Global Learning is very proud of the company we keep. With that in mind, we are thrilled to introduce our new interview series, “Getting to Know You”, written by the latest edition to our team, our research coordinator and official Global Learning writer, Breanna Rothe.
This month we had the pleasure of speaking with Rhonda Singer, a visionary, an innovator and a truly inspirational woman. Over the course of the interview she shared with us a bit about her unique and extensive background, what really motivated her to dedicate her career and life to becoming a “Cultural Intelligence Champion and what she sees for the future of organizations with regards to diversity, cultural intelligence and unconscious bias.
Rhonda joked that over the years particularly in her role as a Health and Safety consultant “I worked in every kind of industry in the GTA, from beautiful office towers to the bowels of the earth such as in the sewage plant as well as refineries, and everything in between”. Rhonda began her career as a nurse working with a well-known plastic surgeon in New York City until she became pregnant with her first child, and while longing for her home in Canada, decided to move with her husband back to Toronto to raise a family. Once back in Toronto she began teaching prenatal education as one of the early adaptors to work in the newly formed Toronto Childbirth Education Association. When her three boys grew a little older, she was hired by a health and safety consulting company, Employee Care, and over the course of the ten years she spent with them, she became an equity partner. One of the highlights of her work with Employee Care was establishing a successful training and education program for occupational health nurses that took these nurses from a hospital setting and trained them to become health and safety consultants, which was a very new and different environment!
Rhonda later moved on to become the Manager of Learning Services for a large international manufacturing company, where “she provided learning strategies and training with regards to product and professional development for corporate employees, as well as Canadian and International dealers.” With Rhonda’s leadership the company was able to “cut their manufacturing lead time down from two years to just six months”. During her time working with health and safety practices and processes Rhonda also had the opportunity to interact directly with many of the employees on the floor, many of whom came from different cultural backgrounds, who shared with her their unique stories and experiences, and gave her a greater appreciation for diversity. Those earlier experiences really became the seeds that went on to blossom into her passion for cultural intelligence and working with global talent.
Following her work in the manufacturing sector she became the Executive Director at the non-for profit career management organization, Progress Career Planning Institute (PCPI). Rhonda recalls how one of the divisions she managed there consisted of 10,000 unemployed individuals, 80 percent of which came from other countries. And how one day while “having a meeting with her direct report, discussing their metrics and how they were going to help people back into work, “I suddenly had a huge epiphany that is so crystal clear, even to today. The Conference Board of Canada at the time was promoting their employability skills and my huge aha was when I realized that our cliental would not understand what that looked like, sounded like or felt like because they came from other countries.” This moment really launched Rhonda forward to do more research that eventually led her to the term cultural intelligence, which was known at the time to be a concept created by Soon Ang and Lin Van Dyne, and further developed by David Livermore. For Rhonda, the idea of Cultural Intelligence was a much more strategic concept, and a departure from the more prevalent HR term at the time, cultural competency, which she felt was less encompassing.
Over the course of her 10 years at PCPI, she went on to become President and in her legacy partnered with The Toronto Community News and City of Toronto, to co-create the IEP Conference, which is now regarded “as one of the most innovative and respectful events for Internationally Educated Professional newcomers seeking practical, effective career advice in Canada”. (1) They recently had their twelfth annual conference, consisting of over a thousand Internationally Educated Professionals, coming from five different sectors, with sixty to seventy speakers, which centered on “honoring the courage of these global talents, while at the same time helping them navigate the system”. In this visionary work Rhonda was an integral part of bringing cultural intelligence to the forefront, twelve years ago at that first conference.
It was through this passion for Cultural Intelligence and Diversity and Inclusion that Rhonda was eventually introduced to Elaine Newman, and her role of V.P., Global Talent for Global Learning. Rhonda explains how David Livermore, who she had known for years, introduced her to Elaine, who like herself had participated in David’s CQ certification course. Rhonda then had the opportunity to hear Elaine speak during a presentation at the CQ forum in May 2014. Rhonda said that she was immediately struck by how “it went from my head and out of Elaine’s mouth. She was talking my talk and walking my talk and I was right there with her the whole time.”
When asked what motivated Rhonda to join Global Learning, she explained that at this point in her life she really wanted to join a company that epitomized the values that were important to her, that she walks, both personally and professionally. “I wanted an organization that was really embracing diversity, and in particular cultural intelligence. This is what truly drives me. And when it comes to Elaine, not only does she believe in excellence, she is a true innovator. She is a yesterday person. What I mean by that is that when she gets an idea, you know she is going to make it happen right away. Tomorrow is too late. These two factors are what I appreciate.”
As V.P. of Global Talent Rhonda sees her role as two fold. As a result of her past experiences she feels very strongly about Internationally Educated Professionals or Global Talent, with regards to the courage that these individuals possess, knowing how difficult it is to leave one’s home to move to a new country. Rhonda expressed how these individuals are really “diamonds in disguise because they bring their skills, their culture, and have such a different mindset and experience that we can really learn from. There are so many examples of internationally educated professionals who have been such innovators. She goes on to explain “that we have the ability to be one of the most competitive countries in the world, if we can learn to use our global talent more effectively. “
Rhonda sees her position at Global Learning as “an opportunity to utilize her expertise with global talent to help organizations cascade an approach using cultural intelligence to help gain a more competitive advantage. She believes that “in order for organizations to truly survive in a global economy, such as we are living in today it is essential that they begin to take a horizontal approach to diversity versus a vertical or silo one to working with their employees, their most valuable asset”. By using what we have learned about diversity, cultural intelligence and unconscious bias thus far “we create the power of possibilities to cross bridges both locally and internationally, in a way that we really haven’t done before”.