Each year, OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce choose 40 of the region’s top young entrepreneurs and business executives and recognize them for their professional achievements, expertise and community service.
In these profiles, OBJ highlights some of this year’s recipients – their impressive accomplishments, what drives them and how they like to spend their downtime away from the business world.
Company: The Kanata North Business Association represents and advocates for the best interests of the more than 500 member companies located in Canada’s largest technology park.
Education: Bachelor of arts, University of Ottawa (2011)
Charitable involvement: Technovation
Biggest biz achievement: Four years ago I took a leap of faith and left sunny Jamaica for an incredible opportunity to join Leo Lax and Patrick White in building what would become Canada’s leading SaaS accelerator, L-Spark. Little did I know how much I would fall in love with the world of startups, venture capital and tech. We set out on a journey to work with Canada’s best in SaaS founders and grow globally competitive firms. Four years later, L-Spark has 36 portfolio companies, has raised more than $24 million in angel and venture capital funding and works with a community of more than 10,000 SaaS entrepreneurs, investors and partners. Now, I am taking a similar leap of faith in my new position as president and executive director of the Kanata North Business Association. I am most proud of my ability to take risks and grow with the companies I have committed to, and this has all culminated in my most exciting achievement to date, taking on the role of leading and representing Canada’s largest technology park.
Biggest obstacle: An obstacle that I embraced came when I joined the tech industry four years ago. Having come from a female-dominated industry and a company composed of 99 women and one man, I was not prepared for the stark contrast in the tech industry. As we know, fewer than five per cent of individuals in executive roles in tech are women. I accepted this challenge head on, learned from my male peers and mentors and ultimately built a network, track record and ecosystem that would support diversity.
Biggest influence: My mom, Anne Keeley. She is the vice-president of Classmates Learning Systems and without question the most influential woman in my life. She founded an early childhood education startup while raising two teenage daughters and supporting a husband rising through the ranks towards an executive role as deputy chief of the Ottawa Police. She hustled and knocked on the doors of nursery schools, day-care centres and community resource centres daily – pushing her way in and insisting that they leverage her resources. She is strategic, strong-minded, unwavering and my greatest role model. She is also my strongest advocate, champion and cheerleader. She tells it to me straight and has guided me from the very beginnings of my career, encouraging me to follow my ambition and never hold back.
Biggest lesson learned: My career path has not been rigid, straight or narrow. The journey has been winding, with varied experiences and challenges faced. From launching a boutique hotel in Jamaica at the age of 21 to growing a Canadian tech and innovation accelerator from the ground up, I have learned to embrace fear – more specifically, fear of the unknown and unexpected. As the businesses have grown and flourished, I have honed a confidence to trust my instincts. As a result, I have ultimately learned to be confident about taking risks and embracing change.
First job: Retail clerk at Town Shoes and The Shoe Company
Advice I’d give the younger me: Trust your gut and be confident with the risks you are taking. Don’t hesitate, jump in head first and don’t look back.
What’s left to do: In my personal life, I’m looking forward to growing my family with my husband! We are both so excited to have children and build a home full of love and laughter together. In my professional life, I never try to predict or reverse engineer what the future holds with my career. Right now I am focused on continuing to grow as a leader and contribute to my community. I am looking forward to working with Deborah Lovegrove representing members of the Kanata North Business Association and building a thriving technology community for talent to live, work and thrive in Kanata North. Hard work, focus and a positive attitude have contributed to great outcomes in my past. Going forward to the next chapter in my life and career with this same approach, I imagine the best is yet to come!
Favourite pastimes: Spending time with family and friends. My husband and I love to spend weekends working on DIY projects in our home. Every summer, I also spend Monday nights racing in the Britannia Yacht Club’s women’s sailing league. A great way to get out of the office and clear my head and enjoy the summer!
I’m currently reading: Thrive by Arianna Huffington
Favourite movie: The Intern
Favourite song: Anything by Bruce Springsteen
Favourite local pro sports team: Ottawa Senators
Favourite local summer event: Ottawa Bluesfest
Preferred social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram
Twitter handle: @nutpetten