Drop us a message if you want to speak at  Dreamer Day. We would love to hear from you!

Our 2023 Speakers

Nkechi Nwafor-Robinson Headshot
Nkechi Nwafor-Robinson

Vice President of Technology Operations & Services at Cloud Transformation

Nkechi Nwafor-Robinson is an award-winning Technology Executive, with over 25 years of experience in Technology. She is currently Vice President of Technology Operations & Services at Cloud Transformation, accountable for the operations, support, maintenance and modernization of all Technology leveraged by the organization — but that is not all.
She is Founder and CEO of Empowered in My Skin Inc., author, professional bodybuilder, host of Empowered in My Skin podcast, and an inspirational speaker, with speeches that have been viewed over 10 million times worldwide. She’s received numerous awards for her
leadership prowess and community involvement. Most notably, in 2020, nominated by TD Bank Group, she was awarded WXN Most Powerful Woman Canada – Top 100.

She is on a mission to help one billion people think in empowering ways. She is a firm believer that empowered people, empower people, which is the key way to create sustainable change in this world.

 

Sarah Baldeo Headshot
Sarah Baldeo

Neuroscientist, Artificial Intelligence Expert & Public Speaker

Sarah Baldeo is an accomplished neuroscientist, technologist, corporate strategist, and successful entrepreneur with expertise in futures, innovation, technology, and digital transformation. She currently holds positions at ID Quotient Advisory Group and CGI. Sarah has founded two consulting firms and played pivotal roles in three companies' IPOs. Her outstanding contributions to the consulting and technology industry have earned her numerous accolades, including the 2023 Global Business Elites Top 40 Under 40 Awards and the 2021 University of Toronto Rotman Social Impact Award. Beyond her professional achievements, Sarah is also an actress and an advocate for better representation of Caribbean women in film. She has been featured in commercials and corporate videos for prominent brands, and she actively participates as a keynote speaker, represented by the Speakers Bureau of Canada. In her personal life, she is a dedicated parent to her 12-year-old son and devotes herself to championing and supporting other single parents through community involvement in her local area.

Kwame Osei Headshot
Kwame Osei

Recruiter, Teacher, Coach and Public Speaker

Kwame was born in Ghana but raised in a community within Toronto called
Rexdale, which is known for low income housing, high drugs, violence and gang rates. Kwame’s environment created a low expectations narrative for him. Kwame’s mindset as a teen was “expect the worst and hope for the best” This perspective on life lead to Kwame getting in trouble with the law. Through sports Kwame was able change his mindset and escape the negative narrative. Since then he has earned two University Degrees, he became a teacher and has taught at the high school level and also at a Federal Prison in Ontario. Kwame played professional football in the CFL and has coached at multiple levels in Canada including coaching at Queen’s University. Kwame is currently the head of Equity Diversity and Inclusion at Nikki Ray Media. Kwame is an entrepreneur, author, Amazing Race Canada cast member and recipient of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Award. He has a passion for public speaking and particularly loves to speak to youth, as he strives to be the person he needed when he was young.

Gary Kimmel Headshot
Gary Kimmel

CTO at Salesforce

Gary Kimmel is a highly experienced leader in the Financial Services industry, leading a team of industry experts and architects within one of the world's largest software companies. With a focus on driving revenue growth, cost optimization, compliance improvements, and competitive advantages, Gary and his team provide strategic consulting to C-suite and senior executives. His extensive business acumen, international experience, and technology leadership have been instrumental in advancing numerous businesses across industries over his 28-year career. With a strong track record in large enterprises, Gary has successfully built teams, enhanced revenue generation, improved agility, reduced time to market, and effectively managed technology costs and innovations. He brings expertise in corporate acquisitions, process improvement programs, business re-architectures, and technological disruption initiatives. Currently serving as the Field CTO and Head of Financial Services Enterprise Architecture at Salesforce, Gary has also held key roles in strategic digital marketing and strategic innovation within the company. Prior to his tenure at Salesforce, he gained valuable experience in the Financial Services sector at TD Bank Financial Group and held positions at Microsoft, where he provided consulting and strategic guidance to the industry. Gary's accomplishments include successfully founding and growing businesses, achieving profitability, and divesting both companies. He holds various certifications, including Salesforce, TOGAF, ITIL, Microsoft Solutions, Operations Framework, and is a Certified Blockchain Expert.

