DisruptHR Toronto and Crushing the Imposter Syndrome with Denise K Roy [podcast]


Read the podcast transcription here:

Bill Banham: Today we are joined by Denise Roy. Denise is Director of Human Resources at IndustryBuilt. Denise has nearly two decades of progressive experience in strategic HR leadership and proven success in partnering with business leaders to optimize organizational effectiveness. Denise’s role includes designing, implementing, and managing effective policies, programs, and processes for national organizations. Denise, welcome to HR Chat.

Denise Roy: Thank you so much, Bill, I’m happy to be here.

Bill Banham: Tell us a bit about yourself. Tell me about your career history and how you came to be at your current role.

Denise Roy: Well, interestingly, I like to say my career started with a three week temp job. I finished high school six months early. This is way back in the 90s and to earn some money for university I started temping and landed a three week gig at a company which doesn’t exist anymore. It was a telecommunications company based out of Montreal. In a way, that temp gig has lasted 20 years. I was there, my three week gig extended, I was there for about six months. I was a sales administrator and loved it so much that when I started university in the fall I ended up staying on and they were super-accommodating.

It was my first foray into the business world and I loved it. I loved the people. I loved the energy. Obviously not in human resources yet. Pretty quickly realized that the conventional school experience just didn’t work for me, so for the next year I switched around and started working full-time and going to school at night. What’s interesting about that opportunity is I was able to stay on and a couple of years later, we were acquired by a different company called Sprint Canada, which I think most people know, and ended up in marketing as a marketing admin and made what I could out of that.

Late in 1998, roughly, early 1999, my boss at the time who was the head of marketing, who I still consider to have a huge influence on my style and my career, was moved into human resources as a cross-functional development opportunity. I remember she pulled me into her office and asked me, “Would you like to come with me?” And I said, “Sure.”

So began 20 years of human resources. When I got there, I looked around and I thought, “You know what? This is really neat. This is where I want to be.” Ended up going back to school, still working full-time, completely my HR education. Getting my CHRP and my CHRL and just worked my way up, always through the technology industry. Always through telecommunications. Ended up eventually becoming the head of human resources at a company called TeraGo Networks, which is essentially a broadband and data center company in Canada. This is a number of years ago. Just kept plugging away.

I first met David Pilz, who’s the CEO of IndustryBuilt, first had a conversation with him about less than a year ago. March of this year. I met him through an organization called AceTech Ontario, which I’m a part of. I remember speaking to him and it wasn’t about a job. We were connected through a mutual contact and we just had a conversation about the company, about human resources and his view. I remember leaving that call thinking, “Wow, I want to work for him.” He was inspiring. He talked a lot about how he, over his 15 years here at IndustryBuilt, has really focused on making it a great place to work. The value he sees in his employees and the differentiator that he sees them as being.

The moral of the story is about six months later or so, when I was thinking about making a move from TeraGo, I gave him a call and I said, “Is there an opportunity?” and there was and the rest is history. That’s how I’ve ended up working here at IndustryBuilt. I’ve only been here since August and it’s amazing so far. It’s great.

Bill Banham: That’s an incredible story. Thank you. It sounds as though key inspiring figures in your career have been fundamental in the direction that you’ve gone in. I can relate to that, too. I always try to learn (what I can) from the bad managers and take the best bits from those that inspire me. What do you believe makes for an effective HR leader?

Denise Roy

Denise Roy

Denise Roy: I think ultimately you have to understand your business. I think to a human resources leader that is critical to the organization and is the most effective person is somebody who understands not only the people side of it, but (also) what makes the organization tick. How do you make money? Who are your customers? Where do you find those customers? How do you find them? Because it’s the start of the process. Only then, if you truly understand the problem of business, and how your company offers it’s solutions can you fit in that puzzle. You’re a piece of the puzzle. An HR leader’s piece of the puzzle is the people and that’s it.

You can’t help anybody complete the puzzle unless you understand what the full picture is. That is the number one thing I’ll say. The criticality of really being a business leader. Understanding everything about it before you even talk about human resources.

Bill Banham: So you focused there on the people. What about the onset of technology and how that permeates into the HR department? I have a theory that these days HR people are also almost marketing or IT people in the extent of the tools and online processes. They’re supposed to understand, use, train, and implement. How much is technology a part of your daily activities?

