Spotlight on Emerging Leaders Graduate Ann Perry
A history graduate who is developing her business leadership skills in regenerative medicine at U of T.
Ann joined U of T in 2015. Prior to that, Ann led a communications team at the Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure, provided strategic communications advice at the Ontario Ministry of Energy and served as senior writer and communications strategist to a national committee tasked with restructuring The United Church of Canada.
What was your motivation for taking the Emerging Leaders Program?
I’m always interested in opportunities to learn and grow as a leader. When my director recommended the Emerging Leaders program at the Rotman School of Management to me, I jumped at the opportunity to take part. She had taken the program herself and is an extremely effective leader.
"I found the Emerging Leaders program to be an invaluable opportunity to learn from some of the best professors at Rotman about strategy, organizational change, integrative thinking and different styles of leadership."
The readings, class discussion and simulations gave me a strong foundation to take on more leadership responsibility. It was also a great opportunity to network with women from diverse sectors across Canada who are at the same point in their careers as I am and are preparing to take the next step. Perhaps most important, I now have much greater insight into my leadership style, areas I need to develop, and how I can better prepare and position myself for future success.
What is your current role?
In my current role at U of T, I lead communications at Medicine by Design, a regenerative medicine research initiative. When I started in this position in July 2016, Medicine by Design was still new and didn’t have a lot of public profile. It was a great opportunity to build and implement a communications strategy from scratch. Regenerative medicine is a field where U of T has always had great strengths — stem cells were discovered here in the early 1960s — and where Toronto is already doing some of the best research in the world, so the subject matter is also incredibly rich.
Over the past year, we have developed and launched our brand and visual identity, built a website, fostered a robust Twitter following, held our first symposium, and built strong relationships with our partners. We are also telling stories about the cutting-edge research we are supporting across U of T and its affiliated hospitals and how those discoveries are helping to fuel Toronto’s burgeoning regenerative medicine ecosystem. Working for what is essentially a startup within a large university is broadening my skills and experience and stretching me professionally like never before, and I am so proud of what our team has accomplished. I can also add “science communications” to my resume — not bad for someone with two history degrees!
What is the biggest risk you have taken in your career?
I took the biggest risk of my career before it had really started. At the end of my first year of law school, I came to a difficult realization: I didn’t want to practise law. I had always loved writing, and learned about a year-long journalism internship at the Toronto Star through a friend who had a summer job there. Even though I had absolutely no journalism experience, I got an interview and was offered the job the same day. That internship led to an exciting 10-year career at the Toronto Star, including four years as a member of the editorial board, and laid the foundation for my work in strategic communications.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
I have met many extraordinarily brilliant, driven and passionate women, including my Emerging Leaders classmates, who have what it takes to be great leaders. The challenges facing the next generation — both women and men — will not be significantly different than the ones my generation has faced. They include finding meaningful and fulfilling work, balancing career with other priorities, constantly retooling to stay competitive, and working without the safety net of a permanent, career-long job that many people in my parents’ generation had. I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow and develop as a leader here at U of T.