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JULY/AUGUST 2019

LAMBTON SHIELD

TAKING CARE OF THE SPACE AROUND US Jenny Gough of Pollutech EnviroQuatics headlines our ‘Women in Business’ issue

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INSIDE THIS ISSUE JULY/AUGUST 2019

6

6

Taking care of the 'space around us'

10 Home Again 11 Modelling a career choice 13 Bringing joy to her

corner of the world 15 One slice at a time 18 Beyond our greatest

expectations 21 Chase the challenge,

15

follow the dream 23 Bringing value to

every business 25 Sounds Right 27 With a smile and much more 29 What’s all the excitement

27 4 • LAMBTON SHIELD JULY/AUGUST 2019

around the Outstanding Business Achievement Awards really about?


WOMEN BUSINESS LEADERS OFTEN BRING OUT THE BEST IN US ALL

O

ne of the biggest challenges in putting together this issue of Lambton Shield magazine—our fifth since we began this adventure in print—was sifting through all the great women business people in our community to give our readers a sense of the depth and scope of entrepreneurial spirit and energy.

It wasn’t an easy job. What I hope we’ve been able to provide is a mere glimpse into what some very talented and exceptionally focused business people (who happen to be women) are committed to providing their customers. Speaking to each of them (which is the first step in any writing task) was to be inspired and I hope that sense of “awe and wonder” comes through in this issue. The fact is, there was a time when to be a female in business was either unusual or non-existent. And those who were able to break through, either in their own venture or working in any number of professions, often faced barriers that might seem outrageous today—which they were of course. What we hope to do with this issue is at least twofold: to celebrate the ongoing accomplishments of women around us, and to encourage/inspire young women in our community to “never settle” for anything less than to be their best, in whatever choice of profession they decide. A word about our next issue Before too much longer, we’ll be putting together the September/October 2019 issue of Lambton Shield magazine, one that we hope to focus on the great many charitable organizations that continue to make a huge difference in our community. While the number of organizations we plan to feature is, by definition, somewhat limited, we do plan to create a basic but comprehensive directory listing. Stay tuned for updates on those plans (we’ll be saying more at www.lambtonshield.com) and thank you for being part of our community. J.D. Booth Editor and Publisher jd@lambtonshield.com 519-466-2811

LAMBTON SHIELD Owned and operated by 1886917 ONTARIO INC. and published both in print and online at WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM. DESIGN AND PRODUCTION: CR Creative Co. Ltd., Wyoming, Ontario. EDITORIAL CONSULTANT: L. Sheridan

ADVERTISING & MARKETING MANAGER: Fatema Bhabrawala fatema@lambtonshield.com (519) 381-1140 ON OUR COVER: Jenny Gough, a chemical engineer and owner of Pollutech EnviroQuatics, was an easy choice for our Women in Business cover. Photo by Lisa Cattran Photography. See her other work at www.lisacattran.com, on Instagram (@lisacattranphotography) and on Facebook (@lisacattranphotography).

A proud member of the

WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 5


Photo by Lisa Cattran

‘space around us’

TAKING CARE OF THE

6 • LAMBTON SHIELD JULY/AUGUST 2019

Jenny Gough has brought her passion for environmental protection to a growing market


Greater Montreal suburb of Pointe-Claire, on the west island. Even at an early age, Gough had a strong sense that whatever she would do in life, the environment would play a key role and with that in mind, she found herself enrolling in the chemical engineering program at the University of Ottawa. But even before that, she’d found herself with something of a travel bug and decided to combine her two passions—seeing the world and the environment. That led her to what would become the stepping off point for her career, which began in Australia, partly due to a passion for travelling. She started out by securing a job as country advisor for the Water Corporation of Western Australia, based in Perth, where she worked for the next three years before moving to the other end of Australia, working as an environmental office at Nestle’s factory in Gympie, a town two hours north of Brisbane on the country’s gold coast. What came next was a call from family back in Ottawa, where Gough’s mother—living in Ottawa—was facing health issues. With that priority clearly beckoning, Gough looked for work opportunities back in Canada, one of which came in the form of a job offer with Ethyl Canada.

W

hen we consider various stories about women who have made their mark in a world most often dominated, at least historically, it would be hard to come up with a better example of breakthrough than Jenny Gough, owner of Pollutech EnviroQuatics Ltd., one of leading—perhaps THE leading— environmental services companies in the Sarnia-Lambton region and beyond. We’ll begin this story at the most logical point, which is where she grew up, in the

Through her time there, Gough became familiar with the business landscape in Sarnia and, from time to time, engaged Pollutech for its services, so when the opportunity came to join the firm, she jumped at the chance, coming on board in 2012, a year before Ethyl closed its Corunna plant.

decided to retire. After some discussion, Gough was able to buy the business outright, although perhaps not without a sense of “what now?” “Tim Moran [an experienced marine biologist] had a great background, and an in-depth knowledge of the Valley,” says Gough, clearly not intimidated but recognizing that as the new owner she may have jumped into the proverbial deep end. From talking to Gough in her office, located in the DMI Building in Point Edward, it’s clear that any uncertainty about how effective that transition would be was overcome in short order. “It’s always been my dream to own my own business, so I guess I have a lot of ambitious goals,” said Gough. But getting back to her early life, it was a great uncle that served as one of the first environmental directors of Canada’s Central Experimental Farm, a job from which he travelled extensively, reinforcing in his great niece’s mind the importance of the environment, including its waterways, soil, and trees. “I learned that our future depends on the greenness of the earth,” says Gough, something she remains passionate about promoting and taking action on delivering through her work. She’s also optimistic about how a renewed emphasis on keeping the planet healthy is able to make a real difference. “I believe it’s getting more and more positive exposure in the public’s eye,” she said, even as she recognizes continued stresses require diligence and commitment.

It didn’t take long for Pollutech to recognize what they had in Gough, with her prior experience and passion for the environmental services industry.

