Rima Aristocrat

President & Ceo - Willis College

When they come together to elevate, inspire, and empower, they can truly make a difference in people’s lives and build a thriving community. Thriving communities mean stronger countries and stronger countries mean a better world—socially, economically, and politically—for our future generations.

As I imagine most of us do, I have specific young people in mind when I think of our future generations. I think about my four daughters, my four granddaughters, my grandson, and my great-grandson when I think about what’s to come—and when I think about innovation.

I am always learning from my family. I have them to thank for where I am now. In addition to their influence, spending 35+ years in adult post-secondary education has shaped my passion for building the next generation of innovative leaders in business, healthcare, and technology.

My own story has played a role, too. When I first moved to Canada, I had left behind a career as a concert pianist, and I was starting over. I met other immigrants, professionals like me, who were working in entry-level service-industry jobs. There is nothing wrong with these positions, of course, but it was also clear there was no easy path forward for them or for me.

That was what got me started designing and delivering innovative skills training, mentorship, and scholarship programs that foster career advancement. Today, in everything I do, I try to express the importance of skills training for lifelong learning, and I am grateful to carry that out in my role at Willis College.

Lifelong learning comes in many forms, and I have worked to discover them. Enabling lifelong learning can look like delivering culturally appropriate and socially responsible programs for indigenous people; establishing gainful career opportunities for our veterans, military, and military spouses; and building technology and entrepreneurial skills training and mentorship programs for women. It is crucial to empower women to stand up and be counted and to provide them with opportunities for lucrative careers—so that our world is one where women have more decision-making opportunities and economic contributions amongst leaders in our society.

Founding, establishing, partnering, or joining local, provincial, and national organizations that promote philanthropy and innovative programs for retention and advancement has truly given a whole different meaning to innovation for me.

That definition has continued to expand, and I’m always seeking new pathways for exactly that. Establishing sister-city partnerships between Canada and China. Leveraging Willis College’s partnerships to attract global organizations to Ottawa as a headquarters. Creating a $24,000 Women in Technology Scholarship and providing an opportunity for women to graduate with a Cybersecurity Analyst or Mobile Software Developer diploma—all of that is innovation to me.

An ideal future in Technology and Education includes flexibility to collaborate and innovate. An educational and technological world without borders will increase knowledge and understanding and create a prime landscape for collaboration.

Such collaboration is key to innovation in the region. Private/public/industry partnerships must work together to build a talent pipeline and increase diversity in the industry, adding voices to the conversation and enabling us to develop new ideas and perspectives. When we see each other as equals, we are more open to other ideas.

When I talk about learning and education, I don’t only have students—young or adult—in mind. I don’t just think of my grandchildren. I include myself in it. The successful entrepreneur in Ottawa must be a lifelong learner. We have so much to learn from one another.

Willis College

williscollege.com

Shopping Centre, 1200 St Laurent Blvd., #20 Ottawa,
ON K1K 3B8, Canada

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