As some of our students are concluding a summer work term, practicum or classroom-based WIL experience, many are opening their laptops to write their final reflection. The thought of thousands of post-secondary students sitting down to reflect on what they have learned over the past several months got me thinking about my own journey.
I joined CEWIL in February 2021 as the Director, WIL overseeing the brand new iHub program and special projects within CEWIL’s general operations. What started as Cara Krezek, as Interim CEO, and I, alongside many dedicated Board and ex-Board members has truly turned into something tangible and impactful. What struck me though, is how little time I have had to reflect on the past 18 months with the kind of rigour and energy that we expect from our students. So here is my end of “term” (18 months) “final” (actually on-going) reflection paper in case you don’t have enough to read in the coming weeks. Don’t worry, I’ll be brief! 😉
Going into this position, I wasn’t really sure what to expect to be honest- no one have ever really walked a mile in these shoes. With so much unknown, I set a few objectives for myself.
1. Meet our outcomes for the funding. As wild as that sounds, that is what drove me for the first few months of my contract. Having no benchmarks or idea if people would actually jump on board with the iHub concept, morning, noon and night were spent making sure that our program would be successful. Through blood, sweat and a few tears (of both types!), we not only achieved our goals, but surpassed them!
2. Be a good leader. This thing is full of clichés- #sorrynotsorry! Building a new team from the ground up is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I wanted to do it the right way. I read, researched, asked advice to transformational leaders I admired, and thought about what I would want from a leader. I came up with authentic, strengths-based, empathetic and team player. Oh yah- and laugh (as much as possible).
3. Make CEWIL even more awesome. Having loved this organization since my first conference in 2010 (shout-out to PEI!), I wanted to find ways to continuously improve the organization and build something amazing for the future. It is not without bumps, growing pains, and having hard conversations, but I genuinely believe we are making strides to a better place.
4. Listen more and have hard conversations. Yup! I don’t like conflict! I try to instinctively resolve problems and conflict before they happen, but that’s not realistic. As a personal goal, I want everyone to feel heard. I hope that in our past meetings, you have felt that way. A special thank you to those of you who have taken the time to share important realities and reflections that have helped me see new perspectives. Your willingness to share and tactfully suggest new ways of doing and being are always appreciated.
My 5 Biggest Take-Aways
1. Listen to those who walked before you. I am so thankful to all the people who have supported me along this journey. There are far too many people to name them all individually, so I will keep it short.
To my partner, who sacrificed his own career and time so that I could build mine and for stepping up and in when I needed you the most.
To my partners in crime, Cara & Anne, who shared so much knowledge and experience in such a short period of time.
To the OG AD’s Jennie, Sean, Natalie, Dan, Kim and Krista (from west to east), most importantly, who believed in what we were trying to create with this team. It was kooky, unorthodox, and certainly unconventional. Thanks for embracing this environment and each adding your own special spice to the team. I genuinely have no words to describe how much appreciation, love and admiration I have for you all!
2. Be vulnerable & open my heart. I read Brené Brown early in my leadership journey with CEWIL. For those who have known me for many years (family included!), may say that I tend to keep my walls up and maybe have lacked in the empathy department. I am self-aware. Thankfully, I do consider myself genuine and authentic (what you see if what you get most of the time!). I knew that to lead an experienced, motivated, and brilliant team of humans I would have to go where I have never gone before. BUT, it would have to come from the heart.
I am thankful for our Strengths consultant, Jessica Potts, for setting the foundation for our team to be open and embrace our true selves. I am also incredibly thankful for Sae (Stan) Chung our EDI consultant and our many talks and “walks”. He has opened my eyes and heart toward what it means to be an empathetic leader. For that, I am forever grateful.
3. I don’t know anything. OK! A little harsh on myself here. What I mean by this is trying to go into situations with a wider lens. Before saying no, ask more questions. Before assuming the status quo is working just fine, ask who it is not working for. After everyone at the table has been fed, ask who is not at the table and still hungry.
I am desperately working to unlearn and not assume, which is not always the easiest path. Thanks to my team for also embracing this mindset and always be willing to step up and question our actions.
Finally, thinking that I don’t know anything reminds me that I NEED to keep learning every single day.
4. Have fun & get to know people. Remote work and virtual meetings are not always the easiest environments to work in, especially trying to make them fun. I probably hit the jackpot when it comes to fun teams! There are definitely times to be serious and “get down to business”, but without trust and truly knowing the people you work with, nothing of value will happen. Taking the extra time to check-in during meetings, letting the conversation go off the tracks (mostly because of me!) or having full conversations in GIFs is something I not only love, but think is necessary. Just because you don’t see people in 3D doesn’t mean you cannot develop meaningful and substantial relationships.
5. Be grateful. More clichés! Gratitude is not a given and takes practice. Stan told me that (thanks by the way!). I spent a lot of time reflecting on what motivates me (in family, in work, in sport, in anything…). The thing that resonated the most was feeling like I was appreciated. I wanted to make sure that those around me, be it my team, the Board, our volunteers, our project leads, everyone, knows that I appreciate their time and energy in CEWIL.
Thanks to all the wonderful humans who have made these 18+ months such a fabulous journey! Thanks to the Board for their confidence and support.
Looking forward to the next CEWIL adventures and getting to know more of you along the way.
My virtual door is always open and I LOVE hearing from you. Send a message anytime to [email protected]
Peace, love & WIL,