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January 2013

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Women of the Week: Dr. Laurelle Jno Baptiste

WOTW Laurelle Jno Baptiste

When Laurelle Jno Baptiste was growing up in Dominica, an island nation in the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, she had a chorus of strong, motivational women who inspired her to live out her dreams.

One such woman was her mother, a passionate advocate for education. The other was Dame Mary Eugenia Charles, a lawyer who served as the Prime Minister of Dominica for 15 years.

“Imagine this kid, in this village of a few hundred, but we have this great Prime Minister and she’s educated at the University of Toronto,” she says. “So I’ve got it in the back of my mind that I want to go to the same university that this Prime Minister went to.”
Jno Baptiste has an undergraduate degree in Computer Information Systems, a Masters and a Doctorate in Education. She followed in Charles’ footsteps by completing her Doctorate at the University of Toronto.

Even though Dame Eugenia Charles wasn’t there physically, she was there in a portrait.

“Her picture is at the university and very often, when I was having a hard day, I would walk by her picture for inspiration. That was very motivating for me.”

For the last 12 years Jno Baptiste has worked in the innovative field of e-learning, building online universities for companies.

In 2009, she co-founded ScholarLab with Robert Taylor, a technologist with a deep interest in the transformative potential for technology in education.

“There was synergy,” she says. “At the time, we were both involved in the open education movement and saw an opportunity to revolutionize online education through digital multimedia.”

The ScholarLab learning platform brings together a virtual classroom with real-time collaboration and a single easy-to-use toolset. Learners can instantly snap together multimedia apps and centralize content. The platform covers everything from live webcasts to short self-directed presentations and sophisticated semester-long online courses.

“I did a lot of work on the digital divide [in university] and how different disadvantaged groups within society lack the technological expertise to successfully compete because they don’t have access to information and access to knowledge. Increasing access is an important goal for ScholarLab.”

Since 2008, Jno Baptiste has chaired the membership committee for the Open CourseWare Consortium. The OCWC is an international community making information more accessible by providing educational materials free and open digitally.

“I disrespect stereotypical limitations that are placed on individuals based on gender or race,” she says. “I do believe that access to education and online learning is playing a very vital role in promoting equality in society”.

As a successful woman in technology, Jno Baptiste is still a minority in her field.

“I’ve always been the minority in my technology classes and therefore I advocate for more women in Science and Technology.”

This fall, Jno Baptiste will be releasing the book Learning in the Digital: Disruptive Technologies and the Future of Education.

 

Women of the Week: Anita Emilio

Anita Emilio always dreamed of working in the travel industry. At age 30, after 10 years in the Art House Movie industry, she took a leap of faith and left to follow her passion. Somebody recognized that passion and provided her with a great opportunity to train her. Initially her salary was cut in half, but there are no regrets. “It is the best sacrifice my family and I have ever made,” says Emilio.

She was always drawn to the world of travel, seeing it as a leveler since everyone can experience it despite their age or upbringing. “It is something that even those who have nothing in common can chat about and I had big dreams of seeing the world. There’s no better way to achieve those goals than to work in the industry.  I have been extremely fortunate to have travelled extensively both for work and pleasure.”

Despite choosing not to pursue a post-secondary degree, she credits her success to the notion that if you work hard, good things will happen. This appears to be working for her since she started leading Travellers Counsellors. “Put the world’s nicest yet most driven people in a room, inject incredible leadership, give them the right tools to do the job and believe in them 100%,” says Emilio. Her approach is “built entirely on relationships, with customers, suppliers and each other.”

She still manages to make her company distinctive. “Our agents are the best in the business, with many years of experience and this is their career and passion. We are a family-run business and extend that sense of family to our agents, our head office team, our partners and our clients,” she says.

Work-life balance is an integral part that comes from within. There are “long hours and often a lot of travel for work so you must be very careful to juggle the balance between home and work and know when to say no.” She remarks that the younger generation understands this element.

Emilio remains focused on recruiting in the travel industry and will be launching an online televised broadcast on February 12th; later, she will meet those great candidates. “I personally go out and meet them to make certain that we are right for each other and that it will be a successful relationship,” says Emilio.

