The Disruptors: Catherine Velie

The Disruptors is Pursuit’s feature that showcases thought leaders and CEOs who are changing the way we do business, how we perceive the business landscape, taking ideas to the next level. It is where innovation meets a created market where none existed before.

BIO:

Since June 2017, Catherine Velie has been the General Manager of the Delta Toronto. Prior to this role, she served as the General Manager of the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Toronto. Catherine joined Starwood in 1991 as a Restaurant Server for the Westin Hotel Calgary. Since then, she has held a variety of leadership roles in Front Office, Housekeeping, Rooms, and Operations. She’s had experience throughout the Americas, including Director of Operations at Le Centre Sheraton in Montreal, Quebec and at the W Hotel in Los Angeles, as well as assignments in Calgary, Cayman Islands, and Boston.

Tell us about your journey moving up the ladder?

I attended school in Montreal at the Institut de tourisme et d’hotellerie du Quebec. From there, I moved across the country, where I worked at the Westin Calgary as the first female server on the evening shift, before moving on to the front office.

I then moved to the Westin Grand Cayman to hone in on my management skills, before moving to Boston.

In Boston, I held multiple positions from Housekeeping Manager to Director of Rooms and eventually Director of Six Sigma. My first year as Director of Six Sigma was very challenging – it was my first time in a role of this nature, and was a major learning curve. The experience taught me that it is okay to step out of your comfort zone, and push yourself.

I gained patience, confidence and grew my leadership skills, which helped me move into my next role as Director of Operations at the W Los Angeles. After Los Angeles, I moved to Montreal to work at Le Centre Sheraton as the Director of Operations for just over two years, prior to moving to Toronto, to become General Manager at the Sheraton Gateway in Toronto, and then eventually The Delta Toronto, where I am today.

What has been your proudest moment in your career?

In June of 2019, I was asked to be a speaker at a pilot program “Advancing Women in Leadership” in Calgary, the city where my career began. In that moment, I realized how far I have come, and all that I have accomplished in my career. I feel privileged to get the opportunity to inspire other women with my story.

What does mentorship mean to you?

It’s extremely important to any career, but you have to willing to take advice and feedback constructively.

In honour of International Women’s Day, March 8, how can individuals support women within their company?

The IWD theme this year is #EqualforEqual which represents Collective Individualism. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society and if we keep this in mind in the workplace, it can help to grow an inclusive and inspiring work culture and environment.

What advice would you give to young women starting out their career?

Don’t be afraid to say what you need to say and ask for what you want. Surround yourself with a strong network of friends, family, peers and mentors and find a company that will support you in all you do.

What are some challenges that you have seen women face in the workplace?

The feeling of having to choose between family and career is never easy, but it’s something that women continue to face. I firmly believe that it is possible to have both, but finding that balance is important. And that balance is different for everyone. I have been able to have both by having a strong support system through my employer, and an extended group of family and friends.

When I’m at work, I am completely focused on work, but when I’m at home, I am fully present for my family at home.

What was it like to have worked in so many different countries, and how did these experiences parlay into your current role?

It was amazing! That is the beauty of the industry we work in. We have the opportunity to travel and experience new cultures, while doing what we love. It taught me to be adaptable, flexible, understanding and appreciative; all qualities that have helped me grow as a leader and become more confident.

What advice would you give to people starting out their career?

Don’t hesitate to try new things, and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Through adversity you advance and you get stronger. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s how we learn.

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