Discover a Global Saskatchewan
through Candace Laing
Senior Director of Organization and Talent Development, PotashCorp
Candace talks about her desire to work for a company with global reach, which she found through PotashCorp. She shares her cultural blunders abroad and her approach to adapt to the local culture. She also discusses the exciting times ahead brought by greater access to global technology and information.
Czarina: Please describe your position, and what your job entails.
Laing: Within Potash Corp. I have a company wide responsibility for organizational development. I work on strategies that help our organization from a performance and cultural perspective. The specific strategies that we work on align the organization from a people side with an ability to achieve our goals and objectives.
How did you first become involved in international trade and business?
I completed my commerce degree and became an HR professional. I worked in Saskatchewan for quite a few years. Then I decided that I would love to work for a company that had a global reach, and Potash Corp. served as the perfect opportunity. I could take my training as an HR professional and be able to apply that across borders in multiple countries.
For most employees now, the main goal is to make an impact in their company as opposed to just earn an income. What do you think about this trend?
What I know from the generation that I'm from, and the generation coming up, is that we've grown up with access, unlike the generations before us, to global information. We are very plugged into and informed about what's happening around the world. The world is almost borderless and we have a greater interest in global issues. So we consider our impacts and connections.
You once discussed leadership in "Wanted: Made In Canada Leadership--Could You Do Something About it?" What are the benefits of having international experience for those people aiming for leadership positions?
The research on that topic was interesting. I was able to talk to Canadian leaders and figure out what our leadership brand is all about. The research found that there is something unique about Canadian leaders. We are good at inclusion and collaboration. When it comes down to getting different people with diverse perspectives to do business together, chances are Canadians bring a good skillset to the table. As we work across the globe we have a style that's prized.
What has been your best experience or adventure abroad?
It was when I was on a trip for my husband's business, and we were in another city. First, I'll tell you that my husband and I are fans of the show Amazing Race. We watch the show and often think we could be on it. So as I was saying, we were in another city and one of his colleagues said I will meet you at such and such a place, but they didn't tell us how to get there. In an instant we started our own amazing race challenge to see if we could beat him there. We started racing around the city. Our friend was ahead of us leaving clues all over the place, and we thought we were rocking it. Eventually we saw a landmark and realized we had gone in the totally wrong direction and were lost. At that point we jumped into a cab and just said take us to this destination, and we had to give up. Looking back it was a very humbling experience. We learned not to act overly confident.
"We are good at inclusion and collaboration. When it comes down to getting different people with diverse perspectives to do business together, chances are Canadians bring a good skillset to the table."
Who has been the most interesting person that you have met from abroad?
At a company meeting last year I had a chance to meet some colleagues from the Middle East. I had the most fascinating conversation with a gentleman from there. We got into discussions that really reveled differences between our cultures. It was a reminder that in North America we can easily slip into the mindset of 'west is best'. We have shaped ideals and values that are not universal.
Has there ever been a cultural blunder that you have ever made?
There is one. In several parts of the world there is a certain way that women are treated. People make sure you are served first if you are the lady in the group and ensure the door is opened for you. I have been in different countries where I have been treated like that, and I have a bit of a reaction. What I have gotten used to is being a very independent, professional woman. So in those other environments I have reacted before saying "no I'm fine, you go ahead" or "I'll hold the door for you." Finally, one good colleague sat me down and said "You don't understand I need to open the door for you, if my mom heard that I didn't, I would be in big trouble." That made it clear that I was actually causing a lot of trouble for another person. I learned to think about the situation differently and adapt accordingly.
Would you say that flexibility is a large part of your job as an HR Professional?
Adaptability yes. It is part of our skillset to work on cultural competency. I need to be aware of my own culture and behavior, and learn how to effectively adapt.
What can Saskatchewan businesses do to continue to make Saskatchewan an international business center?
As a province, our whole attitude and energy is changing around opportunity. This is a place where business can thrive and it's an exciting time to be working here. Also, it's on us in Saskatchewan to be very welcoming of businesses and people from different places with different backgrounds. We need to be focused on inclusion.
Could you describe Saskatchewan in one sentence?
Saskatchewan is resourceful. We are now opening up opportunities and possibilities for others to come in, and it is going to be a whole new chapter.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a career in international business?
If people are interested in a career in international business, the first thing I usually hear is that they want to go abroad, be great, and make an impact. I would remind them to think about what their area of expertise is, and what are they going to bring to the business itself.
Click here to meet the rest of the Global Players.