With Pollutech EnviroQuatics and a staff of 21, Gough is taking a relentless approach to doing whatever is needed to advance that basic mission—taking care of the environment through a full suite of services that its customers have come to rely on.

Promoted to consulting group manager and principal just a year after joining the company, Gough continued making a favourable impression for another six and a half years.

She’s also doing it with the kind of attitude that’s not necessarily in industry, one that includes a generous spirit and the passion that goes with doing something you were born to accomplish.

And then the founding owners of Pollutech

One example came in the form of a note she WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 7


recently received from a caller who said she had reached out to at least a dozen people for an answer on a particular environmental issue before finally connecting with Gough. “I’ve been accumulating knowledge around environmental affairs since I was 13,” said Gough as part of our interview. “I firmly believe it’s a very good thing when you’re able to share your knowledge with the world, especially when it leads to positive change.” Looking ahead, Gough sees a continuing bright future for the company she now leads. “We’ll continue to be a stronghold of flexible services related to the environment,” she says. With Pollutech EnviroQuatics equipped to manage projects that include a broad range of services, a list of which would almost certainly be overkill in the context of a story about its CEO and her journey, Gough also brings up an important point around what makes her company particularly special, that being its location. “If a company has an issue and they have to call someone from out of town—whether that’s Toronto, Hamilton, or even London, if they’re busy in their own town, they’re not here,” said Gough. And while Gough is also quick to acknowledge that she has local competition as well (“I like to think we’re cooperative in that respect”) she does speak for her own company’s sense of mission and passion regarding protection of the environment.

“Some companies are really on board with environmental protection, especially in taking Photo by Lisa Cattran steps that will help improve human health,” adds Gough. “But not everyone is as interested in doing that. Their I’ve been accumulating attitude may be ‘we’ll do only what we have to do.’” A different attitude, perhaps a more holistic one, one that would recognize the need to “raise the bar” on what’s possible regarding environmental standards, would likely be something Gough and others embrace.

knowledge

around environmental affairs since I was 13. I firmly believe it’s a very good thing when you’re able to share your knowledge with the world, especially

of the cost of implementation and that’s put us behind on the world stage when it comes to environmental protection.” Still, Gough is optimistic about how things will play out in the future.

“It doesn’t mean the race is over,” she says. “We’re one team when it leads to positive change. protecting the earth and it may take a crisis to wake people up to “At one point, Canada and the U.S. were moving forward together,” she notes. “With the regulatory what we’re facing. But there are things we can be doing and that’s framework changing, North America seems to have stalled because what we’ll continue to do.” 8 • LAMBTON SHIELD JULY/AUGUST 2019


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Home

Again

Marie Marcy-Smids continues to help improve quality of life for those who need our help the most

Photo by Lisa Cattran

I

t’s not everyone who can effectively manage a fundraising program or put together an event designed to raise the profile of an organization, especially one that requires the sustainable funding if it is to provide services intended to raise the quality of life for members of our community.

But Marcy-Smids is one of those folks and her story about how she “evolved” in her career (she’s now fund development and communications coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Society of SarniaLambton) is one worth telling. The beginning of that story starts in Halifax, where Marcy-Smids was born, her mother being from Saint John, N.B., and her father, then in the Canadian Navy but from Sarnia, which is the primary reason the family moved here when she was just four years old. “He was a Sarnia guy,” said MarcySmids of her father, the late Joe Marcy, an iconic fundraiser and supporter himself for years before his passing in 1998.

Not long afterwards, Marcy-Smids began a family and her daughter Meggie (see sidebar story) was born. Marcy-Smids, returning from maternity leave, really wanted to job share, but those were days when that sort of flexibility wasn’t as commonplace as it might be today.

I love this area. A lot of people don’t realize how beautiful it is here, with the water, the beaches and the proximity to the U.S. right on our doorstep. And it’s just a little drive from anywhere you want to go.

So Sarnia became home. Graduating from high school, Marcy-Smids did what many of her generation would do: look for work in or around Chemical Valley. Her landing spot was Dow Chemical Canada Inc., with not only its sprawling plant infrastructure still in place, but the company’s corporate headquarters located in space now occupied by the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park on Modeland Road. 10 • LAMBTON SHIELD JULY/AUGUST 2019

Her first job was in the Dow Rec Centre, a building that still exists to the south of the corporate offices, where she quietly did her good work on behalf of employees who took time to stay or keep fit.

What she did next was engage in what today we might call the “gig economy”—taking on contract work, first for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and its Rubber Ducky race, as well as similar fundraising and event coordination for the Sarnia Organ Donor Awareness group (SODA). Her job there? To encourage people to sign their donor cards.

The better question might be where this passion and perhaps even the skill level came from and Marcy-Smids points to her Dad’s legacy as the likely source. “He was a huge fundraiser, raising thousands of dollars for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society and others,” she said. The next phase in her life came when she was taking something of a break, John DeGroot, who was chair of the Inn of the Good Continued on page 28


MODELLING A CAREER CHOICE

Like her parents in many ways, Meggie Smids is prepared to carve out her own path

W

hile the career of Meggie Smids, daughter of Marie MarcySmids (featured in this issue) and Henry Smids, a security consultant, is obviously still in its early days, it’s not hard at all to see continued success for this young female engineer. In high school but now a chemical engineer at NOVA Chemicals, Meggie found herself enthralled with science and math, perhaps not a typical situation but one that set her on a path that society needs more and more if it is to meet the anticipated demand for the jobs of tomorrow. Equipped with those interests, Meggie might have chosen medical school as a career path had it not been for a mechanical engineer uncle working in one of the plants.

Even further, she had one specific school in mind. “I’d applied to bunch of schools in Ontario, but even then, my goal was to go to McGill University in Montreal.” Never mind to Montreal.

that

she’d

What Meggie did next was to explore the world of engineering, a first step being to pursue a rare coop opportunity with a local engineering firm as part of a high school initiative offered through Lambton College. The experience there helped settle the question of an academic goal, that being engineering.

been

“My parents told me, there was no way they were going to take me there for a visit. I needed to apply and be accepted.”

