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Leadership

Strategies, advice and opinions helping to define and develop the role of IT leaders and their staffs.

The Rewards of High Tech: One Woman’s Journey

I have been extremely fortunate to have enjoyed a stimulating career in high tech sales and leadership. As a woman, the world of technology afforded me a wonderful profession and as I progressed up the ranks, I actively sought to ensure that I developed balanced teams and mentored women into what I saw was an incredibly rewarding field. I had the great fortune to work with some inspiring women along the way, but we were sorely under-represented, particularly in executive ranks. I hope to encourage more young women to take advantage of the opportunities that a career in technology can offer. It is a demanding, lucrative, and constantly evolving field. I hope that my experience and voice can help encourage the upcoming generation to pursue technology careers.

As a young woman in the mid-eighties and straight out of university, I entered software sales for a Canadian software start-up and took in a U.S. territory, selling an advanced software development solution. My motives were simple: make money and travel. Having been a co-op student at University of Waterloo, I had completed two work terms at IBM, which gave me the opportunity to observe high tech sales up close and also provided me with the confidence to know that I could excel at it. It was largely a male dominated profession, but that did not deter me. I observed that there were a set of traits that defined the most successful sales people: drive, great communication skills, strong organizational ability, and deep product expertise – none of which was “gendered” and success was defined primarily by effort. Though demanding, it was a career that was entrepreneurial and rewarding. I worked with a bright group of motivated individuals who were constantly learning, helping customers, making money, and having fun. I was up for it.

As I gained experience and success, the journey had its challenges; particularly as a young female. I was often the only woman in the room and had to earn my voice on a daily basis. I rarely took clients for meals so as not to be misconstrued. In fashion, I erred on the conservative side to better ensure that I was taken seriously. As I started to speak at conferences, I realized that I over-prepared because I felt it was necessary to prove myself beyond a shadow of a doubt. I imagined that I would be viewed as incompetent unless I was twice as good. I felt that the benefit of the doubt would not be given to a young female. One memorable event was a business luncheon celebrating a concluded deal, attended by two senior male executives and hosted by myself along with a female technical specialist. At the conclusion of the meal, she and I were each handed a rose and a vial of perfume by our server and congratulated on “secretaries’ day” much to the amusement of our colleagues. At the beginning of my long career, it was really about the courage to join the fray and the conviction that I was indeed good enough. Any doubts that I had, I cured through effort and determination.

My second role was at a US software start-up based out of Boston. It was an exciting company with a unique technology and a great growth trajectory. One of the reasons I accepted the position was the number of women that were represented in senior roles. In fact, the Canadian staff of this company were exclusively women. Both the sales and technical executives were deeply competent and impressive females. In a competitive sales environment, I found myself vying for the top position against a male US counterpart. After years of back and forth, he was promoted to head a region, while I had to threaten to resign if I was not afforded the same opportunity. My company relented and I got my chance to manage a team and I’ve never looked back. I realized that it would never have happened if I had not been assertive beyond my comfort zone. I passionately loved building a team and mentoring young people along successful career paths. The chance to lead came my way only because I demanded an equal opportunity based on my performance. I am grateful I took the chance and stood up for myself.

Over the various senior leadership roles that followed, the corporate culture and attitude towards women varied greatly depending on the organization and enlightenment of top leadership. Some organizations were progressive and true meritocracies, while others were antediluvian and the only positive thing I can say is that there was never a line-up for the women’s facilities at executive events.

The bottom line is that intelligence is distributed equally among the sexes. Combine that simple fact with the grit and determination women cultivate to compete on an even footing, add the compassion and insight we often leverage, and women can excel in any field. High technology has much to offer and I encourage young women not to be deterred from pursuing it. I have had the great privilege to work with some passionate, brilliant and inspiring women, and their representation in leadership roles continues to grow. High tech needs to continue to benefit from a greater participation of women who can thrive in this challenging and rewarding career.


Frances Newbigin has extensive experience in building and managing successful enterprise software organizations in Canada. As member of the ITMG Advisory Board, Frances provides guidance on compelling issues and topics for CIOs.

