5 Life Lessons from Nature…Steep Icy Climbs and All

 

Ahhh…after a packed winter with a full work schedule, some health challenges (I’m feeling much better now), and far too many hockey rink visits to count (and definitely too many carpool texts to tally), my long-awaited weekend up north finally arrived. On Thursday night after work, I packed a bag (I use “packed” loosely…some cozy clothes made their way into an oversized purse) and drove two hours north of Toronto to a picturesque resort called Deerhurst, in Huntsville, Ontario.

I had actually never stayed there before (shocking, I know, for some of my fellow Torontonians). And some may wonder what is appealing about northern Ontario in March. Well, call me crazy, but you can keep your Miami and Vegas weekends…you can even keep Nashville. Trendy doesn’t tempt me and I’m not even a foodie.  This low-maintenance, Canada-loving, cottage-coveting girl is more than content with a fireplace, some fresh air, and some peace and quiet. All without having to stamp my passport.

My getaway was three nights in total – one night alone, two with a girlfriend. On Friday I enjoyed a peaceful solo hike. Part-way through, I noticed some similarities between my trek in the frozen woods and this thing we call life. It was a Forrest-Gump-Box-of-Chocolates moment. Okay…maybe not Oscar worthy, but stay with me.

So, what insights exactly did my one-hour chilly adventure divulge? Read on and follow my footsteps..

#1: Sometimes it’s okay to follow the path taken. 

There were plenty of footsteps on the path, so I knew others had walked before me. 

In our day-to day-lives, sometimes we just want some assurance, a soft place to land ….we don’t want to take too much of a risk. Sort of like my trip to Huntsville. I didn’t want to board a plane, I didn’t want to be far from home. I needed to be far enough away to get a real break, yet not too far to add any stress (can you say flight delays?)

I think the trick is to determine when to play it safe and when to go all in. So…umm…if you figure that one out, give me a call. 

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#2: Other times, we need to blaze the trail. 

There were parts of the trail that branched off in multiple directions. At one point, I veered slightly off the path, intentionally, just to see where I’d end up; within minutes, I saw markers signalling I was back on one of the trails. [Insert woman breathing a sigh of relief that she didn’t meet any hungry bears]. This is just a tiny example of taking the road – or trail – less travelled. I’m sure we all can conjure up times when we did (or wished we had) taken a chance. 

About six months ago, my good friend Jodi Kovitz, Founder and CEO of #MoveTheDial, invited me to freelance write for her. #MoveTheDial is a movement dedicated to increasing the participation and advancement of women in technology. I could have easily turned down the opportunity, and rationalized my decision with I’m-not-a-techie-what-business-do-I-have-writing-about-tech self-talk. But I didn’t. I took the leap and strutted my writing skills. With four published blogs under my belt, a fifth one is coming out later this week featuring a Dragons’ Den participant and entrepreneur! Imagine if I had said no just because I was scared!? And you know what? If I tried it and didn’t enjoy it, there would be another path (bear-free please) to explore. 

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#3: Friends and family – like trees – are there for support. 

From the first step, I could see the trail was very icy, so I knew I’d rely on the birches and maples towering over me for support. Each move I made, I reached for the closest tall friend for balance and stability. In our lives, it’s a different type of support we typically need – the emotional kind. 

I fully admit, I sometimes keep my challenges to myself, thinking I can handle them. But letting people in – and allowing them to help – always yields a better result. Case in point: this weekend. My friend and I not only relaxed by the fire, but we spent time sharing and brainstorming ideas around challenges related work, health, and relationships. Whether those closest to us offer new ideas and perspectives, a shoulder to lean (or cry) on, a listening ear, or all of the above, the more we let someone in, the stronger our bond and connection is.

And relationships, like trees, are best when they have deep roots, right?

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#4: Challenges, like icy patches, sometimes need creative thinking. 

Each time I approached a really icy patch, I had a choice: try to climb up or down it directly, or walk around it. The first choice would have likely landed me in the hospital with a broken ankle; so, not having a thing for a emergency rooms, I chose the second, not without its own set of challenges, mind you.  Twigs, stumps, and fallen branches (ahem…mini challenges), were plentiful.

