City Focus: Victoria
Business Chief explores the city of Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, to discover the temperate climate and technological prowess powering its continued success.
Victoria is the capital of Canada's British Columbia province. Lying on the southern coast of Vancouver Island, the largest island on North America’s western coast, it is located only 60 miles away from the larger Vancouver on the mainland. With a metropolitan population of 367,770 as of the 2016 census, it makes up over half the population of Vancouver Island but only about 8% of British Columbia as a whole. According to Statistics Canada, in 2013 the City’s GDP was CA$17.289bn, representing 8.15% of British Columbia’s total. Founded by the still extant Hudson’s Bay Company in 1843 as a trading post, the settlement was named after Queen Victoria, the reigning monarch.
With an early flowering season owed to its southerly position, Victoria is known as the City of Gardens. Spring temperatures are said to frequently reach 10-15 degrees celsius and the city has organized an annual flower count dating back to the 1970s. In 2019 the city proper counted some 19.95bn flowers. Aside from its wealth of flowers, the city has a number of formal gardens, with one of the more famous being Butchart Gardens. From the early 1900s, Jennie Butchart transformed what had been a quarry into a garden spread over 55 acres. With 900 varieties of plants tended to by 50 gardeners, the gardens see over a million visitors per year.
The city is also well known for its student population, stemming from its two universities: the University of Victoria in Oak Bay and Saanich and Greater Victoria and Royal Roads University in Colwood, Greater Victoria. The former traces its founding back to 1903 when Victoria College was set up in close association with Montreal’s McGill University. Royal Roads University was founded in 1995, succeeding the Royal Roads military college on the same location. The university maintains a close association with the Canadian Forces. A number of colleges are also present in the city, such as the community college Camosun and Victoria College of Art.
Online bookseller AbeBooks was founded in the city in 1995. An online marketplace, it also sells fine art and other collectables through the service, connecting independent sellers to buyers. Initially partnering with Amazon and others to sell through their channels, in 2008 the company was acquired by Amazon and remains a subsidiary to this day. Employing between 50 and 200 people, the company is located in the Victoria West area of the city.
Interface designers MetaLab have worked with some of the world’s largest companies on their applications. It has worked on the Uber Eats platform, the Amazon Photos app and helped to design Slack from the ground up. Located in Victoria’s Downtown area by the harbor, it was founded in 2006 and employs between 50 and 200 people. Other clients have included the likes of Disney and Google.
Located on an island, Victoria has always relied on ferries to connect it with the mainland. Initially serviced by private organisations, in 1960 a crown corporation known as BC Ferries was set up, and in 2003, the BC Government announced that BC Ferries would be reorganized into a private corporation with the Crown as the sole shareholder. Located in Downtown Victoria, the company reported its 2017 revenue as CA$859mn (US$657mn).
In recent times, the city has become known for a growing prominence in the technology sector. A report by the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology & Entrepreneurship Council and the University of Victoria said that in 2018 the tech sector had a $5.22bn annual economic impact in Greater Victoria. 955 local technology companies had a combined annual revenue of $4.06bn, employing 16,775 people directly. As reported in the Times Colonist, the study predicts there will be more than 1,000 tech firms in the region by 2020, with the sector targeting annual revenues of $10bn by 2030.
Upcoming events in the city include the Giant Screen Cinema Association 2019 International Conference and Trade Show on 10-13 September at the Victoria Conference center, as well as the Office of the Chief Information Officer 6th Annual OCIO Connect Conference on 3-4 October at the same location. With its temperate climate, good transport links to the mainland and nearby Vancouver and Seattle, and an ever-growing technology industry of its own, Victoria is undoubtedly an attractive prospect from whatever angle one looks at it, be that living, study, travel or work.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.