2019 CDN Women in the IT Channel Hall of Fame inductee: Priscilla Petgrave

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Scrutinize excellent leaders and you’ll find a shared trait: regardless of their position, they all fearlessly seek out and attack challenges. Priscilla Petgrave is a perfect example.

Her career first started in the U.S. army, a field far from the bristling technology scene that captivated the hearts of young entrepreneurs. But working as an X-ray technician in the army gave Priscilla the best opportunity to sharpen her latent leadership skills, which she extensively used throughout her future career.

After concluding her military services, Priscilla attended the Los Angeles Community College, where she studied Radiology while working at Litton Aero products. Unbeknownst to her at the time, entering the aerospace industry would be the first step in her 25-year career in technology.

Priscilla was eventually transferred to Litton Systems Canada and worked as a contracts administrator on the Tribal Class Update and Modernization Program for the Canadian government destroyer fleet. Subsequently, she entered manufacturing as a manufacturing planner and acted as a crucial convergence point between production and engineering.

While she flourished in the highly scrutinized, fast-paced work environment, Priscilla’s perpetual growth mindset drove her to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Ryerson University. Using her new-found skills, Priscilla dove back into the tech sector as a marketing coordinator and quickly rose to a management position. But having been an engineer for most of her career at this point, she had to explore and learn a brand-new field.

“When I joined my first sales company, I recall I was there for a couple of days and I approached my boss and said, ‘What do we make?’” remembered Priscilla in an interview with CDN. “He said to me, ‘What do you mean, what do we make?’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t see anything being built here,’ and he says, ‘Well, we build solutions’ I said, ‘Okay, solutions? Well, what does that involve?’ He gave me a lesson on what that involved, and one of those lessons was what the channel really meant. From that day on, I really understood and respected what the channel brought to the table for sure.”

In the subsequent 25 years, she never strayed far from bleeding-edge technology, and now works as a senior sales consultant for Information Systems Architects (ISA). Throughout her journey, there have been many critical situations where she had to draw up her leadership skillset. For Priscilla, one stands out above the others. A deal was on the line, and on the day of the big meeting, things began to fall apart.

“I had a meeting with perhaps the largest distribution company in Canada, together with one of my engineers. Unfortunately on the day of the meeting, my engineer phoned to say he had an emergency and that he couldn’t make it. Being the size of the deal, the last thing I wanted to do was actually cancel that meeting. I showed up at the meeting. There were probably 20 or more engineers around the table. My knees were shaking, but at that moment I knew that this was an unbelievable deal. I set up my computer, went to work, delivered the presentation, a somewhat demo, took the questions and did what most salespeople do. For the questions I couldn’t answer. I said, ‘We can get back to you on that.’ Following the meeting, they didn’t throw me out of the room. I think I did a decent job and we won the deal.”

In her personal life, Priscilla is a volunteer political team leader for Democrats Abroad, and an avid supporter of Tim Hortons Camp Day, the Canadian Cancer Society and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAAD).

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Tom Li
Tom Li
Telecommunication and consumer hardware are Tom's main beats at Channel Daily News. He loves to talk about Canada's network infrastructure, semiconductor products, and of course, anything hot and new in the consumer technology space. You'll also occasionally see his name appended to articles on cloud, security, and SaaS-related news. If you're ever up for a lengthy discussion about the nuances of each of the above sectors or have an upcoming product that people will love, feel free to drop him a line at tli@itwc.ca.

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