to another episode of the Power Why podcast. We will catch you in the next episode. 

 


A profile picture of smiling Naomi Haile, Talent Strategy Consultant & Podcast Host - who's standing in front of a light blue background.

Naomi Haile, Talent Strategy Consultant & Podcast Host

A human capital professional and inclusion strategy expert, Naomi Haile understands people. With 7+ years of experience spanning international tax compliance at the Canadian federal government and consulting at specialized boutique firms, Naomi leverages data about how people interact with systems and filters them through her unique lens to build responsible organizations. Using innovative design thinking strategies, she works with executives and their high-performing teams to co-create sustainable solutions for even the most complex of human capital challenges.

Currently, she is a Senior Talent Strategist, Office of the CEO, at WritersBlok, a white-glove ghostwriting agency that helps business leaders, celebrities, executives, politicians, and athletes turn their personal stories into brand assets. In addition to her consulting work, Naomi is the producer and host of the rising Power of Why Podcast (which boasts over 30K downloads and 200 active monthly listeners), where she interviews top global and local industry leaders. Most notably, her recent interview with Netflix’s Chief of Human Resources Officer was featured on Business Insider.

An avid traveler, Naomi has explored over 25 cities and 11 countries, and loves to connect with new cultures through her passion for food. When she’s not monitoring her investment watchlists, she is boxing or enjoying a Broadway show.

Jan 30, 2024

February has arrived, and the capital has become a picturesque wonderland.

Winter events are now underway – people started skating on the Rideau Canal, and we can’t wait for Winterlude this year! With ice sculptures, outdoor activities, and a warm sense of community spirit – Ottawa is celebrating winter like never before!  

Much like the animated winter activities, the job market is also buzzing with tons of new opportunities in tech and business. If you had a resolution to leap into your career this year, this February can be the perfect time for you to seek a new opportunity.

Check out the latest edition of our monthly list of ten tech companies in Ottawa that are currently looking for tech talent like you.

Find your next position today!   


1. Aerys   

What it does: 

Founded in 2010 by Jean-Marc Le Roux, Aerys is an IT Services and IT Consulting company that provides elegant solutions to industries to help them design, realize, and operate their projects in a 3D digital twin hosted on a collaborative platform. The company’s mission is to help industrial companies meet human and technological challenges through SmartShape, a 3D “digital twin” cloud collaboration platform for engineering and the AEC industry.  

The perks: 

Aerys provides a competitive salary package, comprehensive health benefits, a generous paid time off, and professional development opportunities. 

Current job openings: 

Project manager, Full-stack developer, and more jobs. 

 

2. DataKinetics   

 What it does: 

DataKinetics is a global leader in mainframe performance and optimization through a suite of tailored solutions such as mainframe modernization, and digital transformation. The company helps its clients optimize performance out of their mainframe to keep operational costs down while freeing up room for new workloads. DataKinetics clients include some of the world’s largest banks, credit card, brokerage, insurance, healthcare, retail and telecommunication businesses. 

The perks: 

Employees of DataKinetics enjoy full health and dental benefits, a relaxed work environment, team lunches, and substantial paid time off.   

Current job openings: 

Finance Director, Software Engineer, Product Marketing Manager, Senior Technical Writing Consultant, and more jobs. 

 

3. ThreeKit   

What it does: 

Founded in 2005 by Ben Houston, ThreeKit is an Enterprise Platform for Visual Commerce that improves the digital commerce experience, enabling people and businesses to build and configure custom products in real-time. ThreeKit’s technology is leveraged by companies across multiple industries, including Furniture, Apparel and Jewelry, Sports Equipment, Home Goods, Retail, and B2B Manufacturing.

The perks: 

ThreeKit offers a competitive salary along with other perks, including paid holidays and unlimited PTO, a comprehensive insurance package, including medical, dental, vision, disability and life insurance, hybrid work options, WiFi Reimbursement, and more. 

Current job openings: 

Project Manager, Senior DevOps Engineer, Senior Software Engineer, Senior Account Executive, and more jobs

4. Bluink    

What it does: 

Bluink is an award-winning, Canadian technology company that provides identity verification and digital ID platform solutions made in Canada for Canadian residents. The company’s mission is to empower people and organizations by making secure access simple using strong digital IDs. We do this by combining expertise and leadership with creativity and innovation.

