A Review of Our 2023 Leaders In Business

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As we wrap up 2023, we’re taking a moment to revisit the highlights from our Leaders in Business series. The nine leaders we interviewed this year shared their journeys, advice, and community impact. Join us for a quick look back at the valuable insights they brought to the table.

Acknowledge Life’s Impacts

We started 2023 by highlighting an impactful discussion with Andrew Arnott, Managing Director and Head of RBC’s Ontario Corporate Client Group. Andrew is also involved with the Ottawa Board of Trade as a Board of Directors and the Co-chair at the CEO Council.


Andrew shared valuable wisdom about keeping team members motivated and engaged. He acknowledges the impact of external forces in life and having mindful, candid communications with your team to align on short and long-term goals they wish to have for the organization.  


“The business imperative and most important thing for leaders is communication. Communication that is candid, yet mindful of our current state of disruption.”


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Empathy in Engaging Authentically

Our following discussion was with Sam Laprade, a well-loved radio host of ‘An Hour to Give’ on CityNews 101.1FM and fundraising strategist. Sam has spent her career building a strong community network in Ottawa. 


Sam highlights the importance of empathy in business. Especially during the pandemic and the critical economic recovery period, empathy has been crucial in engaging with her team in a more authentic way. 


“Do not mistake empathy with weakness. You can be a strong leader and be empathetic.”


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Balance and Collaboration

Our next leader, Robert Rhéaume, former BDO Canada assurance partner, shares his wisdom. Robert has a strong passion for helping entrepreneurs and is now enjoying his retired life as a Consultant at CCRS Advisory Services. 


During our discussion, he stressed the importance of balance and collaboration, whether in family, community, career, or himself. 


“My community involvement started as a teenager and is now about giving back to a community that has been so generous to me and my family over the last 40-plus years.”

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Meeting Teams’ Unique Needs

Our next featured leader is Yasser Ghazi, the Director & Team Lead of Commercial Services at Meridian. 


As a leader, Yasser believes that to stay motivated, team members need tailored compensation and rewards, whether it’s financial, recognition, or growth opportunities. 


As a member of the Ottawa Board of Trade Board of Directors, Yasser aims to “make the sandbox good for everyone to play with” for all organizations in the city.


“As a leader, it’s essential to recognize that a healthy and vibrant community is the foundation for sustainable business growth!”

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Seek Diversity in Mentors

In our discussion with Layla Darwish, the Vice President at BMO Commercial Banking, Layla also emphasized the importance of empathy when talking about keeping her team motivated. In addition, she also advocates for hearing all perspectives before making a decision and the strength of being vulnerable. 


Layla also spoke about the impacts of her diverse group of mentors. We loved that as a seasoned leader in her field, she constantly seeks advice and room for growth from different generational backgrounds!

“The diversity in my mentors allows me to learn from different approaches and help to broaden my perspectives.”

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Cultivate Workplace Inclusivity

Sarwar Qureshi, Partner at Paterson & Company, has made a huge difference in Ottawa’s business networking scene. You might recognize him as the driving force behind Beyond Networking events, designed to foster connections among diverse sectors of Ottawa’s business professionals.


Sarwar highlighted the importance of cultivating an inclusive workplace, emphasizing that everyone, regardless of background, must feel heard and valued.


“Asking for feedback has to be done in a thoughtful way, allowing people enough time to compile their thoughts and providing the opportunity to share anonymously.”

When asked what advice he would give budding professionals, he enthusiastically shared three key points: Get involved and volunteer , embrace constructive feedback, and specialize in a distinct skill set within your career.


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The Power of Being Assertive

Jennifer Cross is the Business Development Manager at MARANT Construction and a 40 Under 40 Award recipient.


As a woman navigating the construction industry, Jennifer experiences and witnesses the impact of a primarily male-driven workplace that often lacks inclusivity and diversity. Eager for change, she is a driving force behind City BuildHERS, an initiative to develop more inclusive ways to build our cities and connect women for opportunities. 


“We need more women involved and bringing their transformational thinking approaches to these projects.”

When we asked what advice she would give to emerging leaders, Jennifer honed in on the significance of being confident and assertive when needed to get your voice heard, as well as opening doors for others to create a more diverse and inclusive space, ensuring everyone secures a seat at the table.


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Find Your ‘Lighthouses’

The following month, we met up with Soley Soucie, a trailblazer in the Ottawa business community. Soley is the Founder of The Treehouse Group of Companies, a consulting and coaching company that advocates for purpose-driven leadership, as well as a Founding Board Member of Dare to be Vulnerable. Through this project, Soley directs her passion for mental health through sharing diverse journeys to break the stigma surrounding mental health struggles.


As advocates and supporters of mental health wellness ourselves, we especially loved Soley’s advice to practice the pause and to create a support system for yourself. Soley calls them her ‘lighthouses’, who can not only guide you in your journey, but to also rally behind your passion and help you shine.


“If you’re not feeling okay, the best thing you can do is to step back and take a break.”

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Carrie Irvine - Leaders In Business

Have a Defined ‘Why’

For our final Leaders In Business interview of the year, we featured Carrie Irvine, a marketing powerhouse and community advocate with 30 years of experience. Not only is Carrie the Founder & CEO of Carrie Irvine Communications, but she also dedicates her time, skills and expertise to working with non-profits like Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa as a member of their Board of Directors. 


Carrie’s advice to emerging leaders echoes her efforts and stresses the importance of volunteering for a cause you are passionate about. In the workplace, she highlighted the importance of immersing yourself in an environment where you feel valued to help you truly shine. 


“Having a defined ‘why’ and knowing what makes you feel passionate has to come first — it’s the heartbeat of your journey.”

Read the full interview

And that’s a wrap on our Leaders in Business series for 2023! We’ve gained so much invaluable knowledge from these impactful and inspiring leaders, and we look forward to what 2024 will bring.

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