March 3, 2024

Kelsey McMillan/The Globe and Mail

Ibrahim Gedeon | CTO, Telus Communications

As British Columbia lived through a devastating summer of floods, wildfires and heatwaves last year (on top of a global pandemic), Ibrahim Gedeon faced one of the biggest challenges of his 17 years as Telus’s CTO: keeping the province’s wireless connectivity infrastructure afloat—literally and figuratively. With emergency responders and residents leaning on their devices as communication lifelines, Gedeon’s 2,000-strong team moved into round-the-clock crisis mode. He likens the experience to a high-stakes military operation, reflecting the immense precision required when extreme weather breaks down telecom infrastructure. In the end, Telus’s networks saw minimal downtime. “I’m the geek in charge, so I tend to get all the credit,” says Gedeon. “But it was an all-levels effort.” An engineer by trade, he directs Telus’s big-picture technological strategy, from network development to emergency preparedness—a growing part of his job. The effects of climate change, he says, are complicating the telecom game, making a lack of predictability an increasingly pressing issue.

In his time at Telus, Gedeon has cemented his position as a champion for diversity in tech, a gifted technologist with a matching talent for leadership and a rock in times of crisis. In less harrowing times, he spearheaded Telus’s Graduate Technology Leadership Program, which rotates young technologists—mostly women—through various roles at the company. “To me, diversity equals innovation,” he says. “And you can’t focus on just one aspect of diversity. I think Telus is doing well in terms of racial representation, but we need to attract more women into the field.” He’s a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers—a coveted accolade in the engineering community—and sponsors an engineering club with more than 1,300 members. He also maintains strong partnerships between Telus and its university partners, with a focus on 5G connectivity. In other words, tech is Gedeon’s raison d’être.

Alaina Tennison | Partner and CFO, PwC Canada

Having recently celebrated her 25th anniversary with PwC, Tennison has seen her share of financial transformation. But while the CFO’s largest (and most recent) project was the implementation of the firm’s in-house robotic process automation—a highly technical undertaking—she (and colleagues) suggest that her biggest asset as a leader is authenticity, a softer science. “People say, ‘You seem real, you make mistakes, and you talk about how you learned from them,’” says Tennison, who frequently mentors up-and-coming CPAs. “I’m never the smartest person in the room. And that’s okay, because we surround ourselves with people who bring different skill sets. We don’t do anything in isolation.”

Paul Draffin | Chief supply chain officer, Canadian Tire

Draffin admits that supply chain isn’t “necessarily the sexiest part of business,” but mid-pandemic—when he was promoted to Canadian Tire’s executive roster—it was all anyone could talk about. “How many times in a year would you hear ‘supply chain’?” he says. “Now, you can’t get it out of the spotlight.” Despite significant global challenges in moving product, Draffin says internal business grew by 18% in 2020, which he attributes to his team’s singular focus, and the ability to ignore the noise of ocean-freight prices and lead times. “Assuming a position of risk to acquire inventory was just the cost to play,” he says, “and my No. 1 compass is always the customer.”

Nabeela Ixtabalan | Executive VP, people & corporate affairs, Walmart Canada

Ixtabalan can vividly recall formulating a 100-day plan for her new job while on the flight from Copenhagen to Toronto a year and a half ago, after leaving Ikea’s Swedish HQ to join Walmart’s Canadian one. “I introduced myself to more than 100,000 associates as the new chief people officer, a recovering workaholic and someone who struggled with anxiety,” she says. “It was a very untraditional introduction, but it set the course for a different kind of conversation—about how we can really take care of ourselves and take care of the business, as well.” Having worked her way up from Starbucks barista to leading the largest internal overhaul in Walmart Canada’s history, the self-described “jill of all trades” knows a thing or two about resilience, orgaênizational and otherwise.

Todd Carter | CFO, Jane

For Todd Carter, true success comes from asking the right questions. “My job is to get the execs thinking about things that maybe they’re not thinking about or seeing things they haven’t seen,” says the CFO of Jane, a practice-management tool for health and wellness practitioners. Three years into his role, Carter has learned that all the modelling in the world can’t predict the financial impact of a COVID-scale event, but occasionally, surprises are good: A “massive surge” of new Jane clients in the summer of 2020, he says, rendered “all that disaster planning unnecessary.”

