SHERO – Suzie Smibert, EVP & Chief Technology Officer, OvareGroup

1. Why Suzie Smibert is a SHERO.

Suzie has been a staple in the security industry for over 20 years and is infamous within the Calgary IT community for her contributions and knowledge within this critical niche area. She built herself a solid foundation working at Long View Systems as their security practice director, and quickly excelled up the ladder to move on to a new pathway and take on a role as Senior Manager for Ernst and Young. Following her consulting roles, she took on the head of cyber security role as CISO for two large global corporations. Her reputation precedes herself and she is very well connected within the security community having filled several C-level positions. She can recommend security-based resources and has very intelligent and eloquent community posts. She is an avid supporter of women in security and IT. She is raising her two kids along side growing her amazing career and industry profile.

2. How would you describe your leadership style?

Transparent, radically candid and servant-oriented. Transparent: I believe providing context, over communicating and sharing “my why” help my team and I get results. When there is no perception of anything being hidden or a secret agenda, trust is established, and everyone understands the goals and why we are working toward those goals. Radically candid: In the same vein as my transparency comment, I prefer directness and frankness. When the good and not-so-good are laid out in the open clearly, we all save so much time from circular conversations and empty feedback. To me, radical candor also means being comfortable with saying I don’t know and admitting where I have weaknesses. Servant-oriented: I aim to be the best snowplough there is. I am entrusted with leading people smarter than I am, I believe my job is to make their path as clear and free of obstacles as possible.

3. Describe a time when you went outside your comfort zone and what you achieved and/or learned?

I am secretly an introvert. During my second maternity leave, I put a call on LinkedIn offering anyone to reach out and get some 1:1 mentoring time with me. I did not expect many responses and certainly none from people I did not know, but I got quite a few. The prospect of booking time with total strangers that thought I could make a difference was unsettling. I had also said I would welcome anyone regardless of their roles, tenures, training, gender etc.

I have learned that even though I have been an inclusion and diversity champion for years, I had biases too. When I had salespeople reach out to get that mentoring meeting, my mind went straight to “here we go, they’re going to try and sell me something.” I was really tempted to make an excuse and renege on my offer. Making good on my commitments is important for me so I took those meetings regardless of my unease. None of them tried to sell me anything, and everyone I met created lasting impressions.

What I also learned is that stepping outside of one’s circle is crucial for growth. I am continuing to mentor individuals in my circle, but I have also stayed in touch with those courageous individuals that took the offer of mentorship from a total stranger. Those individuals in different geographies, industries and walks of life are teaching me a lot

4. What productivity hack would you recommend to others?

Set boundaries and take time off. I do not feel admiration for people that say they are constantly busy, I feel sadness. My productivity hack is taking real time off: no email checking while the kids are looking away, no “just one meeting,” real time to focus on myself and those important to me. When I have been able to recharge, I am able to be more productive because I have the energy and brain capacity to focus on the outcome.

It can take a while to get comfortable with doing this, but it made me more productive.

5. What skill sets do you possess that have made you a better leader throughout your career?

I am very self-aware, humble and decisive. I am self-aware enough to know the qualities I need to find in my team to fill the gaps and strengthen our whole. I lead to transform and build teams, not dominate them and hog the spotlight. And lastly, I am not afraid to make decision. I believe in failing fast and trying again. Leaders need to make decisions, being paralyzed or avoiding them altogether is not making leaders better.

6. What does great leadership look like to you?

Great leadership is someone that inspires everyone around them (regardless of reporting structure) to achieve their best. It is someone that is not afraid of having hard conversations, providing real and meaningful feedback while helping to sharpen the skills or fill in the gaps. It is someone who makes people better and can grow a superstar.

7. What advice would you give your younger self?

Do not be afraid to claim your space.

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