• lifestyle
  • Thankful Tuesday – One Grad’s Story

    We received the grad photos today for my son’s graduation from University.

    We attended the graduation ceremony a few weeks ago. As I sat in the audience, full of pride and nostalgia, my mind reflected on our journey as a family to this point and then to thoughts of every graduate in the ceremony. Each graduate has their story, their journey, their moments of struggle and triumph.

    We have two kids – both Queen’s graduates now, and yet so different. This one felt like the graduation that wouldn’t be. This kid – intelligent, wise, independent, and personable. And yet, challenging, stubborn, and sullen at times. This one never enjoyed school, worked since the age of 14 and wondered what he would learn from formal education that would be better than what he was learning on the job. And he was committed to his own path.

    In second year of University, he announced at our family Christmas dinner that he planned to stop going to school. It didn’t go over well. After several hours, many words, and some tears (mine, not his), we came to an agreement that he would continue school if he could tell everyone he was only doing it for his mom.

    I didn’t care what he told people as long as he continued. I knew he could find jobs and thought he might even be fine without the degree, but I didn’t want him to regret the choice. And with this child, I knew a break from school would probably result in him never returning.

    He continued with school. He stayed connected to his family. He kept working at a job he loved – to balance with the school he didn’t. He persevered. We traveled over these 4 tough years, him to us, us to him, and many lunches and dinners where we met halfway. Once a month, we checked in physically to see him. My style is to see the kid to understand the kid. It’s easy to hide things from your mom when you just text or call, but the face tells the story.

    Other parents gave me advice to let him do what he wants and said he’d make the right choices. It didn’t feel right so we took our chances. We pushed when required and stepped back to give breathing room.

    This child of mine…
    – could have graduated in the ceremony in June but didn’t file the paperwork in time
    – could have had his photo in the school yearbook, but had the session 2 days before the grad ceremony
    – forgot we were having family Thanksgiving dinner the night before the ceremony, but changed his plans to join us anyway
    – sent me a picture in line with his robe on so I wouldn’t worry that he would be late
    – posed with his sister, and his girlfriend, and parents and smiled for his photos in front of the school landmarks, all without a complaint

    So dedicated and focused at work. So loving and caring to his family as he has matured over the years.

    It’s been a long and winding road to this graduation. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Here’s to all the graduates. And all the parents. And grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, professors, and school counselers who helped them on their individual journeys.

    Bask in the success. You’ve all earned it.

    The night before grad when I was teasing him about the time he told us he was quitting school, he said with a twinkle in his eye – “funny, I don’t remember that”. I responded with an equally light tone “Oh, yes, must have been someone else.”

  • blog
  • Thursday Tech Talk – Deskside Support Experts


    I got a new laptop yesterday. An excellent deskside support person came, delivered the laptop, set me up, and had me running in 15 minutes.

    This is her job so maybe that’s not a big deal. The interesting aspects to me were these:
    – she was extremely pleasant and personable
    – she was effective and knowledgeable
    – she taught me a few things without making me feel dumb
    – she was a girl geek

    I can’t remember the last time I had a technical support person help me who was a female. Yes, help desk reps, but not hands on deskside support people.

    We’re establishing standards for devices and I’m testing this out as a small, lightweight option for heavy travellers like myself. I have 30 days to assess and make a decision.

    Getting new equipment can be fun, or can be painful. This was an excellent, positive experience. I was inspired and smiled all day.

    Well done, girl geek. Well done.

    If you’re wondering…

    Lenovo X280
    Intel i7, 8th Gen
    DDR4 SDRAM
    2400 MHz
    17 hours battery life
    12.5 inch screen, 2.9 pounds
    And yes, that’s a built in webcam shutter 🙂

  • blog
  • Leadership Thoughts – Tethered by Trust

    I recently took a vacation in the western provinces of Canada that included 11 days on a motorcycle. This was a first for me and I wasn’t sure what I was getting into.

    Two Harley motorcycles, two couples, many mountain ranges, large lakes and rivers and the Pacific Ocean, and countless twisties. Roads that allow the rider to enjoy, curving, swaying, following the natural landscape, with the beautiful views ever present.

    The road, my thoughts, and hours of enjoyment – about 77 hours of riding in fact – and this phrase popped into my head: “tethered by trust”.