Pauline Dhillon | Chief corporate officer, Cargojet

When the pandemic hit, Dhillon—a co-founder of Canada’s largest air cargo service—says her company was inundated with “top-dollar” invitations to ship PPE internationally. Instead, Cargojet’s team elected to exclusively service its home country. “Our shareholders will probably not be too happy with us,” laughs the famously loyal Dhillon, who helped brand and run Cargojet from its inception two decades ago. “We had to make that decision, not only for us as a national carrier, but also as good corporate citizens.”

Kelly Martin | CFO, LifeLabs Medical Laboratory Services

“Good in a crisis” doesn’t begin to cover Kelly Martin’s tenure at LifeLabs, which began during the first lockdown in 2020. Aside from managing the diagnostics firm’s most pressing financial snafus—namely, plummeting testing volumes and cashflow challenges—the visionary C-suite veteran kept her eyes on the horizon for new opportunities in digital technology, streamlined approval processes and PCR testing, which ultimately buoyed the business. Since 2020, LifeLabs has completed more than four million COVID tests for Canadians.

Faiz Karmally | VP and CFO, Hardwoods Distribution Inc.

To hear colleagues tell it, one of the ways HDI has gone from “one of many in a fragmented industry” to a world-class operation is secret weapon Faiz Karmally. The CFO is simultaneously down-to-earth and an expert-level closer of mergers and acquisitions, one of his favourite pursuits. “There’s the big-picture strategic view, and there’s the key relationships you’re managing internally and externally,” Karmally says, adding that the company has completed two major acquisitions in the past eight months, with revenues worth just shy of US$1 billion. “I really enjoy moving different pieces of the puzzle to achieve results.”

Linda Lupini | Global VP, employee experience, Copperleaf

Achieving a cohesive corporate culture can be tough enough in our brave new WFH world—but how do you do it when your organization sprawls across 17 countries? At Copperleaf, it’s as simple as treating employees like whole people. “We give them what they need to bring their best selves to the job,” says Linda Lupini. In her first two years on the job, she’s driven down Copperleaf’s voluntary employee turnover rate to a meagre 5%. From providing the proper tools and equipment to ensuring inclusivity on the job, Lupini’s key priority is connectedness. “I’m a great believer that if you create a very close community with a group of diverse people who have shared values, it’s pretty incredible what you can do.”

Stephen Burmaster | VP, sales, Partake Brewing

It takes an especially savvy salesperson to successfully break into the U.S. with a non-alcoholic beer. But in his role leading Partake’s sales, trade and field marketing teams, Stephen Burmaster’s jurisdiction now runs both north and south of the border—with Partake’s brews peppering stores in 22 states. In more good news, the brew brand garnered US$16.5 million in Series B funding in early March. Burmaster chalks it up to belief. “We believe non-alcoholic beer should be commonplace, that it can be as big here as it is in Europe, and that the taste itself can be believed,” Burmaster says. “In the end, you have to be your biggest advocate so the customer can believe, too.”

Jean-Nicolas Guillemette | COO, Dialogue Health Technologies

When Jean-Nicolas Guillemette joined Dialogue in the summer of 2019, the virtual health and wellness platform hadn’t even gone public. Flash forward just shy of three years, and rapid-fire growth is the name of Guillemette’s game: A well-timed partnership with Sun Life extended Dialogue’s proprietary on-demand care to millions of Canadians during the pandemic, not to mention a 10-fold scale of the company’s medical operations team. Growth is great, but for Guillemette, the rewards run much deeper. “I’m not a doctor or a health practitioner,” he says, “but I really care about making a difference. For the first time, in all the jobs I’ve had, I’ve had the chance to save lives.”

Stella Yeung | Global head of engineering, global banking & markets, and data & analytics, Scotiabank

Data analytics aren’t typically considered a warm-and-fuzzy pursuit, but Stella Yeung’s leadership at Scotiabank proves that intel can be used for good. Since joining the bank in 2013, Yeung has leveraged her technological expertise to rise through the ranks, becoming known among colleagues as an out-of-the-box thinker with no shortage of empathy. Recently, she also stickhandled the development of an award-winning, cloud–based analytics platform that helped the company’s 90,000 employees provide support and services to vulnerable customers when they needed it most.

