This blog post is part of the “Making it Work” series, where we share the stories of professionals who are working flexibly.
Patti Balsillie is a “Tourism, Strategy and Engagement Specialist” based in the Yukon. She has been self-employed for the past 9 years after spending 14 years in the NGO, public and private sectors.
Patti developed a business and work life that allows her to choose projects that she is passionate about, are connected to her skills, and help others with their skill development. Her children will be graduating university and high school next year and her husband holds a successful management position in the Government.
The Path to Self-Employment
Early in her NGO career, Patti completed a Train-the-Trainer Board Development program through Mount Royal University (then Mt. Royal College) in Whitehorse. Patti was one of two to complete the course and pay it forward, facilitating three pro-bono strategic and board development sessions. She continued to see the value of role clarity and communications through her strategy and governance work and witnessed first-hand how policy and programs empowered people to make change and share their needs and visions. The ability to help organizations realize their mandates inspired Patti to eventually start her own business, contracting with all sectors on diverse projects in the Yukon, across the north and in Canada.
When Patti first left her full-time job, many of her friends tried to discourage her but she never felt risk or fear. Her first contracts were steady project hours that allowed her to do pro bono, learning, business development work. As her consulting business evolved, she has become more versatile and can now weigh her values and passions in the projects she tackles. Her criteria in her self-employment life includes the ability to be creative, be solutions-oriented, to strive for some semblance of work-life balance, to exercise and grow her leadership, and to travel. (She laughs as she says travel or getting ‘outside’ is important for anyone living in the North).
Thoughtful Questions & Generating Solutions
Patti easily shares her wisdom with others and believes that “if you share your lessons and knowledge, you ultimately grow – grow your community, grow your networks and grow your skills. She believes this of herself and for others. Yukon has a unique dynamic where the #1 employer is government; 11/14 First Nations communities are Self-Governing; and every community has an advisory board or municipality. Whether leadership and community volunteers are formally trained or passionate contributors, they all care about their community mandate and come together with passion on many topics.
Patti returned to school and earned her ICD.D designation in 2017. She is currently on the Boards of three diverse organizations: Destination Canada (a tourism marketing Crown Corporation), Chief Isaac Group of Companies (a First Nations Development Corporation) and the Arctic Insipration Prize (a charitable trust for Canada’s North managed by the Rideau Hall Foundation).
Patti believes that thoughtful and respectful questions lead to greater understanding of issues and opportunities. She aspires to contribute to dialogue that is thoughtful and respectful, even if perspectives differ, to learn and grow. Being invited to serve as an advisor, a resource and solution-generator in Yukon’s First Nations communities and Governments is amongst her proudest accomplishments.
Patti believes that the secret to being successful at flexible work is self-discipline. Her days aren’t “typical”, which is confirmed by a quick view of her LinkedIn activity. It shows her traveling the country, participating in discussions, sharing ideas… It’s an electronic representation of her values. When working in Whitehorse, she enjoys the collaboration opportunities stemming from her membership in (co)space North. Recently Patti has tried to eliminate coffee meetings from her work week (time-eaters) and replaced them with 5-minute discussions instead and longer dates with friends in non-work time. She then planned (and took! – mostly) 3 weeks of vacation during “silly season” (the end of the government’s fiscal year).
Despite being “full and really happy”, Patti is already considering how her work will evolve. She knows that relationships are paramount and is constantly thinking about how to stay fresh, relevant, and continue learning. Perhaps her Board work will allow her to connect more people to each other or act as a sounding board with policy makers.
Patti Balsillie is making it work!
Are you interested in connecting with Patti? Reach out via LinkedIn.
Feeling inspired? Are you ready to make it work too? Work Evolution has many flexible jobs and useful resources for professionals pursuing flexible work. Check us out today: workevolution.ca.