The perks: 

Blueink provides a competitive salary package alongside medical and dental coverage, professional development opportunities, office equipment, and more.  

Current job openings: 

iOS Developer, PHP Developer (Intermediate or Senior), and more jobs.

 

5. DashQ  

What it does: 

Based in Ottawa, DashQ is an AI-based leasing management platform that pioneered a transformative approach to the way people find, secure and connect with rental housing. DashQ’s clients leverage their cutting-edge technologies to seamlessly manage and engage with prospects at scale in one, intuitive, automaton-packed interface, which allows them to bring all communication into one inbox and see for miles. 

The perks: 

Dashq.io offers competitive salaries along with other benefits such as performance-based bonuses, comprehensive benefits, fun company social events, three weeks of paid vacation, and paid holidays. The company also covers relocation packages from outside of the Ottawa or Montreal metro areas. 

Current job openings: 

Senior Full Stack Engineer, UI/UX Designer, and more jobs. 

6. Design Centered    

What it does: 

Design Centered is an Ottawa-based design and transformation consulting firm that provides strategic advisory and product delivery solutions along with other services throughout the design lifecycle, including conducting user research, prototyping, and product design.

The perks: 

Design Centered offers A competitive remuneration package, inclusive of stock options, reflecting individual employees’ expertise and contribution, the flexibility of a fully remote work environment, an opportunity to be part of a growing team in a dynamic and innovative company, and a supportive and collaborative work culture.  

Current job openings: 

Marketing Coordinator, UX Researcher, UX Designer, and more jobs. 

 

7. NetExperience   

What it does: 

NetExperience is an Ottawa-based Cloud platform company that helps service providers integrate WLAN controller and management capabilities into their back office. In partnership with Telecom Infra Project, the company offers the first end-to-end WLAN software and service compatible with Open Wi-Fi. They also provide professional services to integrate Open Wi-Fi into the customer’s solution. 

The perks: 

NetExperience provides an excellent compensation package and many perks, including casual dress, a comprehensive health and wellness coverage plan, a flexible work schedule, life insurance, on-site parking, remote working opportunities, and stock options. 

Current job openings: 

WLAN Sales Engineer / Network Architect, Technical Support Specialist, Junior Cloud Backend Developer, Vice President Product Management, and more jobs.

 

8. Questat   

What it does: 

Questat is an Ottawa-based start-up company that provides point-of-care blood analysis systems solutions. The company supports its clients by deploying unique innovative technologies, that not only transform diagnostic products but also expand into new platforms and solutions with superior health and economic outcomes.  

The perks: 

Questat offers a competitive salary, full health and dental benefits, professional development opportunities, and substantial paid time off.    

Current job openings: 

Sr. Mobile Computer Software Engineer, Sr. Software/Firmware Engineer, Sr. Mechanical Engineer, Mechatronics/Mechanical Engineer, and more jobs. 

 

 9. TerraFixing    

What it does: 

TerraFixing is an Ottawa-based affordable and scalable direct air carbon capture solutions provider. Their technology uses a 5-step temperature vacuum swing adsorption (TVSA) cycle that captures the CO2 from the air, purifies it, and yields high purity CO2. The company was founded by wanting to contribute to a sustainable legacy and view TerraFixing as a means to leave a positive mark on the world for generations to come.

The perks: 

The company provides a competitive salary package, health and wellness benefits, paid vacation days, professional development opportunities, and social activities. 

Current job openings: 

Assembly Technician, Process Equipment, Chemical Process Simulation Engineer, Senior Systems Test Engineer, Senior Process Engineer, and more jobs. 

 

10. Trycycle    

What it does: 

TryCycle Data Systems is an Ottawa-based digital health innovator, fostering genuine human connections. The company empowers healthcare providers, communities, and at-risk populations with solutions that elevate access to care and health outcomes. Trycycle offers solutions that ease the weight on the overwhelmed healthcare system by reimagining access to care and changing the way at-risk individuals receive treatment, services, and support.   

The perks: 

Trycycle offers a competitive salary package alongside other benefits, including hybrid work from home/office, flexible work hours, company-paid health and dental benefits plan and bonus paid “flex” days (in addition to vacation). 

Current job openings: 

Sales Operations Coordinator, DevSecOps Engineer, and more jobs. 



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