Colin Boyd Shafer/The Globe and Mail

Neil Desai | VP, corporate affairs, Magnet Forensics

When Neil Desai joined Magnet Forensics eight years ago, it was a software startup with just 25 employees. Today, the Waterloo-based company has a staff of more than 400 and 4,000 public- and private-sector clients in 90 countries. And in 2021, it closed a $115-million IPO. Its product line is a tour de force of tech designed for crime in the digital age, used by clients from national security and law enforcement to private businesses. Magnet’s tools recover damaged CCTV footage, process digital evidence in human trafficking investigations and help companies investigate cyberattacks on their infrastructure, to name a few tasks. Desai, who started there as a strategy consultant, has spearheaded its capital-raising efforts, oversees its PR and export policy, and works directly with clients to inform the company’s R&D. “Neil has been integral to the evolution of the company,” says CEO Adam Belsher. “He’s led complex, multistakeholder projects across various organizational functions to protect the business, help Magnet Forensics live out its mission and pave the way for greater commercial success.”

But Desai isn’t just a highly effective exec; he’s a thought leader in the cybersecurity space, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a self-described public policy nerd who’s held senior positions at Global Affairs Canada and in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s office. In other words, Desai spends most of his time thinking about the intersections between technology, governance and public good—and for him, there’s no conflict between Magnet’s commercial aims and its status as a benevolent actor. “There’s this old construct that you go to the public sector to do public good and a private company to better yourself financially. I think that’s outdated,” Desai says. “Our technology has helped exonerate suspects of crime, and prevented crime in spaces like human trafficking and terrorism. As much as we’re growing commercially, for me, Magnet is a place to contribute to society as a whole.”

Olivia MacAngus | Chief development officer, Colliers Project Leaders

Olivia MacAngus has spent well over a decade in the realm of infrastructure—which requires marrying the interests of political leadership, stakeholders, investors, advisers and more. It’s no surprise, then, that she claims her strongest leadership skill is “peopling.” Internally at Colliers, MacAngus is renowned for her commitment to mentorship and cultivating the leaders of tomorrow. “Unlocking success for our business is about creating more leaders within the organization,” she says. “Ones who are able to catalyze even more people to come along.”

Nancy Nazer | Chief human resources officer, OMERS

Since joining OMERS in 2020, Nancy Nazer has embraced the opportunity that an abundance of “unknown white space” provides. “There’s no manual, no one way of doing things,” she says. “One thing I’ve learned is that you have to just engage; you can’t have all the answers.” In delivering a “people strategy” focused on employee well-being—which includes co-chairing OMERS’s inclusion and diversity council and expanding internal employee resource groups—Nazer has made a noticeable impact, not only on the lives of Canadian pension plan members, but also her workforce—2021 was one of OMERS’s most successful years yet.

Kevin Hibbert | CFO, senior managing director and co-head, enterprise shared services, Sprott Inc.

Kevin Hibbert’s math checks out: During the course of his tenure, Sprott—a global investment firm specializing in precious metals—has become one of the best performing financial services stocks in the country. (Hibbert also led the firm through its NYSE listing in 2020.) Numbers aside, Hibbert says he’s still known among his colleagues as an atypical CFO. “I try to focus on emotional intelligence a little more than pure intellect and unadulterated execution,” Hibbert says. “A lot of times, we as CFOs have an incorrect assumption that’s what is expected of us. It has a lot more to do with how you achieve your strategic outcomes, rather than the outcome in and of itself.”

Craig Dunk | Co-founder and CTO, Properly

Craig Dunk has more than two decades of experience building and scaling companies—including pioneering BlackBerry’s instant-messaging development—so he knows a thing or two about the importance of a solid team. As co-founder and CTO of the Canadian real estate tech firm Properly, which has grown by 4.5 times year-over-year in the Toronto area alone, Dunk leads a team of 32 engineers and keeps a laser focus on one leadership philosophy in particular: Put people first. “I’m part of the conversation about how our company grows and where we need to get to—and, most significantly, building the team that can help us get there.”

Zarine Ali Halim | VP, e-commerce, Cymax Group Technologies

Zarine Ali Halim joined e-commerce technology developer Cymax in 2016, the year the company embarked on a sweeping digital transformation. Since then, Halim has continued to keep her eye out for opportunities to catalyze the company’s growth—and the right kinds of challenges. “In the past two years, we’ve seen supply chain and product availability issues—basically every challenge we can think of has come our way,” she says. “I’m supposed to be looking outward and identifying how we solve problems. In a role like e-commerce, you’re not in a silo, and you’re not doing things by yourself. But I personally don’t give up until I find a solution.”