 

 

Past Attendees


ADP - VP Architecture & Infrastructure

AESO - VP, Information Technology

Agnico Eagle Mines - VP, IT

Agrium - Global Mgr., IT Security

Agrium - Senior Director IT Shared Services

Aimia - SVP & Global CIO

Ainsworth Engineered - Director IT

Air Canada Vacations - Director IT

Alberta Energy Regulator - Director, Office of the CIO

Anthem Properties - VP IS

AON Risk Solutions Canada - Head of IT

Aviva Canada - VP, Architecture & Strategy

Bank of America Merrill Lynch - CTO

BC Ferry Services - VP & CIO

Bell Business Markets - Director, Strategy & Planning

Bell Canada - National Director, Digital Transformation

Bellatrix Exploration - Director, Information Technology

Bentall Kennedy - VP IT

Black Press - CTO

BlackBerry - VP Corporate IT

BMO Financial Group - Head of Services Delivery

Bombardier Aerospace - CISO

Bonavista Petroleum - Head of IT

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP - Global CIO

Bow Valley College - Director, IT Services

Bridgewater Bank - Head of IT

BuildDirect - VP IT

Bulk Barn - Head, IT

Burnco - CIO

Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec - VP, IT Planning, Architecture, Governance, Operations

Calfrac Well Services - Head of IT

Canada Mortgage and Housing - VP, Information & Technology

Canadian Depository for Securities - CIO

Canadian Direct Insurance - CTO

Canadian Payments Association - VP & CIO

Canucks Sports - Head of IT

Capgemini - Service Delivery Director

CAPREIT - CIO

Cardel Homes - VP MIS

Cargojet - CIO

CCS Corp. - VP IT

CDSPI - Board Director

Centerra Gold - Director IT & Comm

CIBC - Senior Director, Infrastructure Planning & Engineering

CIBC - SVP & CIO, Retail and Business Banking Technology

CIBC Mellon - AVP, Enterprise Architecture

CIBC Mellon - SVP & CIO

Cineplex Entertainment - CTO

City of Brampton - Senior Manager, IT Architecture & Planning

City of Richmond Hill - CIO

City of Toronto - Director of Strategic Planning & Architecture

CN Rail Service - Chief Information Security Officer

Coast Capital Savings - VP Technology

Concordia University - AVP & CIO

Crescent Point Energy - Head of IT

Dairy Farmers of Ontario - Head of IT and Administration

Dale Parizeau Morris Mackenzie - VP, IT

Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP - Director, Information Technology

DealerTrack Canada - Director, Technology

Defence Construction Canada - Corporate Manager, IT

Deloitte - Director, Risk Advisory

Dentons - Canada CIO

Devon Energy - Director, Integrated Business Services

Direct Cash - VP IT & Security

Dynamic Tire Corp - CIO

D+H Partnership - VP, Head of Canadian Mortgage Technology

eHealth - EVP, Technology

eHealth Ontario - VP, IT Systems & Services

Encana - Director, InfoSec

Enbridge Inc. - VP, Technology and Information Services

Enerflex - CIO

Enerplus - VP. IS

ENMAX - VP, IT & PMO

Equity Financial Trust - VP, IT

Essential Energy Services - Director, IT

Expedia Cruise Ship Centers - VP IS

FGL Sports - VP, Information Technology

Finastra - SVP, Head Technology Managed Services

Fix Auto Canada - COO & SVP

Flightnetwork.com - CIO

Freedom Mobile - Head, Customer Applications, Experience, & Strategy

FT Services - CIO

FundServ - CIO

Genus Capital Management - CTO

Genworth Financial Inc. - VP IT

Golder Associates - CTO

Gran Tierra Energy - Director IT

Grant Thornton LLP - CIO

Greenwin Inc - VP, Information Technology

Groupe Dynamite - Director, IT

GSK Canada - IT Director

GTAA - Acting CIO

H&R Block Canada - VP IT

Haventree Bank - VP, Technology

Hewitt Equipment Ltd. - VP & CIO

Hitachi Vantara - GVP & Global CTO

Home Trust Company - CIO

Home Trust Company - CTO

Home Trust Company - VP & CISO

Horizon North Logistics - CIO

IBM Canada - Associate Partner, Payments Industry

Indigo Books and Music - CIO

ivari - SVP & CIO

JP Morgan Chase Canada - Executive Director, Information Risk Management

Keyera Energy - Director, Information Technology

KnowledgeOne - CIO

LaFarge Canada - Director, IT

Landmark Cinemas Canada - VP, IT

LCBO - Director, Applications Systems

LCBO - SVP & CIO

Leisureworld Senior Care Corp - VP IS

Lightstream Resources - Head, Information Services

London Drugs - GM IT

Loto-Quebec - Corporate Director, InfoSec

Magna International Inc - VP & Global Leader, IT (CIO)