People shouldn’t be afraid to get out of their comfort zone, I think having more female engineers is important and being able to have people say ‘hey she’s doing that. I think I can too.'

Plus there was the thought of the dozen years or so post-secondary education that would be ahead of her should she pursue medicine.

never

As Meggie explains: “I knew my grades were good, but the question was whether they were ‘McGill good’ or not.”

They were and Meggie was off—to pursue what at first was a degree in electrical engineering. A shift after the first year into chemical engineering was the result of a keen interest in organic chemistry. While it turns out that there actually isn’t as much organic chemistry in the program as Meggie might first have thought, she did complete her degree, bolstered by the dream of returning to Sarnia, where there are numerous firms seeking out graduates with that particular discipline.

NOVA Chemicals was one of those and she was hired by the firm some three years ago. Just now having made her first of what will likely be several job rotations, Meggie admits she’s a little nervous but nevertheless excited to be moving to the firm’s St. Clair River plant (her first placement was the Corunna site where she was involved in scoping out various capital projects). Even now, Meggie says she wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a career in engineering to any young woman sifting through various professional options. “Engineering is certainly a foundation for a lot of different jobs in a lot of different industries,” she says. “And while there are challenges, especially in a profession that’s been dominated by men, I hope to be a role model for even more young women who decide to choose this career.” She says she’s also grateful to have already identified role models who are helping her navigate the complexities of this new world. Plus, she’s meeting people who continue to be very supportive in her career, many of them close to her age. “People shouldn’t be afraid to get out of their comfort zone,” says Meggie. “I think having more female engineers is important and being able to have people say ‘hey she’s doing that. I think I can too.’” WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 11


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joy

Bringing

to her corner of the world Christine Yurchuk has a mission: to help women feel better in what they wear.

Christine Yurchuk has her sights set on making customers look forward to what’s coming next

C

hristine Yurchuk may tell you that her extended path to entrepreneurship may have been at least partially influenced by stories told by her husband, although to be accurate, perhaps not at the beginning. It was when Bill Yurchuk became manager of the local office of the Canadian Cancer Society (he’s now CEO of Lambton Elderly Outreach) that Christine found herself listening to inspiring stories her husband would bring home about how much good was being done by the agency.

Not long after, Christine herself began thinking about how she might create some stories of her own. To be sure, she’d already enjoyed a somewhat diverse career, perhaps in part the result of Bill having been a police officer in London at one point, and also being a financial advisor (at a firm where she first met Bill).

What idea she settled on was the Fitting Room, a business geared specifically to help women who’d had a mastectomy. But her base of operations was such that she was looking for an opportunity to expand the venture beyond the space available in the Royal LePage building on Christina St. In 2016, owners of another local business, Lilith Boutique, then based in Petrolia, decided to sell and approached Christine about the opportunity to take over the business. Christine was able to make a deal to purchase the business, moving it to downtown Sarnia, which is where her expanded business now operates out of 184 Christina St. North.

Most women hate bras, but when they leave her, they don’t hate them so much.

Born in Stratford and having also lived in Goderich, Christine came to Sarnia some 35 years ago. Largely a stay-at-mom to four children, Christine had also, at various points in her career, even had a cleaning business, so she knew something about what self-employment would mean.

“We thought this was a great opportunity to expand the services to those I’d been helping at the Fitting Room,” she says today. As for the future, Christine continues to believe in a strong future for downtown Sarnia.

And she remains excited about what value— emotional and practical—lies in running Lilith Boutique. “Most women hate bras, but when they leave her, they don’t hate them so much,” she says, her natural smile getting just a little wider.

WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 13


14 • LAMBTON SHIELD JULY/AUGUST 2019


One Slice at a time

Kathleen Mundy has never lost sight of what drives value in any business, including her string of Little Caesars stores Kathleen Mundy’s career has always been one that embraces her own brand of solution.

W

alk into any Little Caesars store in the Sarnia-Lambton area and look around.

It may not be immediately obvious, but what you’re seeing is the impact Kathleen Mundy has had on a business that at least in this area, was at one point on life support. So much so that the owner at the time, although she was presented with the onestore financial records ahead of an offer to purchase, wouldn’t let her visit for fear people would realize he was planning to sell. But we’re getting a little ahead of this story. Mundy grew up in Petrolia, in a family with at least a little entrepreneurial spirit at its core (one of her grandfathers ran the company contracted to operate school buses in the area).

done a lot of things but there just wasn’t a plan at that point.”

going to do this, you don’t quit. And I told him I was going to take the course too.”

What she did do to start things off was to start a bridal shop business—wedding planning—that she says now was very much ahead of its time.

While her son, perhaps predictably, did not do well in the business—“he was young and age was a disadvantage for what was a tough business”—he did go on to university, a move that Mundy says now was one of the nicest things that could have happened out of that situation.

“We made every mistake possible,” she says of the venture she and a partner undertook. What was something of a legacy to that business was the “entrepreneurial bug” that she discovered along the way. “My grandfather, who died quite young, held onto the notion that you get paid what you’re worth,” she said. “It stuck with me.” Mundy, like many before her and after, headed to Toronto to find her sweet spot, which happened at the time to be real estate.

An only child, she may have had the freedom to choose what she would do in the life, but admittedly not much resources to draw on.

It was the early 80s and Mundy had a son who at the time had a reputation for, let’s say, not sticking to one thing for very long.

