Standing before the next generation of business leaders, Julia Deans shared critical words of advice: embrace change.
The prominent business woman and non-profit CEO has witnessed first-hand the ways in which the working world has evolved through the years, and has learned to adapt each step of the way.
She brought that insight to the Goodman School of Business last week, where she told students that to succeed in this changing environment, they will need to be able to constantly reinvent themselves.
“You’re going to have to reinvent yourselves a lot of times in your careers. You are absolutely going to have to,” she said.
Deans was on campus Oct. 3 to share insights into work and leadership with students and the Brock community as she received Goodman’s 2018 Distinguished Leader award.
Deans’ career has been dedicated to tackling social and economic challenges. She is the CEO of the Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to ensure all Canadian children are skilled and confident readers by the end of grade school. With a passion for entrepreneurial start-ups, Deans has served as CEO of Futurpreneur Canada and was the founding CEO of Civic Action, where she helped build the influential organization from an initial project.
“When I was sitting in your shoes, most of my fellow students thought they would have one career for life,” Deans said. “My career path, which has been constant reinvention and learning, would have looked very strange to them.
“But it’s a path that’s fast becoming the norm and I’m quite confident that it will be the path for most of you who are students here.”
Student leaders met with Deans on the morning of her visit and asked questions about her career in an informal setting. In the afternoon, a public lecture gave the Brock community a chance to learn about her take on leadership.
As she talked about her own journey, she encouraged those in attendance not to shy away from taking on leadership roles if they present themselves.
“Don’t be afraid to lead when the opportunity arises,” Deans said. “Even if you don’t succeed, you are going to learn a huge amount about yourself and be prepared for the next time a leadership opportunity comes your way.”
For Goodman’s Graduate Business Council President Priya Mehta, interacting with Deans opened her eyes to what the road to organizational leadership could look like.
“Going into this I thought there was a set standard of what you need to do and there’s a set pathway you need to follow to get to that place,” Mehta said. “As Ms. Deans exemplified, there’s no set pathway, and you can shape your own future. She took a lot of risks, but they were risks that paid off and they were all her passions.”
Now in its 11th year, the Distinguished Leader Series is a tradition that recognizes the achievements of business leaders in a wide range of industries.
Past recipients of the Distinguished Leader award include Deepak Chopra, retired President and CEO of Canada Post, Martine Irman of TD Bank Group, Rossana Magnotta of Magnotta Winery, Len Pennachetti of Cave Spring Cellars and Ned Goodman of Dundee Corporation, among others.