IxL shows different kinds of leadership

Photo courtesy of Dayna Weststeyn

Students, business leaders, and entrepreneurs gathered in The Great Hall on March 7 to talk leadership, diversity, and innovation at BCITSA’s 2020 IxL Conference.

By Lauren Edwards

The Inspire x Leadership conference brought students together with local leaders, where they linked various perspectives on being inspired and inspiring others.

Entrepreneur Sean Aiken kicked off the event by speaking about how he inspires others through The One Week Job Project. Over ten years ago, Aiken graduated from university and embarked on a journey to find his passion—working 52 jobs in 52 weeks and raising over $20,000 for charity. He did everything from working as an exterminator, to fire-fighting, to being a fashion buyer.

There were workshops in the morning and afternoon, but a panel took place on the main stage to speak about the importance of work/life balance. The panel consisted of Transformation Guide & Desire Map Facilitator, Ann Marie Mackenzie, Brand Ambassador & Partnerships Strategist at Native Shoes, Behmann Gustavsp, President & CEO of Your Brand Marketing, Ben Baker, and President of JTS Consulting, Travis Stevenson.

Baker facilitated the conversation, with all four panelists speaking about how meditation, daily mantras and taking time for yourself can be incorporated into a busy routine without it feeling like an obligatory task.

“I can do anything, just not everything at once.”

Travis Stevenson, JTS Consulting

The panel was insightful. Mackenzie and Gustavsp drew from their own life experiences to stress being “selfish” or making yourself a priority, is important. “Being selfish isn’t a bad thing,” said Mackenzie. In

In 2014, Mackenzie was grieving her mother’s death and refused to go back to work full-time, taking the necessary time to heal. She now helps people professionally and personally through self-leadership and emotional training.

Gustavsp came from a background of radio. He worked at the 2012 London Olympics and marketing, before pursuing a corporate job at Lululemon. He had to gain experience at the store first, though (he was hesitant to start folding pants at 30 years-old). During this experience, he didn’t know that putting in that time would lead to him teaching a spin class and getting a connection at Native Shoes.

While the panels were helpful, my biggest takeaway from IxL came from the first workshop I attended.

Aslam Bulbulia— Outreach & Community Engagement Coordinator at SFU— hosted a workshop called “Decolonizing Leadership – Systems, Stories, Relationships.” His presentation included the definitions of decolonization and the traits people (unconsciously) take on to accommodate Western culture. Most notably, he talked about how white people can “step up” and/or “step back” to be more inclusive.

One example of stepping up is speaking up when there are no black or Indigenous speakers at a conference. When stepping back, one case is asking yourself ‘Who needs this more than I do?‘ then giving or recommending your place to someone else.

“It’s not about [exclusion], it’s about opening the doors and letting more voices in.”

Aslam Bulbulia, SFU Outreach & Community Engagement Coordinator

When the workshop started, Bulbulia got us to interact with our neighbours. Normal introductions were replaced with asking the table ‘Who are your people?’ or ‘Has your perspective of leadership changed?

The room came to consensuses answering the latter question, where the responses mainly pertained to how traits of good leadership depend culturally and leading by example.

A poor example is putting yourself in a dangerous situation, said Bulbulia. He referenced 13-year-old Enock Mpianzi, who died building a makeshift raft down a river at camp in Johannesburg.

According to Bulbulia, the current culture typecasts the leadership characteristics as being male, tall, neurotypical, and physically strong or able. While the world is adapting to changing that narrative, it still shows through every now and again. It was brought up that Vancouver City Council are majority white.

Decolonizing leadership and work/life balance were different takes on inspiration through leadership, but it was something a lot of people benefitted from. Whether those conversations at the conference will implement change is another question.