“Mom and Dad didn’t have much money so that wasn’t on the horizon and I honestly didn’t know what my options were at that time,” she says. “In hindsight, I could have

“He wasn’t interested in going to university, but he was 18 and he had the idea that he’d get his real estate license and go that route,” she recalls. “What I did was tell him: if you’re

For Mundy personally, real estate turned out to be something she very much succeeded in. She had returned to the Sarnia-Lambton area, where she had a daughter (who now happens to be in the real estate industry herself—more on that later). But then life for her changed, somewhat dramatically it would seem. “He got the company. I got the kid,” Mundy says. But what she also had was the determination to make sure both of them had everything they would need to succeed in life. It started with a typical 9-5 job, something Mundy may have intuitively seen as WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 15


important to provide a sense of stability, but which didn’t pay the bills. She did, however, have that real estate license and worked two jobs for the next six years. Even then, Mundy came to the realization that this was not the future she knew she was capable of creating for herself. Nor was a short-lived foray into the banking industry.

What did come knocking from an opportunity standpoint was Little Caesars, the American franchise founded in the Detroit suburb of Garden City in 1959. The owner of the lone store at the time in the area was looking to sell and when Mundy took a look at its numbers, she saw one thing: opportunity to do more. “I saw that this cash flow was exactly what I needed,” she recalls. “I could have a home and pay my daughter’s tuition. I was in.”

it together.” Mundy will admit today that it’s not an approach she’d recommend under similar circumstances, telling one particular “oven story” to make her point. “Some of these ovens were $60,000 and I didn’t have that kind of money. But I did find a used one in Winnipeg for $25,000 and I extended every credit I had to ship it to Sarnia. I’ll tell you, I probably spent $100,000 in repairs that first year on the oven. But it got me open.”

crazy,” she says. “It may be intimidating at some level, but it’s really a simple document and knowing the state of the business is critical.” Mundy, not unexpectedly for anyone who already knows her well, explains the importance of “checking the numbers” in another way. “If you were going to drive from here to New York and took a wrong turn, you could end up in Atlanta if you didn’t check the map.” Let’s revisit the situation with Mundy’s daughter Madison, now a successful real estate agent herself.

Just yesterday, a digital menu board in one of the stores went down. You’d think, just get it fixed. But apparently there was a change with the company that does the service. We found out about that by accident. So, there’s a few hiccups but we live with it. You do the best you can, but research is important, being able to stand at least one step ahead.

She also realized she was not exactly equipped to take this on. “Quite frankly, I’d never eaten the product,” she said. “But you do the best you can. The cashflow was great.” And while Mundy was able to come up with the funding to buy that one store, she’s already done the numbers for what she really was out to do with the business. “I had to scale and I said to myself: what I need to do is to have five stores in five years. And I kept saying that to everyone around me.” One problem was that the bank—the same one she had worked for briefly but which we won’t name here—turned her down for a loan on a second store.

By the time Mundy was ready to open her third Little Caesars, the same bank that had turned her down on store two started calling and offering her help. Mundy’s response: “No thanks.” Don’t misinterpret that as anything but her sense of motivation coupled with the understanding of what it would really take to succeed. “I really believe that if you don’t look after your numbers, you don’t have a business,” she said. And in this particular case, taking care of the pizza business was something she knew—banker or no banker— was possible.

So Mundy did what any scrappy entrepreneur would do in similar circumstances. She bootstrapped.

She’d also become something of a fanatic when it came to reading the numbers, a skill she’s passed on at some level to clients of the coaching business she subsequently started, maybe when things got a little less crazy at Little Caesars.

“I went into warehouses, bought old equipment, used this and that and pulled

“People wouldn’t look at their profit and loss statement until the end of the year, which is

16 • LAMBTON SHIELD JULY/AUGUST 2019

“When Madison had graduated from university, she called me to tell me she’d been offered fulltime work for a retail company in the GTA. I loved that and I hung up the phone but then I thought ‘I need her in my company.’ I called her back, arranged to meet, which we did in Cambridge. I took off the ‘Mom hat’ and slid across an offer to work for me in Continued on page 30


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Beyond our greatest expectations Katherine Walker is helping to build a base of technology that could very well be the engine of our future

I

t’s been close to three decades since Katherine Walker, who grew up in a family of eight brothers and sisters in the town of Lambeth, just outside London, moved to Corunna with her children and husband, who was transferred here with the Ministry of the Environment. Today, Sarnia-Lambton is home and for Walker, home from a career standpoint has been, for many years now, based on serving clients with various technology solutions. That career arch began when Walker was still in London, working with a sister who had connections with the Anglican diocese and was building a database designed to serve the needs of various parishes throughout the region. That business followed Walker when she moved to Sarnia-Lambton (she and her husband Dennis, now retired, still live in the same Corunna home as when they first moved here. While that business partnership eventually dissolved when the sister moved to Alberta, it wasn’t before they had crafted a home inventory database product that could have been boxed and sold in various retail locations, throughout Canada and the U.S. We say “could have been” because the sisters ultimately realized to do so would have cost thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, with all the risk being on them, not the retailers that agreed to shelf space. And remember, by this time, high-speed internet services were beginning to take shape and downloadable software or even its subsequent model—Software as a Service (SAAS)—was at least in 18 • LAMBTON SHIELD JULY/AUGUST 2019

the not-too-distant future of technological innovation. A pivotal point in Walker’s career came in 2005 with her alignment with Paul Desrochers, a Sarnia native who had leveraged an interest in software development. Together they launched iMAP—short for Industrial Maintenance Audit Program—a dynamic database that maintains an asbestos containing material inventory for sites throughout Canada and the U.S. One notable customer that was secured about two years ago is Toronto Transit Commission, which took several years to secure, a feat that Walker is clearly pleased to have under her belt. A second company is Industrial Web Apps (IWA), which is jointly owned by Walker and partner Barry Vosburg, himself a veteran of Sarnia’s Chemical Valley community. IWA’s goal is to leverage the trend toward moving technology to the web—what we would now call the Cloud, the result of inexpensive hosting services like AWS (Amazon Web Services) coming into vogue. With IWA, Walker decided to focus on delivering the kind of software services that her Chemical Valley clients (and beyond) would find helpful enough that they’d be clamoring to come on board. She found that in a platform that would take any document, including standard documents created by applications like Word and Excel, and


