Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, the Director of Solution Delivery at Resolute Technology Solutions in Winnipeg, Trish Bishop, an innovator and proven leader of high-performance, multi-disciplinary teams. Trish is an IT Professional with more than 20 years of Program and Project Management, Strategic Solution Design and Executive Leadership experience. She is a volunteer mentor with Everwise, focusing exclusively on working with women in leadership. This experience has brought a number of issues to light when it comes to women in leadership roles. Like how to embrace feminine rather than masculine energy in what are primarily male dominated domains (IT, Finance, etc.) without losing respect of peers or subordinates, or whether being perceived as emotional is detrimental to being a great leader. Trish is also committed to helping leverage, highlight and foster the gifts women bring to leadership, and more importantly, to help women integrate themselves as leaders – to stop segregating the various aspects of who they are so they can stand fully in their power.
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
While there are many women who have accomplished AMAZING things, and while I have had an awesome career and overcome horrific traumas, I do not believe my personal or professional accomplishments make me a Girl Warrior. I know, bar none, that the biggest challenges I’ve faced, the things I’ve experienced that felt like going to war, the things that make me a Girl Warrior, are those where I’ve had to go deep inside of myself. Where I’ve had to uncover, acknowledge and own both the ugly and beautiful things about myself I didn’t want to acknowledge. Where I had to discover and embrace both my shadow and my light. Where I’ve had to discover who I really am, without the noise, the chaos, the trauma, the blame, the guilt or whatever else I allowed myself to believe was ‘real’. Picking myself and my beliefs apart brick by brick and getting to the place of surrender has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. To the point that if I knew then the journey I would have to walk, I may have just stayed in a place of ignorant bliss. However, now that I’m on the other side, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Mine was an internal war that ended in peace.
What makes me a Girl Warrior?
I speak my truth. I am who I am. I love, accept and honour who and what I am. How I do anything is how I do everything. My word is my honour.
It’s taken me years to get here, but I am finally me. I’ve spent the time, done the work, dug deep and integrated all the parts of me into a whole. It doesn’t mean I’m perfect or that I’ve finished growing or that I don’t have more internal work to do or even that everyone loves, or sometimes even likes me. But it means that I’m no longer spending time trying to figure out who I am. I no longer care about others’ expectations of me and I work very hard not to have expectations of others. I know who I am and I’ve stepped into the power of that. Instead of standing with my surfboard in the sand trying to stand against the waves, I’m sitting my ass on that board and riding them.
From high school dropout and single mom to IT Solution Implementation Specialist. That’s an impressive personal and professional journey. How did the job at Atlantic Connect change the trajectory of your career?
In 1994 I was taking a Business Information and Technology Diploma program at the Nova Scotia Community College during the day and working at the Halifax Herald newspaper offices in the evenings. One evening one of my co-workers stopped by my desk and dropped 2 floppy disks on my desk and said, “I just signed up for this thing called the Internet. I have no idea what it is, but they definitely need some customer service help. You should call them.” I called that night and had an interview the next morning at 8am. I started work at 9am the same day and have never looked back.
Atlantic Connect didn’t just change the trajectory of my career, that experience became the foundation of my career, not only in terms of the breadth of experience I gained boots on the ground, but also in how I would show up as a leader. There were months where we grew at a pace of more than 200% per month. Because we were moving so fast everyone jumped in to do whatever needed to be done. I had the root password to our Linux server and yet I didn’t have a clue what to do with a DOS prompt! Through the amazing leadership we had there, I was given the opportunity to put my finger in every pie and I thrived on it. We were also a high performance team though I didn’t know it at the time. That experience, that level of trust on your team, the pace, the energy and the momentum – that became the yard stick against which I would measure my success on the go forward, not money or titles, but re-creating that flow.
Was it difficult convincing people that “email will be a great idea someday”? What do you think when you look back on those early days?
There were many dubious stares in the audiences of the 20 or so people we were able to get into our ‘Introduction to the Internet’ information sessions in 1994. It was so fascinating to me that in the course of 2 short years we went from sharing our ideas of what the Internet could do with people who looked at us like we were crazy, to sitting in a café listening to a couple of older ladies sitting next to me talking about receiving a picture of their grandchild through email like it was a normal thing. I would feel such a rush from that, that while I didn’t create the Internet, I played a pivotal role in facilitating people’s ability to get access to it and to find new and innovative ways to use it.
When I look back, there is no question that it was the wild, wild west recreated in the virtual realm. The creativity people had in how to leverage this powerful tool was off the charts. It was also awesome to see how quickly residential access to the Internet created this global stage where you were connected with people and ideas and information in ways that were simply unheard of.
I did not have a University degree at that time (I still don’t), because when I looked at where I was, literally on the bleeding edge of technology that sometimes changed and shifted every few months, and then I looked at what I would learn in University, which was years behind at that time, I simply couldn’t reconcile losing 4 years. My world was about pushing the envelope of what’s possible, which meant constant forward momentum. There was no bigger high for me than getting into a room with a bunch of brilliant, creative and innovative people and moving into either a problem-solving or solution-defining brainstorming session. A total rush.
