With West African ancestry, Heather was born, raised, and currently resides in New Westminster, BC. She holds the title of Senior Manager to one of the largest not-for-profit agencies in the Province. She has a degree in Criminology, a Master’s degree in Leadership, and Certification in Organizational Change Leadership.
Her career highlight is introducing new programing to Surrey, BC. These include Surrey’s first program to support sexually exploited youth to exit the sex trade; Surrey’s first youth-supported housing program for young people up to age 24; and facilitating action-oriented research that supports the city’s first Foundry (BC’s preferred model in supporting youth).
Having role models such as her cousins Michael Tulloch – the first black Supreme Court Judge of Canada, and her cousin, Portia Simpson, the first female Prime Minister of Jamaica, has provided Heather with tangible examples of change leadership. Another leadership hero was the late Honorable Dr. Rosemary Brown, the first black Canadian woman elected to a Provincial and Federal Party. Heather had the privilege to walk alongside Dr. Brown when she held the position of Vice-President of a not-for-profit agency that carried Dr. Brown’s name.
Heather’s mother was her number one influencer. Leaving Jamaica at 19, she completed her nursing training in England. She settled in a Canadian community where black people were an anomaly. When Heather’s father passed away, she witnessed her mother step up her super-human strength, working three jobs to support her children. “I must recognize my mother’s courageous leadership as we acknowledge Mother’s Day!” Heather recalls with fondness.
In Heather’s leadership journey, something sobered her gaiety. “Discovering critical concepts such as ‘Impostor Syndrome’ and ‘intersectionality’ guided me to find my voice. It articulated my lived experiences as a woman and being black,” she reveals. Furthermore, her perseverance in life is contributed to her ability to trust in a Higher Divine Power—God, especially after encountering catastrophic life obstacles.
“I have encountered resistance when supporting groups with mono-vision approaches, members whose agenda is to preserve colonial authoritative team environments. This type of resistance is solely demonstrated by men. Still, unfortunately, some women often support these archaic views,” she said without flinching.
“Balancing work-life roles can be challenging, but putting family first is imperative!” Heather emphasizes. “Incorporating strategies such as safe-guarding one day a week spent with loved ones restore me spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.”
The key learning that she can transfer to emerging leaders are: (1) choose a career that fills you, and that aligns with your core values; (2) find your tribe and surround yourself with genuine, kind, and ethical people; (3) keep positive mental narratives on repeat; and (4) engage in self-work and reflection.
“My childhood experiences of being the only black child in my class have impressed me with the importance of inclusivity,” she stresses. “I recall my early school days feeling afraid, hounded by the experiences of hurtful words, harmful behavior, and people touching my ‘strange’ hair. I use my childhood experiences to inform inclusive program designs where every child is welcomed and has a sense of belonging.”