Katherine Walker has embraced the concept of technology changing the world around her (and her clients).

store them in a web-based environment, password protected, digitally secure and accessible by any customer equipped with a laptop or tablet. SHORE—for SHare and stORE— is generic in the sense that it works universally, and supports the global movement toward a paperless environment, which is what Walker’s clients at IWA have been looking for (only perhaps they didn’t know it before they were introduced to the product). “We just publish an Excel file to SHORE and it becomes the input form for workers in the field,” she explains. It’s also a piece of “agnostic” software, meaning that it will work in all situations, regardless of browser or computing device. Walker and her team of bright young developers use a wide variety of tools—all open source with access to a “multitude of code libraries”—to build and maintain SHORE and any other products that IWA develops in the future. It’s her development of staff, not just from a recruitment standpoint but in growing the business organically by identifying new talent locally, that has Walker’s attention these days.

repeated in the near future. “The timing of this is very exciting,” said Walker of the initiative. “The fact that it’s being driven by technology and not necessarily in software development alone means that the opportunity to work with people at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park and Lambton College is a good one and with the NOVA Chemicals expansion, we will be needing more people, not fewer, in the near future.” Another plus is the goal—one that most of us can agree is a desirable one—to see young people who might have dismissed the idea of having a career in their hometown as a wistful dream finding a pathway to do just that. “Developers are a unique breed,” says Walker. “But having someone who fits into the culture is something that is exciting. We have a great group here and it’s exciting to see what gets them excited— like when they run a test and there are no errors. We see some silent ‘hurrahs’ throughout the room.” Walker’s goal, not only for her business but for the entire community, is to see Sarnia-Lambton become a hub of technology and innovation that will serve to breed even more success. “I do feel a movement coming, with the City of Sarnia generally but also with initiatives like the rollout of fibre throughout the community and the recent designation of Sarnia-Lambton as a Top 7 Intelligent Community that’s getting attention, not just here but elsewhere,” she adds.

We ought to be encouraging our children to look at technology and how they could build a career around software and embedded systems, and schools need to be introducing these concepts earlier than they do today, in elementary school and encouraging teenagers to take courses in high school.

One initiative that has taken hold has developed through connections with Terry D’Silva at Tertec, another local technology company, as well as the Sarnia Lambton Industrial Alliance and the Sarnia-Economic Partnership. Working with Lambton College, development firms like Walker’s have put together a co-op-like training program combining software development with hardware that is essential to the emerging Internet of Things environment, one that she and others see as being the wave of the future. That program, which Walker was instrumental in creating, resulted in her being able to hire several developers. She hopes it will be

Walker remains supremely confident that SarniaLambton is positioning itself for even greater success and not just years from now.

“We ought to be encouraging our children to look at technology and how they could build a career around software and embedded systems,” she said. “And schools need to be introducing these concepts earlier than they do today, in elementary school and encouraging teenagers to take courses in high school.” The opportunities, she says, are nothing short of phenomenal. “When you can write a sentence, in a language that is relatively easy to learn, and make a device carry out your commands, we’ll have an amazing skillset available right here in our own backyard.”

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20 • LAMBTON SHIELD JULY/AUGUST 2019


Chase the challenge, follow the dream

A

re you like a twig floating along in a river? Do you meander along on top of calm water, or get caught in the edges of a whirlpool and go in circles? Or perhaps you find yourself in the white water of some rapids and are desperately trying to just keep your head above water. If so, it’s time to take charge of your life! A good first move is to step out of the water and survey the scene around you. Your working life is going to comprise the greatest number of your years here on earth, so make it count and make it what YOU want it to be. Women face some different challenges from men and sometimes those can appear pretty daunting. The fact is, men are often occupying positions of power, something that’s borne out by hard statistics. While we can alter that with some courage, support and a persistent determination for change, we also need to factor in one stark fact: that everyone has opportunities in front of them. It will, however, be up to you to decide to be bold and take the challenge to follow your dream, or to remain where you are. Bottom line: the choice is yours. Here are three key questions to ask yourself: 1. Where am I now? 2. Where do I want to go in the future? 3. What will it take for me to achieve that dream? Only after you have some answers to those questions can you get to work to make it become your reality. A key way to make a difference is to create an environment where you as a woman can support others, and engage in mentoring activity that will help others learn and grow. You can be a role model and still reach out to ask for help when you need it. And sometimes it's just a matter of pushing back on society to say “This has got to change.” Don’t just settle for “this pays the bills,” or well “it’s a job.” The answer for the question — “I don’t know what else I can do” — deserves some exploration as to what will bring you joy, contribute to help make the world a better place, or maybe even make your mark when it comes to helping women to become more successful in careers that they might not have originally considered.

“Where do I want to go in the future?” question. Can you identify some gaps that need to be filled? Do you need more education, or a bigger support group? Do you need more contacts and find that you need to attend more networking events? Is there an association or group that is close to your dream? Look at some of the courageous female role models we have – Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut, Jody WilsonRaybould (a previous Attorney General of Canada) and Mother Theresa, who challenged countries around the world to help the poor and who tried to make this world a better place. Maybe you will be one of these role models in the future – the choice is yours to try! Any one of those could very well help you move forward toward your goals. Remember, you can do it if you really want it. It may take some time, but I believe anything is possible. Helen Lomax is vice president of Enthusiasm at Pathways & Transitions. She can be reached through her website—www. pathwaysandtransitions.com. SPONSORED

Bringing compassion and commitment to clients in need

C

atherine Wilde has been a proud resident of Sarnia-Lambton community for some 20 years now, and since coming here from Saskatchewan, she’s clearly embraced

her “second home” with enthusiasm and, professionally, a commitment to excellence in the legal profession. On her arrival in 1999, she began articling with the firm of Fleck & Daigneault, the beginning of a rewarding career that led her to purchase the firm, now Fleck Law, in 2015. Today, Catherine continues to focus on the things that count for her clients and the members of her legal team, who focus exclusively on situations involving serious and catastrophic personal injuries, wrongful deaths, motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls, and insurance claims. “Many clients are apprehensive about the whole process and helping them through it and ultimately getting them a result as they work towards their future is really rewarding,” she says.

