We celebrate International Women’s Day by taking a moment to reflect on the accomplishments of a few of the women in leadership at Nonlinear. Hear our stories on working in tech, and empowering and inspiring the women around us to succeed as they navigate the world of work.
Tell us about your career path. What do you do?
How did you start out and get to where you are today?
Allison: As President of Nonlinear Digital, I am accountable for the successful operation across a number of areas including business development and marketing. However, at the end of the day, my job is to ensure Nonlinear is recognized as a leader in the industry and that our business model sustains profitability and growth.
Cathy: My career really started in 2008 when I joined Messa Computing. I started as an Account Manager and worked very hard to establish Messa as a key provider of technical resources to most of the major telecom/datacom companies in Ottawa. Our key clients were Nortel, Newbridge/Alcatel/Alcatel-Lucent, MITEL, Cisco, and all the affiliated start-ups. In 2000, I was recruited to Nortel to join their talent acquisition team. I was all set to join Nortel when the President of Messa counter offered with the commitment of a promotion and to make me a co-owner at Messa. I co-owned Messa for 14 years until we sold the company in 2014.
Flaviana: I graduated in Psychology and I always wanted to work in HR. I focused early on on training and recruiting but with time, started to broaden up to different areas, like financial and office management. I am always seeking to learn something new and/or different.
Leigh-Ann: I graduated from Marketing and Communications Management and have a Certification in Social Media. I’m the Marketing Manager for Nonlinear’s Enterprise division. I lead the department and develop marketing strategy and execution efforts to create conversation and establish relationships with potential customers. In doing so, we help them learn more about what we do and how to solve problems.
I started out as a copywriter at SpinMaster Toys in Toronto. I eventually found my way into the financial sector where I held various roles in Communications and Marketing at MBNA, Bank of America and TD Bank. As I expanded my industry experience, I worked for CBC, Le Cordon Bleu and finally Nonlinear. Volunteering is also a large part of my career growth. I’ve volunteered with IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) am currently the Marketing lead for United Way’s GenNext Cabinet and am the Co-Chair of a networking event called ConnectOTT. Volunteering helps you meet people you might not ordinarily get access to and can set you up nicely for job referrals in the future.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in the Tech industry?
Allison: I don’t consider myself a techie by any stretch of the imagination - I had always planned on becoming a lawyer! The technology industry naturally evolved for me at the beginning of my career and I welcomed the new ideas surrounding digital platforms and analytics. Instead of making expressive statements in a courtroom, my team and I are making meaningful experiences for our clients online!
Leigh-Ann: I consider myself to be a marketer first, but have always been drawn to Tech because I see how much impact it has on the world and I want to be part of that story. It's been a steep learning curve but an exciting journey.
Magda: I chose a career in HR because I wanted to help businesses succeed by improving their hiring & employee engagement practices, work directly with people, have high levels of responsibility, and always be learning. Being in IT is a bonus because I work with smart and motivated people who are constantly reaching new heights in what is possible in our business which inspires me in my work.
Cathy: I didn’t start out pursuing a career in the Tech Industry. It just happened as I was recruited for the opportunity at Messa. Although Messa is a technical consulting firm, my role was to promote our firm to various hiring manager working for the companies listed above. The account management role came naturally to me, however it took a while to get my head around the technology (and it still does!) I always find it a challenge, but that’s what keeps it interesting. I’m constantly learning.
What advice would you give to women pursuing their ambitions in fields they don’t typically see themselves represented in?
- Believe in yourself and your abilities.
- The people who rise to the top aren’t necessarily smarter than those around them, but they are confident and have a great ability to self-promote.
- Embrace the difference a woman’s perspective can bring to a male dominated field.
- Join companies that believe in equality and the training and promotion of female leaders.
Allison: In a previously male-dominated industry, hard work and persistence is the key to any successful endeavour. I have been lucky to have been mentored by good leaders and am eager, not intimidated, by new challenges.
Leigh-Ann: If it’s something you love to do, don’t let the world around you change that. Lead in a way that is true to yourself and contributes to your growth and the growth of those around you. Take on challenges that are out of your comfort zone. Lead and treat others how you would want to be treated.
