Leading a global team from a Vancouver office, Lois Nahirney, executive vice-president, corporate resources, at Teekay Corp., is one of few female leaders in the worldwide shipping industry.
Last year, Nahirney led the development of a new vision, values and strategic plan for the company.
She personally facilitated a global effort to engage over 6,000 employees from 120 ships and 23 offices around the world in creating Teekay's 2020 Vision and Values.
Having travelled and worked extensively abroad, Nahirney has found herself uniquely suited to the challenges she faces day-to-day.
In her early days she worked as a BC Tel operator, a waitress in New York City, a page in the House of Commons, an intern in Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's office, she crewed on a yacht from New Zealand to Tonga and did much more travelling in between.
"You gain so much perspective travelling and meeting the people you meet and the ability to take on something new no matter what situation you find yourself in," said Nahirney.
She credits these early experiences as informing who she is today.
"It frames how you see things in a different way. I've always been very international in my job, and you really just have a lot more empathy and understanding and acceptance that things can be done in completely different ways."
She began her career in consulting and HR at Thomas International Management Consulting Ltd. in Vancouver in the late eighties.
While there, Nahirney realized there was more she wanted to do so made the decision to pursue her MBA at the University of Western Ontario. She met her husband on the first day of classes.
From there she joined a consultancy out of the U.S. and eventually found herself in the U.K. building the company's European practice.
"In terms of career opportunities, consulting is a great way to completely have to think strategically about what you are going to have to do with a business to transform it and you get to see many different types of businesses, so it was a very deep education," recalled Nahirney.
In 1994, in an attempt to balance two executive careers, Nahirney returned to Vancouver with her husband who had an opportunity with Deloitte.
Wanting more line-management experience, Nahirney joined Fletcher Challenge, now Catalyst Paper, as director of organization development and learning.
She relished the chance to go in and do change management and was given plenty of opportunity, eventually becoming chief information officer of the company. Even though, she remembers, "I didn't have an IT background," she implemented SAP throughout the entire company.
Nahirney joined the boom and bust of high tech in the early 2000's and when that sector came apart she made a decision to return to consulting.
She became a partner with Western Management Consultants in 2001 and that same day Nahirney and her husband started the adoption process.
They had heard of twin girls in Vietnam who had been separated from birth, however at the time, Vietnam was closed for adoption.
One day they got a phone call saying the adoption had been approved and five days later Nahirney became a mother.
Over the next seven years, Nahirney juggled being a mother to identical twins Jasmyn and Kailyn, now 10 years old, and a busy consulting career.
This included a stint as acting chief human resources officer at BC Hydro, a job she was eventually offered full-time.
Around the time she was offered that position, Nahirney got a call from a headhunter regarding Teekay. She was told the job would involve HR, communications, IT and strategy.
"It was a job that I could implement all the stuff I'd done and loved doing and it all seemed haphazard having done all these things separately, but this job knitted it all together."
Nahirney said it is always harder playing a global role when you have family, and that goes for men and women.
Her goal is to find balance in that and credits her family for being accomodating and allowing her to try and be both a mother and a corporate executive. Last year, she travelled to 20 countries, personally and through work.
Nahirney connects with her team globally once a week.
"You want to try and get to the offices individually, but you try and build up community within each office in addition to the connection to the vision and values globally."
Her goal is to create a human workplace, which she sees as a big challenge for corporate Canada.
"I think employees should be happy to be part of a community, they should like coming to work and feel challenged, and want to feel valued and feel they are in turn respected."
Nahirney believes it is important to create a lot of flexibility in the workplace so that an employee can at any point in time know that family can take precedence.
Outside of work and family, Nahirney also finds value in her volunteer efforts.
She works extensively with Junior Achievement of BC, the Women's Executive Network, Boat for Hope and the Vietnam Education Society, a small charity of which she is a founding board member.
"My whole leadership style has changed based on my girls and my family.
"I was raised in the charismatic leader from the front model that you learn in MBA school and I have completely changed it and now I really believe in the servant leadership model and compassion through leadership and respect."Â •