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ROB Magazine presents the fifth annual Best Executive Awards, celebrating executives in operations, finance, HR, tech, sustainability and more

Every once in a while, a non-CEO exec bursts into the public consciousness—think Warren Buffett’s late right hand, Charlie Munger (or Capt. Jean-Luc Picard’s trusty No. 2, William T. Riker). More often than not, however, they remain just outside the spotlight, doing much of the hard work it takes to actually move a company forward. And so we present our fourth annual Best Executive Awards, hailing unsung heroes in operations, finance, HR, tech, sustainability and more.

Mark Podlasly

Chief sustainability officer, First Nations Major Projects Coalition

When Podlasly got into Harvard for his master’s in public administration, the Grand Chief of his reserve (he’s a member of the Nlaka’pamux Nation in B.C.), remarked that Podlasly’s success rested on contributions by many previous generations. And so he must give back to the generations that follow. “I’ve never forgotten his words,” he says now. “With every decision I make, I am defining the future for those who come after me.” As CSO of the national non-profit First Nations Major Projects Coalition—a 152-nation collective that seeks equity in projects like pipelines and gas utilities—Podlasly counsels Indigenous governments coast to coast on how to establish trusts and invest revenues from resource development. “What gives me the most pride,” he says, “is seeing how Indigenous nations are starting to re-emerge as true economic and thought partners within Canada.”

Roberto Cipriani

CTO and COO, Paper

In a perfect world, every child would have equitable access to education. Cipriani is doing his level best to pull that dream into reality. In 2014, he co-founded Paper, which partners with 500 school districts across Canada and 41 U.S. states to provide free tutoring to K–12 students. He leveraged his engineering background to lead two major tech acquisitions, spearheaded an AI-enabled essay review service, and raised more than $390 million in funding, which brought Paper to a $1.5-billion valuation.

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Theresa JangCOOPER & O’HARA/The Globe and Mail

Theresa Jang

CFO, Stantec

When Theresa Jang stepped into the CFO seat in 2018, it was a challenging time for Stantec. The Edmonton-based engineering firm was still digesting its largest-ever acquisition, of MWH Global in 2016, and the construction services business line it got in the deal was underperforming. Stantec was feeling the chill from investors; Jang’s first task was to thaw relations.

Divesting the problem business unit and delivering four straight quarters of solid performance certainly helped. But beyond that, the strategy was to set expectations for investors and deliver—and make sure they understood the company’s business went beyond designing roads and bridges.

Take, for example, Stantec’s environmental consulting business, which involves hiring archaeologists and paleontologists, conducting bat studies and assessing areas of cultural significance to Indigenous communities. Jang worked with experts from across Stantec to ground herself in these more opaque business lines so she could explain them to investors. “If they could gain that insight, they could connect with how relevant all the things we’re doing in society are today,” she says.

As for delivering on expectations, Stantec has outperformed on “virtually every measure” of its three-year strategic plan (which became a four-year plan due to the pandemic), released at the end of 2019. Under Jang’s tenure, the firm has made 16 acquisitions, steadily growing its global footprint, and achieved a total shareholder return of 304% over the past four years. In 2023 alone, its share price increased 64%, and its total shareholder return was 65%.

“Her input into our strategic and business planning has not just been helpful—it’s been absolutely invaluable,” says CEO Gord Johnston, who also praises Jang’s “remarkable knack for forging relationships.”

Furthermore, Johnston credits Jang’s work as chair of the executive environmental, social and governance (ESG) committee with helping to cement Stantec’s reputation as a sustainability leader. In 2019, the company became the first in its sector to quantify a percentage of revenues from projects that support sustainability goals—at 43%, or $2.1 billion—in response to a common request from investors. The move prompted the firm’s peers to follow suit and pushed Stantec to keep upping its game. In 2022, the metric had increased to 60%, or $3.4 billion in revenue.

Furthermore, Jang spearheaded an agreement to turn Stantec’s $1.1-billion senior credit facility into a sustainability-linked loan, where the rate of interest charged is tied to the company’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and its score on the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index. If it meets the targets, savings from the reduction in interest costs go back to local communities. Thanks to a mix of higher interest rates and meeting its targets, she says the company has a “pretty healthy” amount to donate this year.