What obstacles have you overcome and walls have you broken down?
This is always an interesting question for me, especially when I talk to other women in IT. For example, I have never felt pressured because of my sex, I have never felt that I was held back because I am a woman (likely due to being super picky about which leaders I’m willing to follow) and I have never felt that my lack of a University education has held me back. Those tend to be the obstacles most women talk about, but they were not mine.
My biggest obstacle was me, my perfectionistic, Type A, OCD personality literally almost killed me as a result of the massive stress I internalized trying to control everything and everyone around me. Those traits are par for the course for a Project Manager, yet, they can be dangerous not only to the individual, but to those who work with them. As a result of the pace I was driving I also had an adrenaline addiction, which resulted in Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, which comes with its own set of health issues. So I stepped out of corporate. I got quiet and I did massive amounts of personal development work. I overcame my OCD (mostly, I’m still in IT after all, LOL), my perfectionist nature and my need to control. I also moved past my adrenaline addiction, replacing it with the authentic desire to see others succeed. Another drug? Maybe, but, I believe, a healthier one and one that brings me unbelievable joy.
The walls I have broken down have been my own. My fears of success or of failure, my belief that I had to have two personalities, one for work and one for home, the belief that I had to keep my spiritual self and my professional self separate, the illusion of control I used to believe I could wield at will. While I am nowhere near perfect and I will always work on my own personal development, I am integrated now; I am whole. I am not a different person at work than I am at home. I don’t separate out my spirituality from my corporate life. I know who I am and I honour that, all the pieces, including my inner bitch, a fundamental part of who I am that I’ve learned to embrace with a little more grace than I did before.
You were diagnosed with Scleroderma in 1998. For those of us who aren’t familiar with this disease, can you give us the Coles Notes and tell us how it impacted your life?
Scleroderma is a rare form of Rheumatoid Arthritis that creates scar tissue inside the body until the organs cease to function. When I was diagnosed in 1998 I was told that I had 7 years to live, if I was lucky. Intuitively, I refused all medications and went on another journey that would again fundamentally change the trajectory of my life. I truly believe that the disease was a manifestation of all of the stress I was internalizing, that I was restricting my body’s ability to heal as much as I was tightly trying to control the world around me through my OCD and perfectionism. I went down the path of natural health (before it was the well-known thing it is today) and through trial and error I was able to reverse my symptoms and the disease has been in remission ever since.
There were a number of impacts for me. First, an acknowledgement that the only person who is responsible for my health is me. I knew if I wanted to be around to see my children graduate and get married and have their own children, I would have to find a solution, and again, intuitively, I knew that toxic drugs were not the right solution for me. I knew I would need to step up and take responsibility for my health. I remember doing a workshop once and being asked “what are you not doing or choosing that is holding you back from your bliss?” I wrote the first thing that came to my mind, “I choose to live.” After years of helping others, I realize that making the choice to live, rather than just ‘living with’ is significantly harder than most people understand unless they’ve had to face their mortality. It is a conscious choice that is about commitment to yourself, which is predicated by a belief in your own worthiness.
When you and your husband Paul read “The Detox Book” by Bruce Fife, N.D. your lives were changed forever. That’s huge. What do we need to know “for sure” about the underlying cause for all non-inherited disease?
I remember cleaning the house one day as my husband was reading “The Detox Book” and he read two things to me out loud. First, “The root cause of all disease [not inherited] is toxins, malnutrition and stress.” The second thing was along the lines of, if you choose go down this path to reclaim your health there is a high probability you will leave your job, leave your spouse or move away from where you live. So we decided to do an experiment. Both of us had been diagnosed with different auto-immune conditions, so we agreed to commit one year of our lives to nourishing our bodies and eliminating toxins and stress. It was a crazy year, but we were ALL IN! At the end of year, neither of us had any symptoms. However, most interesting is that Paul left his job (I worked virtually), we moved from Nova Scotia to British Columbia and we would both tell you that if we hadn’t done it together we wouldn’t be together. The mind, body and spirit shift was so fundamental neither one of us is the same person we were before that year.
How did the Denis Waitley quote, “real power comes from empowering others,” affect your leadership style?
I had just been promoted to the Director of Solution Design for a global learning company and was talking to a good friend of mine about selecting the talent for my new team. I was sharing my thoughts and ideas with her, which I’m sure were full of OCD and controlling nonsense, and she stopped me and said, “Trish, true power comes from empowering others.” WOW, talk about a lightbulb moment, or better yet, a 2×4 across the head. Everything shifted in that moment. It would still be several years before I would move past my perfectionist/OCD issues, but this was absolutely the starting point in terms of how I would show up as a leader. It was as if I was, for the first time, consciously lifting my head to look around me and truly ‘seeing’ what others brought to the table. Then, as a leader, I was able to shift my focus from believing I had all the right answers and I was the only one who could do it right, to becoming more of a Maestro who was facilitating the coordination of the gifts, talents and experience of the people on my team to create that high performance culture.
The true gift is that as soon as you make that first authentic step towards supporting others’ success, you almost immediately see the impact, watching them step into their ‘10’ and shine, and that becomes your new favourite high – seeing them succeed and knowing you played some small part in that.