Indira Naidoo-Harris Headshot
Indira Naidoo-Harris

Public Leader, Legislator, Journalist, & Human Rights Advocate

Indira Naidoo-Harris is a distinguished public leader, policy-maker, journalist, and human rights advocate. As Ontario's first Minister of the Status of Women and currently the Associate Vice-President of Diversity and Human Rights at the University of Guelph, she has left a significant impact. Recognized as one of Canada's top 100 most powerful women, Naidoo-Harris actively champions gender equity in leadership and focuses on women's empowerment, gender-based violence, and various social issues.

Her expertise in education, equity, diversity, and inclusion makes her a prominent voice in national webinars, where she advocates for positive change and inclusive representation. Throughout her career, she has played a pivotal role in shaping impactful initiatives, collaborating with diverse groups, and striving to create a more equitable and just society.

Sarain Fox Headshot
Sarain Fox

Canadian Anishinaabe Activist, Broadcaster, & Filmmaker

Sarain is Anishinaabe from Batchawana First
Nation. She is passionate about empowering Indigenous communities and
amplifying their voices, especially those of the youth. She is a
multifaceted artist and activist who comes from a long line of
storytellers. Her family have passed down ancient teachings from
generations of knowledge-keepers and have raised her to be proud of her
Indigenous roots. As a result, Sarain has become a powerful and vibrant
voice for the Indigenous community. She is a dancer, choreographer,
stylist, activist, brand ambassador, television host and content
producer. A storyteller at heart, Sarain has combined these various
mediums to create a compelling social platform for amplifying the voices
of her people.

Patrick Lor Headshot
Patrick Lor

Managing Partner at Panache Ventures

Patrick Lor is an influential figure as the Managing Partner at Panache Ventures, a prominent venture capital firm managing assets exceeding $150 million, dedicated to investing in early-stage technology companies. Notably, he co-founded iStockphoto, a renowned platform for stock photography, which later achieved a significant milestone by being acquired by Getty Images. Additionally, Patrick played a crucial role as the head of North American operations for Fotolia, a company that caught the attention of Adobe, leading to its acquisition in 2014.

Academically, Patrick Lor holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and an MBA, both from the prestigious University of Calgary. Beyond his remarkable achievements in the business world, he is deeply committed to making a positive impact in various communities across Canada. Patrick actively volunteers and advocates for causes close to his heart, particularly in supporting youth, education, and entrepreneurs. His dedication extends to mentoring aspiring talents at several technology incubator programs, where he shares his wealth of experience and knowledge. Additionally, he proudly contributes as a charter member of thea100.org and thec100.org, further cementing his commitment to fostering growth and innovation within the technology landscape.

Keziah Osei Headshot
Keziah Osei

HGTV Personality & Owner at Keyz To Your Home

Keziah is not your average contractor; she's a disruptor and trailblazer, becoming HGTV Canada's first female presenting Black contractor in 25 years. With a passion for renovation and craftsmanship, Keziah embarked on her journey in the skilled trades as a Carpenter, bravely challenging the male-dominated construction industry. Through her company, Keyz To Your Home Renovations, she empowers women and non-binary individuals, leaving a positive impact on the community through various construction, remodel, and renovation projects. With over 300 projects already under her belt, Keziah is breaking barriers and promoting diversity and inclusivity in the construction industry, employing women of all backgrounds. Her dedication to creating a more inclusive field is evident in the extensive range of services her company provides, from custom designs to installations, plumbing, electrical, and more, establishing her as a significant force in the construction industry.

