Lean In Calgary is Canada’s newest city-wide chapter and is expected to launch in 2019. Founding Chapter President, Susan Elford, APR, CPCC, PCC is leading this charge and spent her first six months in the role researching the needs of the Calgary community, conducting public consultation and visioning sessions for the future of the chapter and hiring key volunteer positions. For the first year of launch, the Calgary Chapter has four main areas of focus: Events, Volunteers, Visioning Sessions and the Calgary Community. Through two visioning sessions held in late 2018, diverse women representing all sectors called for a program tailor-made to Calgary’s unique market. With this feedback in mind, a core volunteer team of seasoned and well-positioned volunteers was formed to fulfill this need. For 2019, the Chapter’s goal is to hold three networking events to introduce the Lean In vision to key stakeholders while establishing a strong presence within the Calgary community.
"Lean In Canada has provided me with an amazing opportunity to connect with individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences in a great venue."
- Ami Patel
Susan Elford is a Leadership Coach to career-loving women and PR Strategist to not-for-profits and small businesses. President and Sole Proprietor of Elford Communications and Susan Elford Coaching & Consulting, Susan stepped away from her corporate communications career in late 2002 to launch Elford Communications. Prior to launching her business, Susan’s career in communications served at senior advisory levels in the provincial government of Newfoundland, building communications programs for energy companies in Canada, and as a senior consultant in agency work that served clients in telecommunications, government, energy and private business. When Susan looks back at her career highlights, she is pleased that they all reflect what happens when good communications planning meets a commitment to succeed: authentically showcasing her clients.
Susan’s passion for building community and effective, strategic communications programs that showcase her clients authentically, has seen her developing the not-for-profit community in Calgary and supporting the growth of her small business clients through hands-on training and coaching and fostering their capacity in marketing and communications. Susan’s passion for community extends beyond her business and you will find Susan actively volunteering with her children’s schools and sports as well as with her professional development organizations and community association. Susan is thrilled to put President, Lean in Calgary, at the top of this list and is excited about building capacity in women leaders in this way.
Susan’s corporate and personal coaching clients include leaders in organizations across Canada. Her leadership coaching work focuses on building the careers of professional women who want all that life and a fulfilling career can offer them, from wherever they choose to serve: from the workplace, from their businesses or from their homes.
Susan is academically trained and holds two university degrees, one in English and the other in Public Relations. Susan is also certified by the Canadian Public Relations Society, the International Association of Public Participation and the Coaches Training Institute.
On the personal side, Susan has lived in Calgary for 20 years, is married and has two almost teenage daughters. She spends her free time outside as much as possible, running, skiing and walking her adorable dog.
Alison Pidskalny is Vice President, Partnerships for Lean In Canada, Calgary Chapter. Alison has proven herself to be a trusted strategist, connector and community builder with 22 years in the corporate, non-profit and consulting sectors.
Alison has served as Campaign Director for YW Calgary, building a new women’s shelter that just opened its doors in Inglewood. Alison’s passion for community infrastructure is evident in her prior work as Vice President, External Affairs for TELUS Spark, establishing this new science centre in 2011 and, closer to home, planning the campaign to build a new community hall for her neighborhood. She’s been described as a “Swiss army knife” bringing her fundraising, marketing and business acumen to the organizations she serves.
In her free time, Alison also serves as delegate of UNICEF Canada’s Women UNlimited, and plans to travel to Ghana later this year with her cohort. Alison has been married to Douglas for over a decade and is a Mom to Matthew and Charlotte (and Scooter the dog).
Cheralee Rutledge, CA, CPA, is a Principal in the Grant Thornton assurance practice. She is responsible for client services including accounting, tax, and advisory services for privately held businesses.
Cheralee has nearly 20 years of experience providing assurance, tax and accounting services to private business across diverse industries, with a particular focus on professional corporations and high-net worth entities. Her experiences include services to clients at both a corporate and a personal level with a focus on holistic planning, including but not limited to owner-managed remuneration. She strives to build a trusted relationship with her clients and assist them with insightful suggestions regarding tax efficiency and other management and accounting issues.
Cheralee has experience in the Professional Sector – Health Care and was part of a National Team that published a piece called “Incorporation Your Practice – A guide to “Why” and “How” for New Health Care Professionals”.
A Chartered Accountant since 2000, Cheralee is a member of the Canadian and Alberta Institutes of Chartered Professional Accountants.
Cheralee graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce and Business Administration from the University of British Columbia in 1997.
Head, Marketing & Public Relations
I’m Cara. I’m a public relations strategist fueled by curiosity, dissatisfaction with the status quo, and my own awkward dance moves.
I started my career in a small Edmonton communications shop before settling in for a few years with the Government of Alberta, spending time in multiple departments. My longest stint was at Alberta Environment where I led multiple communication initiatives and supported crisis and incident response events, including the Slave Lake fire and a number of pipeline breaks. In 2008, I participated in a United States Homeland Security training exercise in Montana.
I was lured to the Alberta Energy Regulator in 2011 after spending part of a summer at an oil spill in northern Alberta. Enchanted by the chaos and passion of the regulator’s staff up there, I happily moved to Calgary in 2011 leaving my husband mid kitchen reno to (literally) clean things up before joining me a few months later. In my role as Manager of External Communications, I lead the media relations, issues management, crisis communications, and strategy development efforts of the Communications and International Relations branch. In 2013, I was nominated for the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program to discuss Canada – U.S. energy strategy. And in 2016 I achieved my designation with the Canadian Public Relations Society.
When not working, I spend time outside with my husband and two very active little boys who are just as adventurous and energetic as our mini-Australian Shepherd.
Head of Programs
I am a Communications and Change Management professional with over 20 years of experience in the not-for-profit, radio, telecommunications, agriculture and energy sector. When I look back at my education and career history, I am proud of what I have accomplished to date (and I’m definitely not done!).
I have taken some of the less traditional routes to get where I am today. I began my university career at the age of 24 as a “mature student” after taking seven years off from high school (my original plan was to take one). I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in Communications (Honours) from the University of Calgary. To make the most of my university career, I created my own opportunity and developed my own hands-on or personalized work terms through my four-year program. Through that, and since then, my portfolio has broadened to include strategic communications planning, leader and employee engagement, change management, electronic communications, process improvement, brand and reputation management, crisis communications and digital transformation. In my current role as Manager, Transformation Projects Communications with Suncor, I am proud to be working within a broader transformation management office that is a catalyst for accelerating transformational change across the organization.
I pride myself on being a strong collaborator, community builder and ambassador. As a born-and-raised Calgarian, I am proud of my city and want to contribute to its success and to others having the same opportunities and experiences I have had. I volunteer and participate in a few professional development associations and am active within my children’s schools and sports activities. Lean In Calgary is my newest venture and I am proud be a part of this amazing team to help foster “a community of professional women empowering each other to build purposeful and fulfilling careers.”
When I’m not at the office, I love spending quality time with my partner and my two teenage boys who help inspire me to bring my best every day! Speaking of inspiration, I have a sign on my desk that reads, “Being a person is getting too complicated…time to be a unicorn!” Take the less traditional route and dream on…think “what if…?”