Why did you decide to become a volunteer mentor at Everwise?
I’m definitely at the point in my career where I want to give back in a meaningful way. However, more importantly, the more I engage with women in leadership positions the more I’m discovering that many women are struggling with how they should show up as a leader. Between the ‘bro-code’ and the ‘old boys club’ mentalities, I’m finding many women are feeling lost, not sure what is ok and what’s not. And there are other women who believe they essentially need to act like a man in order to succeed.
Throughout my career, the majority of the best leaders I have worked with, or for, have been men. And yet, many of the people who have worked with, or for, me felt I was a great leader and one that they would happily follow again, and I’m a woman so it doesn’t need to be about sex, but about leadership style. The most significant issue I find with some women in leadership positions is that they can be so competitive and territorial, their egos getting in the way of truly ‘leading’. It’s like the grown-up version of high school – girls/women can be absolutely brutal to each other and they often distrust true collaboration or support when it comes from other women. I’m seeing this shift more and more, which is awesome, but we have a long way to go.
I believe that we need more women in leadership, but we need them there in a healthy way. They need to understand and honour who they are, to be integrated, to be fully who they are without apology or exception. I don’t believe there will ever be a single definition of what it is to be a woman leader – which I believe is also exactly the point. I believe the gifts women bring to leadership are their creativity, unpredictability, outside the box thinking and their willingness to be vulnerable. I want to contribute in any way I can to ensuring more women can step fully into their power.
What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior?
- A title does not make a leader, nor does it mean someone is capable.
- Do not buy into the hierarchy, confirm someone’s capability yourself, don’t accept it, or be impressed by it, based only on face value, their title or their education.
- The sooner you can get to the place where you trust your own gifts the better. Rely on others for validation ONLY until you know you’re good at it then integrate it, own it, and move on to your next level of growth.
- ALWAYS be open to learning something new. If you don’t know – ask. It doesn’t make you look stupid, it makes you open, approachable, coachable and sometimes vulnerable; there is strength in that.
- Listen to others’ stories and see their gifts.
- There are very few people who really are ‘all that’. Everyone has issues, fears and stories. Some put a better face on it than others. There’s nothing wrong with fake it ‘till you make it.
- Don’t wear masks based on the expectations of others, personally or professionally.
- Be who you are in all your glory.
- Only take what resonates.
- Trust your intuition.
- Practice reciprocity authentically and without expectation.
What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?
The biggest struggle most people have is that they get lost trying to be what they believe others want them to be. Forget that. Be who you are. Your gifts, your personality, your quirks, your passion – all of these will be a perfect fit for the right team, opportunity, company, initiative, etc.
Trust that when you show up, being all you are, standing in your power that you will be like a lighthouse beacon and the right ship will see that light and you’ll pull them in like a tractor beam.
Understand and accept that all the wrong fits are teaching you so many things, including what you don’t want, so you can get crystal clear about what you do want.
Show up. Put your hand up. Stand up. Speak your truth. Don’t compromise, but don’t be too rigid. Learn to flow like water: powerful and fluid.
Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why?
Christina Aguilera. I have huge respect for her because of how she’s stepped into her power. She speaks her truth and shares her story with the world. That takes such unbelievable courage. Sharing your fears and your traumas is like stripping yourself naked and waiting to be judged. It is such a humbling experience and she has done it with passion, fire and grace.
Madonna is another Girl Warrior heroine. Her 2016 Billboard Music speech says it all. WOW.
For many years I’ve found myself partnered with visionaries and I’ve been the implementer. With Project Management embedded in my DNA, I love getting shit done. However, I’ve been an independent consultant for the past 10 years and really wanted to truly feel like I was part of a team again. I spent a long time envisioning exactly the role I wanted and I totally found it with Resolute Technology Solutions as an Integrator (aka – implementer. How cool is that!). This role is absolutely pushing me to shift and grow in many ways, which I love! I work with an amazingly talented team and am super excited about the opportunity to collaboratively build a high performance culture here, my absolute favourite thing to do.
Beyond my new role with Resolute, I’m loving being a mentor with Everwise and am actively looking for more ways to shift thinking about women in leadership, particularly in the IT arena. We need more women in IT and we need more women in leadership in IT.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I live in the now. I create in my mind the experiences I want and then I manifest them. It really is that simple. I don’t look 5 years out as I don’t want to limit my thinking in any way. I actively spend time looking at where I am now, what I love about my life and what I don’t, then I take steps to change what I’m not loving or imagine what I’d love more and then I create that. I live my life as an adventure. I engage fully in whatever I do and I live a life without regret.
What’s the definitive “subject line” of an email about you?
Let’s Get Shit Done!
Thank you Kim Yanick @ https://www.kimyanick.com for the beautiful photo of Trish.
Connect with Trish on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/resolute-technology-solutions-inc
Facebook at facebook.com/ResoluteTS
To learn more about the Everwise Mentor Program visit the website: http://geteverwise.com
Watch Madonna’s 2016 Billboard Music speech here: http://www.billboard.com/articles/events/women-in-music/7617021/madonna-billboard-women-in-music-2016-speech