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Erin Walker

Forty under 40 winner 2019; Director of strategy and program management office, Telus Smart Security and Automation, Age 39
Photo: Rob Kruyt

Erin Walker’s pitch to human resources at Telus Corp. took about three sentences before she got the nod of approval for a leave of absence.

She had fallen in love with Nicaragua during her travels and was determined to find a way to imbue some entrepreneurial skills into one of the world’s poorest countries.

“They were just such a happy culture and community, and I really wanted to tap into that to see how I could learn from it and also see how I could support the local community,” said Walker, director of strategy and the program management office at the relatively new Telus Smart Security and Automation division.

In 2013 that endeavour became Purple-Dirt, a social enterprise that grants Nicaraguan artisans the ability to distribute their wares in North America.

Walker worked with a group of female artisans to teach them business skills as they made jewelry from raw material sourced from Nicaragua and recycled material from Canada.

The arrangement allowed the artisans to own 25% of the company, while at the same time 10% of the proceeds from the jewelry they made were donated back to the community.

“Part of why I’m drawn to Telus is because it has such a huge philanthropic undertow,” said Walker, who added that the company extended her leave of absence from seven to 14 months as she oversaw PurpleDirt.

Back home, Walker was most recently charged with helping to launch Telus’ Smart Security and Automation division through the 2018 acquisition of assets from security company AlarmForce.

“It was an opportunity to actually have an entrepreneurial-type experience in a large corporate organization,” she said.

The task saw her co-ordinating with 400 colleagues to help integrate 39,000 AlarmForce subscribers as well as that company’s employees under the Telus umbrella.

Since then, she’s helped raise the number of Telus security customers to 100,000.

And growth in the division is set to explode after Telus announced in October 2019 it’s paying about $700 million to acquire ADT Security Services Canada Inc.

Birthplace: Toronto

Where you live now: North Vancouver

Highest level of education: Bachelor of finance and computer science

Currently reading: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Currently listening to: “Summer Days” by Martin Garrix (I am in denial that summer is over). I also enjoy listening to Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding

When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: Orthodontist or fashion designer

Profession you would most like to try: Something in fashion, or health and fitness

Toughest business or professional decision: I find people decisions to be the toughest, especially reorganizations where team members who have added value to the organization in the past may no longer be the best fit for the future direction. These decisions have a significant impact on the individual, the team and the broader organization – both professionally and personally

Advice you would give the younger you: Trust your instincts. I think it is important to surround yourself with intelligent people with diverse opinions and listen to their counsel, but in the end, you ultimately need to live with the decisions you make. If something doesn’t feel right, take the time to ask additional questions, re-evaluate or sleep on it (which I find helps the most). I underestimated my gut instinct when I was younger

What’s left to do: Hopefully I am just getting started and there is still a lot left to do. My short term goals are: (1) get my newborn to sleep through the night, (2) continue to grow Telus Smart Security and Automation and continue our expansion into Smart Neighbourhood and Smart City, and (3) Identify the next challenge, which hopefully blends together entrepreneurial spirit and social purpose

Join us to celebrate the 2019 Forty under 40 Awards on January 30, 2020, at the Westin Bayshore. For tickets and event information visit