It’s achievements like these that Jang hopes will be her lasting mark on Stantec when she retires, which she’s set to do later this year, once the company finds her successor. “I hope employees will remember what comes from setting ambitious targets to up our performance, delivering on them, and the benefits and value that gets created from doing that,” she says.Kelsey Rolfe

Lori Bieda

Chief data and analytics officer, North American personal and business bank, and head of enterprise CRM, BMO

For 30 years, Bieda has used strategic data insights to guide Fortune 500 companies around the globe. But in a twist for a metrics-oriented executive, she makes a point to look well beyond the numbers. “If an analytical empath were a thing, that would capture how I think and lead,” she says. “I set out to help people get where they want to go—and to have a blast doing it.” In 2023, her AI expertise earned her BMO team the Digital Banker’s Global Retail Banking Innovation Award for outstanding machine learning initiative. Meanwhile, she oversees BMO’s “analytics university,” which the bank uses to rapidly scale up and teach staff across all disciplines of data and analytics. And she created ElleExcel Women’s Circle, which empowers women in STEM through webcasts, blogs and a match-up program.

Lauren Steinberg

SVP media, loyalty and Loblaw digital, Loblaw

There’s trial by fire, and then there’s getting promoted to SVP digital of Loblaw at the start of a pandemic—when more than two million people suddenly began buying their groceries online. “We started generating billions of dollars in business through this pretty archaic technology infrastructure,” she says. Steinberg’s response was to migrate the firm from a third-party, out-of-the-box e-commerce platform to a custom, in-house one called Helios, which helped scale its grocery, apparel and beauty arms—all in less than a year. It’s a system that has other retailers reaching out to ask her how it was done so efficiently. “I think that’s really great for our team, to know that we are leaders in this space,” she says. “We have a culture of humility, and that’s good and bad. You want teams to be able to brag.” Steinberg also overhauled Loblaw’s recruiting, introduced online coaching, and started a series of internal innovation conferences, which improved employee engagement and dropped voluntary attrition to less than 10%. Somehow, she found time to help develop Garfielld, the company’s proprietary generative AI. And as a queer woman in tech, she spearheaded inclusivity training for all Loblaw digital staff and established a multiyear partnership with the Black Professionals in Tech Network.

Ehsan Mokhtari

CTO, ChargeLab

When Mokhtari joined ChargeLab, which creates EV charging software, it was seeing promising traction with a handful of early customers. There was just one problem: The tech wasn’t scalable. That precluded outside investment and, in turn, any major growth. Mokhtari changed all that. Drawing on his strong background in cybersecurity, including having co-invented two U.S. patents and published in multiple peer-reviewed journals, he completely re-engineered the platform to make it scalable—and did so without outsourcing engineering talent outside Canada. “I am driven by the desire to solve problems that improve people’s lives, whether by simplifying tasks or alleviating pain points,” he says. “Building solutions that bring order to complexity and create value for humanity is deeply satisfying.”

Stuart Auld

CFO, Wajax

It’s one thing to effectively tackle a complex problem—say, unifying three separate companies, as Auld helped industrial product and service provider Wajax do in 2016. (Under his financial stewardship, Wajax has seen annual revenue growth of 8%, to over $2 billion, and earnings growth exceeding 21% a year.) It’s another to make a habit of finding the signal through the noise. During a recent executive transition that ushered in new CEO Iggy Domagalski, Auld assumed responsibility for supply chain, real estate and enterprise real estate management. “He provided crucial guidance and expertise, contributing significantly to our success in the first two years of my tenure,” says Domagalski. Amid myriad responsibilities that might have bogged down a less clear-eyed executive, he kept his focus—and maintained communication so clear that it streamlined decision-making and kept his team in line with Wajax’s wider objectives.

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David SimmondsDUANE COLE/The Globe and Mail

David Simmonds

SVP and global chief communications and sustainability officer, Great-West Lifeco and Canada Life

David Simmonds learned a valuable lesson early in his career, while working in policy and communications: You can be the world’s best storyteller, but if the idea you’re trying to sell isn’t sound, people won’t buy in.