Manulife - Global Head of Private Markets & Real Estate Technology

March Networks - VP Professional Services & CIO

MaRS Discovery District - Managing Director, Fintech and Commerce

McCain Foods Limited - Manager InfoSec

McInnis Cement - Director of Information Technology

Medical Pharmacies Group - VP, Information Technology

MEG Energy - Manager, Information Technology Solutions & Services

MMM Group - CIO

Montreal Police Service - CIO

Morguard Investments - CIO

Moulding & Millwork - CIO

National Bank of Canada - Information Security Officer

National Capital Commission - Chief, IT infrastructure & Support Services

NHL Players' Association - Head, Security & Technology

Northbridge Financial Corp - CIO

OEC Group Canada - Vice President, Information Technology and Client solutions

Oildex - VP, Architecture & Infrastructure

Olympia Financial Group - CIO

OMERS - EVP, Data & Technology

OMERS - SVP IT

Ontario Pension Board - CTO

Ontario Trillium Foundation - CIO

Osum Oil Sands Corp - Manager, IS

Ottawa Police Service - CIO

Pacific Western Transportation - CIO

Packers Plus - Global IT Director

Pason Systems - Manager, Digital Communications & Corporate IT

Patient News - CTO

Peel District School Board - CIO

Pengrowth Corp - Director IS

Penn West Exploration - Snr. Manager, IT Operations

Peterson Investment Group - Head of IT

PFB Corp. - CIO

Pizza Pizza - CIO & VP, IT

Precision Drilling - VP, IT

Precision Drilling - Director, IT Infrastructure & Security

PSP Investments - Snr. Director, Internal Audit & Business Infosec

Public Works and Government Services Canada - Director, IT Security Directorate

PwC - Managing Director, Real Estate Technology Advisory

Qantas - Global CIO

Queen's University - Director, Information Technology

RBC Royal Bank - Head of Application Security, Data Protection & Security Consulting

Regal Lifestyle Communities - CIO

Revera Inc. - CIO

Revera Inc. - Security Architect

Ricoh Canada - VP,IT

RioCan Property Services - VP IT

Roche - Head of IT Americas – Operations

Rogers Communications - SVP, Customer Experience IT

ROM - CIO

Russel Metals - VP,IS

Scotiabank - Head, Systems Architecture & Platform Modernization

Scotiabank - VP - International Systems Technology

Scotiabank - Head, System Architecture & Platform Modernization

Scotiabank - Global Head, GBM Compliance & Transformation

Sears Canada - Divisional VP, Information Technology Services

Secure Energy Services - GM, IT

Shaw - Head, Customer Applications, Experience, & Strategy

Shaw Communications - VP, Technology Operations

Shaw Communications - Director, Risk Management

SMART Technologies - Director, IS Corporate Services

Smartcentres - Director IS, IT

SmartOne Solutions - President & CIO

Societe de Transport de Montreal - Division Head - Security and Compliance

Street Capital Financial - CIO

Sun Life Financial - AVP, Data & Business Intelligence Services

Sun Life Financial - VP Application Ops & Services

Suncor Energy Inc. - Director, Application Portfolio Optimization, I&PM, Business Services

Symcor - CTO, VP Technology Services

Talisman Energy - SVP IT & Business Services

TD Bank - Enterprise Architect

Teknion - SVP, CIO

TELUS - Chief Security Architect

Tervita Corporation - VP, Information Technology

The Hudsons Bay Company - VP Technology

The Hudson's Bay Company - SVP & CIO

The Source - VP, Information Technology

TMX Group - CISO & Global Head of Infrastructure Services

Toromont Industries - VP & CIO

Toronto District School Board - Chief Technology Officer

Toronto Hospital for Sick Children - Director of Technology

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) - Chief Enterprise Architect

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) - CIO

Toyota Canada - National Manager, IS

Transamerica Life Canada - CIO

Trican Well Services Ltd. - Director, Business Information Systems

Tridel Corporation - CIO

Trillium Health Partners - IT Director, Applications & Clinical Informatics

UFA Cooperative - VP & CIO

University of Calgary - Executive Director, Development Services

University of Ottawa - CIO

University of Ottawa - Senior Director IT Services & Infrastructure

University of Toronto - Director, Centre for Management & Technology

University of Waterloo - Director, Technology Entrepreneurship

Vancity - VP Technology & Solutions

Viterra - Director Enterprise Technology

Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company - Director of Innovation Outpost

World Health - Director IT

Wolseley Canada - CIO & COO

Yellow Pages Group - Director - Enterprise Data Management

York Region District School Board - CIO

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