To not become inspired while sitting at the same boardroom table as Gillian Hewitt Smith is virtually impossible. Gillian is our definition of what it means to be a fully engaged young professional today: A well designed balance of career, volunteer work, and leisure. The CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship and a board/committee member of countless charities in Toronto, you’ll be hearing a lot more about Gillian in the future. Trust us. If Torontonians need to care about making their city and country a better place, Gillian Hewitt Smith is someone who does on multiple, meaningful levels.
Notable: What is your name and age?
Gillian: Gillian Hewitt Smith, age 37.
Notable: What is the name of the company you work for and what industry is it in? How can we find out more online?
Gillian: Institute for Canadian Citizenship, Not-for-profit Industry; Facebook: Institute for Canadian Citizenship; Twitter: @ICCICC; YouTube: InstituteCitizenship
Notable: Elevator Pitch (we just met on an elevator, we have 30 seconds together in the elevator, please describe your business):
Gillian: The ICC engages Canadians in citizenship through innovative programs, campaigns and partnerships designed to ensure new citizens are welcomed and included as equals, and to create meaningful connections between all Canadian citizens. Today, we accomplish this by hosting community-based citizenship ceremonies, and by offering new citizens complimentary access to Canada’s arts and culture institutions through our Cultural Access Pass.
Notable: Why did you get involved in your industry, why this one, what was the inspiration?
Gillian: My job is all about getting Canadians – from our newest citizens to those whose families have been here for generations – to appreciate what it is to be Canadian, and to encourage them to be active and engaged citizens. My role neatly knits together many threads in my life: my professional skills, my voluntary career, my interest in issues concerning citizenship and immigration and my love for our amazing country.
Notable: What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis?
Gillian: The best part is that there are so many parts. We’re a small organization, and so my days are spent all over the place: from meeting potential funders and partners, to working with staff on programming, to figuring out our technology infrastructure, it never stops.
Notable: What is the most challenging part of your job?
Gillian: Probably the same thing as the best part: there are always so many directions that I have to be clear, each and every day, what priorities need to be accomplished and in what order. Otherwise, the risk is that I’d be dragged all over the place, without focus, and we wouldn’t move forward.
Notable: Where do you see yourself going in 5 years?
Gillian: Now that I’ve had a chance to work on city-building and national issues, I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s quite a thrill to work on issues that affect all Canadians.
Notable: Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Gillian: Volunteer. There are so many benefits beyond feeling good and making a meaningful contribution: a young professional can learn new skills, forge new networks and really get to understand their community just by giving of their time, energy, ideas, influence and financial resources.
Notable: What is your greatest asset as it relates to business?
Gillian: I really love to meet new people – it gives me a tremendous amount of energy to learn about others. Over the years, I’ve developed an extended network that enables me to connect interesting people to interesting projects. What’s more, if I don’t know an answer, most of the time I know someone who does.
Notable: What does success look like to you?
Gillian: A happy balance in life. A mentor of mine once said that he spent his life in thirds: a third with family and friends, a third pursuing professional work and a third dedicated to community service. I’ve tried to do the same … and while my thirds are often out of whack, I believe I’m getting close.
Notable: What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Gillian: I’ve been very lucky to have met mentors almost every step of the way in my career, and they’ve helped to shape how I think and act. One in particular – although she may not realize it – had a huge influence. She taught me the art of translation: she inspires her team with the big picture, and keeps them focused and motivated by showing how smaller independent tasks add up to that grand goal.
Notable: Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Gillian: I support as many causes as I can handle in a meaningful and authentic way. If I get involved with an organization as a volunteer, I want to make a lasting contribution so that those who work day-in and day-out on the cause have as much support as they need. I spend the majority of my time with The Stop Community Food Centre, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Business for the Arts. I also work with the Toronto Public Library Foundation, Tapestry new opera works, the St. Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts, the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Women’s College Hospital Foundation.
Notable: What is Notable to you?
Gillian: People who are passionate about what they do, and who contribute to their communities.
Notable: Anything else?
Gillian: Thanks very much for asking me to participate.