We’re Goin’ to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo: The Best Field Trip Yet!

After my son’s recent field trip to The Toronto Zoo, I encouraged him to write about his experience – the sights, the sounds, and of course, his own feelings and thoughts as he visited and learned about the animals and their habitats. A wise friend calls this Memorizing the Moment (so now I officially do too!) As a true animal lover, he wrote an amazing first draft! From there, we spent a little time together ensuring the best phrases and adjectives were chosen to describe what he saw and heard. If he didn’t include the animal’s colour, I suggested he add that detail. If there was an interesting sound that really stood out, I encouraged him to find a way to allow his readers to hear along with him. If there was a special moment he saw between the animals, I recommended he add a line or two to help paint a picture for us…so we could experience and see what he did, through his eyes.

While I guided him through this process and made a few suggestions, the final piece below belongs to him…and I couldn’t be prouder! To see him embrace and excel at writing about our furry friends as much as he loves the animals themselves was pretty magical!

I hope you enjoy taking this trip to the zoo with him as much as I did. And who knows…perhaps The Toronto Zoo is looking for a guest blogger?! 🙂


We’re Goin’ to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo: The Best Field Trip Yet!

By guest writer, Gave Lichtman, age 9

It was roughly 11:45 on a frosty January Monday morning when we finally, FINALLY went in the bus to go to the Toronto Zoo! The bus begun to move and the whole grade 4 class started to talk and we started to play a game called “sweet and sour.” The way you play is you wave or yell hello to someone on the street and if they wave back then they would be considered “sweet.” If the person doesn’t look or doesn’t wave then they are considered “sour.” The grade got a bit too excited so we got told to sit and not play the game anymore.

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Once we got to the zoo we all got so excited and started to chat about the groups and what animal we were going to create a habitat for as part of a school project. Once we all calmed down, Joanne and Maya, our guides for the afternoon, led us into a room that was all about learning about habitats and food chains, and so on. In the room, there was a table that had all different kinds of animal furs and animal skulls. We all got about 5 minutes to feel and touch the things on the table. They felt and looked so remarkable! Some of the furs were real and some were fake. The furs that they had were: Cheetah, Arctic Wolf (that one was very fluffy and soft!) and Zebra.

After all that, the grade split into 2 groups and I was in the “south” group that was on the side with the African Savannah and the African Rainforest. My animal was in the African Rainforest and it is called the Veiled Chameleon.

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First, we saw the Orangutan (in the Indomalaya region). It was so interesting! They swung so far, around 5 feet at once! As they swung, their strong, sharp, claws were scratching against the metal bars and the scratching created a quiet and weird sound. There were two of them, the mom and the daughter. For some reason, the mom dipped her bed sheet into the water and hid under it with her daughter!  They were bright auburn with a small body but extremely long and lean arms!

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After, we got to see two tigers, a male and a female. Sadly, they couldn’t have babies because in the wild tigers usually live on their own so they both lived in different cages but they were still very amazing to see! The female had this big, round, grey plastic ball that she was playing with. The ball made a sound that was scratching against the hard, rocky concrete.

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Next, we saw the towering giraffes! There were two once again male and female, but they couldn’t have babies quite yet because the male was only 5 years old, and the female was only 4 but they were still so tall! 16 feet to be precise! While we were gazing at the giraffes, the zookeeper came in to tell us about them and she told us that a giraffe’s leg is so strong that if it kicked a lion it would knock the lion unconscious!!! That’s a mighty leg! The zookeeper was also feeding the giraffes, but only the male wanted to eat because the female was a bit shy so she didn’t want to eat in front of us. As the male was munching on the celery and carrots and the female was chomping on the hay that was in a little cage up high because of how tall the giraffes were, I heard them and saw them chewing very intensely.

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Next, we went to the African Savannah area and in there we saw gigantic lions roaring and cuddling. The male had a large and fluffy mane and the lions were staying warm with it. The lions were cuddling under a rocky sort of area. We were only at the lion area for about one minute but it was still very wonderful to see!

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After that, we went to the cheetah exhibit and we saw 4 cheetahs and they were all so lovable and gorgeous with hundreds of black and tiny spots! Actually, I think that one or two of them were babies! There was one cheetah that went right in front of us and I heard it purr very quietly. She went on a large, grey rock and kind of stretched her neck, and viewed up straight through the glass as if she was star gazing! I found this very odd, but she wasn’t even blinking while she was doing that star gazing pose.

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After, we went to the African Penguin exhibit and we saw little black and white penguins waddling slowly but surely around their habitat. Some of them also were gliding through the water very gracefully on their stomachs. They were also squawking very loudly!

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Finally, we went to the Giant Panda exhibit! The furry white and black pandas were so cute! There were 3 of them and they were all just relaxing and eating bamboo. Sadly, the pandas are leaving soon and to be exact only 48 more days! The panda is known for their strong teeth so that it can bite through the tough bamboo!

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What was also sad was that the adorable giant pandas from China were the last animals that we saw so then we had to go back! Even though the time at the zoo was basically over, I am so happy I went! The whole grade met up at a bathroom area and we all talked about what we saw and how cool it was! We went on the bus and I sat beside Zach W. just like I did on the way there and on the way back instead of playing sweet and sour, we played a game where we tried to spot popular/nice cars.

This time at the zoo was an unforgettable experience and I am so happy that I am privileged and lucky enough to go to the zoo and have a special experience like I did!

 

 

 

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A Hole in One Friendship: Remembering Lou

For the past two years, I have booked a vacation day from work to volunteer at The Village Shul’s annual fundraising golf tournament. Both times, I was lucky to carpool to the event and spend most of the day with a special friend, Lou Orzech. Lou was the same age as my dad (his grandson and my daughter are close friends) and a cherished member of the community. To be honest, the volunteer job is not exactly demanding. For me, that is. I suspect Lou dedicated his personal time to some of the planning elements, but I have been a “ day of event” volunteer.

