Category Archives: Mentoring

What the F*^k are you doing?

So, this woman changed my life. She probably doesn’t know it, and she probably does it all the time without realizing it. Continue reading


You can’t be what you can’t see

Originally posted on the MaRS blog: 

Language and imagery are important. These two inputs impact our thoughts, our belief systems, our attitudes and, ultimately, our actions.

The Ms. Foundation for Women knew this when they started the Take Our Daughters to Work initiative back in 1993. Marie Wilson, founder and president emeritus of The White House Project, also knew this, which is why she started the initiative to draw women into leadership roles in America.

At MaRS we are committed to drawing women into ambitious entrepreneurship, particularly with a focus on leading high-tech, high-growth companies, and we have hosted many talented writers who have told the stories of women in technology on our blog for many years.

Why do we continue to tell these stories and highlight the work that women are doing in these fields? Personal development pundits often cite the impact of writing down goals or creating vision boards. What if those vision boards don’t have any images or stories of women as scientists, developers or leaders? What if girls and women can’t see what they may be or become? That’s a future that we don’t want to see become reality and one that our world community cannot afford to let happen.

There are many dedicated and committed women and men working together to highlight women’s stories and to provide opportunities for them to picture themselves as leaders and create their own future in the fields of technology. Today, in honour of International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting two women and their teams who are doing just that.

Cassie McDaniel and Women && Tech

Inspired by FITC‘s call for submissions for a chance to win free tickets to their conference, designer, writer and illustrator/artist Cassie McDaniel created an app that was built around the “binders of women” concept: a directory of women in the technology industry that conference organizers could use to improve the ratio of women speakers at technology conferences. The app was also intended to be a community-curated platform where women could share their stories and find mentors and support as they traversed the minefield ofbarriers and challenges they faced as a minority in the technology field. The premise eventually morphed into the Women && Tech interview series.

Cassie and her core volunteer team of nine men and women are committed to interviewing 50 current tech leaders in the Toronto area (there will be men profiled as well). When asked why it was important for her to tell these stories, Cassie told me that there are plenty of women who don’t struggle with finding their way in this community and, in her experience, that’s been mostly based on their personalities. But for those women who do struggle with speaking up for themselves, asserting their presence or sharing their talents, these interviews are an important avenue to show women that ”you can get here from anywhere,” she said.

Cassie is under no delusion that using this medium to highlight women’s stories will be the sole means by which the struggles of women in the technology industry will be overcome, but she does see it as an important part of the overall discussion by at least getting people talking.

Terre Chartrand and Hackademy

Terre Chartrand  has worked in technology for most of her professional life. She knows a variety of different programming languages, comes from a background in fine arts and is passionate about providing opportunities for girls and other marginalized groups to access the knowledge, resources and skills that will see them flourish in the growing knowledge anddigital economy.

Terre, along with Stephanie Rozek and Sean Yo (all from the Kitchener-Waterloo area), created Hackademy as a response to some of the difficulties they had experienced in the tech sector and as a way to create some change. (Disclosure: Hackademy has recently joined MaRS as a client.) The team’s approach to growing Hackademy as a social venture is to provide access to training about how to code and make, while also creating an infrastructure of mentorship, so that students will be set up for success in the workplace and, most notably, girls and women will be encouraged to stay in tech.

Outreach to girls will be a particular focus for Hackademy, teaching them that tech does not have to be intimidating or scary and “isn’t just a boy thing.”

Terre gave an example of a project where girls could build a dollhouse and then create simple Arduinosolutions to wire the house and set the lights on a timing system. It is collaborative, cross-disciplined, engaging play where girls can experience different parts of what it means to “make” by using math skills and creating algorithms and heuristics.

Both Terre and Cassie agree that diversity within their teams (in gender, talent and experience) is an essential building block to the success of their projects. They both also recognize that there are particular challenges that women and girls face in the technology realm and, through their work, they’re doing their part to see that the number of girls and women in technology rise.

If you believe that “you can’t be what you can’t see,” then it is imperative that we share our stories and show girls and women that they are not alone. We need to show them that they are able and capable, and that they can be successful in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields without being minimized.

We invite you to join our Lean in Circle. Share your stories, support others and be a part of actively changing the future for today’s girls and the future of STEM industries in Ontario.


