Tag Archives: canadian retail

A Fork in the Road…

I’ve been radio silent on this blog since March of this year, the details of why I’ve been delinquent in updating this space with my thoughts will be sprinkled in my posts coming up in the very near future. However, in the most non eloquent terms: a bunch of stuff came up and many things in my life blew up, a bit of a roller coaster ensued and I had to make some decisions and deal with it accordingly. Some things were great….some things heart breaking to deal with. The biggest piece that effected me this year was a family health crisis. I mentioned my father’s change in health earlier this year. Well…things got worse…..the diagnosis was worse than expected but we’re getting through it. I’m happy to say his treatment is going well and as always his attitude continues to blow me away. He truly is an amazing man who inspires me more than he probably knows. I’m slowly getting back on track here, much to say and get out ‘on paper’ so I am going to resume blogging very soon. Just wanted to publish a quick update as I’ve had a few folks ask where I’ve been.

So hello, thanks for stopping by and I’m wading back in to publishing my thoughts…..stay tuned. 🙂

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Spring 2011 vs 2013: A Lesson in Planning

So my last post talked about spring 2009 and how a package/getting laid off by my company actually turned out to be the best thing that ever happened…eventually. Am I saying I was philosophical, seeing the silver lining, happy when that package was put in front of me? No. I had some sleepless nights, I cried on the phone to my mum, cried with some friends over wine (its rejection, even though I didn’t love the job I was still being turfed–it hits the ego), worried about how I’d paid my bills etc. I even mentally prepared myself for moving back in with my parents….yeah…that’s sexy: a 36 (at the time) year old woman living with her parents in the ‘burbs. At least I know I’d be well fed! I was definitely not seeing my turn of events as a good thing but I try to make the best of my new situation-which was a one year contract.

As I’ve stated, networking, building relationships is a skill that comes easily to me. Due to these skills and the boss I moved under doing some networking of his own on my behalf-an opportunity came up for a role on a large corporate project with a Vice President I had known for years (she also happened to be my neighbour and fellow yogi..see above: networking). It (again) wasn’t my first choice for a role due to the nature of the work (project management, keeping records, measurement, change management) but I recognized it would give me a lot of opportunity due to its very high-profile nature and the work that needed to be done. It was actually well suited to my personality because the best way to describe my role (and I take this quote from my VP): My role was “to baby sit executives”. Really. The work involved a mass IT implementation, process change, and changed roles & responsibilities for teams across the organization. I was to work with senior leaders to ensure their teams were doing the groundwork of process change etc in preparation for the IT solution when it went live. I committed to my VP that I would give 2 years to the project….that was June 2010.  After that I met my new boss, the Associate Vice President (AVP)….Ilana. Some people come into your life and you don’t know it at the time, but they (often without meaning to) change your course/direction. Ilana would be that person for me.

Ilana is a force to be reckoned with. People say I have tons of energy, I get tired just listening to Ilana’s schedule: Mother of 3, senior leader at one of the largest retailers in the country, wife, friend, daughter, and still gets involved in her kid’s schools…I don’t know when she sleeps. Yet at the office, you’d never know she’s tired….how could a tired person crank the radio at 5pm and happily sing along while prepping a presentation for the new day? That was my boss. I liked her right away but more importantly I respected her.  The first year we ran the project, got the framework in place, worked with external consultants and she pushed me to strive for more both at work and my personal life (my dating adventures became our most hysterical conversations). In the spring of 2011 Ilana sat me down for my performance assessment and as his her nature she probed me on what I wanted to do…not just with my next ‘job’ but my life. It was a difficult conversation but she didn’t shy away from asking the tough questions. I had no answers. So she encouraged me to contact our EPA (Employee Assistance Program) and get a career coach. She’s a smart lady, I know she had my best interests at heart: I listened. I made the call and got a coach.

Have you ever used a career coach? There are lots of them out there and and my feeling is this: you need to be a) ready, b) do the work in order for the experience to actually mean something for you. He was a great coach and I’d highly recommend him but I’d also say he was very honest in level setting expectations with me. He made it clear I’d have to do the work and commit to this process to see results. So with both his help and Ilana’s encouragement…I booked a couple sessions, started my personality test and was given my homework of ‘the templates’. What are these? Well, they were just little pieces of paper…but it was the process of filling these out that helped me define what I wanted and figure out a game plan. I never had one of those before…a plan. A lot of people have thoughts about when they wanted to be married, have kids, have a house, have their dream car etc. I’m not one of those people. Beyond finishing university, get a job I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to bigger goals. I live my life very differently now.  The famous quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. I set the odd goal but never thought about how I’d get there so you know what usually happened? I never achieved the goal! The role I had under Ilana was all about a project plan, setting dates, committing to those dates, measuring whether or not you hit said dates…..notice something? The very role I was given was almost mirroring what I was about to set out to do….actually set a plan/some goals in place for my own life! Yeah, I know, this shouldn’t be earth shattering but for me it was. For someone who is seemingly intelligent (I did graduate from one of the best post secondary institutions in this country), could climb a corporate ladder and managed to buy property by myself I somehow never thought about long-term planning/what bigger goals I wanted to hit. My financial advisor always found my laissez-faire attitude amusing but even he was pushing me to think bigger picture: what do you want to see with your money in 10 years etc? The universe puts the signs out there…some of us just need to be hit over the head repeatedly……it would seem, I am one of those people.