Melissa Carvalho | VP, global cybersecurity planning office and customer & enterprise identity & access management, RBC

For RBC’s VP of cybersecurity, whose day-to-day decision-making affects 86,000 employees and 17 million customers worldwide, the issue of identity is always top-of-mind. User IDs, passwords, multifactor authentication, biometrics—Carvalho’s team became specialists in the fast-moving digitization of customer profiles during the pandemic’s push to online. One recent passion project she’s particularly proud of is her team’s quick work to allow for customization of the pronoun fields in users’ internal email and video communications. For Carvalho, every “who” matters.

Susan Tohyama | Executive VP and chief human resources officer, Ceridian

As a cloud-based software firm specializing in workplace provisions like payroll, benefits and workforce management, Ceridian was uniquely poised to handle the transition to virtual life. Susan Tohyama very much leverages that dynamism in her own role. “What I started with was a moving, ever-changing world of work,” says Tohyama, who oversees Ceridian’s talent development, recruiting and diversity and inclusion initiatives. “The employee-employer dynamic is changing—you have to be open-minded and think about what will allow your employees to thrive in this new environment. We’re very fortunate because Ceridian started out as quite an empathetic company to begin with.”

Miranda Lievers | Co-founder and COO, Thinkific

Miranda Lievers has been with Thinkific—and worked in almost every department—since it was just a humble firm of six staffers. These days, the online-course platform serves more than 50,000 entrepreneurs and completed a successful IPO on the TSX last year. Internally, Lievers built a revamped talent-development system that overhauled Thinkific’s existing onboarding protocol, boosting retention rates and leading to employee net promoter scores exceeding 85—a figure colleagues say is almost unheard of.

Susan O’Brien | Chief brand & customer officer, Canadian Tire

In 13 years at Canadian Tire, Susan O’Brien has spearheaded some of the brand’s most memorable campaigns: Canadian Tire Guy, the Olympic-oriented We All Play for Canada and the Tested for Life in Canada quality-assurance program. She’s also behind the company’s Triangle Rewards program, which has grown to 11 million active members since the pandemic’s beginning. Triangle’s next iteration, Triangle Select, promises even more perks for loyal customers and is slated for a wider roll-out later this year. (Right now, the subscription-based platform is invite-only.)

Maja Neable | Senior VP, chief marketing officer, banking, and chief data & analytics officer, marketing, BMO Financial Group

If solid marketing means speaking a customer’s language, Maja Neable is fluent. As of January 2022, her mandate expanded to include marketing technology and analytics for the entire bank, which puts her already gifted left and right brains to work. Neable’s recent notable achievements include delivering programs that increase access to capital for diverse entrepreneurs, and boosting BMO’s “human first, bankers second” approach across the firm’s digital channels. To Neable, marketing isn’t just nice to look at; it also drives results.

Matthew Llewellyn | CFO, Rockwood Custom Homes

As CFO of Rockwood Custom Homes—a luxury custom home builder with operations in Calgary and B.C.’s Okanagan Valley—Matthew Llewellyn thinks a lot about value, yes, but values, too. Managing communication between trades, stakeholders and land developers is key to Rockwood’s continued success. But for Llewellyn, the expectations of the customer are always paramount. “A home, their dream home, is the largest single investment our clients will make,” Llewellyn says. “My role is ensuring that dream stays on track.”

Carmen Fortino | Executive VP, Ontario division head and national supply chain, Metro Inc.

Carmen Fortino has spent most of his life working in the food business, and now he heads up Metro’s Ontario operations—and its supply chain at the national level. But for every photo of scarcely stocked grocery shelves that hit social media during the pandemic, Fortino made sure to keep his attention on what mattered most: Metro’s employees, then frontline workers. “My primary focus all along has been to create a work environment that people want to come to, where they feel respected,” he says. “Food has become a very complex environment, but we spent a lot of time making sure that our employees had the tools they needed and felt safe.”

Christine Oliver | CFO and co-chief operations officer, Thigh Society Inc.

She’s too polite to name names, but Chris Oliver was once called perfect for a start-up’s leadership table—if only she were 30 years younger. Luckily, Thigh Society doesn’t subscribe to ageism. “We’re a company of professional freelancers,” says Oliver of the 18-person team behind Canada’s original anti-chafing shorts for women. After a career in accounting, the gig is an exciting move into operations, where she quickly streamlined financial data from Shopify, the company’s e-commerce platform, to minimize time and energy formerly spent on manual spreadsheets. “For so long I wanted to be a decision maker, not just an information provider,” she says. “It took a while, but it was worth the wait.”

