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Archive for Human Resources – Page 2

14 Years Later


It has become a tradition for me to specifically post a 9/11 remembrance blog on this date.

This year, I decided not to re-read older posts before starting to write this one, just to see what still sticks in my memory. There is still a lot of detail that is vivid for me, but admittedly, some detail is fading.

I remember that it was a beautiful, sunny late-Summer morning in Cedar Rapids, IA on September 11, 2001. I was there on a work assignment that I viewed as a dream job, and I was planning a long-term move back to the U.S.  It was my three-month anniversary at work.

I left for the office a few minutes later than usual that morning which meant that I encountered traffic, although not the type of traffic you think of when you are living in Toronto.

On the road in, I can visualize myself in my brand-new sand-coloured Mazda Protégé, window down, in a line several cars deep, watching a train cross in front of me and onto a trestle over the Cedar River and into the Quaker Oats yard. Trains are long in Iowa and when they cross a road, they make you wait, a long time. That’s traffic in Iowa. I always found it fascinating how many of the train cars in Iowa were marked with the Alberta Wheat Board logo on them.  I remember that the air in Cedar Rapids that morning was thick with the smell of baked goods; and near Quaker Oats, it always smelled like Cap’n Crunch (my favourite cereal).

I was listening to the radio. There aren’t a huge number of redeeming features about living in Iowa, but the radio, well, Iowa radio is awesome. It is one of the things I miss most about living there.

In my drive to the office that day, there was no mention of a plane crashing into the World Trade Centre. It was still early and I was in a different time zone.

The first news arrived the second I walked into my office, which was just a few steps from the entrance to the parking garage. I could hear my phone ringing as I got to the door.  My husband was calling. He was in a panic. He worked for Merrill Lynch at the time on Front Street in Toronto. It was bad in New York. They were vacating all of Merrill Lynch’s offices.

He hung up and I started my computer. The Internet crashed. I remember that I kept refreshing the screen but all I could get is a single small picture on Yahoo of smoke coming out of a building. My office was ugly–grey walls and a brown desk and chair. I hadn’t been on assignment long enough to decorate. It felt bare and impersonal. I walked around and started asking questions. Our department coordinator had a radio. The songs were suddenly being interrupted by a steady stream of news updates.

I remember feeling puzzled, a sense of denial, thinking that a large plane purposely hitting a building was preposterous. A bad joke.

About 45 minutes later, I saw the second building fall on a television in the workout area of the health club on the main floor of our office building. I knew many of the people around me. Peter Jennings was speaking. We were all standing there in suits and ties, arms folded staring. I gasped.

After several hours of barely productive work, mostly phone calls to clients to cancel meetings, I was back at my apartment by early afternoon.

After that, I experienced many emotions, including separation, fear, indignance, sense of patriotism, the feeling of everything being disjointed, the feeling of being trapped, empathy, anger—these emotions lasted for days and weeks.  How come the hospitals were empty? Who are all these people on missing posters? How many people died? I didn’t know a soul that died but yet I cried daily for weeks. I put candles on the balcony of my apartment in remembrance of the four Merrill Lynch employees who were known to be dead.  For a long time, I fell asleep every night with the roar of a building collapsing in my head.  I find this strange because I doubt anyone who knows me would associate me with the warm/fuzzy/emotionally-out-there type of HR Professional. I’m not really someone who cries.  I might even argue I was personally impacted for years.  And I know I am not alone.

I found comfort in watching the aftermath on CBC, which came in on the TLC channel in Iowa for at least a week following 9-11.  Canada’s reporting seemed a bit more rational.  It helped, especially since there was nothing else on.

I made many decisions in the years following that I can directly attribute to 9-11—to gain a greater understanding of what drives the battle between the east and west, to be more active in my community, to focus on being a more thoughtful human being, to not let terrorism steal my sense of adventure or joy, to speak out against measures that limit our freedom, to enjoy being home, to be replete in my family life. When we find the gift in seeing what great things rise in the ashes of truly awful situations, we succeed.

Today, fourteen years later, what lingers is a resolve and a purpose that I hope will carry on from here.  We need to realize that there are other people in other parts of the world whose existence is torn apart by terrorism. They are hurting and they need us to remember what that violation feels like and how kindly most treated us as we recovered. Your mission, help people in need–regardless of faith or culture.  Remember that underlying it all, most people are good. The fortitude of good will triumph over evil. Always.


From HR–The 2024 Olympics should be in Toronto

IMAG1706Bonni, HR Pro here, weighing in on the big question in discussion around the GTA. Should Toronto make a bid to host the 2024 Olympics?

From over in this corner, the answer is a resounding yes.

Back in 2001, the last time Toronto made a bid for hosting the 2008 Olympics, I was “on assignment” in Cedar Rapids, IA. I made my co-workers watch the announcement on a TV in a meeting room. I commented that I would go back there to be a part of it.  Then. . .

