Each year, Business in Vancouver recognizes B.C.’s most outstanding businesswomen in private and public-sector companies. Honourees have risen through the ranks to become leaders in their fields. They help to influence and shape policy not just in our province, but also at some of Canada’s largest companies and organizations. This year’s winners include six women across a wide range of industries, with varying backgrounds and some very impressive credentials.
Judi Hess was told by her Grade 10 teacher that she was great at math and should major in the subject at the University of Waterloo, because of its co-op program. Hess gladly took that advice, but was less eager to take the required computer science element of the program. As it turned out, writing computer programs and getting machines to work became her new passion – and she learned a valuable lesson along the way. “Sometimes you go to do something you don’t really want to do and don’t understand – and you don’t understand how much fun it can be.” Hess began her career as a software developer at aerospace and defence company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates and spent 14 years there before joining Creo Inc. in 1995. She become president in 2002, a position she held until Creo was acquired by Eastman Kodak. After four years at Kodak, Hess took on the role of CEO at Copperleaf in August 2009, and is credited for its rapid growth ever since.
What does it mean to be an influential woman? • I’ve been in high tech all of my life. It’s a male-dominated environment. I want to bring more women into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions. I want to be a role model and mentor for other women in this field.
What are some of the early lessons you learned in life and leadership that serve you today? • Be comfortable in taking calculated risks. I have seen time and again, when you have a great team, when you listen to your clients, you need to take that risk. You have to go for it. I have taken risks and they’ve panned out, or I’ve adjusted partway through. Also, indecision is a killer. Nothing is going to be perfect. You need to hire and work with the best people. If you do, you’ll have the most fun and be the most successful.
What does work-life balance mean to you? • There’s a saying: if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person. I think the capacity of people to do things is not unlimited, but it’s pretty vast from what I’ve seen. Work-life balance means setting your personal goals and your career or business goals and go for them all. Work-life balance is more about reaching the goals I want to reach.
What is your advice for the next generation of women leaders? • Be confident in yourself and surround yourself with a diverse group of hard-working, talented people. Stay focused on having a career as a top priority, just like a man does. You have so much to offer the world, so please don’t shortchange yourself or the rest of us.