After the peak busy time – greeting golfers as they arrive, ensuring they’re registered and know the drill, and selling raffle tickets – it was a pretty chilled day (okay…a very chilled day!) Both times (two clear, sunny days) I spent most of the afternoon riding a golf cart with Lou, saying hi to the foursomes (Lou was like a local celebrity…you know the type), teasing them about their swings, stopping for a snack, and having a good laugh….all with Lou.

Along with so many others, I am truly heartbroken about Lou’s recent and rather sudden passing. The world lost a true gem when Lou left us.

As a professional committed to my career, I know it’s important to stay focused on my goals at work, and I am. But I’m also so grateful I booked those days off…to do something for my community, for myself, and most importantly, have the opportunity to spend this special time with a wonderful friend. I thought this would be a tradition we’d carry on for many years. I was looking forward to Lou picking me up next June –  we’d chat away about life, baseball, the beautiful weather…and arrive at the golf course to do it all over again. Me, Lou, and a golf cart. Sadly, that won’t be the case. But I will always cherish the memories I have.

So as much as we’re all focused on work goals, especially as we’ve recently kicked off a new calendar year, let’s not forget what it’s all about in the end. Relationships. Friends. Loved ones. Riding around a golf course on a picture-perfect day with nowhere to be but in the moment.

Rest peacefully Lou. xoxo

Helping Businesses and Employees Win…One Nudge At a Time

 

Originally posted by MoveTheDial on January 26, 2018. Compiled & written by Jori Lichtman, #MoveTheDial guest writer

Lindsey Goodchild is the Co-Founder and CEO of Nudge Rewards. Nudge Rewards delivers a mobile solution designed to engage, educate and reward frontline managers and employees to improve team performance and increase profitability. “We believe everyone deserves to love where they work. We change the lives of team members by creating a compelling, connecting, winning environment – a job people will love.” – nudgerewards.com.

1.      Tell us about the Nudge Rewards Journey.

I started my career in consulting in hospitality and sustainable tourism, working with big brands, often with fragmented workforces. The companies I consulted for had great plans in place, but there were challenges with frontline and head office synergies. There was often a disconnect between the two groups. Frontline employees weren’t working at a desk necessarily, and didn’t have corporate email addresses. But…they were digitally connected via their phones.

After recognizing this disconnect, I started to ask the question: What if we use a mobile app to connect with frontline employees and reward them for their participation and engagement?

I talked to clients and individuals within my network and started to share my ideas with them. I asked them if they would be interested in using a mobile app to stay connected with their frontline staff. This first discovery phase helped me validate that there was, indeed, a market for the idea.

While I was still working full time, I crafted the business plan on the side. Nights and weekends…I thought about how this would come to life. At first, I didn’t think I would leave my job – I didn’t think I would become a full-time entrepreneur. But of course, that changed.

About five years ago, I quit my job and went off on my own to try my hand with a startup. The first year was spent validating the idea, prototyping, and getting the first version of the platform ready. Pretty early on, I connected with MaRS, the Ryerson DMZ, and the larger tech community in attempts to “get-in” with the tech crowd. I was fortunate to meet an incredible advisor early on, and he actually introduced me to the development shop (The Working Group) who partnered with me to help get the first version of the software up and running (they also became my first investor!). It just so happened that I met Dessy Daskalov, Nudge Rewards’ co-founder, during a  session facilitated by The Working Group. At the time, she happened to be thinking about starting her own company, but as we spent more time together, we figured out that we’d be a pretty good team and so we decided to embark on this together!

2.      What makes Nudge Rewards so unique? 

We are a small team of 22 people, working with huge brands in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K., such as Choice Hotels and Rogers. We are a lean team with a limited budget but we are doing BIG things! Our focus is on retail, hospitality, and foodservice. We help organizations engage frontline employees to move the needle on initiatives and employee engagement – and everything is measurable of course.

Here’s a quick example of how it works: You’re a Golf Town employee and you download the Nudge Rewards App and sign up. You receive a code, the app asks for your location and your job. You then receive targeted Nudges that pop-up. For example: “Check out this video on golf clubs.” Or you may be asked for your ideas or to answer a few multiple choice questions. As you participate, you receive points and updates on your performance versus other teams. Our customers use points and challenges to provide internal rewards, such as a gift card. Everything is two-way and of course, it’s gamified. Fun, right?

To date, over 3 million nudges have been sent to frontline employees, and I’m thrilled to share that we’re hearing amazing feedback from our customers. Brands are telling us how Nudge Rewards has transformed their business, driving significant sales and, in some cases, has helped them execute their most successful campaigns.

3.      Tell us about your recent funding news and what it means for the future of Nudge Rewards?

As a startup, we’ve chosen to pursue Venture Capital. Most recently, following the initial $3.5MM we raised through Angel Investors, we secured the largest investment through a “Series A” round that has gone into a female-led company  – $5 million. Generation VenturesBrightspark Ventures, and The BDC Capital Women in Technology Fund have all invested in Nudge Rewards.

The process was intimidating, but we are so fortunate that we found great partners. And now that we’ve raised $8.5 million total, we’re well positioned to play hard in the U.S. market. With 22 full time and 4 part time employees today, we plan to double in size in the next year to year and a half. These are definitely exciting times.

4.      What has been your biggest challenge as you’ve built Nudge Rewards into the company it is today?

It’s difficult to build something from the ground up when you’ve never done it before – you have to learn everything the hard way. It’s all about perseverance and mental fortitude. You have to constantly rally yourself, rally your team, and make the impossible possible. Luckily, I’ve surrounded myself with great people and I’ve taken advantage of the great support available in the Toronto tech community.

