Noémi Labelle knows what it’s like to find your way back to something important after a long absence.
Just as people are now returning to places they’ve missed during the pandemic, Labelle is savouring her return to the IT channel.After a foray into other industries, she found her way back to the channel at ITI. On Tuesday she was inducted into CDN’s Women in the IT Channel (WITC) Hall of Fame along with Nancy Kierstead of Bulletproof, Rose Marcello of VMware and Joanne C. Wilson of The Trainer’s Advisory Network.
At the same virtual event, Wilson was named Mentor of the Year and Pallavi Ramdanchani of Cognizant Microsoft Business Group was named Rising Star of the Year.
When Labelle returned to the channel in 2019, she quickly noticed some striking changes.
“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,” Labelle told CDN in an interview from Montreal.
“It has become something that’s not only accepted but that’s encouraged as well. (Companies) have seen the benefits of being empathetic as leaders because it does increase engagement and it does increase the loyalty of our employees, as well as productivity,” she added.
Labelle, who is VP of marketing and HR at ITI, believes much of diversity and inclusion is about creating a sense of belonging so people can be their authentic selves in the workplace and reach their full potential. She said employers must move beyond raising awareness to taking measurable action.
“It’s your management style. It’s the tools that you (use to) measure engagement. It’s about (deploying) listening tools to really measure the experience for (employees), and what kind of action you’ll put into place when you do listen to your employees,” she said.
Path to the channel
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.
To celebrate its thirtieth anniversary, ProContact rebranded itself as ITI earlier this year, a process Labelle considers the proudest achievement of her 20-year career.
“We launched a rebrand, which is not often very easy, especially internally, when the engagement and loyalty is so strong already,” she said. “When we launched it, basically, employees were proud. They felt a sense of belonging. They felt that it was representing what had become their company. So that sense of belonging that was created with the new brand was definitely, for me, very touching.”
Coming together after COVID
The theme of this year’s WITC Recognition Luncheon is “Come Together”. It refers to the movements for civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights that emerged from the social and political upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s.
Similarly, Labelle said important lessons emerging from the pandemic can help take the IT channel forward into the future.
“Because of COVID we realized that we needed to be able to adapt to change. So change is the new norm,” she said. “Employees and workers, their sense of belonging will be much more important, especially with the work-from-a-distance and so on.”
“I believe that the human side will certainly be stronger,” Labelle added. “We missed each other. So when we all have the chance and privilege to work together (again), I think that we’ll make sure to grab that opportunity to be even better.”