Brigadier-General Krista Brodie Headshot
Brigadier-General Krista Brodie

Decorated Officer in the Canadian Armed Forces

Brigadier-General Brodie joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1989. She is a graduate of Royal Roads Military College and was commissioned under the Regular Officer Training Program.

During her time in the Canadian Army, she has commanded platoons, a company and a battalion. Brigadier-General Brodie has also commanded a Formation in the Canadian Joint Operations Command.

She has been deployed to Croatia, Bosnia, and Afghanistan as well as serving with both NATO and the United Nations. With qualifications as an aerial delivery specialist, she also earned American jump wings on exercise with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment (U.S).

Entertainment

Paul Tawil Headshot
Paul Tawil

Disc Jockey at DJ PJ Productions

Paul Tawil, also known as "DJ PJ," is the founder of "DJ PJ Productions," a successful DJ business he established nearly twenty years ago. With a passion for entertaining, he offers a wide range of services to his clients, including disc-jockeying, LED uplighting, and special effects like Dry Ice Machines and Sparkler Machines. Paul's expertise as an MC and his exceptional talent in playing the Arabic Drum (Tubel) at weddings and events have made him renowned in his field. His dedication to his Lebanese culture and love for entertaining led him to build a thriving business that provides cherished memories for his clients' momentous occasions.

Christie Nelson Headshot
Christie Nelson

Co-Founder & Project Manager at Family Fuse 

As a singer/songwriter and community collaborator, Christie has worked independently with Canadian producers as well as Grammy and Juno award winning artists. More recently, building and creating connections through passion projects has given Christie more inspiration to help get people on the dance floor. Music like her collaboration with Alonso Mendez, “Rise Up” and her song “Building A Dream”, co-written by her child Aletha, produced by Alonso Mendez, with a hip hop spin by Cody Brown, are intended to bring people together. With motivation across generations including trailblazers like Build A Dream Founder Nour Hachem-Fawaz, Christie aims to empower through music with and for those dedicated to creating positive changes for themselves and others. 

Moe Ismail Headshot
Moe Ismail

Teacher & Stand-Up Comedian

Moe is a talented Egyptian-Canadian stand-up comedian who brings a unique blend of energy, diversity, and authenticity to the entertainment space. Immigrating to Canada at a young age, he has spent the past 13 years as a center-stage comedian, gaining nationwide recognition as a touring headliner across the country. Opening for renowned names like Colin Mochrie and Todd Barry and featuring on platforms such as SiriusXM and CBC radio, Moe's comedic prowess has earned him acclaim from even the toughest of critics.

His passion for value-based entertainment has led him to blend his humorous "back of the class" days with uplifting energy, connecting with audiences through laughter and relatable truths. From humble beginnings to co-headlining the Just For Laughs comedy festival, Moe has rapidly become a nationally respected entertainer. Recently selected to host the Prism Prize Awards by the Canadian Academy of Film and Television, he has proven himself as a skillful storyteller and an emblematic comedian. With his fun-loving ambiance and captivating performances, Moe continually raises the bar, leaving audiences excited to see what he has in store for his next act.

Panelists

Shylah Nokusis Headshot
Shylah Nokusis

Shylah Is a Trades and Apprenticeship Consultant Working With Indigenous Communities Across Saskatchewan.

Shylah Nokusis is a mother of one son and comes from the Peepeekisis Cree Nation situated in Treaty #4near the town of Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. As a young Indigenous person, Shylah was taught the value of hard work and perseverance which has served her well in the trades industry for the past fifteen years. Shylah not only represents the carpentry and scaffolding trades, but was also an Iron worker working across Canada from British Columbia to Nunavut.In2016,she achieved the status of Red Seal Journeyman Carpenter and was the recipient of the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology’s Outstanding Journeyperson Award.

