A few weeks ago, I was privileged to take part in the 4th annual 2014 CDN Women in the IT Channel Recognition Luncheon at the beautiful Estates of Sunnybrook, Vaughan House, in Toronto. I attended with Laura Tsingos, Director of Operations at HighVail Systems Inc., who was one of the distinguished honorees at the 2nd annual Recognition Luncheon in 2012. The event is sponsored by ITWC, publisher of CDN (Computer Dealer News) and Ingram Micro Canada.
The day was action-packed with one inspiring session after another. The morning began with a choice of two interactive workshops. Laura and I chose Exceptional Leading: 17 Ideas on Leading Exceptionally Well in IT, presented by Executive Coach Karen Hanna, of TKB Hanna & Associates and SAP Canada COO Leagh Turner. Both innovative workshop leaders covered a lot of ground, including Karen’s concepts of the “Talent/Trouble Matrix,” “Borrowing Talent,” “Over-Hiring for Short-Term Gaps,” “The 2:1 Communication Approach,” and many excellent others. The advice given by Karen and Leigh was invaluable for all the attendees in the room, no matter what position one held, and the ideas presented were highly useful for all industries, not solely for IT.
The fun continued after the morning sessions with a welcome reception where Laura and I got to mingle with a variety of vibrant, interesting, dynamic women (and a few men!). There was an uplifting vibe in the room and each guest was invited to take a complementary professional photo.
We were treated to a delightful luncheon, truly fulfilling in every way. The tables were decorated with tiny vases filled with an array of gorgeous, whimsical florals, and the wine, gourmet dishes, and conversation flowed. The effervescent buzz in the room, along with the vision of all these women engaging with one another on all levels was invigorating.
Jill Dempsey, Host of Metro Morning, CBC Radio One , and the Master of Ceremonies for the luncheon, gave the opening remarks. She spoke of the huge imbalance of women in IT in Canada, but that it was encouraging to know that there is a 38 per cent increase of women applying for IT jobs, and enrollment in Canadian universities has risen by nine per cent.
We were then addressed by Paolo Del Nibletto, Associate Publisher & Editor, CDN – Computer Dealer News, who shared an incredible story about a woman named Anne Mulcahy who began her career back in 1976 as a salesperson at Xerox and who eventually climbed the ranks to Chairperson & CEO. Paolo relayed that in 2001, when Xerox was hit very hard by the dotcom crash, the company approached Anne to help save them. A woman totally ahead of her time, incredibly savvy and with sheer determination and chutzpah (my words!), she turned to Warren Buffet who at the time was the 2nd richest man on earth, for advice. Eventually, as Paolo relayed, she rescued Xerox, bringing it back from near ruins to becoming totally debt free. She was named CEO of the year in 2008 and the rest, as they say, is history. Paolo’s moving words left everyone in the room with incredible positivity and inspiration, and with a clear message that women can do whatever they want if they set their minds to it.
There were more stimulating speeches and presentations by Fawn Annan, President & Group Publisher, IT World Canada, Mark Snider, General Manager, Ingram Micro Canada, Jennifer Johnson, Senior Director, Marketing, Ingram Micro North America, and others.
I especially loved the Recognition of Women in the IT Channel 2014 Honourees presentations. Each recipient of this prestigious award was filmed prior to the event giving the audience a chance to hear them speak about their careers and their hopes and visions for the future. The outstanding women in senior level/leadership roles in IT who were honored were the following: Lesley Andrews – Director, Business Development, CompuCom Canada Co., Julie Cloutier – Vice President Sales, ESI Technologies, Joanna Strong – President and CEO, Commerx, and Janice Siddons – Chief Operating Officer, TUC Managed IT Solutions. Huge congratulations to you all!
If all the above wasn’t enough to make this day so memorable, there was one more very special goodie in store to make it even moreso. The luncheon featured well-known and highly respected Canadian Icon, Dini Petty (Dini Petty), Award-winning Producer, Talk Show Host and Interviewer.
Dini delighted guests with many stories from her long and illustrious career and personal life, including the fact that she was only 22 when she got her license to do traffic reports from a (pink!) helicopter. She pointed out that she always had self-confidence but did not always have self esteem, and how the two are very different. In her own words, she explained what self esteem means to her: how you think/feel about, and what value you put on, yourself. For example, it’s the end of the day and you’re taking off your makeup and brushing your teeth and you capture your vision in the mirror and start saying to yourself – “I’m too fat; I’m too skinny; everything is wrong (with me)….” It can begin early in life – perhaps in school. Your classmates can teach you how to disrespect yourself by teasing you about your weight, sexuality, religion, etc. and it can continue on a never-ending downward spiral. Dini shared some very important salient advice. Low self esteem, she said, “is the gift that keeps on giving. If you have it, your children will copy it. If you change, however, they’ll see the change. Kids copy their parents. It’s not ‘do as I say.’ You can stop it.”
Another tip Dini shared was figuring out how your instinct works for you – “it’s the only way to protect yourself,” she said. She recommended two books for every woman to read: The Road Less Travelled by Scott Peck and Women Who Run with the Wolves by Dr. Estes.
A few times throughout her speech, Dini repeated some sage advice to the women in the room: “Take care of yourself, Love, because if you don’t, no one else will.” She added that we take better care of our cars than we do of ourselves. Women, she relayed, have come a long way but still have a long way to go. Dini, herself, finally decided to take things into her own hands at the age of 50 (she is now 70) with what she espouses is a simple formula for all of us to follow in order to take care of ourselves: Food, Water, Rest, Exercise. For those of us who find that drinking enough water throughout the day too difficult, Dini had an amusing solution – fill two large wine bottles full of water and pour from them – “You have no idea how much more water you’ll drink from a wine bottle!” Loved it!
The elegant dessert reception, following such a glorious morning and luncheon, was the icing on the cake (no pun intended), where guests could once again network and share their thoughts and observations about the day. I left the event energized and motivated to continue to encourage the young women of today to go after their dreams, and that the world is theirs if they want it. Other pioneers before have paved the road for them to travel on and if they want it, they can achieve anything. I felt honoured to be in the company of so many exciting women and deeply proud to have attended with Laura Tsingos, who continues to inspire the HighVail Systems Team from its founding and for its 11 years in existence thus far.
Joanne Brodkin is the marketing and communications manager for CDN Top 100 Solution Provider HighVail Systems.