A strong community can promote new ideas and ensure accountability. It can also act as motivation, support, and even provide a little friendly competition. The power of community is undeniable and the Okanagan tech community is no exception.
Our community is strong and growing with record speed and maintaining a connection through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic, we’ve got a plan.
Introducing, We are #OKGNtech. A showcase of Okanagan tech entrepreneurs, partners, supporters, and cheerleaders designed to fuel more connection, more growth, and more excitement. Follow along on the blog and on Instagram @OKGNtech to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.
Meet Sandra. Sandra Oldfield is the co-founder and President of Elysian Projects Inc. and Executive in Residence at Accelerate Okanagan. When she isn’t sharing her leadership expertise with growing businesses, you’ll find Sandra engaging with her Twitter followers or planning her next trip to Burning Man.
Where do you work in the Okanagan?
I have my own consulting firm called Elysian Projects and I work at Accelerate Okanagan as a mentor. Before that, I spent 25 years as the winemaker and CEO of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in Oliver. It’s taken me a few decades to figure out that it wasn’t just the winemaking that I enjoyed, it was running the business. I felt like I was always meant to be a CEO, that’s where I felt most in the groove. Now, I’m in the groove being empathetic towards other business owners.
What focus do you enjoy most when working with companies?
In particular, HR is something that I find businesses feel they can do by the seat of their pants. Employee systems weren’t something I got taught when given the reigns as CEO at Tinhorn. Too often you don’t get taught about things like work-life balance or conflict resolution. You fail a lot and you learn that how you treat your employees can make all the difference.
What advice do you give to women you mentor?
It takes a lot of empathy to run a business. I feel like women will become a wine-maker because that’s all they ever wanted to do, which is great, but they’re really good at running businesses. Because of that, I find I try to push them to not be afraid of getting a promotion. A lot of the women I meet are on the right track; they just don’t think they are and need feedback to validate that fact.
How were you first introduced to the OKGNtech community?
Accelerate Okanagan was looking to expand to other sectors outside of technology, so they approached me to join them as a mentor. I was intimidated at first because my background wasn’t in tech. But I joined because, after losing the winery, I realized that I missed the team atmosphere. I wanted to feel like I was a part of something.
Do you think there is anything missing from the community?
I’d really love to be able to see more tech firms embrace the relationships of the people they have around them—seeing people as their most important product. At Tinhorn, I realized it wasn’t the land that was important, it wasn’t the wine or the grapes, it was the people and how you manage them. That’s when I really started having fun as a CEO.
How do you approach someone with an ego?
Egos get in the way of success. At the end of the day, I try to get people to recognize that if you want it, the people around you will want it too. I try to get them to see their own actions and how they can incorporate some empathy into their decision making. Why are you allowing yourself to take-off at 2 pm to get a haircut but your employees can’t?
What is something that people don’t know about you?
I’m a lifelong learner. I’ve taken over 150 University-level courses on Coursera. For the first few years, they were free so I would just take a course at night instead of watching TV. They told me that I had taken more courses than anyone in North America.
What is the best piece of advice you like to share?
When people start running their business through the lens of empathy, they’ll be more successful. On any given day, I try to show people how that might look in business, especially now with COVID-19. Everyone is stressed and hurting. Your team may have some great ideas, but if you’re not seeking them out as advisors, you’re missing out.