Although at first glance her career may seem disjointed, for Trudy Fahie, HBA ’81, diverse experience was key to her success.
The President and Chief Executive Officer of Walmart Canada Bank spoke with HBA students about her career highlights and lessons learned along the way, for the Richard G. Ivey Speaker Series, an annual event honouring the memory of Canadian business leader Richard G. Ivey.
Fahie’s career path is punctuated by twists and turns. She began in retail with The Bay (now Hudson's Bay Company), then moved to financial services with CIBC and American Express. Now, in addition to heading up Walmart Canada Bank, she is Executive Vice-President of Financial Services and Corporate Affairs for Walmart Canada and oversees sustainability, charitable giving, and public affairs.
Broaden your experience and take risks
Fahie said she gained a broad perspective from her various past roles and she encouraged the students to expand their experiences, not just move up the corporate ladder.
“Sometimes, along the way, that will mean making lateral moves,” she said. “Don’t always think about moving up in your career. Sometimes, when you do that, you miss those opportunities along the way that can broaden your toolkit, and that can create a gap for you down the road.”
She also encouraged them to take career risks, as she did when she first switched industries. As a female retailer in a sea of male bankers at CIBC, she earned respect by being herself, leveraging her skills and knowledge, and working out a deal with her colleagues to teach her banking if she taught them about customer service and other retail expertise.
“So many times I heard: It’s a man’s world so, if you want to be successful, you’d better look and act like a man. That didn’t work for me so I never took that advice and, fortunately, I haven’t heard that in many decades,” she said. “I chose to be myself and be authentic and I think that’s important for everyone.”
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Fahie also shared 10 tips for career success:
- Leverage your sense of humour – Poke fun at yourself, not others;
- Find role models to inspire and support you – Leverage what you learn from them to make yourself a better person;
- Build a broad career toolkit – Seek out different experiences that will broaden what you bring to the table;
- Create your own personal brand – Promote that collection of experiences that make you special;
- Be yourself and be authentic – Don’t try to be a chameleon. People will see through it;
- Don’t sweat the small stuff – Don’t waste time on small annoyances. Focus your energy on what’s most critical in life;
- Have courage and be curious and find clarity in confusion – Aim to get things 80 per cent right and then execute. If you work on improving your ideas until they’re perfect, they’ll be irrelevant. Test and learn, constantly try new things, and welcome failures. Failures are only unproductive if you don’t learn from them;
- Be a talent magnet – Surround yourself with people who are not clones of you and learn from them;
- Give back – Look for ways to give back to your community while leveraging your skills. Being well-rounded is important; and,
- Take care of the rocks first – When filling a jar with rocks, pebbles, and sand, they need to be inserted in exactly that order so they all fit in. This way, the sand fills the cracks rather than settling on the bottom and taking up too much space. In life, rocks are your health, family, and friends. Focus on them first. Pebbles are school or work, and sand is everything else. Take care of what’s most important and everything else will fall into place.