How do you stay motivated?
I am truly motivated by service to others. Harvard Business School taught me to think about what my purpose in life is, which was really hard for me at the time. When I think about the times that I’ve really made a difference, it is when I am bringing order to chaos.
How do you bring calm to chaos?
I think the main goal is to largely listen to a lot of people. Collaboration and harmony are strong skill sets for me. I listen to a lot of people and if what I’m hearing is a lot of repetitive noise or chaos, I’ll bring people together and say there are steps to get through this—let’s get organized and let’s ask for help.
What’s the most rewarding part of your career?
Seeing others succeed. Whether it’s one of my team members or one of our customers (equally weighted), seeing them develop and thrive as a result of leveraging something that I have been a part of. If it’s a customer, say an entrepreneur, seeing their growth from our Entrepreneur Centre, is pretty incredible. The same goes for our employees. Seeing them learn, grow and take that next step in their careers is very rewarding.
Any personal or career setbacks?
I feel really blessed that I don’t think I have had many professional setbacks in my career— personal and professional challenges, yes. One that I think of is coming into the role that I am in now. There was a really strong team in place that I had worked with. I really rely on them for their talent and their leadership. We lost one of those team members about two weeks after I got this job, very unexpectedly. It was tragic, sad and chaotic. I often think back to that and what a loss it was—we were very good friends. At the same time, it was one of those classic experiences where you have to decide what you can control. How can we make this better for the business? For his family? And for all of the other team members that were greatly impacted by his loss.
Where would you like to see change in the modern workplace for women?
Again, I am very lucky that I don’t think I have personally experienced this. I will say I am not much of a feminist but it occurs to me that in my role, it’s not about me—it’s about my accountability to break things open and allow others to develop. Where I would like to see change is an unintentional or well-intentioned bias. Here is my example: We want more strong, female leaders at higher levels and we probably have great candidates. But I think maybe, for example, Jane wouldn’t want to take this job because she has a young family at home and won’t want to travel. Or, oh gee, Jane would be really great but too bad she is on maternity leave. I think those are well-intentioned biases but I think we need to set them aside. We better ask Jane before we move on to another candidate.
With over 28 years experience in banking, what do you think ATB is doing differently?
I think we have a unique strength by Alberta being our world—we have a huge focus here. We are in it to be a sustainable, profitable organization that is purpose-driven. Being purpose-driven is saying, look, we are here for Albertans and we see segments where there are opportunities to bank the under-banked, to educate the entrepreneurs and to invest in community. Our purpose-driven and provincial territory enables us to do just that.
Best career advice?
I go back to a former leader of mine from RBC, whom I still curl with. I remember talking with him about a position. I was complaining that it was a lateral movement and he said, “Teresa— worry less about the level and more about the work.” Is this the work that you want to do? Do you think you can make a difference? The rest comes after.
Any goals for the future? Your method to achieving those goals?
I have honestly never had a plan and haven’t thought of where I want to be in five or 10 years. Now, being at this stage in my career, I’m also not looking to manage my career but I’m thinking about what the work is that’s really valuable to me and where I can contribute the most. My strategy is to be open to new possibilities and then define what work I really want to be doing. Then, think about the steps that are going to get me there. I also think about being more intentional with learning—really making a promise to myself to do two real intentional learnings a year, whether it’s a conference or an executive circle.