WAMS Gala Luncheon April 21, 2017 Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Women of WAMS

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Women of WAMS features women leaders in the industry and their thoughts on networking, finding work/life balance, mentoring, and the importance of ending MS with the WAMS program.

WAMS BCY Robin TaylorRobin Taylor is a Senior Environmental Assessment Manager specializing in environmental management of major infrastructure projects, and excelling in habitat restoration and mitigation. Her 30-plus years of experience in environmental assessment and regulatory affairs, includes more than 15 years of direct experience on OE teams for BC road, bridge and port transportation infrastructure projects during environmental planning, assessment, permitting and implementation. As the Owner’s environmental manager for the Port Mann / Highway 1 Improvement Project, she provided environmental oversight for the design, construction and transition to operation. This included delivering the Project’s largest habitat compensation works through leadership of multi-stakeholder groups and environmental aspects of project agreements, permits and construction management. Her team won the Award of Excellence from the Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada BC Chapter for innovative approaches on one of these habitat enhancement projects. This follows the project’s 2012 win of the Transportation Association of Canada’s Environmental Achievement Award.

Hemmera is a Community Partner for WAMS.

Title/Position: Senior Environmental Assessment Manager

Company or Organization: Hemmera

Why do you think networking is important for women in business? To draw inspiration from and to inspire other women to reach for “impossible” goals, to support and be supported.

In your opinion, what makes a great leader? One who can motivate others to be the best they can be.

How do you find work/life balance? Gardening, walking the dog, birding, at the cabin with my family.

What does the word diversity mean to you? Acknowledging and being curious about gender, age, ethnicity and cultural differences.

If you had the opportunity to meet one successful female leader, who would you pick and why? Hilary Clinton because of all the initiatives and leadership she has shown in her philanthropy.

Who has someone who has been a mentor in your life? Why do you think a mentor is important for women in business? Several strong and determined women who have started as my managers in past work and ended up becoming friends as well. We all need mentors to help us grow, bounce ideas off, and provide the benefit of their experience.

What advice would you give to young women just starting out in their career? Follow your passion without passion, it will just be a job.


Karen DanielsKaren Daniels is the Morning Show Host on 93.7 JRFM Radio

What drew you to the Women Against MS initiative? My father and my brother in law both died young from MS. The small Saskatchewan town I was raised in had a very high rate of MS.

Why do you think programs like WAMS are important? WAMS shows that you can be a mother, and have a career with MS, you can have it all, and there's plenty of help for you...in this community of women coming together to share ideas, strengths and learning more about research. It's uplifting!

Why do you think networking is important for women in business? Women are great communicators, it's great to support and seek knowledge from other women.

In your opinion, what makes a great leader? A great leader is passionate about the goal, can make decisions, perhaps doesn't always have all the answers, but is willing to search for them.

How do you find work/life balance? I'm lucky to have supportive people around me, both at work and home. I'm never afraid to ask for help.

What does the word diversity mean to you? Diversity means multi...as in many different people from all corners, and cultural backgrounds doing many different things, whether a scientist or a housecleaner...Great ideas can come in many ways. Variety is the spice of life.

If you had the opportunity to meet any successful businesswoman at a networking event, whom would you want to meet and what would you ask them? Sandie Rinaldo of CTV, she is a true pioneer for women in broadcasting, a field that was tough for women to be taken seriously at the time.

Who is someone who has been a mentor in your life? How important do you think mentorship is to women in business? My mentor has been my mother, living with a husband with MS early on, when there wasn't much education about it, raising 2 girls and training for a career to provide for everyone, that truly is the definition of superwoman. I love mentoring young women entering the field of broadcasting, just to let them know they can do it their way and be successful.

What advice would you give to a young woman starting their career? First of all, don't take yourself too seriously, you will make mistakes, own it, learn from it, don't dwell on it! Respect those before you. Accept advice and constructive criticism with grace. A good attitude and a smile is the best thing you can wear. Stay passionate, be you, work hard, it will be noticed and rewarded.


Laura BallanceLaura Ballance is the President of Laura Ballance Media Group (LBMG).

What drew you to the Women Against MS initiative? I have always made it a priority to get involved and dedicate both time and resources to supporting great charities. LBMG dedicates approximately $100,000 a year to pro bono efforts and I am proud to work with great organizations like the MS Society of Canada who are clearly moving the bar when it comes to making tangible progress toward one day eradicating this devastating disease. I was asked by two women I have worked with for many years and whom I truly respect in the media space Karen Daniels and Tracey Fresneda if I would consider helping out and I didn’t hesitate for a moment in saying yes. I was honoured to have been asked.

