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Month: July 2017

GEM: A Real Gem of a Program

Imagine a room full of women with superpowers. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Well, you don’t need to look inside a comic book to see these superwomen, because you can see them in real life. They are the ambitious, intelligent and beautiful women that are part of Girl’s E-Mentorship (GEM).

I have had the pleasure of being a part of the GEM program this year. I truly believe that it has changed my perspective of the world around me in addition to teaching me valuable skills for the future. Not only did I learn things like time management techniques and how to ace an interview, I also learned that women are powerful and can achieve great things. I learned that being surrounded by positive, dedicated and determined people will truly change you as well: seeing these wonderful women made me feel motivated to strive to be the best person that I can be.

I also learned the value of having a mentor in your life. I started off as a self-conscious teenage girl, but with the encouragement of my mentor and all my loved ones, as well as the incredible experiences I have had this year, I have become something more. I am now a confident and independent individual that will continue to grow and become the best person that she can.

And I’m not the only one that enjoyed the program. The response to the program has been staggeringly positive: both mentors and mentees expressed how much they loved it. I interviewed both mentors and mentees to see what they had to say. Celine Do, one of the mentees this year says “There aren’t enough words I can use to describe how phenomenal my experience has been with GEM. If you talked to me a day before that first GEMinar, you would be appalled at how nervous, and shy I was. I have grown so much through this program and its valuable curriculum, and because of my mentor, Alison Simpson. We have established an amazing relationship that definitely will not end like my year at GEM.”

Another mentee, Aklil Noza, loved interacting with like-minded individuals and gaining wisdom from successful women. She says, “I feel so much more self-assured after GEM because I face the same hardships as these beautiful girls around me, yet they’ve overcome their obstacles and still managed to shine. So what’s stopping me from doing the same?”

Similarly, the response from mentors has been extremely positive. Siobhan Desroches, who is the Manager of Government Affairs & Stakeholder Relations of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, says that she became more motivated in her own career as a result of meeting such motivated and focused young women in the program. She also says, “It was incredibly fulfilling to participate in a program working to achieve these goals, and I have never been more hopeful in the future Canadian women after meeting these girls.”

GEM Mentor Liron Davis, who is the Manager of the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, also spoke about how this program has been one of the highlights of her year and how surprised she was that mentorship evolved into a “friend-like dynamic.”

So to anyone who is thinking of joining GEM as either a mentor or mentee: do it. You will have the most amazing experiences, meet the most talented, creative and awesome women, and grow immensely as a person. You won’t regret it, I promise!

Rochelle de Goias

How to launch a charity while being a mom

Rochelle de Goias, GEM’s Founder, was interviewed by Love, Mom on how to lead a charity that is changing the lives of high school girls in Toronto while being the mom of two little ones.  Read her full interview below.

LM: What’s a secret power you count on to keep it together?
R: “Determination. At work, I’m always thinking about a goal, for example right now, growth is top of mind. I’m singularly focused and know the team can make our charity better and bigger so we can help more people. I’m that person who to call if you have any self-doubt or if you’re having a bad day and I’ll say, ‘you can do this; you can do it with your eyes closed’. This level of motivation and intensity has allowed me to grow GEM from an idea into a reality.
I know I bring that intensity home too. I have this desire to ensure that my kids have this incredible childhood and create as many special moments as possible for them. Like so many moms, I would love them to look back on their lives and think they had the best mom. I know I stress myself out about it though. I’m really working on accepting that I can’t do everything and I have to be okay with doing what I can. I’m still getting the hang of it; I’ll stay up at night and send emails and take care some of online errands, then I’ll catch myself and shut it all down. I’m slowly figuring out the difference between being determined and doing too much.”