5.      What has been your biggest surprise?

I’m truly overwhelmed and astonished by the talented people I’ve met and had a chance to work with. And everyone’s willingness to help is so inspiring. Here in Toronto especially, you find more seasoned entrepreneurs helping new ones like me. It’s been a gift. AceTech and #MoveTheDial have been amazing, as well as MaRS and Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone. I’m consistently receiving feedback that’s grounded by CEOs who have just been there – that is truly priceless.

6.      Any regrets?

Not really. It’s important to make mistakes because you learn from them and don’t make them again. Learn from the past and look to the future.

7. What’s one piece of advice you have for other entrepreneurs?

I have two actually. 1) Surround yourself with great people – including mentors and advisors. Doing so will elevate your game big time! 2) Commit to staying healthy – physical health, mental health. Exercising regularly makes me a more positive and productive person.

8. What’s next for Nudge Rewards?

Grow and grow quickly. Build a strong, scalable team. Invest in sales and marketing. Expand our footprint into the U.S. Add great people to the team – but carefully, because we’ve created a special culture and we want to keep it that way.

Soaring into 2018 with a Sense of Wonder: Sights and Sounds from the Sky

Welcome to my first blog of 2018! Well, actually, that’s not exactly true. The words written below are my kids’.

On the last day of 2017, my husband and I treated our two oldest children (11 and 9) to a parasailing adventure during our vacation in Mexico (our six-year-old dare-devil would have gone too if he was allowed!) The next morning, New Year’s Day, I asked them to describe their experiences…what they saw, heard, and felt while soaring in the sky for twelve minutes.

I wanted them to remember this experience forever, and I knew (if they’re anything like me), despite having the photos we captured from the ground, their memories would fade if they didn’t capture their thoughts and feelings with words. I didn’t necessarily plan to create a blog with their writing (and of course I have their permission to post) but when they read their pieces aloud – which they each wrote in about 15 minutes! – I was truly amazed.

As their mom and as a writer, I’m so proud of their natural writing talents and their ability to use words to capture their ideas and excitement. I especially love the pure innocence and simplicity in each of their passages. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Wishing all my readers a healthy and happy 2018 filled with childlike wonder! xoxo

PS. No, I haven’t taken the same 200-foot leap yet…maybe one day!

UP, UP, UP, AND AWAY!

By: Gavriel Lichtman, age 9

It was on a Sunday afternoon when it finally came! The day I could finally go Parasailing! At first, I was fully exited yet not scared at all but when the time came I felt butterflies in my stomach!

Then, the staff were explaining everything: how to land, how to take off, and so on. Then suddenly I felt the tug of the boat and took about two or three steps and off I went! Once I was up I felt like an eagle and I was so high! For some reason, I didn’t feel as high as I actually was. From up there I thought that I could see everything!

When I was up I could only hear two things: the waves and the wind. It seemed so quiet from up there! I couldn’t hear anyone!

After about 5-7 minutes I saw this random wave in the middle of the ocean. For a second I thought it was just a random wave but then I thought about it, it was probably a dolphin or whale. After that, I think I saw a big sting ray! It was so cool to see! A real sting ray just in the middle of the ocean! Wow. Then, near the end of the ride I saw a huge “school” of jellyfish! What an experience that was.

Sadly, my ride was almost over so when I heard the whistle “toot!’’ I saw the red flag go up so I started to pull the red side. But then I ended up having a bit of a rough landing, but I was fine! Right when I got off I said: “That was sooo cool!!” to my parents and when I came down that was the time my sister got to go. And then she went up and had an amazing time too!

FLYING HIGH OUT OF 2017

By Lielle Lichtman, age 11

“I was able to see everything!”. That was my little brother Gave telling me what fun he had. Still, flying 200 feet in the air is not an everyday thing, so I was a little nervous. Ok, a lot nervous. “ Lielle, amazing!” yelled my mom. “Have the best time!” yelled my dad. I tucked my knees and flew up into the sky. I spread my arms like wings, as if I were a bird. I didn’t feel that thrill in my stomach that I feel on a roller coaster. Huh, I thought. This isn’t half bad! Once the rope had straightened, I griped the harness with my inner elbows. I was told that I could just spread my arms the whole time, but I don’t take chances.

At about a minute in, I looked down. I saw the Grand Mayan, The Grand Bliss, The Grand Luxxe, The Plaza. Only, they were so small. I felt like if I reached out, I could pick up each building with my hands. Then I looked at the beach. The beach was full of tiny, tiny people. It looked like there were thousands. Each person could fit in my hand, that’s how tiny they looked. I was in shock. The best part of the whole experience was the water and the sounds. I kept on looking for a sound. The boat motor or a shriek maybe? Instead, I heard the wind. I heard the wind in my ears, blowing against me. When I turned my head, I could no longer hear the wind. At one point, I looked down at the ocean. I saw something I had only seen in the Instagram pictures. I saw that as the water got deeper, it got bluer which was so cool! On the shore I saw brown water (because of the sand) and as it got deeper in got greener until it got blue. I couldn’t believe what I saw. And to think that I almost didn’t go. On the last day of 2017 what could be better? I got to parasail through the sky.

As I started to land I looked back at what a cool experience that was! I had a motivational family who wanted me to have a cool experience, and let me tell you, it was more than cool! As I heard the whistle, I pulled the red rope real hard, and I banged down on the sand. I heard the cheering from my family, and I felt so proud.

 

He Shoots, He Smiles: Why Hockey is so Much More than Skills and Skates

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As parents, we generally don’t like to see our kids upset, feeling deflated, and unhappy. So when my then six-year-old son was struggling through hockey (he was not exactly thrilled about his weekly ice time…and yes, there were tears) I thought that was our very clear clue to pack up the skates (and the rest of the gear…oh the gear!) and bid farewell to the arena.