It wasn’t until her time working with the Office to Advance Women Apprentices(OAWA) in 2020 that she saw the obstacles for not only women, but Indigenous Peoples, that prevented them from entering into the trades.

She saw a solution to those obstacles and in 2021, she decided to step down from her position, and created Osihcikewin “To Build”,an Indigenous owned and operated company that offers exploratory trades programs for men and women in Indigenous communities and as well, Summer Trades Workshops for Indigenous youth.

In addition to offering exploratory trades programs and workshops, Osihcikewin also works with Indigenous communities in meeting the demands of their housing portfolio.In 2022, she was one of thirteen women selected across Canada to participate in Canadian Apprenticeship Forums first cohort of the National Leadership Development Program for Tradeswomen.

Shylah is also a Trades and Apprenticeship Consultant working with Indigenous Communities across Saskatchewan.

Rebekah Stuckless Headshot
Rebekah Stuckless

Full Member of the Canadian Union of Skilled Workers

Hello! My name is Rebekah Stuckless and I am a 22 year old 3rd term Electrician Apprentice/Electrical & Control Technician at Darlington Nuclear Power Plant. As an apprentice, my schooling is a little bit different from your typical college or university route.

Initially, I got into my skilled trade by taking a Pre-Apprentice Program at Georgian College, Owen Sound in 2020-2021. My trade consists of 8160 working hours which is divided into 5 terms with 3 levels of schooling. The program that I took was an extended first term schooling for the 309A trade which lasted 7 months with a 3 month probationary period at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station(Bruce Power).

Within the program I gained welding certifications and the basic electrical knowledge needed for an excellent start. After its completion, I became a full member of the Canadian Union of Skilled Workers who hold the training agreement for my apprenticeship.Two years later, I have worked in 3 different areas as an apprentice, in and out of the nuclear industry.

I have currently completed 2 terms of working hours and 1 level of trades school, about half way there!

Krista Grenier-Roy Headshot
Krista Grenier-Roy

Millwright Apprentice from Sudbury

Hi my name is Krista Grenier-Roy I am a millwright apprentice from Sudbury, Ontario local 1425. I am also a mom of an incredible two year old boy.

I absolutely love being in the trades and welding, I highly recommend for anyone contemplating joining the trades, to take that leap and just do it. It is a very rewarding career

Roy Fernandes Headshot
Roy Fernandes

Superintendent of Education, Equity, Diversity, Indigenous Education & Community Relations

Roy Fernandes is the Supt of Indigenous Education and Equity with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. He is honoured to be part of the Build of Dream Equity Career Fair as building dreams is what life
should be about. His career has been devoted to helping students find what they’re passionate about and encouraging them to take the steps to pursue that passion. Stereotypes in the workforce do not do justice to helping all students reach their dreams. Breaking (Smashing) barriers starts by embracing what you aspire to become as you matter and so do your choices. Everyone has the right to dream and the dream of a better future is for us all.

Dora Strelkova Headshot
Dora Strelkova

Electrical Engineering Graduate, Software Developer, Maker

Dora Strelkova is an electrical engineering graduate and software developer at CAMufacturing Solutions Inc.! Her current research focuses on integrating compliant mechanisms and origami in robotics via 3D printing (3DP). As a FIRST Robotics Alum, Dora aims to destigmatize STEM for young girls and women who look to be involved in the world of science and tech but don’t know where to start. Her involvement in the Windsor branch of IEEE’s Circuits and Systems Society (CAS) has allowed her to give back to the student community through the delivery of technical events on PCB design and fabrication, 3D modeling, and the design for additive manufacturing. Dora is thankful for her mentors, who have helped her build her toolbox of skills and inspired her to become a future engineer.

Delaney Krieger Headshot
Delaney Krieger

Interior Systems Mechanic Apprentice at United Brotherhood of Carpenters

Delaney realized halfway through high school that she wanted to build things for a living. She wanted to stand back at the end of her day and see something she had built with her two hands. Delaney also knew that she wanted to make a difference, and inspire people to create change. That said, being a woman in the skilled trades gives her the opportunity to do both.

