What was your start and journey within the company?

Lisa Harrison, Chief Operating and Privacy Officer for Alimentiv took some time to discuss her growth and development within the company, motivation, and inspiration for women as well as advice for women in leadership and future leaders.

I started in 2013 as a consultant to support and advise on the transition from a university company to an independent entity. In January of 2014, I was appointed VP, Corporate Operations. Then in October of 2016, the Board of Directors added acting COO to my role.

In June of 2017, I was appointed permanent Chief Operating Officer. In this role, I have oversight for various parts of the company including Finance, Legal, IT, HR, Quality, Enterprise Analyses, BD, and Logistics.

How do you balance work and life responsibilities?

It has certainly become easier as I have grown older. However, at times the answer is “not always well.”

Over the years I have remained a dedicated volunteer for a number of organizations, so I learned early on that I had to plan really well, set limits on my time (e.g., my daughter was never allowed to do more than two activities at once), learn to rely on others for help and not care if everything was “perfect.”

Also, for me, nature is my happy and calm place ⎯ even a short walk can restore me.

As a female leader, what has been the most motivational thing you’ve seen amongst other women?

To watch and be able to live and work alongside other women ⎯ and especially around young women including my daughter ⎯ has really motivated me.

Their collective resiliency, innovative thinking, ability to morph and recalibrate when life throws them a punch, and sense of purpose have always acted as my wings.

Is there something you’ve witnessed or experienced that was encouraging or you found promoted strength in women?

Women were and are often compared to men in business and expected to behave “like a man” to succeed. My career developed in this environment and it was difficult.

While this systemic thinking still exists, I am witnessing a shift. As more women take on senior leadership and Board roles in the public, private, elected and not-for-profit sectors, the awareness, understanding, and acceptance of female and diverse population’s needs have increased.

Women have a stronger voice than ever. We’re championing and mentoring each other, and we’re less afraid to express vulnerability. Many are modelling success in their own image, not a man’s.

I should also add that I’m witnessing a profound shift in men, too.

Men are confronting men more, speaking up against poor judgment and unacceptable behaviour, supporting women directly and behind the scenes, and realizing the benefits of a more enlightened view on life and work.

Who inspired you and why?

My inspiration came first from my grandmother (a rock) and my mother.

My mom was born with cerebral palsy and had virtually no use of one hand and some difficulty walking, yet she never quit, never gave up, and never made it an excuse. She worked, managed a household and supported us as a single parent, and overcame poverty and disability-based discrimination. She struggled but even more, she laughed, found joy in life, and taught us about gratitude.

What advice would you give to women wanting to be in leadership?

I’ve learned so many things along the way. Here are a few nuggets I picked up:

  • Life is really grey. Seeing black and white will not propel you.
  • To achieve lasting solutions, you must be thoughtful and listen to others’ views whether you like/agree with them or not.
  • So many injustices need addressing, but you can’t right all the world’s wrongs. Choose a couple, then fight hard.
  • Develop empathy and compassion for yourself and others. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Respect the shoulders you stand on. Others came before you.
  • Be accountable, practice gratitude, and make sure you can look in that mirror every day.