I realize now – and perhaps even then – that I was clearly bringing my own biases into the conversation. Despite growing up in Toronto, ours was not a “hockey family” – so I didn’t quite get what all the fuss was about. Of course, I know Canadians and hockey go together like, well…Canadians and hockey….but I never personally felt a strong bond with the sport (no dirty looks please…read on…that’s changed!) Even though I have such happy memories of my own experience on my school softball team, where hockey was concerned, I zoomed in on the inconveniences and drawbacks which clearly didn’t allow me to see much of the good. I failed to spend time considering the team aspect of the game as I was too focused on one cold hard fact – my son did not seem happy at all. Not to mention, my husband and I are both building careers, and catering to the demands of three young children (and trying to build fun and meaning into our everyday lives while we’re at it). So, I was (very) okay with dropping one thing from our plates. Or at least potentially swapping it with a less demanding activity.

Quite simply, I was narrow-minded. The same way I admittedly dismiss most fantasy and sci-fi movies as content I simply won’t enjoy (except for The Never Ending Story…go Falkor!) But seriously, I realize at times I dismiss things too early based on pre-conceived ideas…and this experience has taught me a very important lesson. (Though I still don’t think I could get into Game of Thrones…let’s just leave it okay? Sorry!)

My husband, on the other hand, when faced with my son’s icy tears, had different plans. He confirmed that many kids at that age have similar emotions…and waterworks. They are learning a new skill (and a technically difficult one at that) and it’s simply a steep/sharp (!) learning curve. He didn’t think letting him quit at such a young age was the right thing to do – or the right message to send.

I trusted my husband’s instinct and my son marched – or skated – on. And truth be told, my husband did most rink shifts. In some ways, I think I kept hockey at arm’s length because I couldn’t bear to see my son sad (or even bear to see the gap in skill level between him and the other kids his age). But by doing so, I probably missed some special moments and some wonderful growth. Thinking about this makes me a little sad…but I’m not dwelling on the past, especially because now I’m all in! (Did you know there’s a special term for hockey moms…mom-sicles!?) In the meantime, my younger son’s foray into Canada’s favourite pastime has been smoother. He has loved it from day one – and not just because of the zamboni or the Tim Horton’s stops after games!

Fast forward about three years…

My nine-year-old son just spent the weekend in Guelph for a tournament as a happy, thriving member of the Willowdale Blackhawks Single A hockey team. He is not the best on his team by any means (some of these kids are unreal!) But with a little help from an important mom/dad/son talk at the beginning of the season (discouraging feelings were creeping in again), and consistent cheerleading from us and his coaches (thank you!), he is truly shining in his own way.

I’ve always known success is such a mental game – but I’m seeing it so clearly first hand. Once we said to him “why can’t YOU be the one to get the puck? Instead of assuming someone “better” will always get it first” something clicked. His effort, drive, and confidence shot up! And his coaches, team members, and even other parents are taking notice.

And even though he has yet to score a goal, I’m beaming too. Seeing him so happy…well, that’s what parents live for, right?! And it sounds so cliché, but I’ll say it anyway – the bonds he is forming with the other fourteen boys is truly special. The confidence he is gaining as he sees – and feels – himself improve, is amazing. And the smile on his face in the picture my husband sent me of the boys at their post-game dinner out, is priceless.

To my husband, thank you for encouraging him to persist, persevere, and believe in himself. You were right! 🙂

For as long as it lasts, we’re officially a hockey family – rink time is no longer just a daddy thing. It’s a family thing. As my eleven-year-old daughter has seen me get into it, she’s equally pumped and attends as many games as possible, as long as they don’t conflict with her own full dance schedule. And you know what…I don’t even mind all the gear anymore. Perspective….go figure.

It’s amazing what can happen when you open your mind…and that stinky hockey bag.

Men Behind Gender Diversity: A Key Ingredient to #MoveTheDial

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Originally published on MoveTheDial.ca, October 20, 2017


Addressing unconscious biases. Drawing attention to microaggressions. Disclosing diversity Mandates. Setting gender targets. #GoSponsorHer. #MoveTheDial. There is something in the air these days – and I’m proud to be a voice in the crowd. As a TD employee, I recently attended a TD Women in Leadership event, Addressing Gender Barriers & Winning with Allies, hosted by Shari Graydon. Named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women, Shari engaged the audience in a crucial and honest dialogue – in her uniquely spirited style – about issues facing women in the workplace, their barriers to leadership, and what it means to be an ally. Talk about a packed agenda.

150 men and women filled the room and openly shared personal stories, challenges, and triumphs. The space was buzzing with narratives ranging from being advised how to dress in a professional setting (women shouldn’t show their bare arms according to some!) to the challenges – and opportunities – facing today’s young girls, tomorrow’s leaders. The event concluded with a TD Executive Panel Discussion – equal parts engaging, entertaining, and enlightening. I walked out of the half-day event with concrete ideas and takeaways. One that sticks out: know your value and how to communicate it.

Fortunately, TD’s voice in this space is just one of many and this event was far from an isolated one. Just a few days earlier, I received a call from my good friend, Jodi Kovitz, a trailblazer in the Toronto tech community. Jodi is CEO of AceTech Ontario, a non-profit member-based community organization for technology leaders to network, seek guidance, and offer advice. She is also the passionate founder of the #MoveTheDial movement which burst onto the Toronto tech scene this past January with an event that hosted 1,000 supporters and presented a momentous mission to Canada and the world: increase female participation and leadership in tech.  

