For Sara Rossmann, a new gig as CEO is all about building a community

Sara Rossmann
In her new role as CEO of Rossmann Architecture, Sara Rossmann says she wants "every interaction that I have with people to create a positive ripple effect ... My passion is people."

For Sara Rossmann, good leadership is about recognizing that we’re all human, we all make mistakes, and we all have our bad days as well as our good days.

“If you start with the human aspect, everything else kind of falls into place,” said Rossmann in an interview with OBJ to talk about her new role as CEO of Gatineau-based Rossmann Architecture Inc. “As much as we do expect our employees to perform, they are allowed to be humans along the way.”

Rossmann takes her promotion from vice-president to top executive very seriously, seeing it as an opportunity to be a strong female role model in the construction industry and for her two daughters, ages 11 and eight. 

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“For me, I want every interaction that I have with people to create a positive ripple effect,” she explained of her leadership style. “My passion is people. I’m feeling really excited, that this is a role I was really meant for.”

The 39-year-old was born and raised on Vancouver Island in the small seaside village of Chemainus. She moved to the National Capital Region in 2005 to be with her future husband, Gatineau native Erik Rossmann, who was studying architecture at Carleton University at the time.

Erik is an ambitious sort. After graduating with his master of architecture and working for a few different firms, he launched his own business in 2012 with his wife, who was by then a new mom.

Rossmann initially handled all the bookkeeping and administrative work, while Erik became the face of the firm as its president and principal architect. Her behind-the-scenes presence was critical to the success of the business.

“Erik likes to talk things through, so I was involved in all the decision-making,” said Rossmann. “I’ve had 17 years of architectural education through him, just because he talks so much.

“As we grew the business, we talked through everything. He and I are, in many ways, polar opposites; we tend to balance each other out.”

In 2015, the co-founders opened an office on Boulevard Saint-Joseph. “We realized we could create a really great place for other architecture professionals to come and build their career,” said Rossmann, who increased her presence once both her daughters were in school. “I was in the office more or less full time. I was really able to make use of my skills as a leader, as a people-person, at that point.”

Today, Rossmann Architecture employs a team of 40. It works with commercial and residential clients offering interior design services. “The past two years have seen incredible growth for us,” she said, crediting the COO, Shane Balcom, with helping to scale the business. 

Current projects include working with Ottawa Community Housing to improve its sustainability, modern energy services and accessibility. She also takes great satisfaction in the work the company is doing with Carleton University’s Future Learning Lab. It’s a physical space that brings students and professors together to share, research and design.

It’s been a memorable year for Rossmann Architecture, and not just because it’s celebrating 10 years in December. Erik was among the young business professionals to receive a 2022 Forty Under 40 Award. As well, Rossmann Architecture was named one of the Best Places to Work by the OBJ and Ottawa Board of Trade. This achievement was particularly validating for Rossmann, who prides herself on being a human-centric leader. “That’s the best recognition of what I’ve worked really hard to create,” said Rossmann, who believes the focus on culture has been instrumental in the growth and success of the firm.

And while it’s been years since she left her village in British Columbia, she likes to think a childhood spent smelling the Pacific Ocean air and being part of that community has helped shape who she is today. “Small communities tend to revolve around the people,” she pointed out. “Surprisingly to some, bringing that mentality into the business world enables even better results.”

Also on the move:

Mike Abbott, who became the Ottawa office managing partner of BDO Canada LLP earlier last year, has just been given a senior role with the national organization as its new managing partner, markets and industry. While Abbott will continue to have a leadership role in the Ottawa market, the new role will position him as one of the senior executives with BDO Canada, a full-service accounting firm that has about 4,700 employees nationally, including 350 in Eastern Ontario. Abbott joined BDO in January 2021 after 25 years with Deloitte. As part of the executive leadership team, he will be reporting to the new CEO, Bruno Suppa.

Amanda Gordon, a veteran of Ottawa’s high-tech recruitment and talent scene, has joined the Kanata North Business Association as chief of staff to president and executive director Jamie Petten. Gordon was most recently vice-president for Ottawa tech firm Rewind. She was also previously a partner with Boyden Executive Search and has served as a mentor and advisor with Invest Ottawa. 

Calian Group has announced Michael Muldner as its new chief information officer (CIO). He assumes the leadership from Jerry Johnston and will officially become the second CIO in Calian history on Oct. 1. Muldner has more than 24 years’ experience leading global technology organizations in both large multinational public companies, as well as high-growth startups. He’s also active in the local Ottawa community, where he’s been a business mentor at Invest Ottawa and has volunteered with food banks and community housing projects.

Andrew McDonald has joined home care technology provider AlayaCare as its chief product and technology officer. With more than 20 years’ experience in leading product teams in high-growth companies, McDonald will oversee the evolution of the AlayaCare product portfolio. McDonald has held positions at Alcatel-Lucent, CENX and Kinaxis, where he was chief product officer.

Education technology veteran Jonathan Milne has joined e-learning startup Brightspot as new co-founder and general manager. Milne has previously worked at TutorOcean, Klipfolio, Invest Ottawa, Irdeto and IBM. He is also the co-founder of The STEAM Foundation to make STEAM education equally accessible to all students.

HATS OFF

Ottawa Community Housing Corporation’s Prefabricated Exterior Energy Retrofit (PEER) project was selected as the Energy of the Year Project for the Canada region as part of the Association of Energy Engineers world conference. The awards celebrate leaders in sustainable design from around the world. The PEER project was completed in 2021 and was the first of its kind in Canada. The retrofit involved the installation of prefabricated, insulated panels to the exterior of homes without the need to relocate tenants. It was completed with the help of a partnership between Ottawa Community Housing and Natural Resources Canada. As a result of the pilot, tenants in the Overbrook community received new exterior walls, roofs, windows, doors and heating and cooling systems. The makeover also helped reduce the energy used to heat the homes by 90 per cent, and a bank of solar arrays produces 40,000 kWh annually – enough to power four average homes yearly.   
 

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