Community Highlight – Nadine Stille

We are super excited for you to meet Nadine Stille! When we first met Nadine at the Women In Tech Regatta, we could feel her passion and curiosity for learning. She is heartwarming, giving, and committed to creating WOW experiences with everyone she meets. We feel so grateful to know Nadine and for her continued support in sharing her thoughts on our events.

Take a moment to read her review on our events at the Vancouver Startup Week!

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For Vancouver Start Up Week, the SPARK family of SPARK Creations & Company once again spread the love and asked: What makes you SPARK?

With two events lined up, I was looking forward to engaging discussions, valuable insights and a welcoming, collaborative atmosphere. Here are some of the many amazing highlights.

First off, we had the Fireside Chat with Founders at Entrepreneurship@UBC Robson Square with Claire Booth of Lux Insights, Chris Jensen of Left and RightMesh, Aman Mann of Procurify and Shawn Neumann of Domain7.

In true Vancouver style, a diverse crowd gathered to learn the founders’ aha-moments when starting their own businesses. We all wanted to know what fuels them each day and which guiding principles and values make their business so outstanding. Jennifer Curleigh and Leah Hennessey Rai, both Culture Collaborators with SPARK Creations & Company, moderated the session.

While each founder now works for their own established business, Claire acknowledged what a lot of entrepreneurs can empathize with: stress fueled her early founder years. Having had a pivotal job interview during which she realized that there was no way she could work for another corporation, she made the decision to start her own company. For years, she’d known that she’d eventually take the leap. But only at the fateful interview did her head catch up with the idea her gut had a while ago. Now, she ensures that people at Lux Insights flourish and everyone has a focus on their own personal development. Claire is determined to have an inclusive and thriving work environment, deliberately referring to Lux Insights as the or our company, never her company.

Aman also shared his early struggles to get traction with his business ideas and mentioned how podcasts about failure, stress and gratefulness shaped his mindset at the time. When he finally was invited to pitch in front of 450 people, he was willing to put himself out there and accept failure as a possible outcome. Procurify’s success is no less due to the workplace culture they have created. Aman finds that labels such as leader are outdated. To him, it’s important to have people around who share the same values, want to learn and are curious. Everyone is an equal team member, can lead from any position, and is encouraged to do so.

Shawn’s journey to founding his own business was a gradual one, driven by questions of how he could do more and fix certain problems. He’s now motivated by creating meaningful change with a collaborative approach to ensure Domain7 provides real, human value. Having an amazing workplace culture is also pivotal to the success of the company. However, according to Shawn, this should never be in place as a means to an end. A thriving work environment should be in place because it’s the right thing to do and works when you connect to people’s purpose and values. Business outcomes (like higher productivity, creativity, etc.) are rather “by-products” of a successful workplace culture.

After 10 years of fantasizing about a shared company, Chris and his founding partner decided to create a company one Friday afternoon, wrote the business plan over the weekend and had the funding acquired by the following Monday. He made that, and other business ideas he was successful at over the years, sound so easy, logical, and straightforward. Yet, there have been more than a few obstacles and failures along the way. For Chris, failure is like muscle memory: you train, try, practice and fail until you get it right without much thinking about it. At Left, “Failure is an option” has been one of the guiding principles for everyone working there.

While the introductions to each founder were a great treat during the panel stage of the session, the real magic happened during the second half of the event, which I’ll dive into further down below. This was also the case with the second SPARK event that week.

Women In Tech Journey: A Day in the Life in All Career Levels at The Profile Co-Working location, brought us closer to challenges women face in the tech environment, including getting into tech in the first place, and how we can support women.

Before we got started both Lorie Corcuera and Leah Hennessey Rai, Co-Founder and Culture Collaborator respectively with SPARK Creations & Company, led all participants and panelists through ice-breaker exercises to build trust and set intentions. This certainly helped to bring the room together and make the interactions and collaborations that much more meaningful.

Amiee Chan of Norsat International Inc., Rashika Raizada of 1QBit, Tate Gibson of Agreement Express, and Heidi Martin of Clio openly shared some surprising observations, their journeys into the men-dominated tech world and tips that worked for them.

“Shatter the glass ceiling” was Aimee’s reply when asked about her goal and intention. She said it unapologetically and, with a big smile, she added a timeline for herself – to achieve this by the time her now teenage daughter is old enough to enter the workforce. What a way to introduce herself! While Aimee had support within her organization and couldn’t recall a time when her gender had held her back, she did recognize biases outside the company, which she usually efficiently addresses for a quick correction. There was, for instance, an assumption that her male business partner she travelled with was the CEO of the company, when, in fact, it was her. Aimee acknowledges that her teams make better decisions when women are part of those teams, and she actively works to always make that happen. You can read more about better decision making in diverse teams in the research report titled “Why diversity matters” by McKinsey&Company.

In terms of mentoring, Tate mentioned that she has actively sought out and found amazing mentors – both male and female – who have been very supportive of her career. She’s now actively working to help others up the career ladder, and also encourages more support between women on all levels. The famous TED talk “Teach girls bravery, not perfection,” by Reshma Saujani, was then brought up for discussion and for how much it resonated with peoples’ experiences. I’ve seen it a few times myself and can only agree –  it’s a must-watch.

How children are raised and, for instance, what toys they’re given to play with as a boy or a girl, was something Rashika brought up. As discussed here,research has found that dividing children’s toys based on gender can have lasting developmental implications.” As a youngster, Rashika stunned her parents when she took her doll apart and wanted to find out how she could reassemble it. Later in life, while studying STEM topics, she found there weren’t many other women around, and often felt herself asking, “Is this topic/misunderstanding/discussion happening because I’m a woman or is it because of me?”

Heidi had similar experiences to Rashika’s, as oftentimes she’d be the only woman, or one of very few women, in meetings or at conferences. There simply weren’t enough other women to compare her experiences or impressions with and she felt, especially early on, that she didn’t fit in. Now however, she values seeing things differently and being a blind spotter, as this helps not only her but others around her too. I felt myself nodding as Heidi described this and while she continued, voicing her concern that there is still not equal opportunity to get women to the same table. Heidi mentioned that too much still prevents women from being considered in the first place, and to be given a fair chance to make their case.

With the first parts of both sessions over, we were given the chance to get up close and personal with each panelist – yes, that’s right! The smaller discussion groups, in which we had the opportunity to chat with each panelist on a rotation, really made both events outstanding. We got to follow up on earlier mentioned topics, pose new questions and interact on a collaborative, informal level, and each panelist was very forthcoming, curious and encouraging. The group chats were so animated and fun, it was sometimes difficult to end conversations so that the panelist could move onto the next group. Even afterwards, people were buzzing and engaging with panelists, moderators, fellow attendees and volunteers (such as myself).

Reflecting on the different experiences and voices of each panelist, I came to realize what they all had in common: courage, fearlessness and determination, with a mindset to help others and enable people around them. How inspiring!

I’ve attended several SPARK events this year and always leave with a new dose of motivation, valuable insights, new connections and ideas. Will I see you at one of the next SPARK events?

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About Nadine Stille

With over 15 years of international work experience in 5 countries, Nadine is a Lifelong Learner and Teacher, an enthusiastic Connector, a Diversity & Inclusion Advocate, and loves helping individuals and teams thrive. Nadine is looking for ways to inspire and influence, to make our communities an even better place to be. She’s genuinely curious about people; what drives them and what makes them authentic.

Intrigued and ready to connect? Nadine would love to hear from you too via LinkedIn or Twitter www.twitter.com/NadineStille

Lorie Corcuera
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