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Forty under 40 Award profile winner: Nicola Harper

President, Columbia Learning Group

BIV is proud to recognize Nicola Harper, president of Columbia Learning Group, and 39 exceptional business leaders with 2022 Forty under 40 Awards.

Each recipient is featured in BIV's annual Forty under 40 Magazine, and will be celebrated at an awards gala Feb. 22. Profiles of each award recipient – originally published in the magazine – will be available at in the days ahead.

Who or what is responsible for your work ethic?

My parents. I have had opportunities in my life because of the work and the sacrifices that they have made. When we immigrated to Canada, they left behind what was familiar and comfortable. I want to honour that with the work that I do.

What drives you?

To be a part of something bigger than myself. I started in the non-profit world because I needed to know that what I was doing was going to have an impact beyond just me. Now I find ways to do that but from a business angle.

A favourite book you would recommend?

Nudge by Richard Thaler. It was the first book I read that really shone a light on how psychology is intertwined with economics.

Now that you are (or are close to) entering your 40s, what goals have you set for yourself?

To slow things down. The last few years have been at a break-neck pace, trying to manage a newly growing business while adapting to operating in COVID. I recently made some tough decisions to step back from some roles I loved because I was getting stretched too thin.

What was your childhood career dream?

To be a journalist. I loved writing and reading. I still do, but it just manifests itself differently now.

What was your toughest business or professional decision?

Taking on the business. I left a secure, stable job at a place where I loved to work, with an amazing team of colleagues, and jumped into an industry where I had no technical knowledge whatsoever. Plus, all the risk and responsibility now rested with me.

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

Enjoy this time. Try the things that you aren’t good at, or that scare you, and make mistakes. The stakes aren’t as high as you think they are.

What is your best habit?

I don’t check work emails on weekends. Sometimes I break this rule, but I try to keep that time for my family and other commitments.

Tell us one improbable fact about yourself.

I am super squeamish – not great for the head of a paramedic training institution.

Best piece of advice ever received?

It’s all cash flow, cash flow, cash flow (thanks, dad).

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

You are nothing without your people. Finding the right people who believe in what you’re doing is so important for a business like ours. It’s been a huge challenge in the current labour market; we are so fortunate to have the incredible team that we do.

What career highlight are you most proud of?

Securing grants that our primary care paramedic students have used to help cover the cost of their training. This has been especially important in the more rural and remote areas of B.C. where the financial barriers to training are generally higher, and yet the need for training is so great.

Read the profiles of all 40 award recipients in BIV's annual Forty under 40 Magazine. Register to recognize this year's winner at the Forty under 40 Awards gala on Feb. 22.