As head of sustainability at 175-year-old Great-West, Simmonds used that notion as a guiding principle when developing, designing and executing its ESG strategy and framework. Since resilience has always been critical to Great-West, given its generational commitment to customers, setting rigorous ESG targets is just good business, he says: “A resilient company is a diverse company. It’s a sustainable company.”

Simmonds helped Great-West shake some of the risk aversion inherent to a financial services company with roots in life insurance, says president and CEO Paul Mahon, who characterizes Simmonds as having a mix of passion and pragmatism. “He’s given us the confidence to be more proactive than we ever have been before,” he says.

For example, under Simmonds’s leadership, the company issued its first sustainability report with a plan to achieve net zero on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as well as interim 2030 targets to lower operational emissions by 40% and reduce its investment carbon footprint by 37% (compared to 2019 levels). He also helped set ambitious workforce diversity targets, including a goal of 50% women and 25% underrepresented groups in leadership positions.

Simmonds has been pushing the envelope outside of Great-West, too. During his 2022 term as president of the Canadian Club, he was instrumental in recruiting one of the most diverse boards in the organization’s history, but only after pushing its leadership to host a broader range of programming—from events on Black joy and economic reconciliation to the meaning of drag and the LGBTQ+ community—which signalled it was a welcoming space for executives from underrepresented groups. And last year, he chaired a committee to help Sunnybrook Hospital with its rebranding efforts, resulting in the Wes Anderson–inspired “This Place is Special” campaign that highlighted its diverse employee population and patients.

This past December, Great-West released a progress report on its sustainability goals, showing strong results. The numbers on diversity were especially positive—with 41% women leaders and 20% from underrepresented groups—thanks in part to an employment equity action plan meant to improve the attraction, retention, growth and promotion of diverse talent within the organization.

But for Simmonds, even the mere act of sharing the update felt like progress. “We’re holding our goals out there, and that’s super important,” he says. “It makes me feel like we’re changing the business in a helpful way.”KR

Micheline Davies

SVP automotive and chief merchant, Canadian Tire

Last year, Davies was promoted to chief mer-chant—the first woman to hold the position in Canadian Tire’s 101-year history. Before that, she shepherded the firm’s auto repair business squarely into 2023, introducing the auto care program, which provided stores with tablets that allow real-time communication with customers, along with a 24-hour online booking system and digital vehicle inspections. “We’ve found 20% to 25% of bookings happen after hours, so it helps us recover some sales that we might not have received otherwise, which is great,” she says. The result was the firm’s best-ever year of auto service. She’s also steering Canadian Tire into the EV era. And when she’s not driving record results, Davies advocates for women and diversity through the Canadian Tire Women’s Leadership Network, which she founded in 2014.

Mark Miller

COO, Constellation Software

Constellation is an acquisition machine specializing in buying software vendors that serve specific verticals. Miller, a stats-and-math grad from McMaster University, has been there for 20-plus years, helping it become one of Canada’s most valuable public companies. He’s also executive chair of one of Constellation’s seven operating groups, Volaris. Media-shy president Mark Leonard puts a lot of trust in his leaders, who run their own acquisition campaigns. To be honest, we could have picked any one of them for this award, such is the depth and calibre of talent at Constellation, which has delivered 12 straight quarters of organic revenue growth.

Andrew Booth

CFO, AbCellera

Under Booth, the Vancouver-based biotech firm has grown fast, expanding to 600 people from 70 since he joined. The secret is careful preparation combined with a willingness to seize the moment. Booth and his colleagues created a detailed long-term plan for the company, but when the pandemic made urgent action necessary, “we didn’t hesitate in making the decision to move,” he says. They executed their entire plan, including an IPO, in little over a year. It left them with around $1 billion in available liquidity, which Booth intends to use to build a long-lasting Canadian biotech firm: “Our successes,” he says, “are going to be measured in decades.”

