FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Jacqueline (Jacquie) Schnider
March 21, 2017
I’ve known Jacquie Schnider nearly 15 years – since I joined the world of Toastmasters. Our paths cross often - I've known her in her role as speaker, leader, mentor/teacher, tireless worker-bee and executive in Toastmasters – someone whom I’ve seen exemplify ‘servant leadership’, always with a smile, professionalism and dignity. I’ve also long known she is a distinguished health inspector by day – but admit, like so many people I think I know, I didn’t really know her very thoroughly. I went digging – and graciously, she agreed to reveal …
Her career profession as health inspector and her Toastmasters career are each “about 30 years now”, intertwined. Perhaps ‘interdependent’. Her health inspector work began in Grande Prairie – involved teaching/training – when a colleague suggested she try Toastmasters to improve her skills. From that humble start – to rising to ‘International Director’ in a global organization of 330,000 speakers worldwide is no small accomplishment and just saying that in a sentence does not illustrate its meaning or the work involved. I’ve seen her in action and worked on projects with her. Selfless is a word which comes to mind – and tireless!
And, every week, as a health inspector, she’s teaching health and safety issues, and best practices - in classrooms and on job sites to keep us sanitary and safe … but there is more to this story, so let’s start at the beginning:
Born in Invermere, BC, lived on the family farm at Edgewater – where her grandfather, a Swiss immigrant dairy farmer, settled. She’s number three of five children. She has three sisters. Her brother died of leukemia in childhood. Mom was a teacher, originally from Victoria, who got a job in Edgewater – where she met dad who worked as a heavy equipment operator. K-7 was in Edgewater, 8-12 in Invermere. She excelled academically (two years on the Reach for the Top team), played in the music/band (plays organ, guitar, clarinet), was active outdoors (hiking, x-country skiing) with family but otherwise was more focused on school, music, glee club, 4-H (family farm turned from dairy to potatoes because dad was allergic to animals) than on sports , and Girl Guides.
With plans initially to be a dentist … she changed course – but stayed focused on science. She ventured off to Camrose – began her work toward a B.Sc. at Augustana University College (formerly Camrose Lutheran) where she spent two years (she returned in 93/94 to finish her degree). She decided to pursue a career in health inspection – which took her to BCIT in Burnaby where she earned a Diploma in Environmental Health and a Certificate as a Public Health Inspector for Canada. Her professional career began in Grande Prairie as part of a field team – first female health inspector there. She joined Toastmasters there to gain confidence in her presentation skills to support her work in training people about health safety. In 1999 she relocated to Calgary to focus on health education – she gives about 200 internal and external training presentations annually.
Along this path she’s earned an Adult Education Diploma from Mount Royal College, and sher serves in national organizations in her profession – the Environmental Health Foundation of Canada and Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors. Next time you think of cleanliness in swimming pools, hotels/motels, restaurants, daycares, rental housing, jails and any other public places – be happy there are public health inspectors like Jacquie on the job. She’s part of a team of 70 public health inspectors in the Greater Calgary Region for Alberta Health Services.
In terms of Toastmasters – she’s been at it 28 years, has served in every club and district leadership role – was District 42 Governor (Alberta and Saskatchewan) and has served on the world stage as International Director. When the Toastmasters World Convention was hosted in Calgary in 2008, she was Convention Chair. Do you aspire to be International President? “I’ve thought seriously about running – but campaigning is a large, and expensive, undertaking.”
Retirement plans? I think I’ll move back to the farm …
Why are you successful? “Caring. Helping other people excel. Finding where I can have the most impact.”
What has held you back? “In my health inspector work – nothing really. Advancement and management hasn’t been in the cards for me. In my Toastmasters work - time and money, time away from family.”
How do you see your business – health safety education – going forward over the next quarter?
… I think that we are doing pretty good – because I trust my colleagues are doing their jobs well, keeping the public safe. There have been so many changes over the years – driven by science. Twenty years ago we didn’t know enough about listeria for example, but now we do and safer practices evolve. And in addtion to all our knowledge and improvements - most of all, hand washing is still so important for everyone to remember.
And over the next five years?
… our delivery is likely to still be group-teaching and a mix of classroom and field teaching; certainly supported by more on-line resources which keep changing with new technology.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… I do business based on relationships. How do they treat people? Service follow-up, long-term thinking.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Jacquie Schnider, and why do they choose you to work with, choose you for leadership roles?
… something my mom and dad taught me – when you agree to do something, do it. Servant leadership – caring for people. I’m accessible/approachable.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… I’m not in a management role in my day job – those opportunities haven’t worked out when I’ve pursued them. But, in my Toastmasters world – lots of experiences. I wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do. I’ve found this John Maxwell quote valuable – “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. I suggest people prioritize their life this way: faith, family, work, Toastmasters – and, if Toastmasters is your life, then you need to get a life!
… YES! You’d be surprised how often I say ‘no thanks’.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… easier to ask “what don’t I worry about” – about my mom (she’s 83, in care for dementia), my job … the last time there were large layoffs I was away finishing my degree, but right now there are pressures on budgets in all areas of government …
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my first boss, Cliff Turner. He supported me, and other staff – made sure we had chances. Joining Toastmasters – I became more confident, opportunity for growth and travel, I saw it changes people’s lives. And my family – I have a very large extended family who have been extremely supportive.
… who has time? Arts, crafts, music, volunteering (Toastmasters, Girl Guides, Trefoil Guild).
What do you read?
… anything and everything … recently, The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Blue Mind by Wallace Nichols.
… 2017 Toyota Corolla. I was in a multi-car pileup on Scott’s hill on the way to Banff this winter – my car was a write-off. Thankfully, nobody injured …
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