Jodi invited me to attend the TakeOver Innovation Conference on October 2 in downtown Toronto, hosted by TribalScale, a digital product, strategy, design, and engineering firm. As Sheetal Jaitly, the candid and charismatic CEO of TribalScale proudly declared during his closing remarks, the conference’s goal was to achieve 50/50 representation between its male and female speakers. That goal was surpassed: 52% of the 83 speakers were women.

This. Is. Big. News.

As Roger Chabra, TribalScale CIO tweeted: “A tech conference with more female speakers than men? Yes that’s us.”

And as Jay Rosenzweig, CEO, Rosenzweig & Company affirmed during his powerful talk at TakeOver, this is as much about men as it is about women: “In addition to encouraging women to step forward as entrepreneurs in the tech space…I invite men to also step forward…as champions of gender equality.”

With so many important conversations happening around the topic of diversity, inclusion, and equal female representation, let’s take this opportunity to hear more from some of the most passionate voices in this space.

Why is this topic so important? Why now?

Diversity and inclusion has always been important. We have a long way to go, but this topic has been getting more attention over the past couple years. Thank goodness for that, it’s a long time coming and overdue. Diversity isn’t just a buzzword; it’s simply good for business. 

According to an important study by McKinsey & Co., companies with more diverse workplaces perform better financially. Macro trends like increased global competition, more rapid pace of technology adoption, proliferation of new technology platforms and decreasing costs to launch startups have companies, both large and small, constantly scrambling to prosper. Companies are realizing that in order to outcompete in their markets and truly serve the needs of their customers they have to put together the best teams possible, and that means teams with varied backgrounds, opinions and experiences. Diversity and inclusion are powerful strategic weapons, and the best companies in the world are recognizing this and taking steps to build it into the core of their organizations.

Roger Chabra, CIO, TribalScale


What are the stats and what needs to change? And what progress has been made already?

If I can reference the 2017 Rosenzweig Report: of the 25 biggest publicly traded companies in Canada, there are only 6 female Named Executive Officers or 5%. It means that at the ‘biggest of the bigs’, 95% of the top executives remain men.

I think the progress being made is in the awareness that’s been generated and the conversations being had as a result of movements like #MoveTheDial, #GoSponsorHer, and others like #HeForShe. We’re having the right conversations. We’re seeing our leaders, like prime minister Justin Trudeau, set new standards and examples by creating a gender parity in his cabinet. We’re starting to make the changes that are removing the barriers to equality. It’s progress, but our work is by no means done.

Sheetal Jaitly, CEO, TribalScale 


What can each and every one of us do to #MoveTheDial?

I firmly believe it will take a concerted, sustained effort by a great many individuals at the grassroots level – men as well as women – to #MoveTheDial. Big, important initiatives, including legislation, can seem distant to the average person. If you feel that way, then concentrate on the things close at hand. Encourage women to speak up in meetings. Fight stereotypes with facts.

I mentioned at the conference that, contrary to popular belief, women can do very well in the tech field. First Round Capital, a respected VC company, found that start-ups involving at least one female founder perform 63% better than those with all-male founders. I would also suggest that women and girls should enlist their male partners, fathers, brothers and sons in the struggle to achieve gender equality. I say that because fostering diversity and equality are societal issues that need to be tackled by us all, every day, in every interaction we have. As Parachute Club vocalist Lorraine Segato once put it, small victories are big steps.

Jay Rosenzweig, CEO, Rosenzweig & Company


What can we look forward to on the topic of women in leadership? What’s next for the Toronto Tech community – and the global community for that matter?

There has clearly been positive change and excellent diversity champions and initiatives underway for many years. That said, the stats in the soon to be released #movethedial Where is the Dial Now? report on #womenintech in Canada, will be a wake up call and a necessary call to action that we need to do more to #movethedial to change the face of tech leaders in Canada. This report is the first of its kind – a national collaboration delivering a baseline to the community on where we are at, brought to you by 8 tech community partners.

I believe that we can watch our Toronto Tech community build on the momentum we have created in 2017 to meaningfully come together to actively and collaboratively direct our efforts towards what it will take to #movethedial for women: committing to a mindset to help advance women. 

We now see as an ecosystem that is our full talent pool that will make us more competitive on the global stage and that #diversityisourstrength. We see the great opportunity for us to collaborate more deeply as a tech & innovation community towards this end, and I can’t wait to see the impact that will occur when we weave our initiatives and tactics together to make greater and faster change. We are stronger together.

 Jodi Kovitz, CEO, AceTech Ontario; Founder and Champion, #MoveTheDial


Thank you Roger, Sheetal, Jay, and Jodi. Your insights, passion, and commitment to drive this conversation forward is inspiring – and needed. As a female leader myself, a mentor to young men and women, and a mother to an 11-year-old girl and her two younger brothers, I know how important it is that we see continued and accelerated progress, and that we use our voices, the data, and our collective might to #MoveTheDial.

Diana Goodwin: Diving Into Business

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Originally published on MoveTheDial.ca, August 25, 2017

This interview was conducted by Stacy Woloschuk & compiled by guest writer, Jori Lichtman. 


Diana Goodwin is the Founder and CEO of AquaMobile. AquaMobile was founded in 2012 and has six full time employees and 2000 swim instructors across Canada and The United States. Diana describes her company as “Uber for swim lessons.” And as the company websites touts: “Your Pool. Our Instructors. Peace of Mind.”​

 

Q: Tell us about yourself and how you want to position yourself in the world.

Growing up in Toronto, sports played a large role in my life. I worked as a swim instructor, played competitive soccer, and I was also a sprinter. I played varsity sports at The University of Toronto and participated in competitive sports well into my twenties. A lot of my personal and professional confidence can be attributed to my time playing sports. Yes, I mastered specific skills – but the confidence I gained has permeated throughout so many aspects of my life. I know there are many people who have had similar experiences with various sports and activities and I’m passionate about bringing that confidence out in others. Through the company I’ve built, AquaMobile, I believe I can achieve that. Above all, I’m here to make a positive impact on as many lives as possible.