Tara Deakin

Chief people officer, Spin Master

When Deakin considers a new initiative, she asks herself the following: Does it work in practical terms, what could be better, and can it scale and be repeated? With her pragmatic approach and broad portfolio—she’s worked in companies big and small, domestic and global, public and private, founder-led and professionally managed—Deakin made big strides to reignite Spin Master’s employee experience. The percentage of staff who are proud to work at the multicategory children’s entertainment company hit 88% in 2023—an all-time high. To get there, Deakin created a unified rewards strategy for its 2,000 global employees, enhanced their benefits, and instituted universal four-week vacation, among other improvements. Meanwhile, she helped shepherd the firm through key executive changes and propelled its progress toward sustainable toys, including a 100% recycled Rubik’s Cube. Now, she’s helping integrate the $950-million acquisition of wooden toy brand Melissa & Doug. “My curiosity keeps me motivated,” she says. “I believe we can always rethink how an organization works. How can we do better tomorrow than we did today?”

Jordan Cole

Chief commercial officer, Hydrostor

In January 2023, Hydrostor—a Toronto-based developer and operator of long-term energy storage systems—signed a nearly $1-billion contract with a California utility to provide clean electricity for 500,000-plus customers over 25 years. It was one of the largest energy-storage contracts in history, and it happened under the stewardship of Cole, who joined the company in 2017. Since then, he’s helped guide the firm from focusing solely on developing tech to independently developing projects. “This was a significant undertaking, but it led to our successful large-scale pursuits in Canada, California, Australia and other markets globally,” he says.

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Eric MylesSylvie Li/The Globe and Mail

Eric Myles

Chief sport officer, Canadian Olympic Committee

You might think the man behind some of Canada’s best Olympic showings ever—including an unprecedented 29 medals at the PyeongChang 2018 winter games and 24 medals at the 2020 Tokyo summer games—would be an unrelenting taskmaster with a philosophy of winning at any cost. But that’s not how Eric Myles, chief sport officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee and head of Canada’s Olympic teams, rolls. Sports executives who care only about winning suffer from “tunnel vision,” he says. “If we just burn people out, how sustainable is that?”

That’s why Myles—who is responsible for the development and execution of the COC’s long-term and annual strategic plan—focuses just as much on the wellbeing of athletes, including their mental health, as he does on planning for competitions at the Olympic, Pan American and Youth Olympic Games.

It’s the culmination of a commitment that goes back to his early days as an athlete and a member of the medal-winning Canadian canoe team at the 1987 Pan Am games. Even then, Myles recalls, teammates sought him out for help, which eventually led him into teaching and communications, as well as co-founding Québec en Forme, an organization that encourages healthy eating and active living. When he joined the COC in 2014, he was tasked with building up the organization’s athlete relationships team, and helping to launch Game Plan, a program that helps athletes plan for their long-term future—not only in terms of health, but also building a career after their days in competitive sport are over, the way Myles did.

Since moving into his current role in 2016, Myles has continued to advocate for a fair and inclusive sport system in Canada and around the world. For example, he played a role in developing the Canadian Sport Governance Code to increase accountability and representation in sports organizations. And he keeps working to make athlete health a fundamental part of the job: He recently persuaded Mike Wilkinson, a top sports doctor for Canada’s Olympic teams, to join the COC full-time as its first-ever chief medical officer for health and wellness, and he successfully advocated for the federal government to provide increased resources for Canadian athletes, more than doubling their access to mental health support.

It’s all part of his view that, in spite of Canada’s Olympic success during his tenure, the big challenge is to make sports a safer and happier place in the long run, while still delivering short-term results. “It’s our Canadian way of winning,” he says, noting that other countries don’t necessarily share that perspective. “I won’t get on the negative side, but we see it in the media, countries that do it differently. That’s fine. That’s their choice.”

So far, the Canadian way seems to be working when Myles is in charge, and he looks forward to proving it again at the Olympics in Paris this summer. “I think Canadians will be surprised and inspired by how talented Team Canada is at these Games. We have medal potential across so many sports and amazing athletes,” he says. “They will inspire a new generation.”Jaime Weinman

Jennifer Quinn

Chief strategy and development officer, Nieuport Aviation Infrastructure Partners

When Quinn joined Nieuport, which owns and operates the passenger terminal building at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, the pandemic had shuttered its commercial operations for 18 months. Her deft piloting of its return to service garnered the business a Most Spectacular Business Recovery award from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce—even though she went in with no aviation experience. Meanwhile, she led the establishment of a U.S. customs preclearance facility, increased Nieuport’s GRESB score (the industry benchmark for ESG performance) to 85% from 77%, and is championing the electrification of the airport’s shuttle service.