Jeff Yim | CFO, Borrowell

After seven years as an investment banker, Jeff Yim wanted to not just use his financial savvy, but teach and share it. “My mission is still to help Canadians achieve financial prosperity,” says the Borrowell CFO, “but by education.” More specifically, by teaching them about their credit score, which the fintech provides and monitors weekly—for free—alongside advice on borrowing, investing, saving and shopping. (Borrowell makes money from its partners whenever you take one of their recommendations.) Making credit fun isn’t easy, but it’s Yim’s specialty, even at company meetings, where he’s known for loud rap music and ample use of the airhorn.

Fatima Israel | Chief marketing officer, EY Canada

One of the younger members of EY’s Canadian leadership team has made it her personal mission to connect with each and every member of her 75-person group, especially young people and newbies. “I want to understand everyone’s passion and personal goals,” says Fatima Israel, “and then marry their purpose with their skills.” A believer in B2H (business to human), Israel breaks the ice with this question: “If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?” And what (fantastical) animal would she be? A unicorn, of course, which might explain her magic touch—Israel’s efforts have resulted in record-shattering social media numbers and a doubling of EY’s market-influenced revenue.

Hélène V. Gagnon | Chief sustainability officer and senior VP, stakeholder engagement, CAE Inc.

Every time you board an airplane, your pilot was probably trained at Montreal’s CAE, the world’s leader in flight simulation training. Its high-tech computer simulations are applicable everywhere from aviation to health care to defence, but whatever the industry, it’s Hélène Gagnon’s job to ensure social responsibility. In seven years, she’s championed ESG, diversity and inclusion, and transformed CAE into the world’s first carbon-neutral aerospace company. “It’s all about leveraging our reach and knowledge for maximum social impact to make a better society,” she says.

James Scongack | Chief development officer and executive VP, operational services, Bruce Power

Tucked away near Port Elgin, Ont., on the shores of Lake Huron, is North America’s largest operating nuclear plant. Bruce is the producer of a third of Ontario’s electricity, and Scongack’s father once worked there, too. And he was thrilled to return to his hometown to help revitalize the business and the community it serves. “I love small-town Ontario, and I live five minutes from my parents’ house—something I thought was never possible with a job like mine.” As the leader of the company’s business development division, Scongack is overseeing the production of medical isotopes to fight cancer and working toward net zero by 2027.

Tsering Yangki | Head of real estate finance & development, Dream Unlimited

The building industry is responsible for 38% of carbon emissions—an unacceptable fact at community developer Dream Unlimited. “Our mandate is to make where and how we live better for people and the Earth,” says Tsering Yangki. The Tibetan refugee is passionately devoted to affordable, accessible, innovative housing, including current project Zibi, a 34-acre sustainable development straddling the Ottawa River, which generates energy to heat and cool homes for 5,000 people and upon completion will be the largest net-zero community in the country.

Cheryl Fullerton | Executive VP, people & communications, Corus Entertainment Inc.

Cheryl Fullerton has worked in food, retail, manufacturing, consumer packaged goods and, now, media. What do these varied industries have in common? People and culture, Fullerton’s specialty. “I was hired specifically to build a company culture that prioritizes people’s well-being and connection,” she says. This got a whole lot harder during the pandemic, of course, but Fullerton led the charge with on-site health protocols, time-off pay, transparent personal one-on-one communication and even virtual dance parties. “Connecting with people is fuel to my fire, whether we’re in the office or not.”

Philip Mather | Executive VP and CFO, Definity Financial

It’s a bold move to demutualize a 150-year-old company, but Definity’s Philip Mather did just that. He led subsidiary Economical’s massive decade-long transition from a mutual insurance company into a publicly traded one, navigating complicated regulations, rules and red tape to successfully launch Canada’s largest IPO of 2021. More than 600,000 Canadians were direct beneficiaries of the demutualization, with most of the proceeds of the $2.3-billion IPO distributed to eligible policyholders. That the demutualization was done just as COVID hit and Canadians needed security more than ever was pure luck, says Mather.

Nathalie Gauthier | Executive producer, Square Enix Montréal

Gamers diving back into Space Invaders this year can thank Nathalie Gauthier for reimagining the arcade classic for their mobile devices. After eight years as a TV director, Gauthier took a surprise step into the male-dominated world of video games at Square Enix, best known for creating the Go series of mobile-platform games, including Lara Croft Go and Deus Ex Go. “I’m a creative at the core, and I bring that approach to business,” says Gauthier. “I try to get people excited about what’s possible.”