Take a look at the skills you have today – how do they support the

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Bringing

VALUE Lisa Isaac has quickly earned a reputation (and filled a market niche) for delivering HR services to her target audience.

to every Business

Lisa Isaac is focused on getting (and keeping) firms with need for HR services on track

L

isa Isaac has a favourite saying—or at least one she’s quick to use when explaining the value of the services she provides as a human resources consultant.

“We’re cheaper than a lawyer,” says Isaac, who owns and runs her eponymous Lisa Isaac HR Professional Services from a base in Sarnia-Lambton. But Isaac, who includes in her target market First Nation clients, at least partly the result of her being a member of the Pottawatomi of Moose Deer Point, located south of Parry Sound, is originally from Goderich, finishing high school in Clinton before moving to Ottawa to attend Ottawa University. Earning a degree in political science, Isaac also took French and Mandarin, hoping to eventually get a job representing Canada on the international stage. Sadly, when Isaac graduated in 2008, those kinds of jobs were simply not to be found. What she did do was head out of town, first to Iqaluit in Canada’s north, where she spent six months (“meeting some really great people”), then Calgary, where she picked up a job working for a bank. Her work there was largely risk management—the kind of job, as she explained, that included dealing with issues like someone putting an empty envelope in the bank machine slot. “I decided after some time that wasn’t going to work for me,” said Isaac. Then she saw a bus advertisement that spoke to her. “It said ‘learn while you earn” and that definitely caught my eye.” It was a message from the University of Lethbridge, which had a

satellite campus in Calgary and was offering a “nights and weekends” course in human resources management. “I had a bit of an epiphany there because what I had been doing through various resource groups at the bank was volunteering all along and now someone would pay me to do HR if I had the training.” In two and a half years, Isaac earned a bachelor of management in HR, the result of the school gearing its program to those who wanted an accelerated learning experience. At this point, Isaac yearned for the lakes of Ontario that she had grown up around. With her bank employer helping with a move to London, she took on an estate services role, where she dealt with all the various duties required to help families that had lost a loved one. But she also continued to apply for HR-related jobs and in September 2013 found just what she was looking for in Sarnia-Lambton, a paid internship position at Shell Canada’s Sarnia Manufacturing Site that turned into an HR advisor role focused on growing the company’s diversity and inclusion agenda, as well as partnering with local education and First Nations communities. That job, however, had a somewhat limited shelf life; Shell announced plans to outsource Isaac’s role to a team based in the Philippines. Even so, Isaac is grateful that she had the advance notice and decided to make the most of the experience, developing a plan to keep her career moving when the job with Shell came to its inevitable end. She continued to coach and help develop that offshore resource through what turned out to be just over five years with the company.

WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 23


Initially, she had thought about getting another job, perhaps with an HR firm and building up even more experience along the way,

gained in both formal and informal settings), that the advice and direction she brings to the table will mitigate those concerns.

But something interesting happened: Isaac kept being asked advice directly from contacts she’d acquired over the years. And she had the answers.

She also has a key piece of advice to anyone who wants to avoid future problems in a workplace.

“I didn’t necessarily intend to start the business but thought I’d try it out and see if it could be something sustainable.” The result was calls “overwhelming.”

what

Isaac

“You would have thought that most businesses would already have an HR department but that’s not the case,” she says. “My target turned out to be companies with between 10 and 200 employees.”

For me, it’s about seeing people who are passionate about their business, not

For Isaac, growth is very much in her sights.

because they necessarily

She’s already hired additional staff and has plans for more hiring in the very near future.

like managing people, but they like seeing the positive results of wellmanaged people. I bring that to the table.

Isaac will tell you that she’s seen companies with 200 employees that don’t have an HR department and haven’t run into any problems. But who wants to take the chance that will continue?

With legislation that’s constantly changing and evolving, Isaac provides a degree of certainty (and certainly the expertise she’s

24 • LAMBTON SHIELD JULY/AUGUST 2019

“When things are going well, make sure your policies are written down. It’s much easier to deal with them now rather than wait until things go off the rails.”

“It's something that’s definitely scalable,” she says. “I plan to hire people that I’d like to work with and there is lots of talent in Lambton County, especially people who have a business degree and a two-year HR diploma, a second career program with lots of experience in other fields.” Perhaps best of all, Isaac is prepared to do all this with a sense of expectation and joy.

“For me, it’s about seeing people who are passionate about their business, not because they necessarily like managing people, but they like seeing the positive results of well-managed people. I bring that to the table.”


Sounds Right For Christine Feige, a life of helping people hear better is a wonderful thing indeed Christine Feige has leveraged a rich family heritage to deliver additional value to her community.

W

hen the name Feige is mentioned, especially in SarniaLambton, chances are it’s in connection with the thirdgeneration family of denturists that continue to serve the community. But there’s another Feige and her name is Christine. She’s the owner of ActivEars, located on Christina Street in a building she once shared with her brother, Ron, the denturist now located on Lambton Mall Road at Exmouth Street. How Christine found herself heading in a different direction than her father, Horst, and his father, Reinhold, is a story that deserves telling, particularly since the only girl in a family of four has found a way of