Somen Mondal

General manager, Dayforce Talent, Dayforce

Mondal joined Dayforce (formerly Ceridian) through an acquisition of Ideal, a company he co-founded and led. He leveraged his deep data, AI and talent management expertise to re-imagine the Dayforce Talent suite of products (onboarding, career development, compensation management and more). Under his leadership, Dayforce Talent achieved high-double-digit revenue growth and is now the fastest-growing Dayforce product area. He also led an initiative ensuring employees were given 2% of their time for career development opportunities.

Steve Berna

COO, First Nations Finance Authority

Since its first bond deal in 2014, the FNFA—a unique non-profit owned and controlled by its member First Nations—has issued more than $2 billion in long-term, low-interest loans to communities to fund infrastructure and pursue investments. Those projects range from community housing, schools and water systems to loans that supported the blockbuster acquisition of North America’s largest shellfish company, Clearwater Seafoods, by a consortium of Mi’kmaq communities in 2020. Berna was key to helping the organization get to this point, tackling red tape so its member communities would be recognized as a level of government, with the same fundraising powers as municipalities. To accomplish that, he rallied support from rating agencies and capital market investors for Ottawa to amend the legislation under which the FNFA was created so communities could secure loans using own-source revenues like taxation, royalties and proceeds from business ventures. “Steve is a dedicated leader who effectively manages his team’s training in understanding the capital markets to improve access to affordable capital,” says FNFA CEO Ernie Daniels. “He also cultivates and maintains relationships with rating agencies, investors and the banking syndicate to ensure that FNFA’s members have consistent access to the financing that meets their community planning needs.”

Nancy Morison

VP, supply chain and Delta ophthalmic laboratory, FYihealth group

Since taking over the eye-care provider’s Delta, B.C., lab in 2017, Morison became known for improving employee en-gagement, which is partly why FYi transferred customer service to her office. Her authenticity is what drives that reputation: Morison tries to show interest in every employee, walking the floor to have personal conversations and give voice to those who don’t feel comfortable speaking up in formal meetings. It’s all part of her ethos of “a servant kind of leadership,” she says, and asking staff, “What do you need? How can I help? How can we improve?”

Sandy Sharman

Senior EVP and group head, people, culture and brand, CIBC

To paraphrase Drake, she started from the bottom, now she’s here. Sharman’s first job in banking was as a teller, at a branch in Brampton, Ont. Now the Dalhousie University MBA runs a significant portion of CIBC and is one of CEO Victor Dodig’s key advisers. When CIBC moved its head office into a new tower, Sharman used it as an opportunity to transform the workplace, combining teams from across the bank in open-concept spaces. Since being named head of HR in 2014, she has picked up numerous additional responsibilities, including marketing, client experience, sponsorships, community investment and communications. She’s also on the board of TransAlta, one of Alberta’s largest renewable-energy producers.

Ali Hoss

Chief sustainability officer, Triovest

When Hoss joined the real estate development and investment firm, he realized that sustainability needed to be integrated into every facet of the business. He led the process of making ESG metrics part of the bonus structure, which he says encourages employees to rank long-term goals involving “the environment, building occupants and the community at large” alongside traditional short-term goals. Hoss also created Triovest Sustainability Solutions, a platform to develop and execute ESG strategies, implementing everything from training and education to “sophisticated decarbonization planning and climate risk assessments.”

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Daphné MollotSylvie Li/The Globe and Mail

Daphné Mollot

VP of innovation, Groupe Marcelle Inc.