Jennifer LaForge | General manager, Rakuten Rewards Canada

Keen online shoppers know that Canada’s leading cash-back program, Rakuten (formerly Ebates), is the best place to bank extra bucks—it even won the 2021 Reader’s Digest Trusted Brand Award, thanks largely to LaForge’s people-first perspective at work. “My leadership style is servant leadership,” she says, citing Steve Jobs as an inspiration. “I measure my success by my team’s well-being. If they’re happy, healthy and supported, our gains are compounded, and everything only becomes easier.”

Shazia Zeb-Sobani | VP of customer network implementation, Telus Communications

Last year, Telus became Canada’s first tech company to launch a Reconciliation Action Plan, starting by connecting 48 Indigenous lands—656,000 rural homes and businesses across 374 communities in Alberta and B.C.—via Telus’s PureFibre network, led by Shazia Zeb-Sobani. “Once you have a solid strategy and a commitment from the organization, great things happen,” she says. Next year, the network will expand again and increase by 10% every year thereafter.

Sabrina Geremia | VP and country manager, Google Canada

Tasked with leading Google’s advertising strategy in Canada, Sabrina Geremia collaborates with 600,000 Canadian businesses hoping for their slice of $26-billion worth of eyeballs online. During her 16 years at Google, Geremia has long championed digital skills training for youth, women, and Black and Indigenous Canadians—committing $2 million in scholarship funds in 2021 alone. While recently speaking at career day, she gave this advice: “Over half of you will have jobs that don’t even exist yet,” a statement that’s true for her already. “The most exciting part of my job is that it evolves every day.”

Kristina Dittmar/The Globe and Mail

Mary Sullivan | Senior managing director and chief talent officer, CPP Investments

It says a lot about Mary Sullivan that 92% of CPP Investments’ employees believe the company handled the pandemic well—a significant achievement for a fund with 2,000 employees across the globe. Sullivan was the face of CPPIB’s pandemic response; according to her co-workers, her empathetic, innovative leadership was critical to its success. “In times of stress, Mary demonstrates what it means to be unflappable,” says senior managing director Michel Leduc. “Having worked closely with her for seven years, I’ve never seen her lose her cool.”

During the pandemic, Sullivan introduced dedicated time off for pandemic-related demands, designed a program that let workers with extra caregiving duties temporarily reduce their work hours, spearheaded the fund’s first hybrid-flexible work model, and led hugely popular “unplugged days”—four weekdays a year, the entire organization gets to disconnect from technology for 24 hours, no small feat for a multinational with employees scattered across multiple time zones. What drives her? A firm belief that while products are great, it’s people who really drive an organization’s success. “People are inherently interesting to me,” she says. “Figuring out how to make them as effective, enriched and satisfied as possible is a puzzle I have the great privilege of trying to solve.”

Susan Goodyer | Managing director, human resources, Accenture Canada

Thanks to Susan Goodyer, 5,000 Accenture employees had a much easier pandemic. Among her many burnout-busting initiatives was a $5,000 increase in available mental health services and a crisis care program of 160 hours for child- or eldercare. Her team’s mantra is “Pace, Space, Grace,” shorthand for the time and self-care necessary to avoid burnout to begin with. “It gives people the language that acknowledges a universal feeling, and empowers them to talk about it and take action,” says Goodyer, whose inbox often overflows with thank-you notes.

Jeanne Lam | President, Wattpad

In seven years at Wattpad, says Jeanne Lam, “the business has evolved beyond my wildest expectations.” Recently acquired by Naver for US$600 million, the Toronto-based storytelling platform now has a community of over 94 million people, or 176 million when combined with Naver’s Webtoon. Wattpad writers like Anna Todd, of the bestselling After series, who once didn’t fit into traditional publishing models are finally getting noticed. Similarly, Lam once thought she didn’t quite belong in the tech world. “I don’t have a tech background, I’m a woman, I’m a person of colour, and I don’t drink beer or play ping-pong.” Now that she’s in a position to make changes, she’s doing just that: Lam is a proud founding board member of the Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism.

Claire Gillies | EVP, marketing, and president, consumer, BCE Inc.