Ultimately, I triumphed over the icy patches by finding a better way. Right now, my 11-year-old daughter has a big, giant icy hill to climb (middle school stuff) and we’re doing our best to help her forge through and persevere. I know she will (my mom says so!) – even if she trips over a few twigs along the way. And you know what, even if she does break her middle-schooler ankle today, she’ll be stronger for it in the long run. 

 

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#5: Savour the moment.

When I reached the lookout point at the end of the trail, I had to remind myself to take it in, like Rick Hanson teaches us in Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence. I did take a picture (see below), but I also tried to take a photo in my mind. I spent a few minutes looking out on the frozen, snow-covered lake, taking in its curves and soft edges. I did this a few years ago when I had the perfect view of Toronto’s skyline from Centre Island. Honestly, the picture is still in my mind. I definitely need to do this more – and not just when I hike up a frozen trail or take a boat somewhere.

Unfortunately (and the reason, quite frankly, I was craving a getaway in the first place), our lives are so go-go-go, it’s easy to forget to enjoy our lives. And even to celebrate our successes. I know this happens in the work environment – one project wraps up, another begins, with very little time (if any) for celebration. Been there, done that (managers, take note!) Perhaps we can’t have as much control over what happens at work, but wherever possible, we should celebrate what we’ve achieved, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.

Starting now…this is my 57th blog! Yah…I’m kind of a big deal 🙂

 

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So, whether I was looking for leaves or lessons that day, I came down that hill with both. In one way it was a break from the world to stimulate my senses. In another, it was all about stimulating my mind. The best 2-for-1 deal out there if you ask me. Oh, and if a woman slips gracefully in the icy woods but no one’s there to see it, did it really happen?

Until next time….

xo

 

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6 Lessons, from Gratitude to Grit: Celebrating International Women’s Day

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It’s been over two years since I wrote my first blog, just before embarking on a life-changing women’s trip to Israel. It’s been a fluid process and experience – and in some ways the subjects I cover are too. Ultimately, the content reflects me – and like the rest of us – I’m complex, multi-dimensional, and most of all, a work-in-progress.  My blogs touch on a variety of topics, both personal and professional. I reflect on everything from self-compassion and multi-tasking to leadership lessons from sports and career development. 

I was recently perusing old posts and was pleased to see a large portion of my “ink” dedicated to featuring amazing women and their inspiring stories. I didn’t necessarily plan to skew my content in this direction; but as a proud, professional woman, and a mother to a daughter and two sons, I guess that’s what naturally happened. Sometimes nature just takes its course.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, I’ve compiled some of my favourite lessons and words of wisdom and comfort – ranging from strong to sweet (and often a mix of both). I hope you enjoy these passages from past posts, featuring a diverse and talented group of women. 

To all the women reading this – and everyone who support us and lifts us up – Happy International Women’s Day! xo

1. Creativity

Aspiring writers will often tell me, ‘I have an idea, but I’m afraid it’s already been done.’ Well, yes, it probably has already been done. Most things have already been done- they have not yet been done by you.  By the time Shakespeare was finished with his run on life, he’d pretty much covered every story line there is, but that hasn’t stopped nearly five centuries of writers from exploring the same story lines all over again. (And remember, many of those stories were already clichés long before Shakespeare got his hands on them.)

So how do you shake off failure and shame in order to keep living a creative life? First of all, forgive yourself. If you made something and it didn’t work out, let it go. You don’t need to conduct autopsies on your disasters. Forget about the last project, and go searching with an open heart for the next one.

Author, Elizabeth Gilbert8 Insights for Creative Living Inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic

2. Snuggling

The human brain easily wanders and it wanders more to worries than to happy musings on what a blessed life you have. Such ruminations steal happiness. If a child wants to snuggle with you, it is madness to ponder the laundry that needs to be done and all the work necessary to get everyone out the door. You can think of that later. Nothing need exist but those little pyjama-clad arms wrapped around your neck.

Author, Laura VanderkamThe Berry Season is Short: 5 Ways to Savour It

3. Gratitude

Jacob’s appreciation for the little things in life gives me huge perspective on everything life has to offer. He expects so little and is always surprised by what he receives. Lucky for me, I get a front row seat to view pure gratitude in action. He is forever grateful and due to this he is always smiling. I follow suit.