At the top rungs of Lise Watier, a pioneering Canadian cosmetics brand founded in 1972, and its parent company Groupe Marcelle, the reigning view is this: Without Daphné Mollot, there would be no Lise Watier. She’s been a pillar of the organization since 1974, when she started working with its eponymous founder. And while an industry veteran with more than 50 years’ tenure could easily rest on her laurels, that has never been Mollot’s style. “With all the economic turbulence we face, there’s an opportunity for brands to embrace change,” she says. “I like the idea of moving away from complex, traditional models to something leaner, more organic and more agile. As for me, I’m always learning—and I hope I’m still growing.”

Adaptability has been Mollot’s north star from the get-go. For one thing, she’s a firm believer in cross-disciplinary expertise. She’s held leadership positions in virtually every arm of the organization, from product formulation, innovation and marketing to operations and business development. But above all? “I’m a bit of an anthropologist,” she says. “For me, it all comes down to the consumer. She is the one who decides whether or not you’re successful. If you do a great job with marketing, you will attract her. But she will only come back if a product delivers on its promises.”

In other words, long-term success demands a wraparound strategy from development to marketing—neglect any step at your peril. But you can’t build a comprehensive business strategy without tending to your relationships. Fortunately, balancing strategic acumen with genuine human connection is where Mollot really shines.

Her knack for fostering lasting partnerships with suppliers, retailers, team members, all the way down to customers and in-store beauty advisers, is less about conventional networking and more about cultivating meaningful relationships that will stand the test of time. In industry circles, she’s a household name. In the office, she has an open-door policy. “When Daphné walks down the aisles of major cosmetics shows, everybody calls out to her,” says Groupe Marcelle president David Cape. “And she really wants to bring the younger generation along, and teach them how to create and market products that fit the Watier brand. She’s lived through generations of the industry, and her knowledge is virtually encyclopedic.”

Mollot’s latest pivot? She’s helping steer Watier through a rebrand, dropping the “Lise” in favour of a snappier name—and moving away from “anti-aging” messaging toward embracing beauty at every age, with the tagline “Your Best Age is Now.” “We were never afraid of valorizing women, but today, we’re doing it in a different way,” she says. “For me, the status quo is just not an option.” –Liza Agrba

Lisa Mazurkewich

Head of marketing, Subway Canada

In her first year and a half in this role, Mazurkewich changed not only Subway’s marketing, but also the things being marketed—including 15 new sandwiches on the menu. “While Subway has always been known for ‘build your own,’ we wanted to create new chef-crafted subs,” she says. She then vastly increased business with a campaign called YesWay, aimed at young people skeptical that a brand like Subway could change so much, so fast. “The campaign broke through because we acknowledged that skepticism and created a rallying cry,” she says. The proof? Sales increased 438% above target and foot traffic by 379%.

Doug Nathanson

EVP, chief development officer and general counsel, Empire Co. and Sobeys Inc.

Nathanson, who ran Em-pire’s legal team, now does everything from real estate to public relations. “I get to do some of the legal work still, like in our acquisitions of Farm Boy and Longo’s,” he says. He’s also been working on the rollout of the company’s online platform, Voilà, more closely than planned: “When the head of Voilà took maternity leave, I was lucky enough to get to step into her shoes and be in charge for a short period.” While all that went on, he was “exceptionally proud” to be part of the team creating an industry-wide code of conduct.

Kevin Jackson

President, Porter Airlines

Post-pandemic, Jackson thought it was time for Porter to be “much more aggressive than previously envisioned” with its plan to expand across the continent. To that end, the airline decided to focus less on benefits for business-class passengers and instead direct more perks to “the vast majority of people who don’t qualify for meaningful frequent-flyer benefits with other carriers,” he says. This shift has been especially helpful to Porter’s expansion efforts “in markets where there has been little choice and consumers feel they’ve been taken advantage of,” says Jackson—and it’s part of the reason why Porter’s revenue doubled in 2023 and is on track to do so again.

Chuck We

EVP, Pacific Northwest/Canada office operations, Hudson Pacific Properties

After Hudson Pacific acquired the Bentall Centre in Vancouver, We built a team combining the previous management’s employees with new ones. He’s proud he could help shape “one cohesive culture” out of this combination and build a diverse team “representative of the community we’re working in,” says We. He also added a placemaking and events team, whose efforts have helped the company in unexpected ways, like luring employees away from remote work. “People are looking at us to ‘earn their commute’ and come back to the office,” he says.