When Emilio is not working, she is an avid marathon runner. “Absolutely, running a marathon is proof that when you set your mind to something, anything is possible,” she says. When she is alone with her thoughts, she can think, plan and dream.

“Be strong and daring. Know who you are and be proud of it, don’t do anything your future self would not be proud of.  I have left and lost positions when I was asked to do things that were against my values and beliefs.  At the end of the day you have to look yourself  in the mirror, do it with a clean and clear conscience,” says Emilio. “You can be nice and kind and succeed in the business world.”

Women of the Week: Rhiannon Traill

When Rhiannon Traill was finishing a degree in arts and contemporary studies at Ryerson University, she was taking part in an event, speaking on a panel. Unbeknownst to her, in the audience was a founding board member of The Economic Club of Canada.

When the board member approached her after the event, he mentioned that the club was looking for someone to fill an entry-level position.

“I had heard a little bit about [the club], but not much, to be honest,” says Traill.

She took his business card, but she wasn’t looking for employment at the time and had plans to do a graduate degree.

“I came home that night and I sort of spoke to my husband and he said, ‘Why don’t you just go and meet them? What’s the harm in checking it out? You don’t necessarily need to take a job with them, just see what they’re offering.’”

The Economic Club of Canada is a non-partisan organization hosting events all across Canada, introducing its members and guests to the greatest leaders of our times. The club has hosted senator John McCain, former president Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the president of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko and Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was governor of California.

“It was kind of like magic,” she says. “When I walked into the tiny little office and I met Mark Adler, I just kind of fell in love with his vision for what he wanted to do with The Economic Club.”

Traill started out as the club’s director of operations in 2008. Within three years she became the club’s vice-president and in 2011 she was promoted to president and CEO when Adler was elected as a Member of Parliament for York Centre.

“I grew up the ranks pretty quickly and helped Mark to grow the club into a national organization. So it’s pretty interesting and fluky,” she says.

In 2011, Traill came up with the idea of the Jr. Economic Club. It’s an offshoot organization from the club and mandated to educate Canadian youth on personal money matters and financial literacy.

“It has exploded,” she says. “It’s done really well. I’m really thrilled with the program and just the outpouring of support we’ve gotten from the corporate community.”

Traill has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. She’s a natural self-starter. At 10 years old she started a dog training business with a friend. The business ran for about four summers and all of the money was donated to the humane society.

“It was funny, when I came into The Economic Club, the first event that I ever worked on was when we hosted Bill Clinton, so that’s a way to get you excited about the job,” she said. “I went in and I got to meet Mr. Clinton, and my eyes kind of lit up and I sort of thought all of these possibilities that we could do.”

At 28 years old, Traill’s story is an inspiration for youth with big dreams. Since she’s been with the club, she has assisted in rebranding it from the Economic Club of Toronto to the Economic Club of Canada, opening chapters in Ottawa and Calgary, with another in the works in Vancouver. She also started the Voice of Hope Award.

“You can do anything that you believe in. Part of it is about right time, right place, but not ever thinking for one second that you don’t belong,” she says. “Just really believing in yourself and your abilities, what you can bring to the table.”

Women of the Week: Amanda Petrovic

Some people don’t figure out what they want to be until their late 40s. They drift, unfocused, through mindless odd jobs, searching for something that suits them.

Amanda Petrovic is not one of those people. She has known for a very long time where her calling lay.

“At a young age I already knew I wanted to be involved in real estate. I was always passionate about becoming an entrepreneur. The real estate industry determines where people live, raise families, work, dine, shop and play. It has such a tremendous influence on the quality of people’s lives. It shapes the fabric of the city – and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Before entering the job market, Amanda first pursued a BA and an MEd. She now uses the knowledge and skills gained from that education to stay on top of the ever-changing market, which helps her do her job and ensure her clients’ needs are met.

As she explains, “My approach to client service is also steeped in education. Ensuring that my clients are well-informed allows me to pragmatically guide them through every phase of buying and selling. It is extremely important to me that my clients feel knowledgeable and fully confident in their decisions so that we can best meet their real estate goals together.”

Since 2011, Amanda has worked as a sales representative for Private Service Realty Brokerage, helping her clients through the process of buying and selling real estate. Offering what she calls a “full-service real estate experience,” a service which includes assistance in property and portfolio management and investment planning, she combines her in-depth knowledge of the Toronto market with her clients’ needs and goals to find them the perfect Toronto property.

