FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Shawna Wagner
May 9, 2017
I find interview subjects come from all over – from referrals by friends or colleagues, some from my own ‘prospecting for good gets’, sometimes I don’t go looking, they just seem to show up … this time via LinkedIn - such is the case with Shawna Wagner – she was reaching out to me for information, and before we knew it an appointment was set and this interview began. She looks young because she is young, but certainly not naïve, fun and funny but innocent – and yet she seems that way too, open to possibilities and optimistic. She’s not been in her industry long, not a veteran of many business cycles (though she knows cycles – more on that later …) so her perspective is fresh and refreshing when compared to head-hunter veterans I know.
Her business card says, Senior Associate, TalentSphere Staffing Solutions. We know a few people in common, but not many. Her story has some triumphs, some struggles – and some really funny bits too.
Her family was living in Mica Creek, BC – her folks were visiting family in Revelstoke when Shawna decided to arrive two months early; a helicopter ride, birth in Kamloops. Eldest of three children – she has two younger sisters (a half-brother and three step-brothers entered the picture later), her mom had an education degree and worked in daycare, dad, an Electrical Engineer found his career in the navy. The family relocated to Shawnigan Lake, then Nanaimo where she did her schooling and then did a two-year Diploma in Recreation and Sport Management at Vancouver Island College (previously called Malaspina). Her school days were ‘good student, sports generalist and triathlete’. The diploma didn’t energize her, but taking an exchange year in Mexico studying Spanish at Xalapa helped her refocus, a return to Nanaimo, finished her Business Degree, a year off to work part-time and train for triathlons. Her focus changed with a job in bio-energy, extracting methane from landfills. Ambition rekindled, she applied to the Masters in Environmental Design program at University of Calgary – which brought her here (she credits a best friend ‘leaving Nanaimo for school’ as a catalyst).
Her ‘job while in school’ selling bikes at SpeedTheory – where she first met Dave Nielsen (he’s in finance/research at National Bank) – she sold him his first bike, and there is a great story about his pedals falling off. In any case, those two have done some more falling – they’ve been together nearly four years; cycling remains a strong focus for both of them and she’s got him into better bikes. In Shawna’s post-graduation job hunt, Dave introduced her to a head-hunting friend of his at Aplin for help. Recruited to work at Aplin, she’s moved to Michael Page and then to TalentSphere last year – where she continues, notwithstanding a tough market in Calgary – working with a team of 12 across the country with her focus heavily in construction, architecture and development fields. No doubt a tough time to be in those sectors in Alberta right now, but she’s keeping very busy. She admits to leveraging her degrees and credentials in design is helpful; “that gets me in the door, but I have to deliver. My candidates inform me; our structure is lean, self-managed and you eat what you kill!” She admits to being an active networker within the oil patch, construction industry and women-in-business groups. “I’m creating my business the way I want to create it.” She’s a board member at Calgary Women in Energy.
Why are you successful? “Setting myself goals – and achieving them, following through on my dreams, the ‘how you do that’ really matters. The more successful you feel, the more successful you are.”
What has held you back? “Just myself – sometimes I’ve needed a push. Sometimes I’ve tried to do too much. I need to learn to do less, and do it better.”
How do you see your business – consultative recruitment management service – going forward over the next quarter?
… hiring is seasonal – summertime is summertime, most projects are paused and the Sept/Oct/Nov time frame is when most companies are clear on their needs and budgets for the coming year so staffing ramps up.
And over the next five years?
… lots of growth in on-line recruitment, but it is not as effective. It’s a time of ‘the survivors’ because the weak players will be gone. A lot of companies have been distracted through tough times and retention strategies – not so much focusing on succession planning, but they need to. I see lots of opportunity in the Calgary market. And 2018 will be a very strong year …
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… quality. I’d rather have something that is going to last! Reputation of people/businesses – service, follow-up. Is there something compelling they are bringing to the table …
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Shawna Wagner, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… same reasons! I have a strong reputation and work ethic. Confidence, motivation.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… I ‘coach’, it’s collaborative, listening – it’s a people thing, the power of looking at a new concern through someone else’s eyes. Following through on what you say you are going to do – and I expect that from others.
… yes! … we want to add some things – a dog, move from condo to house, kids …
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… it’s easier to answer ‘what I don’t worry about’; I worry about my family, finances.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my best friend leaving Nanaimo for Halifax inspired me to leave Nanaimo; I met Dave, who introduced me to someone who introduced me to what I do now …
… running – training for the Calgary Marathon at the end of May, ski (downhill and x-country), cycle
What do you read?
…The Divergent Series, Good to Great – I mix my business books and fantasy ...
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