The Advancing Leadership Blog

Hilary Foulkes – A Woman of Influence

A couple of staff from TEC were invited to attend the Calgary Women of Influence Luncheon this past Friday, April 1st. A national event, the Women of Influence series hosts events in nine cities across the country featuring speakers who provide advice and inspiration in connecting and developing professional women in Canada.

You could imagine we jumped at the opportunity to attend this highly regarded event, especially when we discovered the keynote was Hilary Foulkes.

Working in the leadership and development sector, Hilary Foulkes is the VP of Business Development for Penn West Exploration. She has over 25 years of oil and gas industry experience. In her role, Hilary oversees acquisitions and divestments, corporate planning and reserves reporting. She was recently nominated for one of Deloitte’s 2010 Canadian Dealmaker Awards thanks to her instrumental participation in a blockbuster international joint venture.

Over an hour-long lunchtime keynote, Hilary touched upon three important points in which she encapsulated experiences from her own career, and life, to describe her journey to success.

The Sphere of Influence
Influence is ultimately about leadership. Encouragement and support are also a part of influence and thus interchangeable with being a leader. Be conscious about your own sphere of influence and to think about what it truly looks like, Hilary advised. “Defining your sphere of influence defines your world. If you define this and do a good job, it’ll be rewarding.”

However influence is a two-way street. Although we are all subjected to the power of others in life – be it from parents, siblings, friends or our partner – we also need to be aware of who we are influencing in return. We don’t always take the time to decipher this, Hilary said. So it is important to choose our influences, decide which ones we’d like to pay forward and leave the “not-so-good” ones behind.

Life constantly teaches us lessons that will assist us along in our journeys. We call these lessons principles, described Hilary, as she used a childhood experience to enlighten us.

Raised with a sister who was mentally disabled, Hilary watched the strength and determination her sister and family had in conquering many adversities. Through this, Hilary was inspired to stay positive despite life’s curveballs. I never say “Why me?” Instead, it’s “Why NOT me!”

“Times will be tough,” she truthfully stated. It’s about those principles and ideals you have in your toolkit that will help you find an answer. “What’s in your toolkit?,” she asked.

History and Time
Time is on our side. It is the ultimate non-renewable resource, Hilary noted, adding that the impact of human history has allowed us to progress in so many different areas socially.

To explain, she offered an emotional snapshot of her life. Raised during the Vietnam War, women stayed home to cook and clean while men were the providers. As a teenager, she was not allowed to drive the family car, although her brother was. She went on to study chemistry in university amidst the Women’s Movement.

We were informed by Hilary that women now make up 47.5% of the workforce – an encouragement reminding us all that we are catalysts of change. And although we can’t control when and where we are in life, we can make decisions to mitigate our problems.

Fundamental social change takes time. It’s a frustrating part of life, but change is inevitable, she concluded.

Other Key Takeways from Hilary Foulkes

  • Education is “at the core of it all.”
  • There are always going to be parts of our jobs that we hate to do. We cannot abdicate those tasks. Power through!
  • Never let anyone dictate who you are. Be yourself! You can be successful in business without compromising yourself.
  • Think about career versus life. The answer is always life. Your career is not a race. Take your time to get life right and the rest will follow.
  • It’s okay that, as women, we do not speak with one voice.
  • Pick your scale and stick to your core. This will help in making difficult decisions in life.
  • Intelligent men hire intelligent women.

The Women of Influence Luncheon was a wonderful afternoon. Thank you to Laina Charleson from Rogers Publishing for inviting us! And of course Hilary Foulkes, who offered some wonderfully inspiring ideas for the both the women – and men – in attendance. Hilary truly is a Woman of Influence.

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