The Moment | Mare Stevulak



We believe that life is a collection of Moments. Some ever so big, some fleeting, some small. It is in these Moments and the choices we make within them, that shape the people we become and what our lives will stand for.

We are reaching out to the most interesting, inspiring & successful leaders around the world to ask them about their Moments. In the spirit of our number one value, collaboration, our goal with this series is for you to experience development and enrichment from today's most inspirational leaders.

On a normal day you can find Mare at her beautiful home in Victoria out for a morning walk with her husband and sheep dog Oggy. Spanning a career in progressive leadership and development, Mare has worked for global brands like lululemon athletica, Arizia and as a faculty member at Royal Roads University. 
In her latest venture, Mare has founded The Academy of Career Skills which supports youth in bridging the gap between school and the workforce by teaching skills that help them get a job and be successful at it.  Her goal is to elevate the lives of our students by providing them with competence and confidence in the early stages of their career. 

Mare tell us about the Moment ....

You realized you were in the presence of a great leader/teacher
During my time at Royal Roads University, I experienced a teacher that was like no other. At first, I didn’t know if I could sit through his class because he had such a unique style of teaching in comparison to the conventional PowerPoint style lecture I was used to. Professor Wilkes used conversation, stories, and questions to share his endless knowledge. He asked the class for our perspectives, he challenged us to think differently, and he invoked a deep desire for quality. Rather than three different assignments like most classes, he assigned the same thing, the same paper, three times. Now initially I was let down and not looking forward to this boring task of doing the same thing three times. However, it was this exercise that helped me to learn the art of writing with intention, clarity, and concision. In most schools, you are given an assignment, you get feedback, and then they assume you will apply that learning the next time around. Not with Professor Wilkes, he saw the value of seeing these learnings through. He showed us the importance of continuous improvement, quality, and mastery, and I will be forever grateful for those lessons.

You knew you were on the right path in your career
A moment that stands out for me was while working at Aritzia. Myself and a couple of their retail executive team went on a “Leadership Roadshow.” We flew to six cities to provide leadership training and to spend time connecting with our retail leaders. My responsibility was to deliver a four-hour training session in each city. We kicked off in NYC and at first I was a bit unsure – am I the right person to be delivering this training? Is this the right content? Will they connect with me and the learning? I took the plunge and overcame the discomfort and fear of not doing a “perfect job.” It went well, really well, and I went back to my hotel and thought to myself – this is what I am meant to do. I knew I was on the right career path because I was energized, excited, and craving more.

You failed
I was a brand new manager at Aritzia (my first management role) and my District Manager had flown over to Victoria to assess my performance, specifically, to watch me lead the store team for a couple of hours and provide me with feedback. After the few hours of observation, I went and met with her thinking to myself “Yes, I killed it, I did so well.”  That was certainly not the case, I had failed. I had failed because I thought that running around like a chicken with my head cut-off, looking busy, and helping my team do all of their tasks, was leadership. My manager shared with me the importance of my presence and the concept of delegation.  She shared that in my pursuit of keeping busy and helping out, I was not actually leading. The ability to powerfully delegate is an invaluable skill for a leader. When I say “powerfully,” I mean you are setting the context and the “why” and you are providing them with the required support. 

You chose something different than what was expected of you
I had the opportunity to transition into a more senior role, but instead, I decided to prioritize working on my own business. Sometimes you have to take the perceived “short term pain” (not taking the promotion and the money, status, responsibility, experience, etc. that goes with it) in order the achieve that “long term gain” of following your passion and long-term goals.

You wake. And the ritual you have to start your day
A neighbourhood walk with my dog and husband. As often as possible my husband and I get outdoors and walk the dog in the morning. The fresh air wakes me up and it’s hard not to start your day off right when you have a smiling sheepdog looking at you.

You made your best hire
What a good feeling – when you realize you’ve hired the right person. I’ve hired some exceptional people who I feel grateful to have worked with and learned from. Here are the ways I know I’ve hired a keeper:

  • Me and the team are learning from them (skills, strategies, ideas)
  • Me and the team are getting feedback from them (they are confident enough to share how they feel and what they see)
  • Me and the team are laughing with them (we enjoy their company and have fun together)
  • Me and the team fully trust them to take on meetings, projects, and tasks (they are competent)
  • Me and the team receive suggestions for new approaches and solutions to challenges (they value continuous improvement)

    You felt the most successful in life
    Sitting in the backyard of my first home with my husband and my dog.

You received feedback that was hard to hear but worth listening to
I was once told that my energy felt like a hummingbird and that this person found it challenging to interact with me as they felt they had to match my pace (which was fast). I had always thought that both being busy and looking busy were important. I had done well in my career by being a doer, being efficient, being quick, and having a high sense of urgency. All of these things are great, however for me, they amalgamated into this almost frantic energy that resulted in people experiencing me in this “hummingbird state.” The cost of this was that people felt rushed and pressured by me. This was a really great wake up call for me to slow down. Slowing down didn’t mean doing less or being less efficient; it meant being aware of my energy and my impact on others.

You chose to walk away from someone or something
I made the decision to leave my career in Vancouver to move back to Vancouver Island, what did I walk away from? Years of working in corporate retail, a job I loved, an industry I am passionate about, a great salary, incredible colleagues, my peers, the list goes on. I wanted to start a family in Victoria and be close to my extended family. Although I walked away from all of those things, it allowed me to opportunity to build my own business and follow another passion – working with youth to help set them up for career success. 

Bit of more than you could chew
I do this a lot. I’ve learned that I thrive with a certain level of chaos but I need to be careful and ensure that I don’t tip into a state of feeling overwhelmed. Also, I have done a lot of reading around the importance of prioritization and focus and when I have too much on my plate, it can compromise the quality of my work and the quality of my relationships. A perfect example would be working a full time job, starting my business, taking on corporate consulting clients, and making too many commitments to family and friends.

Saw yourself & your true potential
While starting my business, The Academy of Career Skills, I did several pilot sessions in order to get feedback and improve before I launched. I distinctly remember how I felt after my first pilot – I knew walking out of that room that this was what I was meant to do. The feedback, the connections, the smiles, the appreciation, and the energy that came from that learning session, showed me the potential impact I can have.

You understood advice your parents gave you (what was it?)
“Do your homework.” My parents said this before any large decision or purchase. What they meant by this was take the time to research, get the facts, and understand. For example, if I needed a new computer, I better know which ones are the best options, why they were the best options, and the pros and cons associated with their competitors. Now at the time, this seemed like a total pain, but as I progressed in my career, it became clear to me that taking the initiative to do your research and get the facts was a differentiator. This applies to prepping for meetings, giving feedback, planning a project, an interview, you name it!


InspirationTalent Lab