Kristina McDougall

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Go Away Door Mat
Nov 2017
The Waterloo Region has been gaining momentum as a destination for both talent and for global companies looking to tap into our entrepreneurial culture, university research and highly capable workforce. But as a community full of people with small town roots, and with a dedication to the success of our home-grown companies, corporate newcomers will only be embraced if they demonstrate shared values. Amazon’s call for bids to build out a second HQ has sparked passionate opinions about whether this would be really good or really bad news for our community. With our unique view on the talent pool, I have some thoughts on how Amazon, or any newcomer, can ensure a welcome and become a valuable corporate citizen. 1) Offer great experiences for employees to learn and grow. We know you're coming to hire some of our great people, and this is a good thing IF they emerge from the experience with new and valuable learnings and skills. Invest in the development of the talent pool and we all win. 2) Participate actively in our community. With volunteers, donations, sponsorships and other levels of participation, enrich the social and cultural aspects of our community so that it continues to be a great place to live and work. 3) Build the broader tech ecosystem. Companies with global offices, whether big or small, also have opportunity to share advice, insights and learnings with the whole tech community, so that our start-ups can learn from experience gained in other markets and accelerate their own journey.. 4) BYOT (Bring Your Own Talent) - when a foreign company brings along leaders and other professionals who are excited to live in the region, this signals a great level of commitment. These companies can also take advantage of favourable immigration policies and can make a positive long term impact by attracting top talent from outside Canada, to further grow the local economy and the talent pool. A global company can either come in like a parasite, suck up our talent and siphon out our best ideas and IP - OR - they can invest in making our community a better place to live and work, and create long term economic growth. Those that show a commitment to the community should be welcomed and recognized for the positive impact they can make.
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four leaf clover
Jul 2017
Have you ever noticed how some people are just luckier than others. They always find great deals, meet interesting people who open doors on cool opportunities and come up with the brilliant, game changing ideas. I’m practical and don’t believe that some people are just born under the right alignment of stars. Luck is something real to be sure, but maybe it's something that we can develop in ourselves - and it’s definitely something that we can look for when we hire for our teams. The theme of the 2017 StartUp Fest in Montreal earlier this month was Luck. There was an incredible line-up of keynote speakers, many of whom spoke about their experience with luck. Here are some thoughts that stuck with me, and that relate directly to how we can build our teams. Luck isn’t just about being in the right place at the right time. It’s about being open to the opportunities that are presented to us in the everyday. That right place and time? The lucky people weren’t there alone, but they were the ones to see the opportunity. Lucky people will engage in interesting conversations, and will pay attention to things that are not always relevant to the task at hand. They are positive and curious. Opportunities will be presented to everyone, but the lucky person will recognize it and will have the courage to change course and grab it. The lucky person says yes more than they say no. They will abandon routine to try a new way, and will risk failure. And if they fail, they’ll try again. If you don’t expose yourself to chance, you can’t possibly be lucky. Which doesn’t mean that you should take your paycheque to the casino. But it does mean that you will only be lucky if you sometimes take your focus off a task, consider a different and better way and a new destination. There are some really interesting lessons here for all companies. If you want your business to be lucky, just hire people who show the characteristics of the lucky. Sounds too simple to be true? Even without any science, it’s just logical that if you only hire lucky people that they will bring that luck to your team. We can all think of companies that were set on a specific outcome and route, that had so much focus on the task and destination that they missed market signals that were obvious to others. Jobs with these (usually big) companies seemed safe and predictable, but in hindsight we know that having one of these jobs was most unlucky. If you want to hire and inspire the lucky, you need to create an environment that enables your lucky people to see opportunity and change their path. You need to allow risk and failure, and listen up when they hear a signal from the market. You need to foster positivity, be open to alternate ways of working and new ideas, and you need to encourage and seek different perspectives. Now get out there and get lucky!
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May 2017
Last week, the Kitchener-Waterloo tech community was excited to welcome the NetFlix HR Guru Patty McCord. As keynote speaker at Communitech's Tech Leadership Conference, Patty's talk was crammed with authenticity, humour and incredibly valuable lessons. Among many gems, her thoughts on retention really hit home. While most tech companies point to employee retention as a measure of successful HR and leadership, Patty dismissed this notion entirely. She sought to make NetFlix a great company to be from. "Most tech companies have a four-year vesting schedule and try to use options as ‘golden handcuffs; to aid retention, but we never thought that made sense. If you see a better opportunity elsewhere, you should be allowed to take what you’ve earned and leave. If you no longer want to work with us, we don’t want to hold you hostage."   Tech companies evolve, and as they grow they hire people who believe in the mission, and who are great at the things that need to be done. At the same time, talented people move into roles where they get to accomplish important things, where they are valued and where they get to use their strengths. As long as these 2 objectives are being met, everything is great - but as soon as a company can't utilize your best talents, it's time to move on! The growth of a company is a journey, and so is every individual's career. At various points along the way you need innovators, builders, tactical execution experts, change leaders, and people who can scale-up process and operations. These are often very different humans. Expecting that the changing needs of your business will align perfectly with the evolving strengths and career goals of any one individual is unrealistic. An employment relationship isn't like a marriage - where ideally the two parties grow and evolve in tandem. Unlike a marriage, it is ok to just be good at the first 2 years, and then move on. Yet leaders take it personally when an employee leaves to pursue the next evolution on their path, even when that option doesn't exist in their company or if they've failed to discuss future plans. Many people also feel stuck in companies that can no longer utilize their best abilities, becoming disengaged - without realizing that it is ok, and not disloyal, to seek growth and fulfillment in another setting. So how does a company manage this, encouraging people to follow their path without the trauma of turnover that disrupts the business. I believe the answer is in conversations that are transparent, honest and safe. Imagine if your managers and teammates could talk openly about their career ambitions and their strengths, and the needs of the business. If each employee knew that their best talents were needed and valued, and that their career goals would be fulfilled - of course they'd stay. But what if the conversation reveals that the paths of 'company needs' and 'employee strengths and goals' diverge? Well there should be a plan for that too. Without a manager fearing that the employee will resign, or the employee fearing for the near-term security of their job, everyone could work together to ensure that there was minimum disruption to the business and or to the individual's employment.  This might seem like a big leap of trust, and perhaps unrealistic, but the alternative is surprise resignations, and unfulfilled, disengaged or insecure workers. So take a small leap at least. To the leaders, talk to your people about their strengths, and how (or if) they can do what they are best at. Talk about career goals and whether you can offer growth in ways that matter. And to every employee, know what you are best at and identify the areas you want to grow - then talk to your leaders. Whether your paths align or not, everyone will more quickly and happily reach their destination.  