Delaney attended a Build A Dream Career Discovery Expo in high school and connected with The Carpenters Union Local 494. Upon graduation, she signed up as an apprentice through Local 494 and she has been working/training ever since. Delaney's job consists of a variety of different tasks from building a layout, to steel, to stud framing, to drywall boarding, and to installing ceiling systems. Since starting in the skilled trades, she has been involved with Build a Dream. From speaking at various events to running workshops with high school students, her goal is to inspire other people from marginalized communities to consider a career in the skilled trades. Choosing the apprenticeship pathway was the most rewarding decision she has ever made.

Karen Chan Headshot
Karen Chan

Founding member of the ADAPTOVATE Toronto leadership team

Karen ChanExecutive and Project Lead, ADAPTOVATE

Karen Chan, P.Eng, is a founding member of the ADAPTOVATE Toronto leadership team and advises enterprise clients on business agility, transformation,
and new ways of working. An engineer by training, Karen’s career spans the automotive, digital media, financial services, and advisory industries. Karen
received her Bachelor of Engineering Science (BESc) and Bachelor of Arts (BA) from the University of Western Ontario and her Master of Business Administration (EMBA) from the Richard Ivey School of Business.

Karen volunteers extensively in engineering, technology and leadership, and her roles include Past-President and Chair OSPE, PEO Lake Ontario
Chapter Past Chair, hEr VOLUTION Past-Chair, SWE Global Ambassador (Canada), Women for STEM Advisory Council at Ontario Tech U, and Advisory Council Western Engineering. For her contributions, Karen is recognized as a Fellow of Engineers Canada (FEC), Member of the Order of Honour (PEO), and 2022 WXN Top 100 Most Powerful Woman Canada.

Mackenzie Habash Headshot
Mackenzie Habash

Program Manager of the Windsor Essex Regional Technology Development Site

Mackenzie Habash is a young tech professional and an inspiring advocate for women
in STEM and skill trades. Graduating in 2021 with an Economics degree and strong backgrounds in Math, Physics, and Data Analytics, Mackenzie's diverse skill set has been instrumental in her success in the auto tech industry.

As the Program Manager of the Windsor Essex Regional Technology Development Site, an automotive tech accelerator, Mackenzie is driving cutting-edge
advancements in the automotive sector. Her passion for technology and education has led her to take on multiple roles, empowering post-secondary academic institutions to embrace emerging technologies
and modernize teaching methods.

Beyond her professional achievements, Mackenzie is a passionate Formula 1 fan, which reflects her love for innovation and speed, traits that are also integral to excelling in the STEM and skill trades fields.

With her outstanding achievements and dedication to empowering young women in STEM and skill trades, Mackenzie is a shining example of how diverse
backgrounds and interests can lead to a fulfilling and impactful career.

Lauren Tedesco Headshot
Lauren Tedesco

Senior Vice President at the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA).

Lauren Tedesco is the Senior Vice President at the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA). She leads the Future of Work portfolio, building the first industry-wide digital learning program and
established the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Fund which invests in the careers of those historically excluded. The latter won her the CADIA Impact Award - Champion for Diverse Talent. Lauren was recently named one of WXN's Top 100 Most Powerful Women and was profiled in the Globe and Mail as one of “Five Trailblazing Women in the Male Dominated Auto
Industry”. In 2022, she was named an Emerging Leader by The Peak and in 2021, named “Canadians to Watch” by Automotive News Canada. Lauren has
served as an advisor to the Law Society of Ontario in addition to teaching Communications at Sheridan College. Her experience at leading public relations agencies set the groundwork for senior roles in the
public sector including Director of Communications to the President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Education. At each step, her insight and foresight guided the formulation and launch of major public policy initiatives, underscoring the need for strong strategic planning for disruptive agents of change. Lauren holds an Honours B.A. at the University of Toronto, a Postgraduate Certificate in Communications at Sheridan College and recently completed a certificate in International
Project Management at the University of Toronto.