Denise Roy: It’s a significant part. As you said, human resources leaders today have to be defacto marketing executive or marketing leaders and you’re 100% right. So when I talk about the people as our piece of the puzzle, well our solution, the way that we actually address those people problems, those people needs, we have to pull all of our tools out of our kit bag. Technology, the social aspect of it, the tools aspect of it, are just the ways that we get there. If you aren’t a marketing executive as an HR leader or a marketing expert, then you have to partner closely with your marketing team. That’s the key. Even if you don’t have the knowledge to do that, get it. Find it.

Become a team member on the marketing team, essentially. That helps you go to market and brand, because the company really has two streams in the market, right? From a product perspective, so here are the products that we offer. But also from an employer brand perspective. It’s just as critical. In a lot of cases, because our customers are interacting with our people so much, we are finding that some of our prospects and some of our customers are very interested in our people. How we treat, how we find them, the knowledge that they bring to the table. The marketing the side of human resources is one of the most critical tools in our kit bag today.

Bill Banham: Awesome. Thank you. Tell me, what does IndustryBuilt do?

Denise Roy: IndustryBuilt is ultimately a software company. We’re Canadian, founded in Canada. We provide software and services to two key industries. The food industry and then the equipment distribution industry. If you kind of get the name, IndustryBuilt, we’re very focused on building software for specific industries or for specific verticals.

Our main product in the food services industry is called Just Food ERP. Essentially, we’re a Microsoft partner and we provide ERP solutions to our two key verticals.

Bill Banham: What does an average work week look like for you?

Denise Roy: Do you mean kind of how my day starts? What I spend my day doing?

Bill Banham: Yeah, so in your average week, what sort of activities does Denise Roy get up to?

Denise Roy: Well, I live pretty far north of the city, so I’m a morning person. I’m up at five, I’m out the door at six, I’m in the office by seven most days. The early bird gets the worm and all that. Given I’m relatively new to IndustryBuilt, my focus day-to-day, so eight to six or so, is really on building the HR world here. I am the first full-time HR leader that IndustryBuilt has ever had, which actually is sort of an amazing nod to the work that they’ve done so far given that we are a great place to work in Canada officially. They’ve done without an HR leader to guide them.

They realized, given the size and where we’re at in terms of our growth, that it was time. So a lot of my work right now is formalizing and taking to the next level the programs that we need to continue to grow. Compensation, coaching, training. The last three months has been making the plans. Now it’s about executing the plans. I feel pretty strongly about being connected, talking about kind of marketing and branding, I feel pretty strongly that an HR leader’s responsibility is also to keep connected to your marketplace. That means the industry that you work in. That means other HR organizations.

Most weeks, I’m … We’re out in Mississauga. Most weeks I’m downtown in downtown Toronto at least one or two nights at various events, whether it be AceTech Ontario, which is an organization that I’m a part of, liaising with other HR leaders, or I sit on a couple of boards as well. Busy weeks. All in. But all keys pieces to getting myself ramped (up) here at IndustryBuilt.

Bill Banham: So I’m guessing you find time to sleep on weekends?

Denise Roy: (laughs) Yeah, I do live a busy life, but it’s a choice and I love it. I actually go to school as well right now, too.

Bill Banham: Oh my goodness.

Denise Roy: I’m finishing an English Literature degree at Waterloo, just for fun. But I’ve always been that way. I’ve always been somebody who busyness begets busyness and that’s where a lot of the great ideas come. You never know where an opportunity is going to find you. Right now that’s where I’m focused.

Bill Banham: Something else that you’re probably focusing on over the next week or so is you’re going to be a speaker at Disrupt HR Toronto, happening on December 1st. You’re going to be talking about fake it until make it. Before we get into the subject matter and the learnings, tell me a little bit about why you decided to apply to be a speaker at Disrupt HR Toronto.

Denise Roy: I’ve been lucky enough to get to know Jeff Waldman, who is one of the organizers of Disrupt HR Toronto. He and I have become acquainted over the last year or so. He’s actually part of my AceTech HR round-table. Getting to know him, he’s really opened my eyes to some of the more modern thinking in the social world of human resources. The value. I’ve always known marketing. I’ve always known tools and technology are part of it and part of the job, but my exposure to how he embraces it has been eye-opening.

Through him I actually became aware of Disrupt HR and the concepts, and of course I started looking around. It’s amazing. This will actually be my first lightning presentation, so I’m a little nervous, but I think that the concept of being quick to the point, humorous, irreverent. In a five minute presentation, the opportunity to do that is different from anything else out there. It’s very different from the traditional speaking engagements that we often see out there.

So I jumped at the chance. I hope I do well. I think I’ll do well. But that’s what it was. It’s different, it’s new, and I think this may be the future, so that’s why I opted to submit and application to speak.

