By Suzanne Bowness
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Centre for Research and Education on Women and Work (CREWW) which offers a part-time professional program for women to enhance their leadership and management skills. Graduates from the program will be profiled over the next few weeks.
When Gillian Szollos went looking for options to advance her education, she wanted a program that would not only benefit her diverse career as a community health promoter and partner in her husband’s stonemasonry business, but one that would fit her busy life.
“I was looking for a post-graduate course that I could do while working, and parenting a young family, and looking after my aging parents and all of the other responsibilities that fall to women in my age category,” says Szollos, who is mother to two young adults and a teen, and daughter to elderly parents in their 80s and 90s.
The Sprott School of Business’s Management Certificate for Women, with its Friday and Saturday class schedule, turned out to be a perfect fit.
Management Certificate for Women: A Manageable Commitment
“Not only did it speak to my needs in terms of furthering my education, but it also really fit my life, in that the time commitment was something I could manage,” adds Szollos. She started the program in September 2016 and finished this past March.
While Szollos was initially attracted to the program for its financial management component, she says she surprised herself by learning a lot in areas where she was already confident about her skills, including leadership and communications. Some of her top lessons included exercises in negotiating where she learned a lot about trust, and on “listening exquisitely” where students practiced focusing in on important conversations.
Favourite assignments included a branding exercise and a capstone project that culminated in a presentation on how students would incorporate the program into their careers moving forward. “That was really a great way for me to gel some of that knowledge in a way that I can apply it in the community,” says Szollos.
Szollos also raves about the people in the program—stellar professors and great classmates. “It was a very non-threatening and collaborative environment, which was wonderful,” she says. “I’ve done some great networking with the women and with the faculty, and I’m in a position now where if I don’t know an answer, I know where to go to get it.”
Taking Her Career to the Next Level
Szollos says she’s not only developed skills to take back to Carpathian Masonry, her family’s business—estimating, payroll, purchasing, health and safety are among the multiple hats she wears there—but that the program has renewed her determination to take her health career to the next level.
“I’m passionate about community development and capacity building, and very specifically building collaborative partnerships to better the health of our community. I think I’m at a place now where my passions and my management skills are equally strong. I am ready for a leadership role which will allow me to use these strengths for the benefit of the community,” she says.
She’s already recommended the program to two co-workers at the Carlington Community Health Centre where she works, and would recommend it to any woman who wants to build confidence as a manager.
“I would encourage anyone to step up to this, even if you already think that you’ve had a lot of professional development. This was really well done and I learned a great deal.”