And now is a great time for her clients seeking property in Toronto. Amanda believes that the last year has been exciting for this market, and she is quick to promote many new projects opening in the city. For example, new projects opening in Yorkville offer clients the chance to enjoy luxury living, while Yonge and Eglinton will offer opportunities for people seeking lifestyle communities in more of a neighbourhood setting.

Even though the incoming market is hot and she will likely be very busy finding people their dream homes, Amanda is also striving to make the world a better place. This year she will be working with the Canadian Centre for Diversity, a non-profit group dedicated to educating Canadians about the value of difference and eliminate prejudice and discrimination.

By the looks of it, 2013 will be a big year for Amanda Petrovic. Keep your eye out for her, as she is set to make a positive impact on the Toronto community.

 

Meddling parents make for most frightening Craigslist personal ad ever

And you thought your parents were bad.

We got a hold of this example of a weird set of meddling parents who last year took to the internet to find a “suitable girlfriend” for their grown son. Sure, just like how your mom keeps trying to set you up with that nice young man who works in your father’s office. Except these guys are set that their son doesn’t even like his girlfriend and only dates her because she has an apartment downtown he can sleep over at to avoid morning traffic. I think mom and dad here have a pretty skewed idea of what takes place when a man and a woman have a sleepover.

The kind of lady who would scheme with a guy’s parents to swap out an old girlfriend probably isn’t the classiest of classy ladies, FYI.

As for the current girlfriend, this girl has “loose morals” and must be stopped before any “accidents” happen.

Yikes. Here’s hoping that their “looker” of a son chose the right people to break up with.

Click the image for full size.

Follow Travis on Twitter: @travmyers

 

Women of the Week: Elena Christopoulos

If the definition of superhero is ‘one who saves the world,’ Elena Christopoulos could be called a superhero. She has devoted her working life to renewable energy, striving to help reduce humanity’s carbon footprint.

This interest in environment started early: Elena spent time in Greece as a child, and their way of life formed her identity.

“My relatives always had a huge appreciation of the environment. That upbringing has left an everlasting mark on me.”

Ahead of her time, Elena started in the industry before the modern environmental movement really caught hold.

“Many have recently entered the ‘green’ space and unlike many of my competitors, I have worked in this industry since the ‘90s, which is not only rare, but has given me credibility in the industry.”

As the movement gained momentum, Elena pushed to integrate more environmental projects into the everyday world. In 2000, Elena worked as part of a team to bring the first urban wind turbine in North America to Toronto.

“I wanted to make my hometown city of Toronto the greenest city in the world. This was a very successful project because it integrated diverse political and environmental spheres.”

Elena is president of the Board of Directors for the Green Chamber of Commerce, a technical and consular advisor for E3NYC and a speaker/member of Women of Wind Energy (WoWE). But her skills in the field are not just recognized by those working for environmental causes. While flying into Toronto once, Elena met with pilots who were routinely flying the route and were familiar with her turbine. She says, “They told me that they brought their kids to look at the turbine and that all pilots flying into Pearson see the turbine, a beacon of renewable energy, a beacon of hope for the future of this world. It was at that moment that I realized the impact I had made and the footprint I already left behind.”

Elena, as a woman and an environmentalist, has to wage a steady battle against the lingering mindsets of previous generations. But as she sees it, ““Making a difference in this world, whether it is an environmental or political change, is not only a job for me, it is my passion.”

Now all she needs is a superhero name.

Dogs: Man’s best wingman

Dogs have long been considered man’s best friend.  However, there’s more to being a best friend than cuddling with you throughout the finale of The Real Housewives Of Vancouver and sniffing your crotch, even if those are two very important best friend qualities.

Can man’s best friend also be man’s best wingman?

We filled our pockets with treats, poop bags, and a couple of balls to hit the city with an adorable dog named Baxter as we put this to the test.  Our extremely scientific experiment has revealed these to be among the best places in Toronto to take your dog if you’re looking to have someone tell you to lie down and roll over.