    When two bikes ride together tethered by trust, the riding is an experience like poetry, like a symphony, like a well-oiled machine. There is an unspoken language that is learned through experience that enables joy and safety, leading and sharing, and pure exhilaration.

    It reminded me of leadership in work and personal experiences. When common goals, experience to execute, and trust exists, words are often unnecessary. We know where we’re going, we have the right skills, and people trust me to both lead and pass the reins at the appropriate moments. Lead when I’m needed, pass the reins to others either for a break or allow them to grow, or to recognize areas of strength that I may not have.

    A Harley motorcycle, an open road, and a few hand signals that are universally known by experienced riders. And don’t forget the dropped-arm-low-key-wave when you see a fellow biker.

    Tethered by trust. Leadership indeed.

  • blog
  • Leadership Thoughts – A-maze?

    There was a horrific event in our city a few months ago involving a man who intentionally drove his van into a crowd with the intent to kill people.

    It is unusual for such violence where I live, and therefore shocking and overwhelming for everyone who was involved as well as all of us who feel we live in an environment safe from such acts.

    One of the responses was for the city to install concrete barriers around our main train station. This station is used by approximately 300,000 commuters on a daily basis and all of the people using the train for vacation and other travel.

    So, it’s extremely important for the station to be safe. These barriers would definitely hinder, and probably stop an event like the one I described from happening in front of this location.

    As I walked by this week, I thought of the leadership it took. To take action, to make that action swift, and to demonstrate to the city that people are a priority. And yet, my second thought was this…

    Now we are stuck with these hideous looking barriers. They created a maze, it’s not amazing. Hard to walk through, hindering people’s commute every morning and night. Yes, barriers are probably needed. Couldn’t we implement something that is more appealing, and still a barrier? For inspiration, the large pots with flowers some hotels installed around their perimeter come to mind. While they are beautiful, they still provide the barrier to cars and other vehicles.

    I thought then that true leadership takes action, and follow-through. I worry that whoever decided to put up the concrete barriers is off to the next priority. I’ll bet he/she doesn’t take a commuter train and may never actually drive by and consider the view these concrete slabs create.

    So I’ll remind myself, and maybe some of you, remember to take action, think about people, and follow-up. Check back in, see how your decisions are doing a few weeks later, and refine where necessary. It’s not too hard.

    Have a safe day, girl geek.

  • blog
  • Leadership Thoughts – Open Minded?

    Open minded – having a mind receptive to new ideas, arguments, etc; unprejudiced

    Most people think they are open minded. Receptive to new ideas, willing to take in new facts, able to change their thinking. And yet, we often talk to people who are like us and think like us and believe the things we believe. How often do we intentionally expose ourselves to different or new just for the experience of opening our mind to the possibility of changing our mind?

    I attended an exhibit of works by Banksy. I was invited by a contact of mine and accepted without really knowing anything about this mysterious artist. When I was invited, I even had to look up who Banksy was and what his (street) art was about. Knowing my daughter (a computer science and art history grad) would enjoy it, I accepted partly for the opportunity to spend time with her and make her happy.

    As I experienced the art, taking it all in with no judgement I found myself enjoying the experience and the art and the artist. I felt connected to him in some way – his strength of conviction and passion for making his statements in a way that is bold and humble, consistent and creative. This artist and I on the surface have nothing in common and yet he made me feel this connection through his paintings and his words.

    I accomplished my goals of spending time with my daughter and making her happy, and came away with so much more. A feeling that I got to know and understand the artist a bit and a feeling of my mind expanding.

    Well done Banksy, we’ll done.

  • blog
  • Thankful Tuesday – My Peeps and an Anniversary

    Today is my one year anniversary at this exciting new job! I need to thank my peeps.

    peep. (plural only) (now slang) People; often especially (with personal pronoun), one’s friends or associates.

    It’s such a perfect word. Friends and associates. My peeps. I think of these people so often.

    The ones who are there every day for me. The ones who have been there just for a moment of coaching – supporting – inspiring – teaching – guiding. And the ones in between, who played a role for a period of time. Through a job on this path, or a stage in this life.

    I am blessed. I know that.

    I learned many years ago my identity is not my job, my title, my position of hierarchy. My identity is who I am inside. So it’s easy to look forward and see what I want, where I can grow, and who I want to hang with. My peeps.

    We collect all these souls along the way.

