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Even Ms. Hudon's education trajectory had been a restless one, bouncing from University of Montreal to University of Ottawa to complete a degree in business administration: "I was not a good student at the university level. It was too slow for me and I got bored very easily."

The real education began right after school with Ms. Hudon following her political instincts -- centre-right with a nod to social protections, she says -- into the Quebec wing of the Progressive Conservative Party as a regional organizer for fundraising and membership. That led to a press secretary spot with Minister for External Relations Monique Landry.

"Politics is a great place to learn if you know how to deal with power and not be overwhelmed with power," Ms. Hudon says.

No chance. When it was her turn to wield power at the Board of Trade, Ms. Hudon simply invoked to herself all the advice she had given the politicos as their media manager: "I now have to act the way I trained them to act."

Paul Clark, 39

Senior vice-president of small business banking and merchant services, TD Canada Trust, Toronto

BY KATHY ENGLISH

Paul Clark began working as a part-time bank teller when he was 17 and still in high school.

"My mother was a banker so I grew up in a family that talked about banking at the dinner table," Mr. Clark said. "Banking was always a natural interest for me."

Mr. Clark was recently named senior vice-president of small business banking and merchant services for TD Canada Trust, where he has worked since 1989 in a number of positions across Canada.

"I thought that banking was a part-time job, but it turned into a career," said Mr. Clark, who also worked part-time for the bank while studying for his BA at the University of Western Ontario. "Building a successful career doesn't have a specific start date. It begins the first time you start a part-time job or volunteer for an organization. I really do believe that whatever you do, at whatever stage of your career, it's important to commit yourself fully and really learn."

As head of small business banking, responsible for building the "strategy, structure and products" to serve TD's clients, Mr. Clark now has ample opportunity to learn about the many small businesses that drive Canada's economy.

"Each individual business has its own needs, and I love learning about how they operate and their passion for what they do," he says.

A father of two, he strives for some semblance of balance between work and family life, carving out time to coach his son's soccer team and being available for family dinners and his children's bedtime.

Mr. Clark, who took on board responsibilities with Halifax's United Way and a local food bank in his previous posting in the Maritimes, is looking for ways to serve now that he's based in Toronto.

Dennis Kavelman, 35 Chief financial officer, Research in Motion Ltd., Waterloo, Ont.

BY SALEM ALATON

If it weren't for a patent-holding company called NTP Inc., Dennis Kavelman may have been compelled to keep going through life without anything going wrong.

A Waterloo hometown boy, he excelled in business administration studies at Wilfred Laurier University; took chartered accounting and won a gold medal as the nation's top performer in the Uniform Final Examination; and had hardly gotten his feet wet in the working world in 1995 when old friend Jim Balsillie, co-chief executive officer of high-tech startup Research in Motion, invited him to join the team.

The company then had about two dozen employees and a co-founder named Mike Lazaridis, the brainy tech side of the operation: "Jim and I would raise money and Mike would go out and spend it," Mr. Kavelman recounts.

One fine day after years of hard work, Mike completed a nifty little mobile e-mail device and "we knew we had invented something very special with BlackBerry."

How special?

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