Q: What was your first real experience with sports?

I didn’t always love swimming – in fact, I was the kid sitting at the edge of the community pool and shivering during my scheduled swimming lesson, refusing to dip my toe in the water. Another parent kindly recommended to my mom that she try private swimming lessons for me.  And after my first one-on-one lesson with Dawn, my private swim instructor, I quickly developed a love for the water.

Q: Tell us about your career path.

I completed my undergraduate degree in commerce and finance at The University of Toronto. My entrepreneurial spirit emerged when I started a side business called Swim for Life Aquatics. When I began my first full time role as a consultant at Bain and Company, I didn’t have time to teach, so I hired instructors. But as time went on, I wasn’t feeling personally and professionally fulfilled at Bain and I knew I wanted more. One day, a friend and I were brainstorming business ideas and I had a “eureka” moment – the concept for AquaMobile was born. I left Bain after three years and completed a one-year MBA at Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management. In that year, and through the courses I enrolled in, I was focused on creating a business plan for AquaMobile. After graduating from Kellogg, I was a full-time entrepreneur and business owner.

Q: Is there one thing that stands out from your time at Kellogg?

Besides the great network I still tap into often, one piece of advice that Professor Andrew Razeghi shared has stuck with me: FOCUS. Do one thing – and do it really, really well.

Q: You are known for “bootstrapping” and navigating and building your business on your own – tell us more about this approach.

I was determined to launch AquaMobile in a low cost way, especially as it is a concept and a company that does not have high up front capital costs. I was resourceful – I sought out grants where possible and researched cost-effective options for our technology platform. And as the business has grown, I’ve reinvested the profits to ensure growth. Not all companies can leverage this approach – but for me and for AquaMobile, the right circumstances fell into place and it’s been a great experience.

Q: Tell us about your team and its diversity.

We are a strong and passionate group.  As it happens, we are a team of mostly women – both the core team and our instructors. While I do believe the make-up of our team has been an asset and has helped drive our growth, most importantly, we are all open to learning and growing. Like most start-ups, we fully appreciate and embrace the need to be flexible, especially as our business is seasonal.  Regardless of gender, I look to hire people who are humble, who work hard, and who want to grow.  And because instructors are going into our clients’ homes, they need to make people feel comfortable.

As a leader, I am focused on nurturing my team members and empowering them to make decisions. Mistakes are part of the process and we all learn from them. Especially with a wide network of instructors across Canada and the U.S., I am highly focused on ensuring my interactions with my employees have a personal touch – we not only work together, but we share personal stories about ourselves to stay emotionally connected.

Q: How did the idea of AquaMobile emerge? And how did it grow from a passion project to a profitable cross-border business?

Water wasn’t love at first sight for me and it was clear the one-on-one format was a breakthrough for me. I knew there were others who were similar to me and there was an unmet need out there.

AquaMobile started as a “side gig” – something I was passionate about, especially compared to my consulting job that was not fulfilling. But when I knew I wanted to grow it into something bigger, I didn’t quit my day job immediately. I knew I needed a clear and defined path in order to be successful. If you are like I was, and you’re working a full time job but have a passion project or business you want to pursue, set aside time to think through it carefully and thoroughly; solicit feedback from others; and ensure you are asking the right questions. Take your time to get it right. And even then there will be bumps along the way. But embrace the bumps and learn from them.

I am also always conscious of thinking big. Before I launched AquaMobile, I knew I needed to change my thinking – I had to stop looking at my business through a Greater Toronto Area (GTA) lens and start seeing it as an international enterprise. I made sure to adopt and implement a tech platform and brand that that said: I’m not local, I’m global!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received so far?

Focus. I always come back to this simple yet powerful guiding principle.

Q: And last but not least, what does MovetheDial really mean to you?

To me it means everyone, regardless of gender, using their unique abilities to to help women in tech reach their full potential. In my case, I’ve experienced open doors as I look to grow AquaMobile. People going out of their way to make introductions that will help move the dial for my career and for AquaMobile.

Beyond the Music: 3 Beautiful Moments from Carole King’s Beautiful

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Photo credit: Mirvish.com

Earlier this summer, I was fortunate to spend an evening taking in the sights and remarkable sounds of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre.

I left Beautiful with a newfound appreciation for a musical legend…but also with a warmth in my soul.

If you’re anything like me, and the darkness around us is leaving you craving some much-needed soul-warming…I hope you enjoy this piece that highlights some of my favourite moments. Moments when I felt the earth move…or perhaps those were tears flowing!

If you haven’t seen it, plan to, and want to be surprised, don’t read on!

If you have seen it and adored it as much as I did, please enjoy!

Born Carol Joan Klein in 1942 into a Jewish family, Carole’s extraordinary talent and her famous songs were the focal points of the show. (For a good part of the two hours, I was truly in Dirty Dancing heaven!) Also centre stage was the story of Carole’s success and rise to stardom, starting in her teens, and her trying relationship with then-husband Gerry Goffin.

But between the main storylines were three tender themes that stole my heart…

The Warm Friendships

Throughout Beautiful, we witnessed a touching and charming friendship blossom between couples who were highly competitive yet deeply devoted friends – Carole King and Gerry Goffin and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

As much as each pair was aiming to surpass the other on the Billboard charts by writing the best songs and lyrics, they were also each other’s number one cheerleaders. Their unwavering loyalty and love were something special. They developed an incredibly close bond and both Cynthia and Barry were Carole’s rocks when her marriage was falling apart.

