Joanne Powell driven by her love of sport

Part 6 of a six-part series profiling the Women of WinSport, in recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8th and the impact women have made on WinSport.

internationalwomensday_joannepowell_402x4703Joanne Powell
Years with WinSport: 5 years
Joanne Powell would just as soon converge around the water cooler to discuss the Calgary Flames roster than talk about the latest Bachelor episode.

Joanne’s role as WinSport’s controller allows her to be at the forefront of sport, something she’s always enjoyed. She previously spent seven years as a controller for Jersey City Canada. Having that link to sport was important to her and what drew her to WinSport.

WinSport prides itself on having a large number of women in the organization and in key roles within the organization. It turned out to be a perfect fit given Joanne’s love of sports.

“What I loved about Jersey City was that I was doing accounting, but I was also in the sports world talking about sports, being surrounded by sports, talking to people about sports. Yes, it was retail but we talked about sports all the time,” says Joanne. “My job at WinSport is more directly linked to supporting sport, which was the big draw to coming here. Being a not-for-profit makes it that much more valuable.”

The accounting world typically has a mixture of male and female staff. In WinSport’s case, Joanne leads an entire accounting team of female Team Members.

“There is a higher percentage of men in the accounting world, but there are obviously plenty of women in the industry, too,” says Joanne. “Given the controller roles I have been in, usually the Chief Financial Officer or the part-owner of the company tend to be male, so those would have to be my mentors over the years.”

As a female in such a critical role in the organization, Joanne hasn’t faced any hurdles other women in similar roles have faced in the past.

“I’m still young in my career, so there are challenges with that when it comes to accounting,” says Joanne. “But as a female, I haven’t had any setbacks or anything like that. As a whole, WinSport is very aware of growth and development. Not all companies are like that. I am just honoured to be given the opportunity to be in the role I am in.”

Bryna Trollope has had plenty of support to help prove she belongs

Part 5 of a six-part series profiling the Women of WinSport, in recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8th and the impact women have made on WinSport.

internationalwomensday_bryna-trollope_402x470Bryna Trollope
Heavy-duty mechanic apprentice
Years with WinSport: 7 years

Bryna Trollope is used to fitting in as one of the boys.

She started with WinSport back in 2011 working on the organization’s challenge course, and after a brief sojourn to manage a coffee shop for about a year, she returned in 2013.

Each winter since then, you could find her in the cozy comforts of a snowcat, grooming the hill at Canada Olympic Park, mostly under the cover of darkness on the overnight shift. Being a snowcat operator isn’t unusual or unique, but certainly, a majority of drivers in the industry are men.

“As a woman I have definitely struggled with feeling inferior to men in the past, especially in certain environments,” says Bryna. “In my case, I’ve always had male friends. I’m really lucky to know incredible guys who help me see that I was the only one who felt that way. I truly wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for both the men and women in my life, equally.

“Under the right circumstances, I believe we stand to learn a lot from one another if we can remember we’re all human.”

Just last week, Bryna ducked out of the cab and into the shop in her new role as a heavy-duty mechanic apprentice. She learned a lot from her ‘family’ on the hill operations team and she learned a lot about herself, not just as a female in a male-centric role, but as a person in general.

“I lived a lot in my head and held myself to impossible standards where nothing I did was good enough,” says Bryna, who was a snowboarder as she was growing up, including some time riding competitively. “Being in a machine alone can be a dangerous place for getting stuck in negative mental loops. I’d wear myself down from the inside which then fired up the anxiety and sometimes ended in panic attacks. Thankfully I work with compassionate and caring guys who did their best to support me. Ultimately, I realized my biggest challenge was coming from within and I was the only one who could make amends.”

While Bryna knows a lot about how to drive a snowcat, she says it will be a learning curve to understand how to fix what is under the hood. Then again, all she’ll need to do is channel her mom, Mary, who she considers a mentor.

“My mom is mentally, physically and emotionally strong, independent, adaptable, fun-loving, athletic and in some ways fearless,” says Bryna. “She gives endlessly and selflessly; she is open, honest and authentic; she works hard, plays hard and still somehow finds time and energy to help anyone who needs it. Honestly, other than my mom, the people I surround myself with every day are mentors, both men and women. People who help me grow into this proud woman I am becoming, doing things I never thought I would, or could do.”


