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the ladder

Angela Brown.Joseph Marranca Photographer

Angela Brown is president and chief executive officer of Moneris Solutions, one of Canada's largest payment processors.

I was always a numbers-oriented person. My first position was with Procter & Gamble, a great company. I was very involved on the manufacturing side and loved seeing the systems and the ways that things were put together. When I moved over into financial services, I was naturally involved in all of the IT build because all financial services are based on technology and big systems.

I found my passion in financial services. It's so current and so involved in the economy and the way that people conduct their lives. I really love that about the business. As I got more familiar with the systems and technology side of it, it's just been endlessly challenging and at the forefront of what's going on in technology in general. It's really an interesting place to be.

I'm proud to have had leadership positions on both sides of the border. I worked 13 years with CIBC, then moved to the U.S. and worked 13 years, growing positions. There's something to be learned about putting yourself into a different market, even one that seems as familiar as the U.S. market feels to the Canadian market. You learn something about yourself and about people and how to lead, and how to adapt your leadership. I'm very proud of the fact that I could do that on both sides of the border.

Despite having the best laid plans in the world, unexpected opportunities will pop up at any moment and these could be the opportunities worth pursuing.

You need to be open to what comes up in life, even if you think it doesn't align with your set ideals or vision. Oftentimes, what you think you know will get thrown out the window once you open yourself up to other roles or paths that weren't initially on your radar. Your vision will adapt along the way.

My advice to young people is that you have to stay open to opportunity. I did not graduate from my MBA saying, "This is what I want to do," but you take opportunities as they present themselves and start to discover where you fit and where your talents really seem to shine. I think you pay attention to that as a young person and take advantage of different opportunities and be thoughtful about, if it didn't work out, why didn't it work out? Understand what that means about what you should pursue in the future.

There are seasons for work and family, and you need to work realistically with those instead of trying to deny that they're there. And just take care of what's most important at that time. I think that you are a better leader at work if you also have a very healthy personal life and a balance that you create for yourself. It's a matter of continually adjusting and saying, "Am I taking care of myself? How about my fitness? Am I taking care of my family? Am I taking care of business?" and constantly re-evaluating.

I've been very fortunate to have had some wonderful mentors through my whole career. Today, I still have mentors that I reach out to when I'm dealing with something and I need some different perspectives. I mentor a few people today, formally and informally. It's a great opportunity to share a few pearls of what these younger people could be thinking about as they pursue their own careers.

This is a technology-driven business, so I am reverse-mentored by young people on an almost-daily basis. A millennial or someone younger shows me something new that they've seen in the marketplace, a technology application or something interesting. They don't always lead somewhere, but they're on the forefront of watching those things.

When hiring for my team, I look for people who are intelligent and have a passion for this business and the technology. They are not intimidated by it – they embrace it. They need to have some energy and I look for integrity.

I think I'm naturally an introvert that's had to, over the years, develop the ability to work a crowd, to be a part of a team. When you're the leader, we just had our sales conference and you need to mingle with these people and engage them and let them engage you. You just have to develop those skills. These days, I am more of an ambivert.

The best advice I've received was way back, when someone said to me, "Angela, always take the high road." It's great advice when you are competing and trying to figure out how you want to handle different situations. You'll never regret taking the high road.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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