Why do you think programs like WAMS are important? I think amplifying the attention to a particular cause or charity is mandatory for all organizations, and I believe groups like WAMS are crucial in achieving the ultimate goal of finding a cure. We live in a country where people care about others, and as such, we are rich with choice on where to donate our money and time, so in order for the MS Society of Canada to engage with the Canadian public in an effective way, groups like WAMS will be instrumental in magnifying the need for resources and volunteers.

Why do you think networking is important for women in business? I believe in networking with great business leaders every day. I am always looking for ways to grow my business, and organizations that bring like-minded people together are imperative to growing LBMG in a region that doesn’t have many large head office organizations but does have a wealth of entrepreneurs who celebrate small business every day. These are people I can learn from, and welcome opportunities to share my experiences and learn from theirs.

In your opinion, what makes a great leader? The stereotypical characteristics of course - the ability to delegate, to inspire people, to make astute business decisions under pressure. For me, the traits I hope to bring to my team at LBMG are focus, passion and integrity. I love what I do and I hope that shows to my clients, my colleagues and my team.

How do you find work/life balance? Most people who know me would say I don’t. It’s fair to say that work/life balance isn’t a core competency. One detail that could tip the scales toward balance for me is my laptop reflects my absolute love affair with vintage cars. What began as a special connection between my father and I in my teens has continued with my husband and myself. We own some very special 50’s and 60’s vehicles, and for me, the nostalgic pull of simpler times in our ’56 Rocket 88, ’57 Rideau or ’67 Mustang T5 is the greatest way to unwind. I often say everyone needs an addiction, and mine is somewhat clean living based.

What does the word diversity mean to you? To me, diversity is all around us in the country where we live. The polar opposite of America’s “melting pot”, Canada is a reflection of its “cultural mosaic” political ideology that embraces different cultures living side-by-side. In a complex world where society sadly seems to be seeking simple answers, I believe it is the diversity of people, language, culture and religion, and the celebration of all of those, that will bridge the gaps to a better place. At LBMG, we are passionate about diversity in all things, in how we run our business and those businesses we interact with. I’m proud when I stand on a street corner in Vancouver or sit in a restaurant in Surrey and hear many different languages; it signifies that in our country, the coming together of people makes us stronger, not weaker.

If you had the opportunity to meet any successful businesswoman at a networking event, whom would you want to meet and what would you ask them? That’s a hard one. I respect so many businesspeople, regardless of gender; to pick one from either is difficult. I think on an international scale it would be Michelle Obama, because I just wish she would run for President and save America and the world all at once, and here in Canada one female business leader I really find interesting is Shelley Martin, President and CEO of Nestlé Canada. I think she would be fascinating to talk to as much for the work she’s spearheaded in raising significant money for children as for her leadership of such a historic brand.

Who is someone who has been a mentor in your life? How important do you think mentorship is to women in business? I would definitely say Annette Antoniak. She’s currently the CEO of Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo (Fort McMurray), but I worked for Annette at both the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) and when she was the president and CEO of the B.C. Olympic and Paralympic Games Secretariat. I truly admire Annette’s ability to bring a tough, pragmatic operational lens while at the same time be a creative force for her vision for the companies she has led. I was always struck by Annette’s ability to be creative, intuitive, and resourceful and those are qualities I strive for every single day.

What advice would you give to a young woman starting their career? It remains a reality that simply being good at your job isn’t enough to get to the top these days. One of the key qualities I look for in any employee is the ability to take initiative. A skilled employee who has the ability to make strategic choices in how he or she approaches his or her job and our clients’ files quickly becomes invaluable to me. For me, the key to success happened early in owning my own business. I realized that if I worked 16-18 hours a day, I better be working on things I like with people I respect.

My business is PR and advertising which means sales. We sell ideas, organizations and people to media in the form of stories, and in turn, to the public. Over my career, I’ve taken on more pro bono charitable work than was profitable, and I’ve turned away more business than I’ve taken in because in every potential client meeting I think to myself, “Do I want to put my personal reputation on the line to call up a reporter and pitch this person/story or business?” if the answer is no, I refer the person to any number of other agencies and I go back to working on what I love. It doesn’t mean I don’t have some frustrating days but they are few and far between. By establishing company core values from the start, I believe it will allow me to look back one day on the company and feel proud of the work we do, the people I’ve had the pleasure of working for and with, the results the company has achieved, and the legacy we have left behind. And all that will add up to a career I can be proud of.


Sue PaishSue Paish is the President and CEO of Lifelabs.

What drew you to the Women Against MS initiative? I have some personal connections with MS and was delighted to about WAMS as a vehicle for helping those living with the disease as well as their family and friends. I first became aware of MS in the mid 1980’s when a mentor and friend lost her vision while driving home from work only to be diagnosed a few days later with MS I was shocked to hear this and learn what the disease meant for her and her family. Several years later my cousin was diagnosed when her twin daughters were only a few years old that hit home in so many ways and in so many ways as a family we really didn’t know how to best help and support my cousin and her family.

