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Forty Under 40 Award winner Q&A: Alicia Peters

This year’s cohort of recipients will be celebrated at an event Feb. 7, 2024

BIV is recognizing Alicia Peters, director of corporate initiatives at First West Credit Union, and 39 other exceptional business leaders as part of the 2023 Forty Under 40 Awards cohort.

Longer Q&As with each recipient are included in BIV's annual Forty Under 40 Magazine (out in print Dec. 11). Award winners will be celebrated at an awards gala Feb. 7, 2024.

This profile may have been edited for length and clarity.

What career highlight are you most proud of?

Leading First West’s member vote and employee education initiative to become federally regulated, was a great experience. I loved leading a large team, bringing out their best and challenging ourselves to do things we’ve never done before. We got to do a lot of cool things that set a precedent for the organization. Despite setbacks from COVID and catastrophic floods during the voting period, we achieved a historic 84.2-per-cent yes vote and increased turn out by 10 per cent. Our ‘Federal 101’ education series won CCUA’s national award for learning excellence, and the member vote campaign won a GPC award for engagement.

What was your toughest business or professional decision?

Turning down the Commonwealth Observer Group for the 2018 elections in Zimbabwe. The timing was wrong, and I was uncomfortable with the health and security situation on the ground. I had an internal battle, I was in a good corporate career, and yet, since high school I had been studying, volunteering or working in international relations. The decision felt like the closing of that chapter in my life. I never thought I’d get an opportunity like that again, but in 2021 I was called upon to observe the Zambian elections and I continue to be active in international relations.

How do you lead?

A good portion of leadership is setting out the vision, goals or framework and then being responsive to the needs of those you are leading. A leader is a coach. Sometimes it’s hands-on and sometimes, it’s simply removing roadblocks, sharing encouragement and trusting them to do their jobs in a way that meets the goal. This doesn’t mean that you are out of the loop. At First West, we have weekly one-on-ones with our performance leader. Even if I don’t need assistance, I value this time to get on the same page and talk through what I’m doing and why.

What is the biggest lesson you've learned in business?

Business is run by people. I’ve found that you can get a lot accomplished when you build a relationship with the person(s) you are looking to do business with. Build off of your genuine desire to create a win-win. Spend time getting to know their motivations, practice active listening, find out who influences them and what you have in common. The work is often easy, it’s the people that are complicated.

Best piece of advice ever received?

One piece of advice that was shared with me when receiving negative criticism is to ask yourself if it is true and fair. These questions cause self-reflection, what is my role in receiving the criticism, what can I do better? Asking myself these questions helps me be less defensive. However, if the comments are unfair and unfounded, I do my best to let them slide off. Unfortunately, we will likely all face unfair criticism, actions and comments. Not everything is a learning opportunity – sometimes people are dealing with their own things and they end up taking them out on you.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

In university I thought Canadian politics was boring. After my detailed international plans went awry, I ended up working for the Canadian ministers of international trade and international development. I’d go back and tell myself that Canadian politics is fascinating and not to be so set in my plans. I’m not sure I’d say more than that. I learned some lessons the hard way, but I am who I am today because of those trials, and those little lessons (that felt big at the time) have helped prepare me for some much higher-stake situations as I got older.

What's left to accomplish?

I believe in continual growth and that the journey is as important as the destination. While there is a general direction, there is never one path to get there. Lots more to accomplish! I’ve authored a children’s book and several articles, and I know there is more writing in my future. Right now, I am gearing up for the journey of motherhood. It might seem like a career detour, but I’d argue the opposite, I know that I’ll learn so much that I can apply back into the business world when I’m ready and that I’ll be a better leader.

Is there anyone you would like to thank or acknowledge?

I couldn’t ask for a more supportive and loving husband. He talks through challenges and ideas with me and always nudges me forward. There have been so many people in my life that have supported and mentored me. Those connections and nudges energize and keep me going. Thank you.

Read Q&As with all 40 award recipients here. Tickets to the 2023 Forty Under 40 Awards gala on Feb. 7 are now available.