How the Pandemic Helped Me Find My Voice

While the COVID-19 pandemic was and is horrific in so many ways, it did allow me to find my voice.

Like so many other businesses, in March 2020 RBC Wealth Management–U.S. embarked on the enormous task of sending 5,000 employees home to work remotely for “just a few weeks” to slow the spread of COVID-19. Even though we had strong business continuity plans, there were many decisions that had to be made in the moment. Five days before I was scheduled to leave on a spring-break vacation, our CEO asked me to form a task force to make this transition. A small team worked around the clock from our boardroom to make plans for our U.S. employees to work from home. It was in these early days of the pandemic that my leadership voice took shape.

While I did not have the expertise to craft the messages, ready the technology, or navigate the regulatory impacts, I did have the ability to lead the team. I found the group of experts benefited from a solid, central leader who pulled the team together to ensure we were all working on the same evolving objectives, providing in-the-moment approvals, and ensuring new team members were brought in when gaps were identified. I did sneak away with my family for that vacation, but worked out of the rental home pretty much 24/7 to continue leading the team.

Of course, those “few weeks” turned into almost two years in which I led the COVID-19 task force through sending colleagues home, enabling sustainable remote work, fostering remote engagement and community, and thankfully, bringing people back to the workplace. In summer 2020, my leadership was recognized when I was promoted to chief administrative officer of RBC Wealth Management–U.S.

Another opportunity to strengthen my voice came through leading the design and build of our new U.S. headquarters in Minneapolis. In early 2019, a small team of very talented people was formed to design our 310,000 square feet in the new RBC Gateway building. Together we set out to design the footprint of our 10 floors, determining which teams should sit next to each other, décor, food vendors, conference center design, future-forward technology, and much more.

Even before the pandemic’s work-from-home model, we were building a workplace that would be ready for the future, with unassigned yet reservable desks, mobility-enabling technology, and other future-minded concepts. Then the pandemic sent most of our colleagues home, and we refined our plans to support the evolving workplace world. This spring, we welcomed 1,600 colleagues back to work in our new office. This was the project of my career, and I’m so thankful for the contributions of so many people that made RBC Gateway a reality.

So what is my voice? It recognizes those around me, it makes sure we have fun, and it provides a central point to ensure the team has what it needs to continue to move forward.