Frank Abruzzese Headshot
Frank Abruzzese

Speakers

Frank Abbruzzese is the President and CEO of AlphaKOR and has over 35 years
of experience in the technology sector and develops strategic, long-term
relationships with companies and organizations of all sizes, and
provides strategic planning services for technological advancement,
cybersecurity strategies and business continuity.

 

He is recognized as “The King of Networking” by many leaders in the
Windsor Essex region and is currently running his second networking
group called Wednesday Wisdom.

 

He was also recognized as Tech CEO of the Year (2019), and Tech Mentor of
the Year (2017) by WEtech Alliance. In 2012, Frank received the
Entrepreneur of the Year title from the Windsor Essex Chamber of
Commerce

Allison Chong Headshot
Allison Chong

Project Manager, Mechanical Engineer & Technical Field Services at Enbridge Gas

Allison Chong has been an invaluable member of Enbridge Gas for over 7 years, where she has excelled in various roles, contributing her expertise to tasks ranging from redesigning field tools to overseeing large-scale pipeline projects. With a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Queen's University, she gained valuable experience as an intern at Hydro One. Allison's dedication to her profession led her to pursue a Master's degree in Engineering Education at Queen's, further enhancing her ability to mentor and support aspiring engineers. Her commitment to continuous growth is evident in her Professional Engineering license from Professional Engineers Ontario and her Project Management Professional certification. Beyond her professional achievements, Allison enjoys indulging in her hobbies, such as canoe trips, playing the guitar, and home renovations, while also finding joy in spending time with her beloved pets.

Kurt Downes Headshot
Kurt Downes

President/Head Coach of the Boarder City Athletics Club

Kurt is an award-winning teacher with the Windsor-Essex Catholic District
School Board and President/Head Coach of the Boarder City Athletics Club. Kurt has represented Canada as a staff coach at a number of
international events including the World Youth and World Junior Championships, the Pan American Games, the World Championships and the
Tokyo Olympic Games. As a coach, educator, and mentor of elementary school student athletes, he has used his resources to help students and athletes to realize their potential. During the pandemic, Kurt arranged for a number of Olympians and elite female athletes to guide 60 young girls who identified as black, indigenous of people of colour (BIPOC) at a special event filled with fun and fitness in the hope of encouraging this to get active. He has also, developed a series of videos called “the Learning Never Stops” to encourage students to return back to class during the post covid climate that included various professional
athletes.

Kurt was the recipient of the Canadian Running Magazine Golden Shoe Awards’ Community Builder of the Year, following a number of years in which he
helped create opportunities for young women to see a future for themselves in sports. Under his leadership, the Border City Athletics Club, hosts an annual summit, entitled ” Women Can”, to encourage women
to become coaches and seek positions within sport.

In addition, Kurt was named the Athletics Canada Dr. Doug Clement Coach of the Year and the Contributions to Catholic Education Award winner. Kurt has recently begun his PhD in Kinesiology at the University of Windsor.

Michael Brown Headshot
Michael Brown

Team Lead of the United Way’s On Track to Success Program

Michael Brown is a native of Toronto, Ontario, and attended Wayne State University for his undergraduate studies in Criminal Justice. His love of community and commitment to service can be attributed to his upbringing in the tight knit community of Keel and Lawrence. He witnessed his parents open their home to friends, family members, and strangers who migrated from Jamaica, and other parts of the Caribbean, in the early 1990s. Michael is the Team Lead of the United Way’s On Track to Success Program – Ujima (pronounced oo-JEE-ma) Initiative.