When Carole performed “You’ve got a friend” at the piano in her office, just before leaving for California, with Cynthia and Barry swaying and singing with her…um…those tears I mentioned…yah.

Carole and Gerry’s marriage wasn’t always Some Kind of Wonderful, and the couple divorced in 1969 after a decade of marriage. But when Gerry arrived at Carnegie Hall before Carole’s first performance in front of an audience, you could still see the spark of their special friendship, despite the mistakes Gerry made and their bittersweet past.

Finally, Carole’s spirited and loyal manager and music producer, Don Kirshner, supported Carole through it all. He encouraged her when she announced her plans to record and perform a group of deeply personal songs she wrote – instead of finding another performer or group to sing her words. Don and Carole had each other’s backs. Their relationship was beyond business – it was a unique and trusting friendship.

A Devoted (and Progressive!) Mother

While not a central storyline in Beautiful, a little research reveals that Carole’s mother Eugenia Gingold, was not only Carole’s most adoring fan, but she was also her first music teacher and later, her acting coach.

After her split with Gerry, Carole was a single mom in the 60s, raising two young children. Naturally, she felt deflated, nervous, and sad. While I don’t recall her mother’s exact words, she essentially declared this:

You had the guts and gumption to pursue your dreams as a young teenager determined to make it as a songwriter – don’t you dare stop dreaming…writing…or singing, just because life and love had taken an unexpected detour! 

Especially for the times, Eugenia was a truly modern women and raised Carole to be a proud, accomplished, and independent woman.

Oh, and if one fine day you remember exactly what she did say, please let me know!

Carole’s Inner Beauty 

If her remarkable talent wasn’t enough, Carole was strong, humble, and forgiving.

She endured some incredibly challenging times with Goffin who was unfaithful, and according to an L.A. Times piece written at the time of his death in June 2014, “struggled with mental health problems exacerbated by his use of hallucinogenic drugs.”

Despite their challenges, Carole tried to make her marriage work. She loved Gerry and was a committed wife. She believed in love. She believed in them.

Ultimately, her loyalty wasn’t enough. But when Carole belted out A Natural Woman, there was no doubt how strong she was. Her mother was bang on (as mothers usually are!) Carole was a trailblazer. She was a gifted composer and songwriter. And absolutely nothing could stop her.


Thank you to the writers, producers, and the creative team behind Beautiful.

It truly was.

And yes Carole (played by the incredibly talented Chilina Kennedy – just WOW!), I will still love you – and all you gave to this world – tomorrow.

3 Lessons from Baseball we can Pitch to the Workplace

Baseball

Playing baseball on my school team, The Forest Hill Falcons, was one of the highlights of my childhood. The games, the friendships, being part of a team…and of course the end of season pool parties my parents graciously hosted for the team each year!

This summer, by joining the B’nai Brith Canada women’s softball league, I’ve had the opportunity to slide back into that innocent world after many years – if only for just a couple of hours per week. The experience has not only been fun, but it’s been a great reminder of how important “soft skills” are to success.

Yes, mastering hitting, catching, throwing, and pitching can certainly make the difference between winning and losing (as a new team in the league, we’re doing a bit more of the latter…but we’re still smiling!) And often these are the skills that receive the glory. Naturally, we cheer the loudest for the grand slam and the triple play.

But sometimes, it’s the less obvious interpersonal-related talents and interactions that transpire behind the scenes – and on the diamond – that give a team its edge. Not unlike what occurs in the working world.

I’ve spotted three soft skills in particular that have made a huge difference in our performance over the season – and we’re not done yet! If we continue to commit to focusing on these attributes as a team, I’m confident the triple plays will come soon (okay…we’ll settle for double plays).

Now, insert the same logic for the workplace, and you can see where this metaphor is going: technical skills matter, but let’s not underestimate the importance of soft skills.

That said, here are three competencies that matter a whole lot in baseball….in our careers…in relationships…and let’s face it…for the big game of life!

1. Communication

 “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”

– Yogi Berra

Especially in our first few games, we were pretty much striking out in the communication department. We weren’t calling the next play (i.e. “Play is to First or Second!), calling pop flies (“Got it!”), and we didn’t know all the rules of the game (“Don’t touch home plate when you come in for the run!”) Um…yes…there are some interesting rules indeed.

But now, about 10 games in, we are listening to each other, collaborating, and as a result we’re more mentally in the game – and we have a few wins to prove it! We make sure a third base coach is there to coach the runners; we call pop flies (and catch them more often too!); and we’re better at helping each other know when to hold the ball vs. attempting the often long throw to first base.

All of these gains, simply by opening our mouths…and our ears!

2. Leadership 

 “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

– Jackie Robinson

After about five games, it was clear we were a bit (okay A LOT) rusty and a practice would do us good. At that first practice, one player emerged as an obvious leader. She’s not only a solid player, but her leadership skills have helped boost our confidence and teach us some important strategies of the game (such as who should cover who, when you need to tag a runner, and oh…what to do about that in-field pop-fly rule). She is doing an awesome job bringing out the best in each of us and ensuring we maintain the positive and fun feeling we signed up for in the first place.

And I know behind the scenes, before our games, she and our captain devote their personal time to drafting the roster and batting order for each game – ensuring we each have the opportunity to try new positions, while providing enough consistency and leveraging our strengths to enhance our chances of winning.

Hey, Coach – it’s working!

Hey, leaders everywhere – take note!

3. Encouragement 

“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

– Babe Ruth

I am one of the pitchers for our team. I love the challenge and although I sometimes feel I’ve let the team down if I walk a couple of players, I’m surrounded by a great team that ensures no one player feels bad or accountable for a poor play. We all fumble. We all miss balls we should catch. We all throw to first when we should throw home. But we’re so pumped to have this experience together, it doesn’t matter all that much.

