Written by: Dani Bazely, Vice-Chair of the Chamber Young Professionals Committee
Young professionals aged 20 to 39 make up more than 21% of our population in Waterloo Region (StatCan), and they constitute the dominant demographic in our professional circles. They are actively growing businesses, launching startups, and assuming leadership roles within teams. Their presence in our community will play a pivotal role in shaping the future business landscape for decades to come.
At the Chamber of Commerce, it is crucial to nurture this growth and provide an environment where young professionals can network and develop valuable business relationships. We also take pride in recognizing these individuals for their significant contributions to our business community at a relatively young age.
I, Danielle Bazely, had the honor of receiving the Young Professional of the Year award in 2020, and I currently serve as the Vice Chair of the Chamber Young Professionals Committee. In this role, I had the privilege of connecting with Katie Giddy, the 2023 recipient of the Young Professional of the Year award, who generously shared her experiences while bravely battling cancer.
Katie’s life took an unexpected turn just two days before Christmas when she received her cancer diagnosis. Prior to this, she was fully immersed in a busy and fulfilling professional and personal life. She was managing an organization with diverse elements, including a Racetrack, a new event center, and a Casino tenant. After the diagnosis, Katie dedicated herself to her health, following the guidance of her dedicated oncologist. She realized that her new “job” was to battle cancer, and she approached it strategically, documenting her journey through her blog, NoTimeforCancer.ca. Additionally, she found solace and joy in writing two children’s books during this challenging time.
Here are the most valuable pieces of advice to learn from this brilliant and strong professional:
We shared the sentiment that winning the award was an extremely humbling experience. Katie shared, “There are so many dedicated and talented individuals in our community, to be nominated felt like a reward in itself.” As an individual, working alongside many talented and skilled professionals, she felt that the award is so difficult to dedicate to a single contributor, when success is best found through collaboration and leveraging the complimentary skills of a team. This mindset is key to what has made Katie successful, and a key member of the KWCYP community. She recognizes the value of everyone around her, and even when she sat as Chief Growth Officer at RLB, she always ensured that she remained humble, both with clients and colleagues. Katie stated, “You are never too good or important to pour a coffee.”
Katie said, “I have had the most incredible business mentors that not only spoke those words but also lived by them everyday. I try my best to do the same in positions of both professional leadership as well as volunteer ventures.” Katie and her team always approached challenges as an opportunity. During the pandemic, they took the time to revisit their strategic plan, rebrand the parent organization (Grand River Agricultural Society), focus on impact investments, and give Grand River Raceway a digital makeover.
Katie’s cancer diagnosis presented a new challenge that she, her team, and the organization embraced. While she missed her team and her work, she recognized the importance of stepping away during her treatment. Reliability was a key factor, and there were days when she longed to jump back in, but her commitment to her health took precedence.
“There is no better place to find like minded businesses owners and leaders than the Chamber of Commerce”, Katie shared. Organizations depend on the individuals within them, emphasizing the significance of maintaining this focus while establishing connections within the community and with mentors, leaders, and peers. It is invaluable to surround yourself with great people, and know that you aren’t doing it alone.
“A great mentor of mine says that things go wrong for three reasons: expectations, communication, or control. In life I tried to evaluate everything using these criteria.”, said Katie. Your career, passions, and life are going to change despite what you can do to control it. You will encounter unprecedented challenges and you will arrive at opportunities that you didn’t know were possible to obtain. Take the chances when they come to you. Seek out the people who bring out the best in you and help you grow professional and personally. Let your core values be at the center of everything that you do. For myself, that means acting with honesty, integrity, loyalty, and a strong work ethic, and experienced leaders like Katie share the same outlook. Stay dedicated to your goals and “everything you do there should be intent, as it is an investment of your time and energy”.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is coming to an end, but the importance of self-exams and raising funds for cancer research is always ongoing. You can follow Katie’s journey on her blog, NoTimeForCancer.ca.
If you are interested in nominating someone for the 2024 Young Professional of the Year Award you can do so here prior to November 17, 2023.