People on the move: Ottawa's Kinaxis puts Anne Robinson in charge of strategy

Anne Robinson
Kinaxis's new chief strategy officer Anne Robinson.

Growing up in Newfoundland, Anne Robinson had a passion for music ​– but the practical side of her brain convinced her that numbers, not notes, would be a more likely route to prosperity.

At the same time, she had no desire to be a high school math teacher or an actuary. Then, while a student at Acadia University, she attended a conference called “What’s a mathematician like you doing in a place like this?” One of the sessions focused on operations research, a field in which math is applied to solve practical problems in a range of industries.

“It just opened a world to me,” she says. “I came back going, ‘I want to learn more.’”

That set her on a career path that to led to jobs at U.S. tech giant Cisco and telecom powerhouse Verizon, where she specialized in helping those firms manage their supply chains.

In January, Robinson took on a new role as chief strategy officer at Kinaxis, an Ottawa-based firm that makes cloud-based supply-chain management software.

Kinaxis’s main product, called RapidResponse, uses big-data analytics to help clients such as Ford, Nissan and Toyota get a better handle on their inventory, preparing them for a range of “what-if” scenarios that could disrupt the manufacturing process and ensuring they have the right amount of raw materials they need to keep the assembly lines rolling.

Robinson, who holds a PhD in industrial engineering from Stanford, says companies are being bombarded by more and more data every day. She and her team are responsible for making sure Kinaxis is using the right technology to ensure customers’ supply chains are functioning as efficiently as possible.

“It’s really beyond what a human brain can figure out,” she explains. “How do we ensure that we’re making all the right decisions, that we have the right product available, that we’re planning ahead recognizing that some decisions need to be made months ahead of when they’re actually realized? Not everything works.”

The mother of a 19-month-old daughter, Robinson compares managing corporate supply chains to keeping a kitchen well-stocked with groceries.

“Nobody wants to have screaming kids because you don’t have enough boxes of cereal in the cupboard,” she says with a chuckle. “But you don’t want to have so much that that’s the only thing you have in your cupboards, either. It’s really something that transcends across all kinds of different industries.”

Robinson, 44, is joining a company that’s now in full stride. Founded in 1984, Kinaxis struggled for years to gain traction. But the firm’s revenues have risen steadily since it went public in 2014 and are expected to crack the $150-million mark for the 2018 fiscal year, which ended Dec. 31.

Now at more than 500 employees, Kinaxis is regularly ranked among the world’s top suppliers of cloud-based supply-chain software. The firm has more than 100 customers, many of them well-known multinationals in the automotive, life sciences, electronics, industrial and aerospace and defence sectors.

Still, Kinaxis itself is not a household name, and Robinson concedes many of her family and friends had no idea what the company does. That’s just fine with her.

“This ability to transform and digitize the supply chain, that’s where I wanted to be,” she says. “That’s where industry is headed. Kinaxis is in the leading seat, and I wanted to be with a company that was innovative, that wasn’t afraid to evolve and that was really looking to take their organization to the next level.”

People on the move

The Ottawa Network for Education has hired Heather Norris as its new president and CEO. Previously the CEO of Northumberland United Way, Norris has 20 years of experience in the health-care and non-profit sectors and brings expertise in operations management, fundraising, government relations, human resources, volunteer management, board governance and public speaking.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies has appointed Ivan Ross Vrána national director of its cannabis practice. Ross Vrána has worked at Hill+Knowlton since 2015, serving as an account director and vice-president of public affairs. Before joining the company, he worked at Health Canada, where he helped develop the federal government’s position regarding the use, production, distribution and regulation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Julia Kennedy has been named a partner in the business law group at Fasken. The McGill University graduate has worked at the firm for nine years, practising in the areas of corporate commercial law, copyright and communications law, trade and competition law, dispute resolution and employment law.

Cathy Smith has joined Ottawa customer experience management firm Intouch Insight as chief financial officer. Before joining Intouch, the University of Waterloo grad held senior leadership roles with AirVM, BTI Systems, Fusebill, Protus IP Solutions and most recently Telepin Software Systems.

Ottawa software maker Feenics has hired Blair Cox as chief financial officer. Cox specializes in financial reporting, forecasting and modelling as well as corporate taxes. Most recently he worked at a cloud-based telecommunications software company Line2 in San Francisco, where he was responsible for finance operations as well as strategic budgeting, planning and analysis.

Hats off

Ottawa cannabis products company Origin House has been named to the 2019 OTCQX Best 50, a ranking of the top-performing companies traded on the OTCQX Best Market last year. Origin House was ranked as the second-best-performing stock across all sectors on the OTCQX Best Market in 2018 with a return of 58.9 per cent.

GaN Systems was included in the Cleantech Group’s 2019 Global Cleantech 100, an annual guide to the leading companies and themes in sustainable innovation. The list combines the Cleantech Group’s research data with input from a global panel of leading investors and experts from corporations and industrials active in technology and innovation scouting.

IABC Ottawa received four Chapter Management Awards for event organization, strategic planning, membership marketing and volunteer engagement and leadership development during a ceremony at IABC's Leadership Institute conference. The awards recognize the leadership, management, creativity and teamwork of IABC chapter leaders around the world.

The University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management has been named the winner of the 2019 CFA Society Toronto Local Ethics Challenge. The University of Ottawa team included Neil Keohane (captain), Nabih El Masri, Denesia Nichols, Mourad Ben Rejeb and Nicolas Tosi. The team showed an ability to expertly negotiate ethical dilemmas in a real-life investment scenario and presented its case to a panel of seasoned investment professionals.