Flaviana: I would tell them to find someone they can look up to. There are lots of women in every field that can be a good example and their experience can help a lot. Build clear and reachable goals, plan on how you can get there and put it in practice. From time to time, review your plan and assess if you are in the right track. Don’t be afraid to start over or change goals but always have in mind where you want to go. More important than others knowing what you can do is you being aware of you capabilities where you want to go.
Amanda: I started out as a computer science grad and spent the first part of my career as a programmer. My best advice to women in technology is to do your time in the "tech trenches" to build lasting credibility and don't ever get too far removed from it. At the same time, always be building expertise on a particular platform or vertical to differentiate yourself. And finally, learn how to sell! Whether it's products, services or ideas, this skill will take you very far.
What have you learned over the years about going after your goals?
Magda: It’s important to set annual goals for what you would like to achieve in your career. On a practical level I would suggest writing down goals and targets for your personal and professional growth each year. Review the list on a weekly basis. Treat it like a weekly “performance check-in” with yourself to stay on track and strategize on how to reach your goals.
The exercise of making the goals list helps to focus you on what you are trying to achieve beyond your “9-5”. This goals list becomes especially important when things get stressful or stagnant in your job. For example, my goals list includes a couple goals each year directly related to my job, a couple goals around knowledge and learning to expand my knowledge outside of my job but is related to my job and career, and a couple of personal goals such as going to the gym at least 3 times per week.
Cathy: Set realistic, but challenging goals. Attaining your goals will help grow your confidence and will encourage you to establish newer and greater goals.
Leigh-Ann: Building relationships and talking to people about your goals is crucial to making them more of a reality. Networking before you need to is important, especially in your field. Surrounding yourself with people who inspire you will keep you on track and contribute to new opportunities thrown your way.
Allison: A broad response to a broad question: I have learned the importance of work life balance. My work allows me to provide and share experiences with my friends and family, and these same individuals propel me to give it my all at the office. Setting priorities sometimes means you’re picking a GOOD THING over ANOTHER GOOD THING, but when I am with my kids - I am REALLY WITH THEM. I am present. The same goes for my work ethic. When you find focus on a specific task and you pick your priority you are more successful.
Flaviana: Sometimes you have to do more than others and then, do it again.
Any tips for getting what you want in career situations?
- Don’t be afraid to let others know about your achievements.
- Support those around you and they will do the same for you.
- Look for opportunities to learn new skills.
- Express your desire to have more responsibility.
Leigh-Ann: You want that salary that you know you're worth? In interviews, you don't have to answer that age old salary question about how
much you currently make. The role is worth a certain dollar amount to the company that's asking - so get them to tell you what their range is, then you can play
within it if it's right for you and what you bring to the table.
How can women support other women throughout their careers?
Allison: Women need to encourage each other. I support other women in my organization by encouraging each individual to be knowledgeable, confident and poised in their daily interactions with colleagues and clients. Empower women by helping them set goals, share their knowledge, and celebrate their achievements.
Leadership and collaboration: I really believe that you are only as good as the team you surround yourself with. My job, as a leader, is to provide them with the knowledge, tools, and drive for them to succeed.
Cathy: Take the time to mentor other women. Support and promote the achievements of your female colleagues Look out for opportunities for your female colleagues to showcase her skills.
Leigh-Ann: Everyone has a lot on their plates, but taking the time to mentor (formally or informally) women around you is monumental. You never know the impact you might have on someone’s journey and it’s a great way to not always ‘find out the hard way’.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Magda: I believe that in order to be happy in a career one must be always learning, work with people who share your values, and work in an environment that supports your goals & values.
Leigh-Ann: If you're looking to get experience and network in your field, volunteering is a great way to start. Using your career skills on a board or nonprofit or helping out with events is a great way to get exposure.
Allison: Work with people you like! I am surrounded by intelligent and thought provoking people on my senior management team AND my employees. I want to give them all what I can so that they are successful in their lives. I also take the time to build strong relationships with clients. Each one has specific needs and when I deliver on these needs, I feel like I have done something right!