Why do you think programs like WAMS are important? When families are living with life changing diseases, support and guidance are immeasurably valuable. The understanding, support and information that can some through WAMS will empower women with MS and those who support them.

Why do you think networking is important for women in business? The friends and colleagues that I have in the business community and in the community at large are a constant source of encouragement, guidance and ….fun! For many of us our careers are demanding and serious and that is both appropriate and necessary good friends in the community help keep me grounded and make sure that all the elements of my life stay in balance.

In your opinion, what makes a great leader? Well if I knew that I would be a very wise person! I have had the privilege of working with great leaders, and as they all share similar traits great values, vision, integrity, determination, and an appreciation for the views of others… I suppose this is why I gravitate to them as these are the traits which I try to emulate.

As someone who has built a very successful career while raising a family, how did you find work/life balance? Well that all depends on what you mean by work/life balance! When I was younger with three young children, I realized that while I wanted to ‘have it all’, I knew that I could not ‘have it all’ all at once. I knew that certain elements of my career would be deferred (I.e. I declined partnership in my law firm when it was first offered), so that I would be able to focus more on my family. Later on we made a family decision that one of us would stay home, and that as a family we would accept the restrictions that may place on some elements of our lives in favor of bringing balance overall to our family: best decision we ever made.

What does the word diversity mean to you? So many things….:) seriously . Mostly though to me it means different perspectives, approaches and ways of seeing the world. When considered in this way, diversity immediately leads me to appreciate the richness that comes when we bring different thoughts and ideas to any situation.

If you had the opportunity to meet any women leader (past or present), who would you want to meet and what would you ask them? Likely Queen Elizabeth. I have grown up with the Queen as an ever present part of the global leadership landscape. She has weathered storms ranging from World War II, to turmoil in her family, disruption at home and abroad and still she has soldiered on building a tremendous legacy.

Who is someone who has been a mentor in your life? How important do you think mentorship is to women in business? I have had many, many mentors. Likely the most important mentors for me in the past 25 years have been my children: perhaps a surprising answer but if a mentor is someone who keeps us focused, provides candid and timely advice and ‘direction’ then my children have done that since they were very young and they still do that today. Learning to appreciate and value the perspectives of others is one of the most important elements of mentorship in my view.

What advice would you give to a young woman starting their career? You do have the opportunity, the ability and the responsibility to define the life that you want to live. Once you do that you are living your life and that is the first step to real happiness.


Tracey FresnedaTracey Fresneda is a Manager, Global Accounts for HelmsBriscoe, the largest meeting site selection company in the world. Prior to joining HelmsBriscoe, Tracey held senior positions in the broadcast industry, where she managed the marketing and promotional activity for some of the biggest media brands in Western Canada. She has worked with numerous non-profit organizations to provide support for a variety of fundraising events and campaigns. A former Big Sister, Tracey was the recipient of the Big Heart Award for Outstanding Contribution by a Big Sister; she has also received the Divisional Award from the MS Society for Exceptional Achievement - Media.

Tell us what you do with the MS Society. I’m a Board Member for the MS Society, BC & Yukon Division and I volunteer for various MS committees - the Community Engagement Committee, the Divisional Awards Committee, and the WAMS Committee. I’m also involved in the MS Ambassador program and was very honoured to emcee the 2015 MS Education Conference.

How did you get involved with the MS Society? Personal connection, business connection, through friends, etc? One of my colleagues asked me if I’d be interested in getting involved with the MS Society. I’ve volunteered for various charities over the years and the MS Society really resonated with me as my sister was diagnosed with MS in 2001.

What drew you to the Women Against MS initiative? The event raises much-needed research funds to help end MS and it’s a great opportunity to network with other professional women.

Why do you think networking is important for women in the business/professional world? Any time like-minded women can get together and share their stories, ideas, and perspectives, great things happen!

What is your networking go-to or signature move when at a networking event? I don’t necessarily have a move. It’s about making real connections. Have a sincere desire to meet and connect with people and think about what you have to offer someone else and how you can help them. Ask questions, listen, and always follow-up.

What do you get out of being part of Women Against MS and the MS Society? It’s a wonderful feeling to help others and I’ve met so many incredible people who have been impacted by MS. Their stories are truly inspiring.

Tell us where you hope to be in the next 5 years? Ten years? (This can be business or personal.) I plan to continue to volunteer with the MS Society and do what I can to help people living with MS.

If you had the opportunity to meet any successful businesswoman at a networking event, who would you want to meet and what would you ask them? I was fortunate enough to meet Oprah a few years ago, but I was too excited to ask her anything!

Is there anything else you want to say? I look forward to meeting you at this year’s WAMS event - and thank you for supporting the MS Society.