Charlene Ripley, Goldcorp

2018 Influential Women in Business Awards Honouree

I was born in Sarnia, Ontario, and raised in Calgary. I remember playing outside a lot, even when it was freezing cold. I got involved in Girl Guides and really enjoyed that because I liked leading people. It was a really nice life.

I’ve never had a formal mentor. I would say the closest person to being a mentor to me was my father. He was an oil and gas engineer working for Halliburton in management, and I would often have questions that came up in my career that I would go to him with.

I wanted to be a psychologist, because I find people really interesting. I remember running that by my dad and he said: “You want to sit and listen to people’s problems all day? What kind of a job is that?” Then I went to university and I took a law course at business school and I loved it. That’s how I started my legal career. I remember telling my dad: “Guess what I do – I’m a lawyer, I listen to people’s problems all day and I love it.”

The most significant challenge from a personal and career perspective was when I was promoted. I was in my late 30s and I was promoted to be worldwide general counsel for Anadarko Petroleum, back in 2002. I was scared out of my mind. I had to leave Calgary and move to Houston and I was this young woman in a department of over 100 people. It was really daunting and on top of it, it was a highly dysfunctional team. They weren’t even talking to each other.

I felt like Sesame Street: one of these things is not like the other, and that was me. I did suffer from what’s called “impostor syndrome.” It generally afflicts highly successful women when you just can’t internalize your successes. You feel like you’re a fraud. I kept thinking someone’s going to think they made a big mistake moving me to Houston, and I’m going to get sent back to Canada.

“Fake it till you make it” was something that really resonated and worked for me.

I spent two years working at restructuring the team: how they served the company, how they worked with each other. I felt like I left it in a better place. There were a lot of learnings around leadership that I carry with me to this day.

The role of the in-house counsel has changed. When I first started I remember the general counsel telling me: “Look, you just stick to the legal issues and you don’t talk about the business issues. That’s all you’re allowed to talk about.” That has changed. The advice we give has to be business-minded, and so you’re much more involved in making business decisions and strategic decisions.

The concept of servant leadership to me is fundamental. Of all the leadership qualities, to me, having humility is the most powerful.

It’s been almost five years at Goldcorp. It’s been fantastic. I’m never bored; there’s always something new and interesting to do. I’m really excited about where the company is going.

As I’ve progressed in my career, it’s more than just getting the big deals negotiated and done, and winning big court cases. It’s more about the success of the people that I can influence around me.

Join us to celebrate this year’s honourees at the 2018 Influential Women in Business Awards on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018, hosted at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For tickets and event info, visit www.biv.com/iwib.