The annual Canadian Women in the IT Channel Recognition Luncheon event continued to shine its spotlight on the importance of equity and inclusion.
Anthony Karim, vice president of vendor management for Ingram Micro Canada, shared his insights and experiences during his opening remarks. His relationship with his many siblings has carried over the same sense of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
“I remember my parents telling me that we were all made different so that we could explore those differences, and appreciate the differences of other people,” said Karim. “We were brought up [to understand] that everybody’s equal and to embrace each other’s differences. For me, it’s a huge thing that I want to be able to bring into the workplace.”
Karim says that to shape a better future, we need to start with the future generation by setting good examples.
“I have children, I’m trying to teach them the same thing,” said Karim. “We love to travel, we love to experience different things. We want them to embrace the differences of people, cultures, and diversity of the world in general. The most important thing–and you hear me say it all the time working with me–is that my kids are watching. They’re getting an example of what they’re going to be when they grow up.”
In a corporate or enterprise team environment, however, Karim stressed the importance of hiring people new to the Canadian workforce, a strategy that Ingram Micro Canada has employed to great effect.
“Going back to whether the cat is black, or whether the cat is white, if it catches mice, it’s a good cat,” he said. “Whether the experiences in Canada are the experiences somewhere else in the world, it’s experience. And I think we need to give some credit to people for having that experience.”
With the Canadian government announcing that it will revise the immigration policy to grow the country’s population in the next three years, Karim said it’s the perfect opportunity to acquire foreign talent in the workforce.
The power of pronouns in the workplace
Support for the LGBTQ+ community starts at using the proper verbiage, specifically pronouns, to accurately describe everyone’s gender identity. At the event, Rebecca Hootons (she/her) spoke about the importance of pronouns and the power they hold during her keynote. She encourages everyone to research the diverse language that people use to explain their experiences.
“There are so many folks who are living outside of this man, woman binary,” Hooton explained. “You can be to spirit, gender, queer, non-binary, gender, fluid, gender, creative, gender, apathetic age, gender, by gender, etc.”
Hooton said that the best question to ask when someone reveals their identity to them is “how can I best support you?” She explained that people need to understand their experiences before they can fully appreciate their identity.
“We’re changing the way that that space works for one or two individuals. And that’s just not going to work anymore,” Hooton emphasized. “Because there are so many people who are trans, non-binary, two-spirit who deserve to enter a space and feel that they will immediately unquestionably be seen and respected for who they are.”
For when mistakes happen in identity labelling, Hooton advises to keep the apology short and move on. Don’t make it longer than the correction as it becomes self-serving.
Women in Channel hall of fame
One of the biggest hurdles that remains in the tech industry is the lack of representation of women in leadership roles. The Canadian Women in the IT Channel Recognition Luncheon celebrated five women for their distinguished roles in the channel and their profound impact on the tech sector as a whole.
Like many others, Rose Marcello has had a varied and diverse experience tech. After graduating from Humber College with a degree in event management, she worked in sales and marketing at Rogers Communications before joining Ingram Micro. She spent eight years there before becoming channel marketing manager at Samsung Electronics. That was followed by roles at Air Canada Vacations, a marketing agency and a construction design firm. In 2014, Marcello made her way back to the IT channel by taking a position at her current employer, VMware.
“I do have young people and others that are turning to me as an advisor or as a mentor. That means I’ve done something, I’ve made some impact somewhere,” she said.
After studying journalism, Labelle earned political science degrees at Laval University in Quebec and the University of Hertfordshire in England. She started her career working in communications for the Quebec government before becoming an account director at PR giant Hill and Knowlton, where her clients in the IT channel included HP, Cisco, Motorola and Virgin Mobile.
Following marketing and communications stints in manufacturing and retail (including art retailer DeSerres and outdoor outfitter MEC), Labelle came back to the channel when she joined ITI. Headquartered in Quebec City, ITI was founded as ProContact in 1991 and now provides tech consulting and recruiting services to more than 1,500 clients in the public and private sectors.
“The leadership style included more empathy and was a bit more inclusive already. Diversity and inclusion (became) more of a norm or a must in general,”
Nancy Kierstead graduated from the University of New Brunswick with two degrees that would serve her particularly well in the channel: a bachelor of business administration and a master’s in computer science.
Armed with that dual knowledge base, Kierstead got her first job in the channel fresh out of university as a business analyst and project manager at Xwave. After 12 years there, she joined Bulletproof in 2007 and is now director of corporate services at the company.
“We even have three of our VPs that are female and I’m seeing the same presence of women in leadership roles within other companies as well. So I think we may still have a way to go but we’ve made so much progress that it really needs to be celebrated.”
As she hastily pointed out, that was 14 years ago when she had just joined a small New Brunswick company called Bulletproof. Kierstead noted that since then, women have made significant strides in the channel and at Bulletproof itself.
After Pallavi Ramchandani graduated with a bachelor of engineering degree in India, She continued to pursue a master’s in global business in 2017. Her first job out of school was in marketing at the Dubai offices of British publishing and events company Informa. She then joined the channel by taking a senior marketing position at the Dubai headquarters of IT distributor Westcon-Comstor.
Next up was a role at Ingram Micro as a Microsoft marketing specialist for the Persian Gulf region. Although Ramchandani’s channel career was clearly flourishing in the Middle East, she made the momentous move to Toronto.
In the eight short months since then, she’s won Cognizant MBG’s rookie of the month award, boosted the firm’s LinkedIn impressions by more than 3,000 per cent, and spearheaded an internal company art auction that raised more than $6,000 for Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital.
“I’ve been undergoing a different cultural experience altogether,” she said of her recent move to Canada. “It has shaped and formulated into something really good, better than what I expected, honestly. In my professional life, I’ve been surrounded by various people who have made that change very normalized for me and it never feels like I’m in a different country.”
Just a year after earning her business management degree at Wilfrid Laurier University, Wilson dove into the IT channel by starting up The Trainer’s Advisory Network. Run by Wilson and her husband Bill, the firm originally specialized in Microsoft Outlook training before focusing on training for CRM systems such as Maximizer, GoldMine, Sugar and Zoho.
After 36 years of providing IT training to corporate clients, Joanne Wilson says her proudest career achievement actually involved high school students.
At the dawn of the PC revolution, Wilson sourced computers from five vendors and brought them into 10 Ottawa high schools, determined to give the teenagers a show-and-tell glimpse of the technology she knew would soon change their lives.
“A lot of VARS and resellers just want to do the work for them,” she said. “I think (clients) can do the work for themselves and really understand their CRM product. Do it yourself, feel it yourself and then you’re going to know it way better.”