Bill Banham: This may be the future. Perhaps that’s going to be the subject of this podcast. I like that. Tell me about the topic you’re going to be talking about.

Denise Roy: My title is Fake It ‘Til You Make It: Crushing Impostor Syndrome In It’s Tracks. Impostor syndrome is really the focus of my talk and really there’s tons of books on the topic of impostor syndrome, but the way I break it down is there’s always that little voice in side of all of us. Most of us, anyway. When you put yourself out on a ledge, what if I’m not good enough? What if I’m not ready? Or more deviously almost, what if they find out that I’m a fake?

I think that we all have, not confidence issues, but there’s always this little kind of doubting voice. Even when, you can be the most qualified person on stage. You can have years of experience. You can know your topic inside and out, but in a lot of cases executives, women specifically sometimes, feel that they’re not truly ready to do what they’ve been asked to do or to do what they think they can do.

What does this mean? It means that people don’t often put up their hands for things. It means that people often hold themselves back simply because they feel that they’re not ready. They feel that they’re an impostor. My concern with this type of syndrome, impostor syndrome, is that they feel that they’re never ready. It’s not so much that they need a few more years to get ready or a little bit more training. It never comes. My concepts and sort of the key learnings of my talk are about you’re ready now. Whatever it is, make the leap, because ultimately you can’t ever underestimate yourself. Unfortunately, a lot of others are too happy to do that for you.

In my coaching as an HR leader, I often say to people, “It’s a lot harder for people to knock you off the pedestal. It really is. It’s not human nature. It’s hard to do.” If you put yourself on a reasonable pedestal, most people won’t knock you down. But if you choose not to climb up on that pedestal, it’s very easy to say, “You know what, you’re right. You’re not ready.” So my talk is really about the impact of holding yourself back, the missed opportunities that happen and how you should overcome or crush impostor syndrome to get ahead. I do relate back to the impact on business, because unfortunately this can affect the business side of the businesses that you’re in or the businesses that you want to be in. You’re missing on great genius here I think, because people feel like they are impostors in there own skin.

It’s an important topic to me, especially as leader and a coach and I see it a lot in some of the people that I mentor. That’s why I’m looking to try and bring it to the forefront a little bit.

Bill Banham: What would you say to someone who says, “I want to make the leap, but I’m scared to fail”?

Denise Roy: The answer to that is everybody fails, so even those that are truthfully qualified, whatever that means. Even those that feel, or that other people may perceive to be qualified, fall on their face. It’s inevitable. It happens. Whether you feel like you’re ready or not, you need to be ready for that risk and know that it doesn’t mean that you weren’t ready to begin with. So, it’s about addressing the fear, getting the confidence to take the leap, knowing that eventually you will stumble over something. It may not be this, it may be something else, but the key is getting up. Don’t retreat. You can’t allow failure or falling down to allow you to scurry back into your mask, or into your shell thinking, “Okay, it’s true. I really am an impostor.” No you’re not, because everybody else could have done the same thing that you did.

So it’s about losing gracefully, failing gracefully and learning from it and then getting back up. That’s what I would say.

Bill Banham: Do you subscribe to the idea that failing and learning from your failures can be much more powerful than having a smooth sail, if you like? I remember when I started my career and I was so keen to impress and terrified to fail and then things happened along the way. I personally look back and the best lessons I ever got were through trying something, it didn’t work out, learning from it and not making that mistake again. What’s your take?

Denise Roy: My take on that is, as I mentioned failing is … And I don’t mean to be negative, but failing is inevitable. I don’t necessarily feel that you always learn more from your failures than you do your successes. I think you can learn equally from both. But the key is to learn, to be open to those learning. Not letting failure take down your confidence, know you off that pedestal so much that you don’t learn and that you don’t try again. Really it’s about, to me, the experience of doing. Whether it works or doesn’t, you’re still going to learn from it.

Bill Banham: Okay, awesome, thank you. You mentioned earlier a little bit about the format for Disrupt HR Toronto. It’s five minutes, it’s not the longest session, so summarize a couple of those unique challenges and obstacles that that kind of format provides.

Denise Roy: I think the key is … So, it’s five minutes, so one might think, “Well, how much damage can you do in five minutes?” A lot. You have to come out of the gate very strongly. I think people are watching lightning sessions or five minute presentations waiting to be hit very quickly with information that is new and interesting and entertaining, so you have to be there. You have to come out of the gate very strongly. Be engaging. Realize that you’re in a stuffy and stodgy, I’m using those adjectives carefully, sixty minute presentation. A traditional format. So you can be little bit more lively and I think people expect that. Try and come out of your shell as much as you can and be relatable and be memorable.

