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Our People

OUR TEAM 

HELEN HIRSH SPENCE, CEO AND FOUNDER

Helen has spent her career as an educator and in more recent years as an independent consultant, adviser and entrepreneur. As a principal, headmistress and as President of the Ontario Principals’ Council (representative for over 5000 public school principals), she has devoted her career to assessing and evaluating the performance of children and adults in order to maximize potential and success. This has necessitated a good understanding of metrics, indicators of success and both qualitative and quantitative research.

She has a proven record in designing state of the art, original programming for varied audiences which has contributed to her success as an advisor and consultant since 2007. Helen designs retreats and delivers seminars and workshops that are rooted in research and in practice. As a respected facilitator and motivational speaker, Helen is a strong performer in multicultural environments with the ability to gain trust and build rapport quickly among those with diverse backgrounds, interest and life circumstances. Helen conveys a natural enthusiasm for learning and a gift for motivating both colleagues and audiences. She is fluent in French, German and Spanish.

Over 30 years of her experience was dedicated to public education with the largest school board in Eastern Ontario (87,000 students and over 4000 employees). She was enlisted to participate and conduct research, present it to superiors, trustees and at national professional associations (CSSE). She developed innovative programs for the induction of teachers, principals, and administrative staff and published in refereed journals. Each project was always rigorously evaluated. In her role as the political representative for principals in the province of Ontario, she was in regular contact with Ministry officials in the design, development, implementation and evaluation of standards, projects, courses, performance appraisals and provincial tests.

Her formal studies extend beyond a Master’s degree, having taken numerous courses to
qualify as both principal and superintendent and more recently training in a new psychometric evaluative tool, Emergenetics. Her understanding of how to design projects for implementation is extensive as she has continued this as a consultant and as Chair of several boards. Understanding how to effect change, demonstrate impact and results was a major focus of her voluntary work as Chair of the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada. All projects funded by CIDA, now GAC, had to undergo rigorous assessment and evaluation.

Helen is committed to building strong community and is active in several local organizations and boards. She also serves as a mentor and life coach to youth and new immigrants.

 

DEBRA YEARWOOD, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER

Debra is a senior communications and marketing professional who has spent more than twenty years as an executive in the private and not-for profit sectors. Debra has a deep understanding of a wide range of communication functions and has successfully delivered public relations, internal communications, human resources and corporate communication campaigns on numerous occasions.

Debra’s early career as a political staffer and vice president of a consulting firm contributed to her skill at negotiating and mediating with varied and competitive audiences, skills which she built up in subsequent positions.

In her role as Senior Director of Communications and Relations with VON Canada, a national health care service delivery organization with 5000 staff across the country, Debra successfully facilitated three change management initiatives: technology, culture and process. As the Senior Director of External Relations with the Canadian Pharmacists Association (membership of 10,000), she used her strategic management skills to navigate the complexities and strategic requirements necessary to translate research into tangible and practical knowledge.

That knowledge was further enhanced during her time as Director of Communications and Marketing for the Canadian Association of Optometrists. Her work there encompassed managing the Canadian Journal of Optometry and the National Public Communications campaign as well as supporting member businesses through the development of a variety of tools and services. Debra understands how to build awareness of complex issues and has demonstrated an understanding of public priorities, market realities, and complex policy considerations while also managing within the practical constraints of limited budgets.

 

ADVISORY COUNCIL

 

CLAUDE HAW 

Claude Haw, B.Eng, P.Eng, has more than 30 years of experience in a variety of technical, general management and venture investing roles in the technology sector including Venture Coaches, Dragonwave, Newbridge Networks and Mitel Corporation.  

He has a wealth of experience in building successful technology companies in Canada from start-up to acquisition and IPO and has been actively involved with more than 30 technology companies over the past two decades. He is a charter member of TiE Ottawa, a global network of entrepreneurs and professionals, as well as a past board member of the Canadian Venture Capital Association (CVCA). Claude is also a founder of Mindtrust, an exclusive networking forum for technology company CEOs, and The Ottawa Network, an entrepreneurial group focused on enabling the next generation of technology companies in the National Capital Region.  

 

JANICE MCDONALD 

Janice McDonald is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, trusted advisor and strategist. She has expertise in the music industry, apparel/accessories and start-ups. She has Leadership training from Harvard & INSEAD and was appointed to Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard Kennedy School. She has many career achievements including driving the financial turnaround and re-branding of Women in Communications and Technology as Board chair 2013 to 2015. She is Chair of International Women's Forum Canada Ottawa Chapter, Board director with Futurpreneur and Ambassador for Women Entrepreneurs for Startup Canada. A sought after speaker on Leadership & Entrepreneurship, her TEDx talk has been viewed over 14,000 times & counting. 

WXN recognized Janice as Canada's Top 100 Most Powerful Women in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. She was inducted into WXN Hall of Fame in 2016. She was awarded World of Difference 100 Award in Washington from TIAW and National Leadership Award from CWC. She also received WCT's Chairs Award of Distinction in 2016.  

 

JIM EMERMAN 

Jim Emerman has held several leadership roles at Encore.org. His current portfolio encompasses Encore.org’s research and work designing and implementing innovative pathways to encore careers.  

From 1988 through 2005, Emerman worked at the American Society on Aging, the largest association of professionals working with and on behalf of older adults. As Chief Operating Officer, he had primary responsibility for day-to-day operations and supervised all programmatic activities of the organization. He also led ASA’s efforts on issues ranging from older worker employment and corporate eldercare to assistive and information technology, family caregiving, medication use, and public policy, among many others. 

 

ALYSON GAFFNEY 

Alyson, BEng, through her firm, Gaffney Consulting, is focused on helping enterprises successfully develop and execute their go-to-market (GTM) business model. Whether it be in defining their direct and/or indirect gtm strategy or developing marketing or partner programs the result is revenue acceleration for both them and their partners. 
 
In addition to consulting, Alyson is active in the community as a mentor for startup female entrepreneurs and an active participant with Technovation, a global program which invites teams of girls from all over the world to learn and apply the skills needed to solve real-world problems through technology.   She was one of the Co-Founders of Women for Mental Health. 

She has a wealth of experience and knowledge gained from her previous career 25 years as a global business professional, in the technology sector.  She is a former Corporate Executive of Alcatel, with extensive experience in a variety of sales, marketing and general management roles for Alcatel-Lucent, Alcatel, Newbridge and Mitel.  

 

LISA TAYLOR 

Lisa Taylor is a recognized North American expert in the field of the ageing workforce and the future of work trends. Lisa is an author, speaker and the founder of Challenge Factory, a Talent Equity firm based in Toronto. 

Lisa is a trailblazer intent on challenging outdated career thinking. She understands how demographics are driving strategic changes to today’s workforces and her company – Challenge Factory – tackles every aspect of the issue with real world solutions. 

Lisa identifies the aging workforce as a catalyst for innovation and challenges corporate leaders to initiate talent revolutions within their organizations. 

 

 

 

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