A Sunday afternoon to remember…

Eleven years ago, when I was still living in Toronto, I had a very different relationship with food than I do now. I was a decent cook (nowhere near my mother’s calibre though), could follow a recipe, get a bit creative, enjoyed hosting dinner parties, and ensured that my family ate relatively well.

Then I moved to Stratford, and everything changed.

The first thing was the accessibility of fresh, local food from the Stratford’s Farmer’s Market. I was so used to shopping in grocery stores that seeing beautiful, natural, sometimes dirt encrusted vegetables were almost a novelty to me. I had of course been to the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto a number of times, but I lived uptown with no vehicle, and at that time, farmer’s markets weren’t nearly as prevalent in the urban centres as they are now. Through the Stratford Farmer’s Market, I learned how to talk to my farmers, ask questions, and forge relationships, because now they were my farmers; I supported them, they supported my family. Community.

Then I was introduced to Community Supported Agriculture models through Monforte Dairy and I decided to support these artisans directly with my dollars, supporting their businesses and my palate, and I became part of that community.

Soon after came the introduction of the Slow Food Market and the vendors with their delicious wares, and then my membership in Your Local Market Co-op, and further CSA support for Simple. Fish & Chips and Revel Caffé. And they became part of my community as well. Friends, restauranteurs, business partners, farmers, purveyors, educators. My shopping habits have changed so much that now my groceries are about 50% local, 50% grocery store. Way better than the 10% average the Ontario Agriculture movement asks of Ontarians.

Then these worlds coalesced with the birth of the Savour Stratford Culinary Festival. Hands down, bar none, my favourite weekend in Stratford. On principle, it’s the only event that I refuse to volunteer for in Stratford. My husband and my children all know, that is my weekend. I am off duty to eat, drink and be merry. Oh, and how I have done that, each and every year since its inception.

Now, my love affair with great food, good drink and passionate creators of great food experiences continues, grows and changes, just like all good romances. Now, it’s going through another renaissance through the experience of learning from some of the most creative, passionate chefs in South Western Ontario with the GE Café Chef Series, Celebrating Ontario’s Terroir.

In early January, I was invited by the Stratford Tourism Alliance team to participate in the inaugural event of the GE Chef Series, hosted by the Local Community Food Centre and Chef Aaron Linley of bijou restaurant. Knowing the exceptional experiences curated by the Savour Stratford team, I anticipated another immensely successful event and I was not disappointed.

The day began with an overview of the dinner party menu by Chef, who answered questions on the fly about sourcing food, talking to your butcher, and procuring artisanal items. This is the kind of knowledge that you can only really get by being with face to face with a Chef, especially one that celebrates the producers and artisans available in Perth County like Aaron does.

Chef Aaron Linley of bijou restaurant

It’s quite the experience, being surrounded by friends and strangers, all brought together by a desire to learn and immerse oneself in great food. For me, this kind of gathering is the essence of community.

After reviewing the menu, and teaching us some of the methods we would be using, we were split into teams to focus on each course of the meal. We were learning from Chef, as well as many others that were brought to the Local CFC that day not only about the equipment, but the way to properly prep our dishes, from timing to presentation.


On the menu for the day was:

Bacon laced scallions with romesco sauce and local goat cheese

 Course 1

Rainbow Trout ‘en papillote’ with cabbage, tomato and lime

Ancho Chili and cider marinated Quail with duck fat potatoes and Moroccan eggplant salad

Course 2 & 3

Green apple tart tartin with sour cream ice cream and caramel

 Course 4

Finally, it was time to eat and enjoy the fruits of our labour. Chef sat with us, and we all enjoyed each course as it was matched with a beautiful wines from Lailey Vineyard.

What more can I say about a perfect Sunday afternoon that blends community, knowledge and delicious food?

KSD & Chef Linley

Aaron Linley, the Chef/Owner of bijou restaurant in Stratford is a wonderful teacher, and the whole flow and presentation of the day was a production in grace by the team at the Local Community Food Centre and Stratford Tourism Alliance.

I’m not only grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the first of the series, but for the knowledge and insights shared by Chef. A Sunday afternoon to remember, indeed…

Getting ahead with a little help from our friends

Originally posted on the MaRS blog on Wednesday, November 14, 2012. 

Years ago, while working at TELUS Communications, I attended a morning breakfast panel with three of the company’s top executive women: Karen RadfordJudy Shuttleworth and Janet Yale. All three are exceptionally successful and driven women, and the conversation was refreshingly frank that day.

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