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Odette building
Odette Building

Canadian business leader Annette Verschuren visits Odette

 

On Friday, September 22, 2017, the Odette School of Business, University of Windsor hosted Canadian business leader Annette Verschuren for a talk, luncheon, and book signing on campus. This event allowed students to learn from the business acumen of one of the most inspiring female leaders in the area of business leadership. Ms. Verschuren, a native of Upper North Sydney, Nova Scotia and the daughter of Dutch immigrants who came to Canada to begin a new life farming, spoke to her journey from a humble farm girl to corporate leader. Over her career, Ms. Verschuren, a champion of corporate social responsibility, is most noted for her roles as President of Michael’s of Canada, President of The Home Depot Canada, as well as her current role as Chair & CEO of NRStor, Inc, a reliable energy storage solutions company. She sits on many corporate boards including the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders as one of five Canadian representatives.

The talk focused on the lessons Ms. Verschuren has learned over the years. Ms. Verschuren spoke to lessons such as knowing your baseline, being brazen and taking risks – something she became quite comfortable with as often the sole female in many corporate settings. Despite the sexism and pushback she often faced early on in her career – both in schooling and later in the workplace – Ms. Verschuren persevered, thanks to the grit she developed being raised on a farm and through her family’s support. She reiterated to students that being uncomfortable pushes one out of their boundaries and leads to growth. Subsequent mistakes may happen which is okay and part of the learning process. Students then asked questions to her experiences as well as referenced passages they enjoyed from her book, Bet on Me: Leading and Succeeding in Business and in Life.

Taking a break between the question & answer period and the luncheon for a call with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freedland to discuss NAFTA negotiations, Ms. Verschuren re-joined a select group of Bachelor of Commerce, Master of Business Administration, and Master of Management students for a more intimate luncheon. Over lunch, students were able to ask more direct questions regarding the current business and political climate, her experiences in the business world, and lessons for the future.

The ability to interact on such a personal level with a leader of this caliber was priceless for students and gave them many lessons to learn from as they begin their own journeys in the business world. “Reading her book and hearing her speak to her vast experiences was incredibly motivating,” said Nicole Hutchinson, MBA ’18. Other students felt similarly. “Knowing that she struggled and persevered with things such as vulnerability in the business world was inspiring as an up-and-coming female business leader,” chimed in Alexandra Morand, MBA ’18. “I hope to follow in her footsteps.”