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May 2017
Uber and their “culture of sexism”  may be fading slowly from the front pages, but tech companies are scrambling to review their official practices and unofficial workplace norms. We see now that a single blog post or GlassDoor rating can cripple your company brand. It’s a scary time, but we are (finally) seeing some serious focus on the culture of our tech community. There is no disputing that the innovation economy, and each individual tech company within it, will benefit from diversity and inclusion at all levels. From a pure talent supply and demand perspective, if any and every capable individual feels welcomed and valued at your company, you have a HUGE advantage. And yet, everywhere we turn, there are subtle (and not-so-subtle) signs of bad behaviour, professional immaturity and cultures that value uniformity rather than diversity. I like to think well-intentioned tech leaders are just looking to build fun, socially relaxed environments. But when drinking to excess, crass language, and offensive humour become the accepted or promoted social dynamic in your company - you exclude and offend many great employees, and significantly limit your chances of success.   Here are some recent observations. Anything sound familiar?    “We are proud of our culture. One of our values is that we are NOT a professional environment” - while aiming to create a casual authentic workplace, individuals use this ‘value statement’ to excuse offensive and sexist comments, and lewd behaviour in the office. We need an executive who fits in with our team. We need to know that we can all drink beer together.” - while this implies a harmless desire to have a team that can socialize and have fun together, it also was an indicator that drinking was part of the executive team culture.  All of our social events involve drinking, often to excess.” - from an executive who was ready to resign, because the culture supported inappropriate and immature behaviour, and excluded many women, minorities and individuals who chose not to participate in the party atmosphere. I could go on and on. There are no shortage of signals that many tech companies are either overtly or inadvertently excluding great employees who don’t live up to the social expectations of the young, party-hard, work-hard stereotype.   Want to avoid the risk of both ostracizing great talent and exposing your company to Uber-esque reputation risk?   Look at the social events in your tech community and in your company, both planned and spontaneous. Would someone of any gender, age, sexual orientation, faith or ethnicity feel equally part of the team and part of the community? Would they feel respected, included and valued? Pay attention to humour and offhand comments in your workplace. If you address and shut down sexist and offensive language and behaviour, you send a strong positive message that you value and respect every individual. You create a foundation of safety and trust that you'll need to grow your business. I should note that I’m not suggesting that we ban beer, parties or the occasional well timed F-bomb. Authenticity, fun, and socializing are all parts of what make our tech community great. We wear jeans and flip flops. Our email and slack messages are informal and witty. We may even hug a client or coworker. But we need to see that respect and mindful regard of personal differences, values and boundaries is key to building a positive culture and an inviting community.
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Mar 2017
Recently a friend and local tech exec met with some top engineering students, and learned that as many as 60% had plans to accept jobs with tech companies in Silicon Valley. "What can we do to convince them to stay local and build a career here?", he asked. I didn't have an easy answer. I put myself in the shoes of these young and ambitious engineers, then imagined having to advise my son as he considers job offer from some well-funded and exciting start-up, or a huge tech giant. (he's only 11, so I have some time yet). A new city, a big pay check, a high-profile company on your resume, a team of top leaders and peers from the best companies in the world. It's the flattery of being scouted for the big league. I get it. 22 year old me would have been sorely tempted. The allure and excitement of these big opportunities is as much about the adventure as it is about the day to day of the job. We definitely have companies in Canada that are building equally cool stuff. We have incredibly talented and experienced leaders to learn from, and opportunity to build a brilliant career and impressive resume. But when you grow up and study within the Canadian tech scene, the southern grass and the US dollar both look greener. I'm not suggested that we stop trying, but I think we just have to stop beating ourselves up. Wanting to seek adventure and gain experience in other markets is a good thing. But here is what we MUST do: sell our outbound talent on the dream of one day bringing it all home. Go and seek adventure if you must. Learn, grow and gather up some amazing experiences... and then come home. As Canadian employers, we must plant the seed. We must remind the great young engineering and business minds, that we appreciate their adventurous spirit and that they are critical to our innovation economy - if not now, then in the future. They have the ability to be so much more than someone sitting on the 50,000 person roster of an enormous tech company. Once they see the world and learn how things are done in other markets, remember that they'll be welcomed home. And that this will always be home. Stay tuned for my next post on how we can better sell Canadian Tech companies as a destination for global talent that is seeking adventure.  
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Sep 2016
Your ability to harness the talent of great designers is critical to the success of your business. It’s a fact. Design doesn’t just matter. Design is critical. Not just good design, but great design. Certainly, for the makers of consumer products and apps, it’s become obvious that intuitive and attractive designs must engage and inspire users, but design is critical for all things, in all businesses. At the Waterloo Innovation Summit last week, a theme emerged in many conversations around creativity, imagination, simplicity and beauty. The experts all agree that the next wave of technological and business advancement would be propelled by design, and our ability to connect the power of technology to designs that deliver meaning and value. When design is key to success, talented designers are your secret weapon. Earlier this week, I was excited and honoured to kick off a week of events for Fluxible. Together with the incredible Amandah Wood of Ways We Work, I led a conversation with top designers and leaders of companies to answer the question of How to be the Employer of Choice for Great Designers.