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extending a heritage of service that the Feige family has built over the years. Our story begins in Niagara Falls, where Christine was born but moved to Sarnia in 1972, the denture business run by her father taking shape in a building that once stood at the southeast corner of Christina Street and London Road (where a 7/11 convenience store/ gas bar now stands). Growing up, and particularly (she tells us) being the only girl in a European family, Christine took the advice of her Dad: “You’ve got to work 10 times as hard and be 10 times as smart.” “I just think what he really meant was you have to surround yourself with good people,” she says. For a young Christine, hard work at least initially took shape in various restaurants, where she spent a lot of time waitressing and even had thoughts of opening her own restaurant some day. What actually took place was her heading to George Brown College, where she took a program in dental office administration, followed by a period where she worked for a group of dentists in Brampton. It wasn’t long, however, before Christine found the idea of spending a lifetime in a dental office not quite what she was looking for. What happened next was one of those serendipitous events that occurs from time to time. Someone in the hearing field had connected with her Dad, suggesting that he could come into the office and test the hearing WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 25


of all the staff members, an invitation that was quickly accepted. During that one-week visit, Christine was hooked on the idea that this could very well be the career she was looking for. A little further investigation and she found herself heading back to George Brown, which in the early 1990s was offering one of the first programs of its kind in Ontario, with Christine becoming one of the first students to attend the program, taught by seasoned professionals ready to share their decades of experience.

“People don’t necessarily realize all that’s required and the word ‘test’ may be a scary word, but it’s what we need to give us a baseline. Honestly, we’d rather people not be scared, but the more parts of the brain that we can check out, the more people will have a baseline that we can work with.” Looking forward, what Christine is keenly aware of is the need for more staff, the people who will help her make a real difference in the lives of her clients, now and in the future.

People don’t necessarily realize all that’s required and the word ‘test’ may be a scary word, but it’s what we need to give us a baseline. Honestly, we’d rather people not be scared, but the more parts of the brain that we can check out, the more people will have a baseline that we can work with.

“It was their first time they were able to formally share those skills with another generation,” says Christine. But securing her license (she graduated in 1993) first meant serving for 1,000 hours in a clinic, which Christine did in London, travelling back and forth from Sarnia. Her ambition, however, and one that she’s since seen come to fruition, was the opening of hearing clinics in communities where her denturist family was already operating, including Owen Sound, Hanover and Durham, in addition to Sarnia. “I was very lucky to be able to provide opportunities for people already working with my Dad’s offices and he was able to support our growth in the early years,” she added. Over the years Christine has been serving the community through ActivEars, she’s heard countless stories and seen the effect of people who suddenly become aware of sounds around them that they’ve missed for years, like the notes on a piano or the sounds of birds that had been hidden from them. “And of course, it makes a big difference when you can hear people talking. A huge difference,” said Christine. What’s a key part of her mission that she’s wrapped around ActivEars is being able to help people discover the state of their hearing, something that isn’t always obvious to someone who may, in fact, be needing the kind of help a hearing specialist can provide, whether that’s some sort of hearing aid or just to remove wax from their ears as a first step in an ongoing program of maintenance.

26 • LAMBTON SHIELD JULY/AUGUST 2019

There’s also an ongoing challenge, which Christine became aware of early in her career as a hearing specialist, that being reducing the stigma associated with people who need hearing aids. “The fact is, with the technology that continues to advance, and the idea that some people may even have been misdiagnosed as suffering from dementia when it might be related to their hearing, those kinds of issues are very important to me,” she said.

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A dream come true: practicing law in her hometown

W

hen Chelsea Cooper graduated from high school, she left Sarnia. But one thing was different from a good many of her friends growing up: she had in her mind that she would definitely return to the area. Yes, she graduated from Western University in London. But then Chelsea headed to Thunder Bay where she earned her law degree at Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, where one of their specialties particularly appealed to her: an integrated Practice Curriculum geared to those planning to develop a solo/small town practice. “That is exactly what I was looking for,” says Chelsea, who upon graduation did exactly what she hoped to do, which was to head back home. While she worked with another law firm in town for the first three years, Chelsea recently established her own practice, focusing on real estate, will and estates, corporate and commercial, and municipal issues. “This was always my dream growing up in Sarnia: to return to the place I love and to bring value to my clients—and my neighbours.” Chelsea Cooper’s new office is located at 150 Front St. N. She can be reached by email: chelsea@greatlakeslaw.ca or by phone: (226) 778-0228.


With a

Smile

and much more

Shannon Rake is taking a commitment to outstanding customer service to an entirely different level.

Shannon Rake revels in helping to ‘make things right’ at Lambton Kia

W

hile Shannon Rake has spent “a lot of time in the dealership world,” she’ll also tell you that her first love, at least from a career standpoint, was as a veterinary technician.

put to the best possible use. The couple first met at a dealership in Chatham, where Shannon had taken a short break from a career in the office of a veterinarian. Although she ultimately decided she “missed the animals,” her connection with Doug obviously continued in the best possible way.

finished, I talk to them about how we can fix this.” And then there’s the situations that truly stand out.

Like the family that had a problem with a But that was before she met Doug Rake, vehicle’s air conditioning system when they her husband and the dealer principal at both were travelling. When they returned to town Lambton Kia and, more recently, Lambton it was for just a few days before Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, they had planned to head out on which was acquired in May of another trip. You have to be a good listener, I don’t this year. “We managed to get them in just interrupt a customer when they’re telling in time for that second trip,” said Today, and since the family acquired Lambton Kia in 2012, Shannon. “I called the customer me their story but once they’re finished, Shannon’s role has been shortly afterwards and she told me to head a winning effort to I talk to them about how we can fix this. she’d just mailed me a thank you dramatically improve customer letter for the wonderful service. It service rankings at the dealership as director While the daily interaction with dealership was such a sweet thing for someone to do.” of customer relations. customers is taken care of by a great staff— Shannon is particularly proud of the It was an opportunity that Doug Rake Diane and Stacey were singled out by name dealership winning a 2017 Outstanding encouraged his wife to take on, perhaps as well as Emma who initially makes most Business Achievement Award from the seeing in her the kind of sensitivity with after-service calls—there’s little question Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce— people that she had already exercised in life, that Shannon’s role is a pivotal one. in the Customer Service (Large) category. the couple having raised four boys (one of That’s where her gifts of empathy and whom, Clark, manages marketing efforts at listening to what a customer is really saying The trophy for that award remains in her husband’s office but that may be about the two dealerships). tend to shine. to change. Since then, Shannon’s natural skills “You have to be a good listener,” says as someone who can empathize with Shannon. “I don’t interrupt a customer when “It really should be on my desk,” she said customers and their experiences have been they’re telling me their story but once they’re with a playful chuckle and a broad smile.

WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 27


Continuation of Home Again from page 10 Shepherd, showed up at her door.

Ask her “what’s next?” and the response is classic Marcy-Smids.

“They’d received a small grant from Vision 74, the nursing home, to hire a fund development person, a job that was supposed to be 16 hours a week but which turned into full time,” said Marcy-Smids.

“I pretty much take things as they come,” she said. “I thought for a while that we might have stayed in Bermuda but it just wasn’t the right time.”

In fact, it evolved into a 13-year stint as the Inn’s operations manager.

She also has found Sarnia (again) to be a pretty good place to call home.

And still the change came coming. Her husband, a security consultant, was then presented with an opportunity to work on a long-term basis in Bermuda. During their three years on the island, Marcy-Smids was able to volunteer for a long-term home among other projects, essentially keeping her hand in doing something useful. “It’s a beautiful island but it can be a little boring at times,” she said of Bermuda, located some 1,300 kilometres off the coast of North Carolina. Two years ago, the family decided to leave this little slice of paradise, one reason being her own family coming into their own—two of her three children were in university—and her mother was aging. Marcy-Smids also found herself, for the first nine months postBermuda, caring for a sister who was facing health issues. Then the Alzheimer Society opportunity presented itself, a role that Marcy-Smids has settled into as much as someone with such a varied background and roots in Sarnia can do so.

“I love this area. A lot of people don’t realize how beautiful it is here, with the water, the beaches and the proximity to the U.S. right on our doorstep. And it’s just a little drive from anywhere you want to go.” The money Marcy-Smids helps to raise for the Alzheimer Society is put to good use, one recent initiative being a charity walk that raised $40,000 (the expectation was closer to $30,000), which will help with services directed to caregivers and social supports. There’s little question that the work being done is making the kind of difference in the quality of life for those who find themselves living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. “The people who need the services of the Alzheimer Society are the ones who built this community,” she notes. “They need our support as much as all the youth-oriented programs in the community. We need to make sure they’re taken care of, and with all the supports that are in place to help them live as long as they can in the community.”

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What’s all the excitement around the Outstanding Business Achievement Awards really about?

I

t remains one, if not the single most significant, events on the calendar of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

invest to make this celebration possible, is also important as the road to the OBAAs continues over the next few months.

But what is the Outstanding Business Achievement Awards all about?

We began this year’s OBAA journey in early May with the official launch of the nomination period and with a streamlined online process for putting forward names of companies and individuals, we’re well on the way to seeing one of our most successful events yet.

Certainly, this year’s event, which takes place on Friday, October 18 at the Imperial Theatre in downtown Sarnia, is an opportunity for the entire business community to celebrate the very best of business—as well as individuals who are nominated in several categories that draw attention to our community’s leaders. We take for granted, perhaps too quickly, that people are familiar with all that the OBAAs mean, not a surprise given that this event is now in its 30th year. On the other hand, telling the story of what this evening means, and the behind the scenes hours of work that many volunteers

Once the nomination period closes (on August 2, 2019), nominees are contacted to confirm their acceptance and asked to complete their submission for the judging process, which teams of hard-working volunteers complete ahead of the big night. We’ve been through this process many times and I can tell you with absolute certainty that the excitement grows almost daily as the night of the OBAAs gets closer.

I can also tell you that those who have been nominated face stiff competition in each of the 15 categories that make up the 2019 Outstanding Business Achievement Awards. The full list of those nomination categories are on the Chamber’s website— www.slchamber.ca. For each and every business throughout Sarnia and Lambton County, this year’s Outstanding Business Achievement Awards represents an unmatched opportunity to put their best foot forward. I can guarantee you that the experience will be well worth it!

Shirley de Silva, President and CEO Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce

WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 29


Continuation of One slice at a time from page 16 Sarnia, but I also said this offer is good for seven days.” Apparently, and Mundy would know this, Madison’s siblings all told her “don’t take the job.”

by accident. So, there’s a few hiccups but we live with it. You do the best you can, but research is important, being able to stand at least one step ahead.”

“She did accept the offer,” said Mundy. “And it was a good learning curve for her. She moved here and we got a little house for her. There’s no way we could live together and work together. I gave her the down payment for the house and that was that.”

She’s also a board member (currently third vice chair) at the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, an opportunity she sees as another vehicle to help entrepreneurs, particularly women.

Today, Madison (now Madison Twose) is doing what her mother once did, having gone from pizza to real estate, a point Mundy finds ironic given that she went in the opposite direction, from real estate to pizza.

For Mundy personally, what hasn’t changed is the commitment and the sense of family that she says continues to drive her business.

But her mother is also convinced, and with good reason, that the pizza experience remains a good learning ground for other things in life, especially that unexpected things will happen.

“There’s a lot coming down, opportunities for teaching, learning and sharing ideas.”

“We want them to know that it’s our pizza family,” she says. “It’s the language we use, the mindset we have, sometimes you have a crazy uncle in the family, but these are family.” Which also means that Mundy isn’t afraid to ask the same questions she feels will drive value in her adopted family of some 70 employees.

“It’s 24/7. Floods happen. Alarms go off. Coolers and ovens break. You have to react.”

“I always ask them what their five-year plan is and then ‘how can we get you there? What do you need?’”

Mundy admits there are still challenges to the business. “Just yesterday, a digital menu board in one of the stores went down. You’d think, just get it fixed. But apparently there was a change with the company that does the service. We found out about that

What is clear is that Kathleen Mundy will do whatever she can to help turn those plans into reality.


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