Laura Devoni

Director of strategy, corporate affairs and sustainability, Algoma Steel

A 20-year Algoma veteran who helped the steel giant build relationships with communities such as the Batchewana First Nation, Devoni loves her role for letting her focus equally on internal and external work. She advocated for transparent ESG reporting to “share our story to build pride culturally” with outsiders, but also worked within Algoma to develop a sustainability plan for green steel. In addition, Devoni continues to mentor women in the male-dominated industry. “One individual comes to mind who joined my team temporarily as a summer student,” she says. “Six years later, she is thriving as a young professional.”

Sharon Geraghty

General counsel and EVP, Great-West Lifeco

In 2018, one of Canada’s largest life insurers quietly launched a strategic pivot. Winnipeg-based Great-West, controlled by the Desmarais family, began beefing up its wealth management business with takeovers on both sides of the border. Over the next six years, Geraghty quarterbacked a series of multibillion-dollar deals, including exiting underperforming U.S. mutual fund manager Putnam Investments. Great-West’s evolution is thrilling investors—the stock price is up more than 30%—a compelling second chapter in Geraghty’s career history, which already saw her reshape corporate Canada as a top mergers-and-acquisitions partner at law firm Torys.

Luigi Pozzebon

VP, satellite systems, MDA

Pozzebon, originally an engineer, became chief architect and now heads up MDA’s satellite business, whose team has doubled in size in the past two years, to more than 1,200. He feels his technical background is his greatest strength: “I’m quite capable to participate in the technical review, as well as the business review,” he says. Pozzebon’s team created game-changing digital satellite technology that helped MDA land its biggest-ever contract: a $2.1-billion deal with Telesat, which will use the tech in its Lightspeed LEO (low-Earth orbit) constellation. Now he has to transform the satellite business to meet demand. “Our high-volume production is going to look like recreational vehicle production lines,” Pozzebon forecasts.

Jonathan Goler

EVP, chief risk officer, Propel

Since co-founding Propel in 2011, Goler—who’s studied and worked in AI for decades—has made the fintech a leading force in using predictive AI to assess lending risk. Traditional tools like credit scores lock out many consumers with checkered or non-existent credit histories. Goler’s AI-powered platform and risk model make it possible to accurately price risk for underbanked and underserved consumers, looking at 5,000-plus consumer data points, assessing the risk of a loan in under six seconds, and processing more than 40,000 applications a day. The result? Loan-loss provisions have gone down by more than 50%, even as Propel’s products are used to extend credit to more customers. Goler is also a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and dad to two young daughters, ensuring his employees feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work.

Mahima Poddar

SVP and group head, personal banking, Equitable Bank

Poddar has grown Equitable Bank by $9 billion since 2021, with special emphasis on expanding the company’s digital platform, EQ Bank. She more than tripled EQ Bank’s product development pace and moved swiftly to shift EQ to cloud-based technology. The changes, she says, allowed it to accept twice as many customers as the bank could have under the old system. Poddar has also been a leader in employee opportunity, spearheading a talent review of Equitable’s mortgage team to identify unconscious bias and help connect employees “to new roles and growth opportunities they would not have otherwise seen for themselves.” The result was more women promoted to leadership positions, as well as improved professional development for many other employees.

Laura Money

EVP, chief information and technology innovation officer, Sun Life Financial

Money has a lot on her plate, steering the digital transformation of a 160-year-old fi-nancial institution. That means her job touches on everything from integrating the $365-million acquisition of telehealth provider Dialogue Health Technologies (which has 2.8 million members across 50,000 organizations) to experimenting with generative AI. Money, who has a degree in industrial engineering and an MBA, joined Sun Life in 2020 after holding VP jobs at three of the big Canadian banks. She’s been recognized as one of North America’s top 10 women CIOs and one of Canada’s most powerful women. Her volunteer stints include board-chair roles with cancer and opera organizations, and she has completed marathons, triathlons and ski mountaineering races.

With files from Andrew Willis, Sean Silcoff and Jason Kirby

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