Riverdale Park West:  Just south-west of Riverdale Farm is the Carlton Street lower playing fields. This baseball diamond beside the DVP serves as a gathering place for the haut monde of Cabbagetown and their pedigree pooches.  The crowd there is mature, a mixture of gay and straight, and all are friendly.  A couple of the conversations we had there were a little on the pretentious side, but if you plan on meeting the man of your dreams and moving from your 450 sq ft apartment into his million dollar Cabbagetown brownstone, you’re going to have to learn the language of the affluent, dah-ling.

Allen Gardens dog park:  This is a great place to have your furry wingman work his magic.  Serving as a social hub for the surrounding dog owner community, the guys there are very laid back and quite chatty.  You may not be able to find your next millionaire ex-husband like you might at Riverdale Park West, but we’re confident you’ll get a fun ‘pitcher-of-beer-and-pound-of wings’ type of date.  The biggest downside to this dog park is that it looks like a giant cat litter box.

Trinity Bellwoods Park:  Since this has the reputation of being a gathering place for Queen West hipsters, we dressed Baxter up in a plaid coat and took him for a walk to see if he’d attract us some sensitive and creative hotties.  Success.  Unlike some of the other locations we conducted this experiment, we weren’t just approached by other dog owners.  Several attractive boys stopped us to pet Baxter and comment on how cute he is, striking up some fun and flirty chats.  If you’re looking for a guy who probably knows where the best loft parties are every weekend, this is the place to be.  And we totally recommend dressing up your wingman in hipster-style plaid… Ironically, of course.

Cherry Beach dog park:  While an amazing place to have your pooch run free, Baxter had more luck there than we did.  We had a few conversations with the multitude of dog walkers that use this place but didn’t manage to get our flirt on.  It’s likely that you’ll have a bit more luck in the summer months when this place is packed, but for now you and your furry friend will be heading home alone to a tub of Häagen-Dazs, a single spoon, and an Adele CD.

Church Street:  We walked the gaybourhood strip at various times of the day and found that this is your best bet for utilizing your furry wingman to his full potential.  On our walks through the Village, we were stopped many times by hot guys of all types and more often than not we got the impression it was so the guys could talk to us, not just the adorable Baxter.  Oh, and strictly in the name of science, we walked Baxter there just after the bars closed on a Saturday night…

Good boy, Baxter. Good boy.

Essentia

For Jack Dell‘Accio, the founder and CEO of Essentia, sleeping on an organic mattress is essential to living a healthy life.

He previously owned a company which customized cabinetry for high-rise buildings, and although an entrepreneur at heart, he never imagined that he would have founded the company that makes the world’s only all-natural memory foam mattresses.

After his father was diagnosed with cancer, Jack discovered that everything around us has the potential to affect our health. Being exposed to various health practitioners, he became intrigued by the relationship of the environment to our bodies and was inspired to do his part in helping people become healthier.

The idea to create a memory foam mattress came from Jack’s father who worked in the latex and foam business. He had discovered that there were several problems with using latex in memory foam, most importantly, performance. Latex, which is made from rubber tree sap, doesn’t allow for adequate blood circulation for spinal alignment and support. Jack decided to take conventional latex and reconfigure the technology to turn it into natural memory foam. It is the only mattress of its kind. The mattresses are designed to give support to every arch and curve in the body and provide many physical benefits for any age range.

Jack launched Essentia in 2006 and the business has grown exponentially ever since with stores in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, New York and Santa Monica, Denver, Berkeley, Chicago and Seattle. There are currently plans to open locations in Ottawa and San Francisco.

Jack believes that Essentia has a bright future and mattresses are just the beginning and they also now offer support pillows, organic sheets, natural dog beds and crib mattresses for babies.

“I think there is huge potential in just the technology more so than in any other field. Non-toxic foam should be the only existing foam out there,” he says.

Essentia has been featured in O magazine, on the Rachel Ray Show, Anderson Live and the Dr. Oz Show where they were the number-one hot list product for one year and subsequently caused a website crash after a massive influx of online visitors.

Essentia is more than just a green company, they believe in the green and health-minded philosophy through and through. “It’s how we exist.”

