What is your company’s mission statement? The mission of McMaster Innovation Park is to develop and sustain an environment that facilitates and accelerates innovation, the transfer of knowledge and the commercialization of research resulting in economic and social development; encourages successful collaboration among private sector, government, hospital, university and college researchers and educators; is aligned with and leverages the research strengths of McMaster University and has global research resulting in regional prosperity; educates and excites the community about the vital role of the university in the innovation process and about new developing technologies and the jobs and prosperity they bring.
What advice have you received that has helped you the most? Be yourself. Be genuine. People generally pick up when you are being phoney and will respect you less.
Can you think of a moment in your life that pushed you to become who you are? A defining moment? In my late twenties I was chosen for jury duty and after we had heard from the defendant, we were ready to crucify the accused. By the end of the week, we found the accused not guilty after having heard his side of the issues and his witnesses. The greatest lesson I learned was that there are two sides to every story and to try to find out what they are before making a decision.
Can you think of a time in your career where things were not going well, but you managed to turn it around? How did you persevere? The term “work defines you” is so true and one I experienced when I was downsized. What was I to do with my day, how would I pay the bills, etc.? Someone told me to make an appointment every morning with someone to go for coffee ... This got you up and dressed and out of the house. Another person told me to call all of my contacts and ask if I could meet with them for 10 minutes to pick their brains on their most defining moment. People love to tell you about themselves and many people talked to me. Both of these actions kept me moving forward and feeling good about myself and within a very short period of time I had a great new position and one that I would not have looked for had I not been downsized.
What are the key principles that guide you in your day-to-day life? Admit when I make a mistake. Say I am sorry if I have been a little harsh. Be honest. Admit that I don’t know something but also say that I will go find out about it. Always be curious. Keep a strong network of friends and colleagues around you. Stay in touch with them.
What makes you laugh? Slapstick comedy.
What is your guilty pleasure? Salty foods.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I sold life insurance for Canada Life. I learned that I can fail and survive. I can say, “I can’t do this,” and walk away and life goes on. I learned to be able to walk in cold in any situation and be able to present an idea.
What do you do to wind down from work? Golf. I belong to a ladies’ league. We have so much fun. And yoga. It really stretches the tension from your body. And I devour books. It is my escape to another place. Sudoku.
How do you motivate people? By setting goals and expectations and setting a good example.
What is your biggest pet peeve? People who complain but do not come up with a solution and if they do have a solution, will do nothing to move it forward.
What are you good at? Being able to pull away from the day to day minutiae to see the big picture. Being intuitive about pulling facts coming at you from all directions to lead to a sound decision.
What do you want to work on? Saying “no” to being involved. At one time I was on 10 boards and had to start cutting back. I have promised my husband I would get down to two. I am on four, so almost there!
What is on your bucket list? Living/working in Europe.
What is Hamilton’s most valuable asset? Diversity of people. Art community.
What is the city’s biggest liability? Thinking we are less than Toronto. Council members who listen too much to their constituents rather than what is good for the overall city.
How do you balance your life? By planning fun weekends and vacation trips. Being with my family and friends.
What is your favourite spot in Hamilton? Cootes Paradise.
What do you think people would be surprised to know about you? I was born in Huntsville and shortly thereafter moved with my parents to France until my early teens.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs? Network continuously. You learn so much from other people and how other companies do things, and it is a great way to bounce ideas and problems you have in your day job. Join the Chamber of Commerce. Join a group such as Rotary to give back to your community.
What is your dream job? My husband would say chief financial officer of a winery but there are so many industries that I would like to be involved in ... life is just too short. That is why I studied for and attained my chartered directors’ designation so that I can continue to be invited to sit on various boards. I get to intimately review many niche markets and organizations and get involved in making decisions for them. As a CPA I am often asked to sit on the audit, finance and risk committees but I can then move from there to the strategic and chair level, which is where I enjoy the most challenges.
Ruth Liebersbach, McMaster Innovation Park’s chief financial officer.