Here are the highlights:

Demonstrate that you really, truly care about design.

Not surprisingly design professionals want to work for a company that has a strong design culture or that has an authentic desire to build one. What does this mean, you ask? - Make design a priority at all stages of product development. - Give your designers a voice early in the product development process, and get them involved in timelines and other key decisions

Offer important work and an inspiring vision

This is true for most roles, but great designers need to know that they are working on solutions that matter. You don’t need to be changing the world in a monumental way, but you must show how their work will make a difference to users and to the success of the company.

Ensure that customer interaction is part of the job

A great customer experience starts with knowing the customer. So of course, your organization needs to find lots of opportunity for the design team to interact with users. Shutting them in a room with some tools and the mandate to make a mostly finished product look pretty is not ok - but it is still a reality in many companies. You must be better than this.

The team matters

All of our designers wanted to work with peers and mentors who are at the top of their game. This again speaks to creating a design culture that values the work and the voice of the designers.

It is NOT all about your funky office space

Our designers shared that they were not really impressed with expensive or hip office decor. If the styling of your space is all about show and not really functional, it will fail to impress. What matters is a workspace that reflects the culture of the team and effectively fosters collaboration and focused effort.

Tools are Important

Letting every designer use their favourite tools is nice, but not a practical solution for growing teams that need to collaborate. What is important is that you are leveraging current tools that enable design iterations and efficient development of ideas.   We know it’s daunting to many technical and business leaders, to lead a team of creatives. But a culture that encourages communication and values design, is good for all employees, customers and mostly for the bottom line.
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Sep 2016
I can’t claim that I remember everything from my Economics 101 class - it was more than 20 years ago, Yikes!-  but there was an analogy about lemonade stands that has stuck with me. As I recall the lesson goes like this: There is busy beach that stretches for more than a mile and in the middle of the beach is a single lemonade stand. It is hot, the beach is crowded and the lemonade entrepreneur, Joe, is very successful. Lucky Joe. Then along comes Julie, another entrepreneur. Julie also makes great lemonade. When she sees the number of customers on the beach, she thinks “I’m going to open a lemonade stand here too!”. So here’s the question …  “Where on the beach should Julie open her lemonade stand?” As I recall, my Economics 101 classmates discussed the relative merits of either end of the beach, wondering about details like bathroom locations and sand quality. The logic was that customers would probably select the closest stand, so she should just pick the end that she liked best, and find the underserviced customers that didn't want to walk to the middle of the beach. If you also took this course, you might recall that the right answer is this: Julie should open up her business directly beside Joe. She’d then have the same access to ALL of the customers on the beach. She has to compete head to head with Joe on quality, price, and service, but Joe seems to have become too comfortable with his monopoly and she is confident she can do better. The lemonade quality improves for everyone and the best business wins. I'm sure there are some other important economic lessons in this story, but for me this is a story of accessing talent. Joe and Julie are now tech entrepreneurs who are each building a  company. Their customers are all over the world, and they are reached virtually, so office location isn’t a factor for sales.  But both Joe and Julie know that they need the best people to fuel their success, and they plan to grow a lot. So where should they build their office? Like selling lemonade on a hot beach, our tech start-ups are wise to set-up in the heart of a community that is densely populated with the talent they need.  In most cases this means engineers, but it could also mean top executives, sales and marketing pros. And if you want talent with experience in your specific technology or domain, opening up right next to your competitor is both gutsy and wise.  When someone is already in the middle of the beach ready to buy lemonade, there you are, with a more appealing front counter, a more delicious offering and a big smile. The best team, mission, culture and environment will win. We see this happening in Waterloo. Not the biggest city, but you can’t swing a stick without whacking a few software developers and fearless tech leaders. And as competition for this talent has increased, we see our entrepreneurs getting more creative in how they vie to become the top employers. We also see international tech companies taking notice and popping up new offices in our midst. We welcome this growth and this increasing competition for talent. With it comes better work environments, more focus on culture, balance and engagement, and much better lemonade.
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wrapped boxer hands
May 2016
