Spend enough time with any human and you’ll find something terribly interesting about them. That’s the idea behind these short profiles of humans I’ve had the honour to know. You can read other profiles in this series here.
“Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’!” In the 1980s these song lyrics by Dolly Parton were on the airwaves everywhere. As a pre-teen I found it a catchy tune, and all these years later I still find it a catchy tune.
But if ever anyone doubts how far women have come in terms of putting a stake down in the world of business, just watch the trailer to the movie that this song was written for. (Go on, have a look — it’ll be fun! I’ll wait.)
Now take a moment to imagine you’re a young women in the 80s just setting out in the world. I think this mainstream movie is testament to how (un)welcoming the business world was at that time for women. Just notice how “he” is used throughout the trailer to indicate “the boss” while everyone serving him is a “she.”
Just a few short years after that movie splashed across theatre screens, Elaine accepted a position as a manager with a 5% share in a small language translation firm in Ottawa, Canada. Six years after that, she was still managing its graphics division, but now with a 50% share. By 1996, she had transformed the graphics division into a company in its own right and became sole owner.
It was around this time that I sat nervously awaiting an interview for my first “career” job — one with a salary, benefits and paid vacation. I had an English degree; this graphic design studio needed a proofreader. I didn’t know that it took far more than an English degree to decipher design specs, deal with creative types who didn’t like their work corrected and manage the ever-shifting priorities and razor-sharp deadlines that come with the industry. But Elaine Nadeau knew. And she gave me the job.
But she gave me much more than that — she believed in my potential, she brought me to meetings with even her most important clients and she taught me what it meant to survive as an entrepreneur. In sum, she was my first mentor. I’ve been fortunate to have other generous mentors in my life since then. But like most “firsts” in life, she remains special to me.
How did you choose your career path?
I agreed to help my cousin out with his business for a year and I haven’t left the industry since.
What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to face?
Dealing with bank managers, 25 years ago — they did not encourage women in business!
What kind of demands, if any, does a successful career like yours make on family life?
Fortunately, I waited to have my children later which gave me a chance to be available during the intense development years of the business.
If you didn’t work, what would you do?
Difficult question, I really enjoy my work! Probably study music and volunteer for different organizations.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Travel — also my passion!
What one word do you think is most commonly used to describe you?
What do you consider to be your greatest life achievement to date?
My two sons.
If you could come back to earth as another human, who would it be?
What aspect of humanity do you most deplore?
Crime and wars.
What aspect of humanity do you think is most worthy of celebrating?
“Elaine Nadeau” © Valberg Imaging
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