LM: Is launching a non-profit similar to growing a business?
R: “From the beginning, we wanted to create a charity that thought like a business. Our clients are our mentors and mentees and our investors are our donors. We’re intent on running GEM efficiently and at a low cost. For example, we have a large team of volunteers that help us reach our goals and we moved our office to the Centre for Social Innovation, a shared office space that keeps our nuts and bolts costs down.
We’re also growing the program strategically. We’ve invested a lot of time and effort on design thinking. Instead of taking a top-down approach where a goal is determined and then the steps towards that goal are created, I wanted to do it in reverse. We designed a program that began with our mentees to help us determine the goal. We spent six months consulting with local girls to discover what they needed. We also created a mentor advisory committee and asked them how we could make it easier for them to volunteer as busy working women who want to help. Then we did a pilot run, got feedback, and redesigned our approach based on what we heard. Every year we get new insights and then we tweak the program to make it better. Like any business, we have to be nimble and we can’t get stuck in one way of thinking.
The biggest difference with a traditional business, however, is that if we’re not profitable, we’re not reaching our goal of helping people. A charity relies on kindness, a compelling story and on donors and volunteers who want to make their cities and countries better. If people stopped having open hearts, a non-profit like us wouldn’t survive.”

LM: Describe a challenge you’ve had to overcome at GEM.
R: “We’re growing faster than I anticipated. It’s a good problem, but also stressful. With that growth, comes pressure to fundraise. There are a lot of girls requesting mentorship and we can only provide it for 1 in 4 girls, so we need more funding to support our programs. There are also so many areas that we want to be involved with beyond Toronto. There’s a huge need and we’re only a drop in the bucket. A part of me thought this was going to be a grass roots organization forever, and now I’m thinking about what growth looks like every day I go to work. This expansion is so exciting and the best outcome I could’ve hoped for, but naturally I wonder how am I going to manage all this while finding time to enjoy my young family?”

LM: Name a leap of faith you’ve had to take recently.
R: “Letting other people help me. When I started this, I was doing everything, then I brought in a bigger team and expanded the board.  Once I became pregnant with my second baby, my load became impossible to manage. We’ve grown to two full-time consultants (a project manager and a communications lead), a graphic designer and seven board members. Of course, I had an initial reaction to taking less of a hand’s on role. Relinquishing that kind of control took adjusting, and now I love it. I’m running the organization with women who are incredible while giving myself more time with my family.”

LM: What’s an a-ha moment that has surprised you most? 
R: “Deep down I trusted that GEM was going to help girls and I knew those girls would get to where they wanted to go. What I didn’t expect was that the community of mentors we have established would become so strong. They are incredible and like-minded women who want to hang out and create deep relationships with each other. The program gives us a chance to find out our interests, backgrounds and passions and it’s proving as valuable to the mentors as it is to the mentees.”

Interview taken from: Love, Mom.

How to dress for an interview

As if figuring out what to wear in the morning isn’t stressful enough, deciding what to wear to an interview can be seen as added pressure. As soon as you walk into the interview room, before you even get a chance to speak, your outfit contributes to the first impression you leave on the interviewer. That being said, you want to dress to impress! To prevent any last-minute panicking, here are some interview outfit ideas:

Option 1 –  The classic blazer

When I think of interviews, the first thing that comes to my mind is a blazer. Not only can you wear a blazer for numerous occasions, but you can pair it with many different outfits –  with a button down, a blouse, and even a dress. Of course, you don’t need to stick with the traditional black coloured blazer, adding a pop of colour makes things fun and can add a bit to your personality.

Option 2 –  The blouse and dress pants/pencil skirt

Blouses in general, are a very elegant and professional spin to just a normal shirt because they act as the foundation for a stylish, layered look. As they come in different cuts and styles, you don’t have to worry about not finding one that suits you. This versatile top can be paired with either dress pants or some skirt (pencil skirts would be the most professional).

Option 3 –The statement dress

Although you want your interview look to be professional, there is nothing wrong with wearing a dress, especially if it makes you feel confident. With a statement dress, you don’t necessary need to add a jewelry or other accessories because the dress speaks for itself. Make sure, however, that both the neckline and hemline are appropriate because you’re there for an interview with a potential employer, not a night out with your friends.

At GEMinar Three: Getting Your Goals, the panelist Natasha Zdravkovic, Recruitment Consultant at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), said that an important tip is to make sure what you’re wearing is clean: “You want to look like you put effort and care into your outfit because it will project how you feel about the job.”

A little word of advice from Susan Baxter, Vice Chairman for RBC Wealth Management, is that when dressing for an interview, “you should wear something that makes you feel comfortable and confident.” At the end of the day, if you put too much stress on what you’re going to wear you’ll miss out on the real importance: the actual interview.

Remember: the best thing you can wear is your confidence. So, make sure to smile and let your personality shine through, no matter what you wear.