“Beijing? REALLY? We were robbed!”, I said. To be honest, I was pretty mad.

Fast-forward to today and I agree the 2008 Olympics should have been in Beijing. They needed it. It changed a country and they did an outstanding job. I was at the Olympic Village in Beijing last Fall and indeed their city was transformed by the event, even if the progress is mind blowing to see in person.

So why should Toronto, who by Beijing, London and Rio standards is a little outpost in the hinterland, be the choice of an event of significant magnitude?

Well, I believe Toronto is the future of the best of North America.




Economic engine of Canada.

Some of the key infrastructure exists.

Safest large city in North America, by far.



And the Olympics can do for Toronto what they did for Beijing; enable it to be viewed as a world city in the way that it already itself believes it is.

IMAG1731It doesn’t matter that Metropolis magazine named Toronto 2015’s Most Livable City (Huffington Post). We need infrastructure changes. We currently have an expressway that is falling down. I repeat. Falling. Down. I recently took this photo to the right to illustrate how bad it is. We need a reason to fix it. Now. The Olympics are our opportunity to do this.

FB_IMG_1437174192673Imagine the usefulness of the eastern lands converted into another village in Toronto. When world cities are ranked for architecture, Toronto often ends up dead last. We have a whole area to do it right. Imagine our own Water Cube and Bird’s Nest, sans the smog.

Oh shut up about the HOV lanes during the Pan Am; it wasn’t that bad. Even better, we were possibly more efficient with people who did not need to be on the roads off of them. I myself made a pledge to have no meetings that required me to be on the 401 or QEW during peak hours and it worked out great.

And we aren’t starting from scratch. On the heels of a successful PanAm Games, some of the venues are built already.

Think of the jobs. Planners, construction, marketing, communications, hotels, airlines. HR will be busy! And we will be busy doing the very things we enjoy doing, supporting opportunity building.

It is a terrible shame that Montreal’s Olympics were such a financial disaster because that seems to be what anyone on the other side of this debate points to when talk of the Olympics arises. We have the right people, the right raw materials and are in the right time zone to make this work well.

Canadians are known for being passive aggressive about things that matter. This time, if you really want this, you have to speak up, or the starter’s pistol will go off and we’ll be left at the blocks, again.

Chasing Squirrels

I’ve known EO blogger Bonni Titgemeyer for a while. I’ve always appreciated her unique perspective and ability to look at things analytically and practically.

I like to read her blog. This is where I learned about Ro-Tel. Mmmmmm  Ro-Tel. (e.g. Eat Ro-Tel during football season)

Among the things we have in common – Human Resources, enjoying a good college football game on a crisp Fall day, a new passion for colouring, and Ro-Tel – also we’re both dog owners and dog lovers.

I found myself chuckling reading her post Sometimes Even the Daring are Chicken about her dog Mars being carted on and off a boat at the lake.   My dog Dakota has similar seemingly irrational behaviors.  Like barking fiercely when someone comes to the door, only to instantaneously sit and wag her tail madly the moment we answer the door – whether to strangers or my dad.

Recently, we took care of a neighbor’s tea cup Morkie. She weighed 3 pounds. Dakota, all 50 pounds of her, ran and hid under a table to hide from the Morkie. Hid under a table! Sometimes, even the daring are chicken! I commented that I loved Bonni’s perspective on Mars’ behaviour.   I had never thought about my dog’s behaviour in relation to work.

Then, this image popped into my head:

Sandis picDakota relentlessly chases squirrels. She chased one up this tree in our backyard. She stood there, gazing into the sky for about 10 minutes . Did. Not. Move.   Not sure exactly what was going on in her head then.

But she could not be distracted from it.   I hollered “Cookie!”, “Car!” and even tried “Park! – Words that usually get her attention and then some.

But she didn’t care. She was waiting for that squirrel. She caught one, once, one Spring. The squirrel, dazed, recently emerged from winter was too slow. Dakota, surprising even herself by catching the poor thing, flung it back up into the air and watched it scramble away to safety.

People do this. We do this – at work. Relentless focus. Single minded, narrow-dogged determination. Not listening to alternative and potentially good, realistic ideas from others. (I said Cookie, after all).

We get laser-locked on a course of action and cannot be persuaded otherwise. Maybe it worked out, once, before. We’re convinced our approach will work.   We don’t pay attention to what else is going on. How much time are we willing to devote before moving on?

What is your thought process? – are you an opportunity-seeking person, or are you just chasing squirrels?


Sandra Karpis is a CHRE and currently Vice President of Human Resources for a financial services company based in Toronto.  She has worked in HR for 25 years across multiple industries.  Sandra is also a wife and a mom, a lover of great big books, all things Outlander,  and a first-time blog contributor.