What’s interesting about a lot of the lightning presentations that I’ve been watching as I prepare for this, I remember most of them. That’s the key. If you think about the last hour-long presentation that you sat through, whether it was a lecture from a professor or whether it was a session at a conference, they’re all great and they’re well-prepared, but do you really remember all of it? Probably not. You remember the recap. You’ll remember sort of the key messages hopefully. That’s all there is to these lightning presentations, so I think know that the topics that you’re going to bring to the table will be remembered, so they have to matter. They have to be important.

Even though it’s a short presentation I don’t think you can get away with being vague. I don’t think you can get away with just being entertaining. You have to have a point and you have to make it quickly. Whether it’s agreeable or disagreeable, it doesn’t matter. Come out of the gates strong. Be entertaining. Make your point. State your claim, state your case. This is what I believe. Because I can guarantee that the people leaving that room at the end of your session, 24 hours later they’re going to remember what you say. Ultimately, those are sort of my key messages or my key thoughts as I prepare for this session.

Bill Banham: That’s a really great point and I don’t think of those that I’ve interviewed previously for different Disrupt HR events have really raised that before, but you’re absolutely right. One of the big pluses, if you like, of the Disrupt HR format is you do remember most of that presentation, because it’s so succinct. I love that. Thank you.

So why do you think that Toronto needs an event like Disrupt HR? Do you not think that Toronto has enough HR events going on already?

Denise Roy: No, not at all. Kind of back to impostor syndrome, this is kind of my theory or my take on it. Not everybody would agree, but Toronto has it’s own version of impostor syndrome. We’re Canadian. Often times we’re seen as less authentic than our American counterparts, bless them. But we’re trying really hard to be an incredible haven for technology and growth. You’ve heard a lot of the Silicon Valley North comments and things like that. What I will say to that is we’re legitimate. We have huge talent here. We have great ideas.

I think that in order to be a part of that community, I think in order to really reinforce that we’re not impostors, that we’re legitimate, these types of sessions which are kind of challenging the status quo in terms of how people discuss topics, how people present, are important. It makes us part of the club to some degree. I’ll say that about the lightning presentations, specifically Disrupt HR, but what I will also say too is this isn’t it. I think that this is just the start. When you say do we have enough? We have a lot. Do we need more? Absolutely. I think that every new type of session, every new type of technology-based conversation, every new type of forum, needs to come to forefront of Toronto. It’ll keep us at the front of the map. So, Disrupt HR are now and the lightning presentations are now. What’s next? That’s sort of where my head is going.

I think Toronto should always be open to the new, to the challenging, because we are a haven of technology. A haven of growth. We are it. We are not an impostor, so we got to be part of it.

Bill Banham: Awesome. What is next? For you, in terms of attending or speaking at other HR leadership, recruitment, talent related events in the next six to twelve months, do you have any plans on attending or speaking, here in Canada or perhaps down in the US as well?

Denise Roy: Yeah, I’ve actually … I’m thrilled and proud to have been selected an AceTech Leadership Initiative award winner. Big word. For 2017. So essentially what that means is for AceTech in May of next year, I’ll be presenting what they call a power session. It’s a working session for tech executives in Toronto to discuss my particular kind of expertise, my particular topic, which is really about activating the human resources function in technology in Canada right now. When to HR, how to HR, how to leverage, how to build, how to activate. That’s my next speaking session on the docket right now. I’m really excited about it, because again it’s my audience. I’m speaking directly to AceTech Ontario technology CEOs and leaders and executives, so I think that they’ll get a lot of value from the session and it’ll be really awesome.

Bill Banham: Perfect. Thanks very much. We’re at that point sadly when we’re going to be wrapping up quite shortly, but before we do how can our listeners learn more about you Denise?

Denise Roy: Thank you for that opportunity. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation that we’ve had so far. Honestly, they can find me at, I’ve got a blog at denisekroy.wordpress.com. I’m also on LinkedIn, so if anybody’s interested in connecting and chatting about HR best practices, about technology in Ontario in Canada, please look me up. I’d love to chat.

Bill Banham: Great. Thank you. So listeners, that takes us to the end of this particular HR Chat Podcast brought to you by the HR Gazette. I’ve been your host, Bill Banham, chatting with the wonderful Denise Roy and until next time, thanks for listening.

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