This month, we introduce you to two ELN rock-stars, Eva Wong Scanlan and Andrew Graham. Learn more about their leadership journey, how the ELN supported their journey and about their exciting organization, Borrowell!
1. What motivated you to join the ELN and/or apply to the DiverseCity Fellows Program?
Eva: The ELN was highly recommended to me by a friend as being a great network. I was exploring a change in career at the time so I was looking to expand my network. And when I met the people and got involved in a project, I got really excited about what impact we could have on the city.
Andrew: I joined the ELN in 2008/2009 when I first moved to Toronto. It was a way for me to get involved with the city, meet great people and volunteer some time to important issues outside of work.
2. How has your involvement shaped your leadership journey?
Eva: Being part of the founding Toronto Homecoming team afforded many opportunities for me to develop new skills, and it was also my first foray into entrepreneurship. It gave me a taste of what it might be like to be part of a start-up, which is what I’m doing today. And of course I met Andrew Graham through the ELN, and with others we founded Borrowell, which has been an amazing journey.
Andrew: My involvement CivicAction has shaped my life in many ways. It was at an ELN conference that Eva Wong and I met and came up with the concept for Toronto Homecoming. It was the first venture we launched together and has brought hundreds of expats back to Toronto to connect with great jobs in the city.
3. Why do you believe civic engagement is important?
Eva: We all benefit from our community being stronger and more vibrant. This is where we live, and it’s important for us to contribute to the fabric of the city.
Andrew: I think the best way to appreciate and enjoy where you live is to get involved in making it better. For me, civic engagement has been a great way to learn about other people and meet great city builders of the type that are involved with CivicAction.
4. What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess and why?
Eva: Being open to feedback and willing to change. (Okay, so technically that’s two!) The people you work with know you better than most people in your life, so it’s important to be open to feedback from them in order to develop and grow into a better leader.
Andrew: With our world changing as fast as it is, I think curiosity is crucially important. This means continuously looking inside and outside your organization and asking questions like: “What trends or new technologies are on the horizon that will affect us? How do we best take advantage?”
5. What is one thing you do to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
Eva: As a company, we set personal and professional goals on a quarterly basis. It’s helpful to sit back and think about some personal goals, build a plan and try to achieve them.
Andrew: I try hard to get feedback from as many people as I can. When you’re a leader, it’s easy to develop blind spots; people don’t always tell you when something isn’t going well or when you’ve made a mistake. We try hard at Borrowell to foster a culture of feedback, where everyone gets regular input from others about what’s going well and what’s not. We’re also very transparent about our goals. Everyone shares their top three objectives each quarter in a document accessible by everyone else in the company.
6. What advice would you give someone who wants to get more engaged in their city or community?
Eva: Look for others who are like-minded – ideally with an organization like CivicAction and the ELN! It’s easier to get things done with a group, especially one that has as many connections and the credibility of CivicAction.
Andrew: Choose an aspect of city life that you’re passionate about, like a sector of the arts or a particular social problem. Then find an organization active in this space that’s doing great things. Reach out to someone senior, like the executive director and CEO, and explain that you want to help and what you can do. This direct route is often the best way to get involved in something interesting, whether serving on a board or volunteering in other ways.
7. If you could have dinner with anyone, living or deceased, who would you choose and why?
Eva: Sheryl Sandberg. I admire her on so many levels and think I’d both learn a lot and have a great conversation!
Andrew: Barack Obama. I’m feeling nostalgia—among other emotions—after the recent election!