 

He is also a member of the Ontario Association of Children's Aide Societies’ Board of directors, and is the chair of its Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) committee. In addition he is the co-chair of the Windsor Essex Children’s Aide Society (WECAS) Black, African, Caribbean, Canadian (BACC) Committee. As the Operations Manager of Rapha Christian Centre, Michael oversees the day-to-day operations of the Organization as well its parachurch ministry, Rapha Youth Outreach Services (YOS). Michael co-founded Beauty Is Me (BIM) in 2020 to connect non- Black parents and guardians who are caring for Black children to culturally appropriate community resources.

Emma Garrod Headshot
Emma Garrod

Talent Development Manager at Spark Power

Emma Garrod, Talent Development Manager at Spark Power, has worked in the Training and Development space for 10+ years. Her passion for ongoing employee development, coupled with her love for coaching and mentoring makes her a strong advocate and leader for the continued growth and development of people. Presently, Spark Power is embarking on a new strategic plan which includes a strong focus on promoting the trades and current apprentices while educating youth on opportunities in the trades. In support of the strategic plan, Emma has launched an internal talent program aligning with the Ontario Electrical Apprenticeship program for the Renewable Energy side of her field staff. This supports skills development, structure, and growth for the solar, wind and battery storage technicians.

Spark Power, a sponsor and partner of Build a Dream, is an industrial electrical service and renewable energy service provider. They employ a variety of the trades, specifically electricians, engineers, and powerline workers. Additionally, Spark Power has highly technical roles on the high voltage side, as well as solar, wind and battery storage technicians on the renewables side. For years, Spark has partnered with Build a Dream to help promote women and youth from underrepresented groups, which is a passion and a focus of our organization.

Outside of work, Emma is an active provincial elite referee, mentor, coach and community member which allows Emma to be intimately connected with the needs and aspirations of youth in our communities. Additionally, she is a respected Board Member on a non-profit childcare organization. Outside of board responsibilities and ongoing work within the trades, Emma devotes time and energy to her wife and two kids who are growing and developing each day into amazing, mature human beings.

Pam Kesselring Headshot
Pam Kesselring

Apprentice Toolmaker for the Automotive Manufacturing Industry

Pam Kesselring is an Apprentice Toolmaker who builds fixtures and gauges for the automotive manufacturing industry. In her 40s Pam decided to follow a childhood passion for building things with tools, and chose to change careers and attend college for a Mechanical Technician diploma. She graduated on the President’s Honour List and has gone on to receive an Apprenticeship Award from the Canadian Tooling and Machining Association, proving that it’s never to late to follow your career dream. Currently, she is in active pursuit of Red Seal certification as a General Machinist.

A strong believer that Industrial Trades offer excellent career opportunities for women, Pam volunteers as a mentor to women who are starting out in precision metalworking trades. Creative interests that sparked her passion for the trade include machine embroidery, custom sewing, and crochet of intricate amigurumi dolls.

Fiona Kirby Headshot
Fiona Kirby

Third-year Mechanical engineering student at Ontario Tech University

Fiona Kirby is a third-year Mechanical engineering student at Ontario Tech University. Thanks to extracurricular activities like President of Women in Engineering and member of Ontario Tech Racing's Aerodynamics department, she now works at the Automotive Centre of Excellence wind tunnel in Oshawa. Passionate about racing, engineering and electric vehicles, Fiona is determined to prove that women belong and can excel in the automotive industry.

Kristina Duncan Headshot
Kristina Duncan

Engineering Associate at Spark Power

Kristina is an Engineering Associate at Spark Power. She started out her career at Spark Power as a Co-op there in the spring of 2019. In her current role she wears multiple hats, working on completing power system studies, performing Arc Flash Hazard Awareness Training, and acting as Project Manager on a variety of projects.

She is passionate about the environment and choses to work in power systems and renewable energy as she wants to be involved in moving our society to net zero emissions. To help meet these goals, she is a strong believer that increasing the diversity of people and ideas in the electrical industry. This means encouraging and supporting women and nonbinary people to study, join and stay in STEM and Trade relate electrical industries.

