I recently had the good fortune of being invited to attend the Connecting the Dots: Women, exporting and accelerating business growth Conference that was held at Ryerson University and hosted by Magnet Today. I had been invited to attend the event by one of the panelists – Anita Agrawal, President of Organization of Women in International Trade, Toronto Chapter (OWIT). Anita is also the CEO Best Bargains Jewellery and I had the pleasure of meeting her at a CAWEE event six years ago when I had just joined the organization. I was a ‘newbie’ back then.
Like so many CAWEE members that I have met over the years at networking breakfasts and after work events, Anita was very giving of her time and provided great suggestions on what areas to further explore. I personally was at a crossroads not knowing what I wanted to do next in my career. Networking and speaking to people outside of my traditional circle provided me with a broader perspective and suggestions I had not yet taken into account.
Fast forward 6 years, I am now working at FEI Canada, heading up the research practice of a NFP organization for four years and Anita is now also active with OWIT, speaking on panels and will be running in the next Toronto municipal election.
My original intent for attending the conference was to catch up with Anita – it had been a couple of years since we’d spoken and this seemed like a great opportunity to meet new people and catch up with Anita at the same time. I did not expect to know anyone at the conference. Well, much to my surprise, I entered the room and recognized Mark Patterson, the Executive Director of Magnet Today and a number of other attendees, most of whom I had met through networking and quite a number of them through CAWEE. Dr. Wendy Cukier, Founder and Director of the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University, moderated the expert panel discussion, exploring the business case for exporting and how women can plug into the entrepreneur ecosystem in Canada to accelerate their export growth.
After the conference, I met a number of interesting women whom I subsequently connected with on LinkedIn and plan to meet for coffee in the near future. As a result of the conference, I learned a bit more about opportunities available to women who want to export and made five new connections as well as caught up with some good friends I hadn’t seen in a while. What more could I have asked for on a Wednesday afternoon?