One of our regular back-catchers is especially awesome in the encouragement department. For my solid pitches, she cheers me on. For my not-so-solid ones, she has a great, natural way of boosting my confidence for the next one by providing specific feedback and advice – a little higher, a little further…and with her uplifting commentary, more often than not, my next pitch is a strike.

If managers in the workplace only knew how little it would take for them to get the best out of their staff. What’s that they say about a little encouragement going a long way?


So aren’t these skills – and the importance of them – obvious by now? Isn’t every other LinkedIn article about this stuff? Maybe. But seeing them in action really hit home (yes, pun intended). The discernible improvements we’ve seen since these three attributes have become centre stage are, in my opinion, truly remarkable.

Think about it – if this is happening on the baseball fields of Toronto at 9:30 on a Tuesday night, imagine what companies and teams could gain by scoring big in these areas!

Thanks to the talented and fun women on my team – and in the whole league. If you can’t already tell, I’m having a blast…sign me up for next season!

I’ll be the one with no fear.

3 More Communication Tips for my Younger Self

Dear me

I recently shared the first part of this series, called 4 Communication Tips for my Younger Self, featuring these tips, along with personal examples from my own career journey:

  1. Give people something to react to
  2. Don’t ask…recommend
  3. Tailor your text
  4. Questions are great…at the right time and in the right place

I was thrilled to hear from many readers that the content resonated (a.k.a. I was/am not alone…HINT: we never really are!) Not being one to keep good gems to myself, especially if they can help others charge forward, shine, and conquer the world (or at least nail that presentation to senior management at 2 pm!) here are a few more tips to chew on.

1)   If your project takes a detour, it’s okay

Early in my career, I used to be surprised – and sometimes fret – when I received bad news related to a project I was leading. Whether it was legal putting the brakes on an advertising claim, or a supplier not coming through as promised, or an internal partner executing something different than what was documented – I didn’t understand that it was normal (or at least not fret-worthy) for a project’s progress to follow a zig-zag pattern – or even a figure 8! I now believe straight-line A to Z initiatives are the exception, not the norm. As silly as it sounds, I didn’t quite understand that “Plans” – even pretty PowerPoint ones – are not set in stone. Circumstances change. Challenges change. Outside factors change. Inside factors change. Leadership changes. Goals change. And yes, plans change. And it’s our job to adapt and continue to move forward.

Now, when I receive unexpected news about my project needing to make a U-Turn, it’s not as…well…unexpected. As my manager recently shared: Sometimes you plan to make a pineapple and you end up with an orange. But you still have a piece of fruit.

In other words, we work hard documenting what we want and how we want to achieve it – but we also need to be able to go with the flow. Of course, major changes, challenges, and show-stoppers do arise – part of what I’ve learned (and am still discovering) is how to separate the mini challenges from the monsters. And how to manage them accordingly.

Either way, when things change, this is our opportunity to proactively share necessary information with our managers to ensure they are in the loop – and to make sure they don’t receive an update from someone else (especially if the news is not of the cheery variety). In many ways, our job is to help our managers look great – and if they’re blindsided, we’ve missed the mark.

Of course, if you have positive news – your project is under budget or will launch earlier than planned – share that too!

Need help crafting your message? Use the Tailor your Text tip in Part 1 of this series to organize the information and paint a clear picture for your audience.

2)   Clarify and Simplify 

I’m often the one in the room (or on the conference call) that ensures everyone is on the same page. I do this by speaking and asking questions in simple language. Simple.

Asking clear questions isn’t rocket science. But often in big corporations, buzz words and technical language can unnecessarily complicate a conversation and dilute even the simplest messages.

In a recent meeting, we were debating whether to launch a project with a few unknowns. After listening to the team’s conversation for a few minutes, I asked: “So if we launch now, what is the worst case scenario?” As it turns out, there was no risk involved in launching immediately.  The simple answer: Yes. The decision: launch today. Downside: none.

The lesson? If you don’t understand something, chances are others are in the same boat. (Remember, we’re never alone…I promise!) Sometimes it takes courage to be the clarifier (will others think you just don’t get it??) but it’s almost always worth it – for you and for the entire team. And when you ask for clarification, it serves as a gentle nudge to others to strip out the corporate speak and tech jargon if they want to get the best out of people and move projects forward more efficiently. (Unless, of course, spinning is your thing).

3)   You are the expert..so act like it

As the Brand Manager of the Peanut Butter portfolio at Kraft, I managed two Brand Assistants, one of whom was leading the Peanut Butter with Chocolate product launch. I recall a conversation in which I reminded her that she knew more about Chocolate Peanut Butter than anyone in the company. While she was young and fresh out of university, it was important for her to understand that she truly was the expert on this project. When senior executives required an update, she could confidently share her knowledge and recommendations because she knew more than they did.

About six months into my current role at TD, there was a threat of a Canada Post “work disruption.” I was tasked with the challenge of developing a mitigation plan for the TD Credit Cards business in the event that the threat became a reality. How would we send new and replacements cards, statements, and letters to customers? As I was relatively new to my role, being thrown into a challenge such as this one served as a great crash course. And since my role was to gather all the information from the subject matter experts to provide recommendations to senior management, I knew more than anyone else about our plans in the event of a postage strike.

Yes, I was relatively new. But on this particular subject, I was the expert. And it was my job to communicate all the project details as that expert – clearly and confidently. And I made certain to go above and beyond the call of duty to do just that.


 

So, there you have it…7 communication tips in all, ranging from asking smart and relevant questions to sharing our content confidently.

Can you relate? (Tell me I’m not the only one managing zig-zag projects!) Have your own tips to share? I’d love to hear from you!