5 types of ponytails and what they say about your miserable life

Much like lines on your palm or your astrological sign, analyzing your ponytail is a highly accurate method of mystically predicting personality traits and life trajectories.  Instead of the boring old soccer-practice ponytails (you already know what happens in that ponytail life because you live it), we’re going to take a look at several unique deviations from ponytail norms and all the life-crazy that accompanies these awesome hair-don’ts.

 

1. The High Ponytail

“No hangover will stop me from breaking the glass ceiling.”

High ponytail wearers are the queens of their own tiny universes — essentially real life Miss Trunchbulls, but hot.  High ponytails have gotten plenty of hungover-but-still-high-functioning business women through meetings and forced Lean In sessions with Sheryl Sandberg. Pulled back tight’n’high on the head, a high ponytail will keep your eyes open and face looking perky, if pained.  The tightness of ponytail corresponds with the level of anal retentiveness of the wearer.  A very tight high pony is often employed as a makeshift facelift in the months and years between anti-wrinkle creams and surgical “vacations” for its wearers.

 

2. The Side Ponytail

“I have accepted Ke$ha as my personal savior”

Side ponytail girls refuse to grow up.  The free spirits of the ponytail world, girls with side ponytails just don’t give a shit – they can’t because they know on several levels that they look like ridiculous children.  Once a throwback to the 80’s, now a throwback to that 80’s revival circa 2003, side ponytails are now just a symbol of (lost) youth and innocence. Girls in side ponytails will call their guy daddy when they do it and then play vintage video games with him.  Watch out for their scrunchies and day of the week undies.

 

3. The Low Ponytail

“Is this for my new lab ID card?”

As a universally unflattering hairstyle, low-ponytail wearers are usually somewhere on the spectrum of differently minded, though this could result in genius, insanity, or both.  Low ponytails, lab coats, goggles, and Smart Set clothing are often clustered together.  Fortunately, most wearers of low-ponytails are too wrapped up in cell division, fluid mechanics, Guild Wars, or ping pong to be aware of how god-awful they look.  Unfortunately this also means low-ponytails can go unwashed and unbrushed for weeks.

 

4. The Top Braid

“Do kids these days still play dominoes?”

Top braid ladies (and they are definitely ladies, not girls) wear windbreaker suits and paint in their spare time.  But really, all their time is spare time because they are a bit too wacky to do much else for very long.  Often found heading up their local mall walkers association, top braid wearers are constantly attempting to defy their status as geriatric while maintaining youthful vigor through their diminishing supply of hair.  The top braid just makes it all functional.  Listen while they hum and whistle little ditties to their extensive collection of cacti.

 

5. Adult Pigtails

“Lets play alternate-ending Hansel and Gretel!”

People with adult pigtails are serial killers. See that panel van?  Yeah, RUN.

 

Women to watch 2013: Doriana Zohil

Doriana Zohil, president of MAC Furnished Residences, followed a lifelong passion for real estate to a venture that provides luxury condo units for short-term rentals.

It was a risk that paid off, to her delight. Her business plan was, “Planting a seed of one condominium at a time and watching it grow and flourish to 75 and growing.” Once it took off, she was able to recreate the business in the Caribbean, opening luxury villas in St. Maarten, Anguilla and St. Barts.

Zohil’s career has allowed her to combine her great loves: real estate, Toronto and the Caribbean. Of Toronto she says, “I am very proud of my adopted country Canada, in particular Toronto, I love showing it off when assisting Guests that are settling in to their new environment.” She then took the model that worked so well here and relocated it to the Caribbean. “It was a perfect fit,” she says.

Part of her success can be traced the company’s philosophy, which is “based on personalizing each Client’s requests.” MAC staff members will help with any of the clients’ travel needs every step of the way.

“From the time we ‘meet and greet’ every arriving Guest, to making them feel like they’re right at home, it’s not just business for us, it’s personal!”

And her guests appreciate her efforts. “I love it when our Guests say they don’t want to go back home, they want to stay with us at MAC,” she says.

MAC is named after her daughters, Maggie and Cristina, and they seem poised to follow in their mother’s footsteps. This is a good thing, as Doriana is set to grow the business even further.

Perhaps shockingly, given the rate at which her business is expanding, Doriana believes, “Don’t rush things, good things will come to you when you’re ready for it and able to handle it.“