I rarely let myself feel ungrateful. Negative thoughts only cause damage and produce more negativity. But, there are times when I do feel defeated and low, like the world is against me. It’s at those times that I go and lay down beside Jacob. I hug him tightly and feel his kind energy. He always gives me the warmest reception and biggest smile and I can’t help but perk up and feel grateful once again. 

Ellen Schwartz, founder of Project Give Back and Jacob’s Ladder, devoted mother to Jacob, who was diagnosed with a rare genetic neurodegenerative illness called Canavan Disease at four months old; A Gratitude Triple Threat, Part 1

4. Focus

Focus allows you to:

  • A: Do away with distractions (which literally detract you from moving forward towards your goals).
  • B: Know which projects are a clear-cut “yes” and a definitive “no.” (I love how Tim Ferriss puts it: “If It’s Not a ‘Hell, Yeah,’ It’s a No.”)
  • C: Become an expert in one thing rather than be average at a variety of things. Focus is why Adele said “no” to the Super Bowl halftime show (it’s simply not part of her brand), and why Taylor Swift focused on making a pop album with 1989 instead of releasing a pop album that would also feature country songs. (I love this quote of hers: “If you chase two rabbits, you lose them both.”)
  • D: Eventually achieve more, by doing less. This is the basis of one of my favourite books, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown.

Focus leads to another “f” word: fulfillment.

My dear friend, a talented writer and champion of women everywhere, Karin Eldor; Final Spotlight: 3 More Traits for Success and the People who Rock them

5. Positivity

Positive thinking may sound cliché, but it’s a terrifically powerful tool. There are times when you may think you’re entitled to that ‘pity party’. Don’t go there. The sun will come out tomorrow or the day after. You know it will. Remember that. And always count your blessings. You likely have more than most. Enjoy them, treasure them…and while you’re at it , make more, find more. They’re there…if you look hard enough.

Life lessons from my amazing mom, Cheryle Gertner; A Tribute to my Amazing Mom

6. Grit

Over the years, I have gained confidence, developed the courage to take risks, and I consistently set audacious goals I’m committed to achieving. People ask how I could possibly have started a movement to change the face of tech in Canada, or how I will raise $100 Million for Sickkids Hospital as part of the Capital Campaign Cabinet to raise $1.3 Billion over the next 5 years.  My response: it’s not that hard. Dream. Plan. Go get – with GRIT.

My trailblazing friend Jodi Kovitz, Founder & CEO, #movethedialSpotlight: 3 Traits for Success and the People who Rock them 


 

So today and every day, let’s shine as brightly as we can and be the best we can be…and more than ever, let’s lift each other up!

This day is for US!

#PressForProgress

#IDW2018

 

3 Tools for Designing Your Life: Takeaways From the Bestselling Book

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Photo credit: mindmapinspiration.com

For those who know me well – or have read my blogs – it will come as no surprise that I loved the book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-lived, Joyful Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

In this #1 New York Times Bestseller, Burnett and Evans, Silicon Valley innovators and Stanford University design educators, guide the reader through a proven process and introduce us to design thinking tools, techniques, and resources (available for downloading at designingyour.life). We are encouraged to use these concepts and apply the principles outlined to design – and live – joyful lives. It is one of the most practical and applicable books I’ve ever read. And if you know me really well, abstract concepts and theoretical ideas won’t be found on my bookshelf.

The book is filled with dozens of tools and ideas. And I recommend reading it cover to cover. Of course, reading isn’t enough. We also have to do the hard work and reflection – and then the designing of course – to get to that joyful state. Sigh…why can’t anything be simple?!

But for those of us who are trying to find time for a joyful hour, let alone a blissful, balanced life, I’m sharing the three ideas that resonated the most with me. If you can relate or want to chat further, let’s connect. After all (and as you’ll see soon) designing a well-lived, joyful life is definitely not a solo mission.

#1 Prototyping   

One of the first things we learn are the five mindsets inherent in thinking like a designer:

  1. Be Curious
  2. Try Stuff (Bias to Action)
  3. Reframe Problems
  4. Know it’s a Process (Awareness)
  5. Ask for Help (Radical Collaboration)

While all five stuck with me, two in particular struck a chord. Writing this blog – and the writing gigs that have come about because of it – is me trying stuff. And over the years, I’ve taken my love of mentoring to the next level. I’ve presented workshops focusing on communication and navigating the job search process to MBA students at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management – and within TD (my full-time gig). I didn’t have a name for all this activity until now: prototyping.