Davies proves she has the right stuff for millwright role

Part 4 of a six-part series profiling the Women of WinSport, in recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8th and the impact women have made on WinSport.

Taylor Daviesinternationalwomensday_taylor-davies_402x470
Industrial Mechanic (millwright) apprentice
Years with WinSport: 1.5 years

Taylor Davies knew somehow her career would take her in a direction where coveralls were the uniform of choice. She also knew she would likely end up in a male-dominated field.

“I’ve always had male-dominated interests, like snowboarding, mechanics and anything else really,” says Taylor, who is a first-year industrial mechanic (millwright) apprentice at WinSport. “I always was considering a trade, but I wasn’t really sure which one. I kind of bounced between mechanics and instrumentation and heavy-duty mechanics. I was pretty indecisive, and the opportunity came up for a millwright position, so that’s what I went with.”

Taylor is among WinSport’s 140 full-time staff, of which 39% are women. Prior to joining the organization, she was with an irrigation company installing residential and commercial irrigation systems.

“I have always had an interest using tools or working with my hands or any kind of mechanical job. I’ve always been relatively good at it, as well,” says Taylor.

She says she has never had difficultly fitting in with a mostly male crew. She’s the only female among five chairlift mechanics and a handful of women with the operations team at WinSport.

“I don’t take offence to a lot of things. If I am treated differently, I will prove otherwise,” says Taylor. “All the men I work with now treat me just like any other person. The fact that I am female doesn’t change anything.”

Taylor says her mom Janine has always been an inspiration to her. She’s also a hard worker, isn’t intimidated by anything and will jump into just about anything. And that’s the same message Taylor would have for any women looking to follow in her footsteps.

“Don’t let the fact that you are a female hold you back. Don’t let anyone tell you there is something wrong with it, because it’s not true,” says Taylor. “I think the trades could use a lot more females in it. We have the organizational skills and the determination that’s suitable for the trades.

“Now that the first generation of women have put their foot in the door, men are more accepting of having women in the workplace. So really for the next generation of women to start in the trades is a perfect time, it’s a lot less intimidating and easier to get into.”


Konopaki practices what she preaches: Be authentic!

internationalwomensday_jenkonopaki_402x4703Part 3 of a six-part series profiling the Women of WinSport, in recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8th and the impact women have made on WinSport.

Jennifer Konopaki
Executive Director, Sport Leadership
Years with WinSport: 8 years

Jennifer Konopaki knows first-hand what it is like to be the odd man out … or in her case, the odd woman out.

During the early part of her job as WinSport’s Director, Active Lives, was representing the organization at regular meetings. Because these meetings were with a male-dominated group, she started to wear collared shirts to the sessions. It wasn’t until her sister asked why she was dressing like a man that she realized that she wasn’t being authentic and that deep down, she wasn’t even aware that she was trying fit in.

In Jennifer’s case, that went against one of the major lessons she learned from her mentor, Cynthia Watson, about being a female leader. Jennifer worked for Cynthia at the Talisman Centre (now Repsol) and now Cynthia is the CEO – chief evolution officer – at Vivo Recreation Centre. She taught Jennifer the importance of being authentic.

“A younger version of myself struggled with consistently being the only woman in the room. Over the years, it became normal, and I became much more comfortable in that space,” says Jennifer, who has been with WinSport for eight years. “But I had to, over the years, mature, develop and grow to overcome that. It’s not a disadvantage. It can be an advantage, especially in a male-dominated sporting environment. I learned that from Cynthia years ago that there should equal representation at the table. That makes for a good team, and that makes for broad thinking.”

Back in 2002, Jennifer worked in the field for a few oil and gas companies as an oilfield crew supervisor. During her stint in Northern Alberta, not only were she and her sister the only women, she was not accepted and to say she was ridiculed would be an understatement. In a very short period, she earned others respect, learned a great deal about leadership and ended up being the boss responsible for setting the pace and the team’s safety and performance.

“You have to dig deep and know what you are capable of,” says Jennifer, who was recently elevated to the role of Executive Director of Sport. “You have to make your way at times. Honesty, it comes through the strength of character and knowing yourself. It’s about believing in yourself sometimes when nobody else does. That’s just part of the journey.”