    The boss who taught me how to sell a strategy. The co-worker who said “I’ve always been a fan” at the exact moment I needed a boost. The colleague who said “you are in the best position to assess what you want and make it happen”. The friend who took on a role similar to the one I was considering and talked me through the challenges and the fun he was encountering. The CIO at another company who counseled me that I should look for a role where I could manage infrastructure. The team member who said “you just see things so logically and clearly and not everyone can do that”.

    The friends who always believe. The family members who always cheer me on.

    So many peeps. So many moments.

    All leading to a decision one year ago to jump. To take a risk. To accept this job. To switch companies, and teams, and industries. To start over where I didn’t know anyone.

    And one year later, it’s so fun. And hard. And rewarding. And I know SO MANY new people that I never would have met.

    I am blessed.

    And I got a present. Wrapped in a beautiful bow. From our CEO. How cool is that?

  • blog
  • Leadership Thoughts – Unity is Strength

    What a day it was today. From the morning sunrise – the warmth – the peace of the early day.

    To the sunset and beauty I felt as I drove home.

    My perspective was clear as I tackled the day and the sunshine was shining on me. I stopped to reflect – both before and after – and capture the sights that book-ended this day for me.

    Today was a day of challenge for my team. We presented our technology strategy to the CEO and the entire Executive Team. 2 hours, many statistics, and details of the journey we’ve been on over the past year with many accomplishments to highlight.

    We prepared for weeks. This was no normal meeting. This was a chance to demonstrate our leadership, show we are serious about running the business of technology, and also that we are working as a team. The presentation went well. We made our key points. The room was engaged in the conversation and there was some good-hearted teasing along the way.

    When we were done, I was happy. And excited for the future wins. And proud. How many people get the opportunity to build a team of experts? And know that you are all pulling together? And that each one of them has your back? Well, I have that opportunity now. I am in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. Watch out world – we’re on fire!

    “Unity is strength. . . when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” –Mattie Stepanek

  • lifestyle
  • Women in Tech – Own the Stage!

    I recently attended a conference and came away inspired. The technical information was helpful, the contacts I made were valuable, and I came home feeling full and thankful for the experience. I was full of knowledge, full of ideas, and full of an overall positive experience from thinking and talking about technology non-stop for 4 days.

    The bonus was sitting in the front row of an audience of over 40,000 people and watching talented, technical, business focused women speaking about the future of our industry and using examples of achievements that have already been accomplished.

    All of those words are inspiring to a girl geek like me – the technology industry, the future, and real life achievements (not just what could be done, but what has been done). It’s a fantastic and exciting time to be in tech. But the word in the sentence that brings chills to me even as I write about it weeks after I am back home is the word women.

    When I started in tech many, many years ago, there were no women in management in the technology team at my company. There was no role model, no sense of my spot at the table to aspire to, and no clear view of whether I would be supported at that time to move into an executive role in technology.

    So I sat in that front row – even having that terrific seat was an achievement based on being in a position in technology of making decisions – and listened to women telling stories of accomplishments. Not stories about being a woman in tech, just a leader leading tech innovation. And they did it with strength, and knowledge, and personality. They did it sounding powerful and looking female.

    I share two photos. I know they aren’t great quality, my phone camera competing with magnificent stage lighting, but they capture the essence of the moment. Two women owning the stage and inspiring women like me that we are making great progress in this tech field from that moment I started with no women role models above me.

    I share to inspire you with their greatness, and challenge all you girl geeks to look up to them as role models. I equally challenge you to look around you once today to find a girl geek you can inspire too. There are young women every day entering the field. Let’s take care of them.

    Ginni Rometty, Chair, President, and CEO of IBM

    Alice Keung, SVP & Chief Transformation Officer at Economical Insurance

  • lifestyle
  • Women in Tech – Be Fierce and Fabulous!


    A message from me to men and women on International Women’s Day –

    “Be fierce in your support of strong women, and relentless in backing the delicate ones so that they may find their personal strength”.

    Many thanks to my parents for inspiring me and giving me perspective as I reflect on this day. Thanks to my father for telling me I could do anything I set my mind to, and my mother for showing me the way.

    For all the women in tech – be fierce (showing heartfelt and powerful intensity), and fabulous (extraordinary and wonderful). Notice that neither of these means you need to be loud or aggressive. Be you!

    We’ve come so far, but we’re not done yet.