Claire Gillies’s savvy product strategy has driven innovative launches from pre-paid Lucky Mobile to 5G View—a “fifth-generation network” for sports fans to watch like never before. With more than 80 carefully placed cameras around Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena and the Bell Centre in Montreal, mobile users at home can choose their preferred camera with a finger’s click. “You can sit over the goalie’s shoulder or stand behind the shooter. You can rewind and rewatch from a different angle,” says Gillies. “We’re revolutionizing the sports viewing experience.”

Dr. Dante Morra | Chief of medical staff, Trillium Health Partners, and president, THP Solutions

As if overseeing 1,400 doctors at one of the largest hospital systems in Canada during a pandemic weren’t enough, Dr. Morra is equally passionate about the well-being of Canada’s health-tech companies. In 2019, he founded the Coordinated Accessible National Health Network, working with the federal government to secure $40 billion in annual purchasing power to help homegrown health-tech businesses scale internationally. To date, the network has created more than 400 jobs and launched 31 projects, including everything from video conferencing tools to digitized consent papers to apps that measure and monitor chronic pain.

Pamela Kazeil | VP, finance, and CFO, PrairieSky Royalty

“One thing I love about my company is that we’re all shareholders,” explains Pamela Kazeil of oil and gas royalty company PrairieSky, which is based in Calgary but spans 18 million acres from B.C. to Manitoba. “This translates into shared passion and a common goal of being the best we can be.” An impressive 71% of her 56-person finance team is female, including five of six managers on the leadership team, thanks in part to Kazeil’s development of the Women’s Mentorship Program at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business. “In energy, and in general, our stats are an anomaly,” she says. “We’re very, very proud.”

Rhona DelFrari | Chief sustainability officer and senior VP of stakeholder engagement, Cenovus Energy

Fifteen years in broadcast journalism has given Rhona DelFrari some unique advantages at one of Canada’s largest oil and natural gas companies. “I’m continually fascinated with how those skills are applicable in my corporate career,” she says. Among them, an ability to predict responses from shareholders and the broader public before big decisions (and possible missteps) are made—an invaluable gift for a communications exec. “I really do have a different lens on all conversations and try to see things from every angle.” Her foresight and early ESG focus put Cenovus at the forefront of the industry’s Net Zero by 2050 alliance.

Sara Cooper | Chief people officer, Jobber

Sara Cooper is so good at recruiting that she even recruited herself to Jobber. “I actually wrote the [outsourced] job profile, and as I finished, I made an off-hand comment of being jealous of whoever got this role.” With her old bosses’ blessing, you can guess what happened next. At Jobber, which makes back-end business management software for any contractor who’d fix something in your home, Cooper’s knack for spotting and hiring good people has in just three years grown the company from 150 to 550 employees—including 272 last year, all brought aboard mid-pandemic and entirely remote.

Jennifer Frook | VP, enterprise crisis management, Scotiabank

When a crisis strikes at work, if the whole staff were in a lifeboat, Jennifer Frook would be the leader rowing the boat to shore. “I provide strategic direction during crisis, which we certainly had in 2020, but I also prepare and train the organization to be prepared for disruptions in advance,” she says. Months before the rest of us, in fact, Frook was watching developments in Asia, prepping with a broad group of experts for whatever came next and keeping everyone calm via open, clear communication. Even in a pandemic, Frook’s employee engagement rate remained a perfect 100%.

Matthew Moore | COO, Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons drinkers are “a little bit older and a little bit rural,” says Matthew Moore in the nicest possible way. He’s tasked with getting these customers, not like those iPhone-happy frappuccino sippers, to download an app, join Tims Rewards and roll up a (virtual) rim—all without disrupting the iconic Canadian brand. “When I arrived, the app was a bit glitchy, not very exciting, and everyone was still mostly using a plastic card.” Moore cleaned up the tech and added on-brand features like a fantasy hockey game, NHL Challenge, and the very Canadian Tims It Forward kindness initiative. Moore has boosted monthly users from 800,000 to almost five million.

Abhinav Singhvi | CFO, Volatus Aerospace

At just 32, and all in the last 16 months, Abhinav Singhvi has helped aerospace and defence company Volatus achieve a public company listing on the TSXV, oversaw six IFRS audits and 16 successful acquisitions—and with 100% leadership retention post-acquisition. His particular gifts in mergers and acquisitions were noticed by thinkers at Harvard University, who invited Singhvi to present his thoughts on corporate innovation late last year.

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