Jennifer’s journey certainly started down the right path thanks to the mentorship of many wonderful women and men, who provided her with rich leadership opportunities along the way.

“It’s the process of not comparing yourself to others around you,” says Jennifer. “As soon as you start comparing yourself to the polo shirts around the board table … you’re not to be compared. It’s what Cynthia taught me years ago — be authentic. Feminine leadership is different. It looks different and shows up differently and has a role to play.”

Melanie followed her heart into the once male-dominated culinary field

internationalwomensday_melaniehennessey_402x4702Part 2 of a six-part series profiling the Women of WinSport, in recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8th and the impact women have made on WinSport.
Melanie Hennessey
Sous chef/pastry chef
Years with WinSport: 6.5 years

Many ingredients in professional kitchens have changed greatly over the past several decades. We’re not talking about the evolution of plant-based foods, we are talking in terms of the personnel.

WinSport’s sous chef/pastry chef Melanie Hennessey has seen it first-hand.

“The kitchen used to be big-time male dominated. When I first got into the industry 30 years ago, it was massive,” says Melanie, who joined WinSport six and a half years ago. “There were barely any women in the kitchen. I would say in the past 10 years, there are a lot more female forward-thinking, as far as women in the kitchen and in the top roles.”

While Melanie has had her share of male bosses over the years, her current leader is WinSport executive chef Liana Robberecht, who is one of the top female chefs in the business.

Melanie came to Canada from Manchester, England, in 1994. She was a chef at the Barley Mill, which once existed in south Calgary, and has owned her own cake decorating company, All Occasion Cakes, for more than 25 years.

She never faced any challenges being ‘one of the guys’ in the kitchen during the early part of her career, as she always found ways to fit in with her male counterparts. While the playing field has certainly evened out in recent years, that’s not always the case in all kitchens.

“My piece of advice for women considering a culinary career is to follow your heart. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do it, especially in a male-dominated environment,” says Melanie.

Melanie was initially wanting to be WinSport’s contact for cake decorating. However, she was talked into taking on a staff role as a banquet chef, helping out for just one season. That was nearly seven seasons ago. She just fell in love with working at WinSport.

“I love creating new dishes and seeing the reaction people have and interacting with clients at events,” she says.

Larson has risen to the challenge of being a young female leader

Part 1 of a six-part series profiling the Women of WinSport, in recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8th and the impact women have made on WinSport.

internationalwomensday_amberlarson_402x470Amber Larson
Senior Manager, Guest Experience

Years with WinSport: 7.5 years

Amber Larson has not only faced the challenge of being a female in a leadership role, but also the challenges as a young female leader moving up within WinSport.

“Regardless of whether you are male or female, there are always going to be challenges” says Amber, who is just one of a significant number of women to leave their mark on WinSport. “As a woman in leadership, it’s becoming more normal. But combined with the fact that I am a young leader, you have to work harder to gain people’s trust. Once you do, it’s totally fine. But I feel like you have to be a strong-headed person to overcome some of those initial barriers.”

She started at WinSport as a Team Lead in guest services, before moving up to coordinator and manager role. Initially, she was planning to be at WinSport for a good time, not a long time, as her priority was getting her justice degree.

With a degree in hand, however, she just couldn’t bring herself to leave the job she loves so much.

She lists her mom, Cheryl, as having a big influence on her and teaching her the value of determination. As a single parent for eight years of Amber’s life, she had her share of challenges she overcame.

“It really showed me what hard work and determination gets you. She was able to give me the life that I could have had if she wasn’t single,” says Amber. “She showed me how important it was to be supportive of each other. She taught me what it took to become a strong, determined woman.”

She says she has witnessed first-hand about the role WinSport has played in the emergence of women in sport, where 39% of the full-time are women.

“It’s such a great opportunity and it really makes your heart feel good when you see camaraderie, efficiencies, and positive — sometimes complex or complicated — changes meld together for the greater good of the team, WinSport as a whole, and the sport community,” Amber says. “There’s never a dull moment – we all work so hard but have fun every day, and leading a team who truly rally for each other, the guests, sport, and the businesses is really humbling, exciting, and encouraging.”