When you’re looking for someone to hunt down new customers, land a million dollar partnership, find new investors or land the best executive talent, you need someone special. You need someone who will take up your cause and fight for it - sometimes against fierce competition and in the face of incredible odds.  This person must be resourceful, diligent, and fearless. Many would describe this ideal person as aggressive. I argue that, if you equate aggression with success in sales, business development or recruitment situations you will be sorely disappointed with what you find. I’ve met dozens of highly successful closers—people who sign million dollar contracts for undiscovered start-ups, land lucrative partnerships, or bring in world-class investors. They are all curious, competitive and confident. They can quickly sniff out a winning deal and like a dog on a bone, they find a way to make it happen. But is it aggression that gets them to the close? When I think about someone who is aggressive, I picture someone who is pushy and doesn’t listen to objections. Someone who uses bullying tactics to get the transaction done. But a great hunter is an incredible listener, someone who gathers up objections and finds creative solutions. No one wants to spend time with an aggressive person. When you send someone out to find customers, investors or teammates, they need to build positive relationships and be your ambassador. The great closer genuinely seeks to add value. An aggressive person makes you feel defensive and uncomfortable. If you do buy from them, you’re more likely to feel like you’ve been taken advantage of, or to regret the decision. The great closer, on the other hand, will build trusting relationships and leave customers and partners feeling overjoyed with their decision. Think about it. When you say you need someone aggressive, do you really mean someone confident, diligent, assertive and competitive? Do you also want someone likeable, who treats their teammates and customers with warmth and respect? Choose your words well, and don’t lose sight of the other positive traits that define a great closer and a great ambassador of your brand.
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Innovation Activator
Apr 2016
In tech hubs across North America, the success of innovation ecosystems hinge on start-up culture, where ideas and creativity that are free to blossom without the constraints of politics, red tape or inertia that exist within most big companies. And as these small and nimble companies emerge we see that they can disrupt existing markets, offering compelling solutions to customers, and exciting career opportunities for top talent, making it tough for large companies to compete. So, if you are leading an established big company, how can you stay on top of the technology impacting your industry? How do you develop innovative product ideas, or compete for talent that wants a creative work environment? It's likely that the very things that make your enterprise successful (the structure, process and policies that you need to be stable) will also stifle creativity and impede innovation. This is the quandry that gave rise to the Innovation Outpost. Clever execs from forward thinking big business are buildings teams of employees who don't fit the corporate mold.  Working outside the corporate environment, in eclectic offices located in the midst of the start-up ecosystem, these teams are building prototypes, challenging old assumptions and developing a unique culture. Here is how Communitech has described the Corporate Innovation program that is growing in Kitchener-Waterloo: The Communitech corporate innovation program is designed to help you harness your innovation potential by taking advantage of external models to supplement internal strategies. It allows you to shift your big brand culture and think like a startup, tap into fresh talent and ideas, create unlikely connections, speed up prototyping and significantly reduce the cost and risk associated with trying new things—all while staying true to your brand. Companies like GM, Fairfax, Canadian Tire, Canon, TD, and Deloitte have invested in this innovation strategy, and the results are starting to come together in real measurable ways - for customers, employees, shareholders and for the start-up ecosystem as a whole. Artemis Canada is proud to partner with Communitech and their Corporate Innovation Partners, to identify leaders within the community who can spearhead and manage the various Innovation Outposts. If you'd like to learn more about these unique and exciting opportunities, take a look at the general leadership profile and reach out to Kristina for more information.
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Mar 2016
I still remember the call. An HR Manager rang me a few years ago to say that her company had a no-headhunting policy. Not only did they refuse to pitch their opportunities to individuals who were already employed, but it was 'against the rules for other companies to speak to their people.' I found this shockingly naive and quite silly! It also came as no surprise that this company was struggling to stay alive in fierce talent market.
When I started in recruitment, companies would train receptionists to block recruiters’ calls, and ensure that Monster and Workopolis were banned from company internet. But these days recruiting messages are everywhere. It is impossible and impractical to block LinkedIn, Twitter, or to halt conference attendance and rendezvous’ with former colleagues and miscellaneous strangers in coffee shops. If you are losing top talent to the competition, it is logical to want to keep headhunters at bay. But the truth is your people have lives that extend beyond your four walls. In reality, trying to keep your people from connecting with headhunters is like building a fence around your yard to keep the birds in.