So what of those templates? Well the career coach told me to take them away with me (I was about to fly to Scotland for a family wedding). Good old-fashioned hard copy paper with a pen. So I did. I was out of the country with my extended family and friends for 2 1/2 weeks. Away from the pressures of work etc. He told me I’d be more likely to answer honestly, be true to me that way…he was right. The results of those templates and personality test lead to a decision. A decision is the first step in setting some goals and plan….and (to my surprise) can lead to a rather quick results in the bigger scheme of things.

That’s the new entry……

Spring 2009 vs 2013: Perspective

Today is the first day of spring and since I’ve been delinquent on getting this blog up and running I figure today is a good day to start. A new season, the days are getting longer, people are coming out from a long winter of staying inside, eating too much, wearing a ton of layers…everyone is ready to shake it off and get out there. Well….except where I am today….it’s currently snowing, -8C and windy for the first day of spring here. I like to think of it as a good sign, get the last blast of winter out-of-the-way now and move on to a nice spring (at least that is my thought!). I also think it’s a good segue for this post: My journey into this new realm of entrepreneur world started in the spring of 2009, and wow….have things ever changed for me since then?

Here’s a little story about how the worst thing to happen to me (I thought) turned out to be the best thing to happen in terms of my career. 

For everyone working everyday in their day-to-day job/career/9 to 5 grind what is the worst thing you could imagine happening to you? Usually the answer in these times is ‘loosing my job’, especially since the crash of 2008 when we saw the market implode in front of all of us. I had a relatively stable progressive career for a major Canadian retailer and through my first 9 years with the company I moved up on a pretty regular basis with progressively more senior roles. I went from being someone who didn’t want/know how to play the corporate ‘game’ (aka: say what they want to hear, network your heart out and say yes) to someone who got pretty good at it. I was rewarded for my behaviour with progression in my career which resulted in a healthy salary, which enabled me to travel, buy expensive clothes/shoes and buy myself into the real estate ladder in my dream neighborhood (a condo in 2006). Things were running pretty good…I wasn’t particularly challenged or thrilled with my middle management job but I had a great social life outside of the company, like the team I worked with and the bills were getting paid. I didn’t necessarily have a 5 or 10 year plan, I was just going through the motions of life I suppose.

A funny thing happened in the spring of 2009 that wasn’t so funny: I got laid off. Well, technically I got a package put in front of me, thanked for my 9 years of service and told I had 2 weeks to find a new job. Thanks for coming out. Lots of people dread it, think they know what it feels like but I can tell you that until it happens to you it’s a whole different story. It’s rejection on a whole new level! You immediately jump to “how will I pay my mortgage, bills, buy groceries?” You may know in your gut that you’ll find another role, all will be okay but that sinking feeling when you’re told “you have no role with this company as of March 31” is not something I’d wish on anyone. My boss at the time who had to deliver the news is a very lovely man and I could tell how hard it was for him to tell me, made worse a few days later when I almost cried on him in the mailroom. (Note: never cry at the office! Awkward to say the least!)

Luckily thanks to my years of getting good at the corporate game, being a natural/born networker (I have always maintained a wide network of friends from school, co-workers, team sports, neighbours etc) and years of experience in retail, a senior leader from another team had brokered a ‘off the record’ deal with my current boss to bring me to another team. Formally they had to go through HR red tape (post the role, interview me blah, blah, blah) but the job was mine for the taking. It wasn’t just any job either, it was a one year contract (which was good because it was with a team I had tons of experience with but didn’t really want to go back to so the limited commitment was great), it was a step up (aka: raise) and it meant I got more vacation time and an extra bonus. Awesome. Despite all of these benefits the real benefit was this: I made a decision that spring of 2009…I was never going to let someone else decide my fate. I was never going to put myself in a position where someone else had the kind of power to not only threaten my ability to pay my bills/live but tell me what my next step was going to be if I wanted to pay said bills. I guess you could say this was my ‘TSN Turning Point’.

The next year in the new role was challenging but a couple great things happened. A) I got to work with 2 people who would become very good friends (my boss, and a fellow manager), the 3 of us got into a habit of drinks or dinner after work every couple of months where the lines of our corporate roles were removed and the conversations were always interesting. It’s a tradition we continue to this day. There’s nothing like a great conversation with like-minded people, and if the conversation gets challenging over differing view points–even better! B) This job put in the right spot/right time for my next role…and my next role would put me in front of the person who would drive me to move into this new life.

It’s a journey, and often while you’re in something you don’t see it but what you’re doing right now may not be the best role, life changing etc…but keep in mind it could be a piece of the puzzle to get you to the right spot/person/opportunity you’ve been looking for. That was spring 2009 for me. It wasn’t the life changer role, but it was a step towards it. So on this first day of spring, looking back at that horrible day when I got packaged out….I’m actually very grateful. Sounds strange to say this now, but getting laid off/packaged out has turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.

Next up…spring 2011 vs 2013.