“There is no sitting on the bench just thinking about what you are going to do. There is only getting in the game. Designers try things. They test things out. They create prototype after prototype, failing often, until they find what works and what solves the problem.”

Perhaps you’re sitting on an idea or a thought. An opportunity you want to pursue. A change you want to make. A concept you want to bring to life. Maybe there’s a way to test it without going all in all at once. Without quitting your day job with no concrete plan in place. Hint: the book strongly encourages talking to LOTS of people and brainstorming LOTS of ideas (see chapter 6, Prototyping).

With a little prototyping already under my belt, I’m even more motivated to experiment my way to joy. In fact, with my husband’s help, I recently tested out the brainstorming technique called mind mapping which “works by using simple free association of words, one after another, to open up the idea space and come up with new solutions.” While this certainly wasn’t my first brainstorming rodeo, it was my first time putting pen to paper about this specific thought. In just a few minutes, we generated some pretty cool ideas I honestly had not thought of before.

Which brings me to my next favourite idea…

#2 Radical Collaboration  

“You do not have to come up with a brilliant life design by yourself. Design is a collaborative process, and many of the best ideas are going to come from other people. You just need to ask. And know the right questions to ask.”

While I’ve never been one to shy away from asking for help or reaching out to my community or network as needed, being hit over the head with this mindset was a wonderful gift. Too often we think we need to solve all of our problems by ourselves. We believe it’s all on our shoulders to make all the puzzle pieces of our lives fit together nicely. According to the authors, this couldn’t be further from the truth: “Designers believe in radical collaboration because true genius is a collaborative process.”

I’m in – sign me up for a truly genius life, please.

So, with whom, exactly, should we radically collaborate? We are encouraged to build a life design team of three to six people. These are people we should meet with regularly, who will help us track our progress, and who can help us reflect on our approaches, successes, failures, and everything in between. I’m sure a few cups of coffee make an appearance as well.

Beyond this group, are our Supporters, Players, Intimates, and Mentors. See Chapter 11, Building a Team, for more. PS. I just love the authors’ definition of counsel as they are describing good mentoring: “When someone is trying to help you figure out what you think.” Now that’s genius.

Of course, some people may fall into multiple groups. But the most important thing is to know we’re not alone and to use a collection of minds – radically if possible! – to help us build great lives.

#3 The Good Time Journal

After we’ve identified the problem (or problems) we want to tackle using tools such as the Health/Love/Play/Work Dashboard (Chapter 1, Start Where You Are), it’s time to build our compass and “wayfind” our way to our happy place, using – you guessed it! – a few more tools. Before this book, my education about wayfinding came from the beautiful movie, Moana. And while the type of wayfinding we’re talking about here requires pens and notebooks and happens on dry land, not within a vast ocean, I can see the similarities. “Wayfinding,” the authors assert, “is the ancient art of figuring out where you are going when you don’t actually know your destination.”

Pass me my oars – I’m off!

To help us wayfind, one of the ideas introduced is The Good Time Journal. It’s pretty much what it sounds like. For a few weeks, document the various things you do and score them on engagement (low to high) and energy (negative to positive). After reflection and some analysis, the Good Time activities – and the specific reasons behind them – should jump off the page, thus providing great insights for your next move.

For example, when I am helping to bring clarity to a group discussion by using simple language to describe complex concepts, my engagement is at its highest and my energy is off the charts. But the tool doesn’t stop there. To help us really zoom in on the good stuff and gather the really juicy insights, we can use the AEIOU method to help us reflect, discover, and appreciate our skills, likes, and dislikes:

  • A = Activities – What specifically were you doing?
  • E= Environment – Notice where you were. What kind of place was it and how did it make you feel?
  • I = Interactions – What type of interaction was it? Formal? Informal? With people? Machines? Animals? Other?
  • O = Objects – Were any objects involved? Computers? Hockey sticks? Sailboats?
  • U = Users – Who else was with you? And what role did they play?

While I’m confident I have a general sense of what fills me up, I love the idea of shining the light on specific elements to better understand myself and reveal deeper insights.


So, there you have it…three tools (of many!) from a great book that deserves a special place on my bookshelf.

Now, please pass me my compass…I have a brilliant life to find. Ahem…wayfind.

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!

 

 

 

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.