Good news!

Your best employees are probably not out there actively looking for a new job. They are too busy working, and solving problems, and networking on behalf your company. As your people evangelize your business, and get into the community to learn and grow professionally, you benefit – even though it makes them more visible. The top headhunters have the tools and the networks to find your most talented people – and your brightest stars have free will and are clever enough to entertain a conversation. Your best people are not only talking to headhunters, they are likely helping them! They are learning about your competitors and evaluating the teams, the technologies and the opportunities in the greater market. If you've done a good job providing them with the environment and challenge they desire, all of this could actually benefit your company.

The trick is not to hide your people from the headhunters

You have to make sure that your employees will always choose you even when they know what other options exist – because they just can’t imagine being more fulfilled somewhere else. If the headhunters are circling, it means that your people are the envy of your competition. Congratulations! But …if your people are never recruited it is not because you have a great ‘no-headhunting’ policy. It is because you have mediocre talent and maybe you need to deploy some good headhunters of your own.
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Artemis Canada – Executive Search

We are a boutique executive search firm exclusively serving Canada’s Innovation Economy.

Our partners are the inventors, builders and leaders who are changing our world, enriching the lives of their teams, strengthening their communities and delivering valuable innovations to global marketplaces.


"I have worked closely with Kristina for approximately 15 years, reaching out to her whenever we are searching for the hardest to find skills. She understands the industry, she’s smart, she listens to exactly what we need, and she never wastes our time. Kristina, and the Artemis team, deliver time and time again. When we need an external recruiter, I find it hard to work with anyone else!"

Pete Devenyi, VP Global Software Dematic

Contact Artemis

  • 22 Regina St. N
    Waterloo N2J 3A1
  • 519-594-0913
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