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Stratford Group and the KNBA join forces to connect top executives in Canada’s largest tech park

Ottawa’s tech leaders are taking full advantage of this vibrant community

Stratford Group KNBA Hub350 council leaders
Kim Butler, Colleen Kelley, Paul Senyshyn, AJ Harris, Jim Roche

It’s a little less lonely at the top in Canada’s largest tech park, thanks to the Hub350 leadership councils created by the Stratford Group and the Kanata North Business Association (KNBA).

With decades of experience supporting Ottawa CEOs and other leaders, the Stratford Group knew local executives shared common problems but didn’t have a venue where they could feel comfortable discussing them.

By teaming up with the KNBA and the Hub350 team, collectively they set out to change that. What started as an idea to connect local tech CEOs, quickly blossomed into something bigger than anyone expected.

“Our Hub350 leadership councils powered by Stratford Group have rapidly expanded over the course of the last 12 months. We now have CEO, CFO, R&D, CIO, Marketing and HR leaders meeting concurrently three to five times over the year for real, raw, peer to peer dialogue about their shared challenges and opportunities for continued growth in Kanata North,” said Jamie Petten, president and executive director of the KNBA. 

“It’s been incredible to witness the network effects develop as we connect and hear from such a diversity of executives from across the park,” she added. 

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic — and all of the business challenges it created — was one of the catalysts in making the councils happen. 

“We all became more isolated,” said AJ Harris, Stratford Group’s vice-president of digital strategy and delivery, and facilitator of the CIO council. “Making a venue where we could get together to discuss topics that in the past had to wait for a conference or ad hoc meeting was a way to bring everyone back.”

How the leadership councils work

While the KNBA and Hub350 provide the connections and the space for the councils, Stratford Group experts facilitate the councils’ activities. 

“This is a great opportunity to hear from like-minded peers on topics that are relevant and important. With the diversity of the organizations in the Hub350 ecosystem, we can hear from leaders of startups, to well-established public companies,” said Colleen Kelley, president of Stratford Management Consulting. “This diversity elevates the dialogue and creates a sense of community.”

As facilitators, the Stratford Group comes in where the rubber meets the road.

“My job is to ‘herd the cats’, foster the discussions, and bring in the dogs when necessary,” joked Harris. “I make sure the discussion is fluid, effective, involves all members of the council, and covers the topics we want.” 

Like most of today’s workplaces, the councils meet both in-person and online. “We tend to be hybrid based on availability,” said Harris, pointing to the reality that busy C-suite leaders still need flexible options to participate in a community like this. 

“I’ve been impressed with how responsive they’ve been through the discussions,” said Harris. “Clearly they’re seeing value.”

To keep the process democratic, the council members vote on the topics they want to discuss.

But Harris manages everything else, whether it’s bringing in a speaker on a particular topic or ensuring that key takeaways are being documented and shared in the group’s knowledge repository — each council has its own.

Since these groups aren’t about bringing people together to make idle chit-chat, landing on the ideal number of members for each council was important. 

“If someone is ‘kind-of listening’ while checking their phone, it won’t work,” said Harris. “We’re having focused, animated, and involved discussions that get into the weeds and really grapple with how to move things forward on a tactical level.” 

Next on the agenda? Artificial Intelligence

One hot topic on everyone’s agenda is AI. 

“AI has quickly morphed from a theoretical subject to one requiring immediate focus among business leaders,” said Harris. “They need to be asking themselves how it will affect recruitment, how to stay competitive, and how to leverage it carefully.”

What’s clear is that creating an ecosystem where business leaders can come together and support each other is creating a ripple-effect.  

“A vibrant culture of collaboration has ignited across the park as these influential leaders continue to come together with purpose, passion and enthusiasm to lift all boats in Canada’s largest technology park,” said KNBA president Petten.  

“There’s nothing more important to us at Stratford than giving back to our community,” added Kelley. “We are thrilled to partner with Hub350 on this important initiative.”

If you’d like to benefit from a Hub350 leadership council, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Contact Stratford Group to learn more.