Kristina has a Diploma from Mohawk College in Energy Systems Engineering Technology and is currently working on towards her bachelor in Power and Energy Engineering Technology at McMaster University.”

Marcia Braundy Headshot
Marcia Braundy

Research Consultant and Team Coach

Marcia Braundy, Red Seal Carpenter, C of A, C of Q & PhD

Dr. Marcia Braundy, a multidisciplinary academic feminist, keeps her hand in as a Red Seal construction carpenter, multimedia project manager, educator, author, archivist, independent research scholar & social change activist. She has built Victorian renovations, double coal silos in a camp job with 400 men & 5 women, senior’s housing and shopping malls. She developed/delivered trades exploratory curricula used across Canada: Orientation to Trades & Technology. She was appointed to the Federal Advisory Committee to the President of the Federal Treasury Board on Employment Equity for Women in the Public Service (1986-91), chaired the Equity Committees of the CLFDB National Apprenticeship Committee (1987-1994/96), & the B.C. Provincial Apprenticeship Board (1992-97). She was Founding National Coordinator of Women in Trades & Technology National Network (WITTNN) for seven years (1988-1994/96). Grassroots WITT groups increased from 6 to over 40 across Canada. She published the quarterly Network newsletter & coordinated a unique national Industrial Adjustment Service (IAS) committee of WITT women, employers, unions, educators and government, looking at programs, policies & initiatives to increase the successful integration of women in trades, technical & operational (TTO) work as a Labour Market Adjustment issue for Canada. The National Standards & Program Development Guidelines for WITT type exploratory courses resulted. They are providing an important framework for such courses wherever they might be developed.

Braundy was appointed to the Selkirk College Board (1995-97), and she left to begin PhD studies at UBC. Her Class 1 dissertation: “Men & Women and Tool: Reflections on Male Resistance to Women in Trades & Technology” resulted from a 2-year SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship to write her Dissertation as a play, performed at the Brave New Play Rites Festival, videotaped, edited and taken on the road to union halls and technical schools in B.C., Yukon, and Northwest Territories. She achieved a PhD in Technology Studies from UBC (2005) and works w/men and w/women, often separately, to bring about effective integration for women in trades & technology training and work. Her book, Men & Women and Tools – Bridging the Divide (Fernwood Publishing) is used in Technology Education at UBC. Braundy curates and manages www.KootenayFeminism.com Some publications at: http://www.men-women-tools.ca/Publications.htm, others on ResearchGate. In 2020, Braundy revised her national study for the Federal Department of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Canada on “Lessons Learned and Best Practices for Increasing the Successful Participation of Women in Apprenticeship and the Skilled Trades,” and the government gave her limited permission to distribute it.

Braundy received significant seed-funding in 2021 from the Industry Training Authority of British Columbia (now Skilled Trades BC) and the Columbia Basin Trust to prepare her extensive holdings for a Freely Available, Publicly Accessible, Easily Searchable, Full Text-downloadable Digital Archive of Equity in Apprenticeship & Technical Fields. It will be an invaluable asset to employers, unions, educators, governments and social justice activists who are interested in lessons and initiatives of the past, present and potential for the future.

Hard at work on that, in June 2023, she attended the Supporting Women in Trades Conference in Winnipeg where she was extremely surprised and totally thankful to receive the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum. She has recently joined We Build A Dream as a Consultant & Team Coach.

Victoria Battams Headshot
Victoria Battams

Technical Operations Coordinator National Service Operations - Ford Motor Company of Canada

Victoria Battams is a Canadian Red Seal Journeyperson Automotive Service Technician and Grand Master. She graduated from Centennial College Automotive Service Program in 2010. She has been actively blazing a trail for future Women in Skilled Trades ever since, Mentoring, Empowering and Leading women she encounters to shatter glass ceilings. With a front line perspective of Automotive Service Procedures and Diagnostic she worked her way up from the garage floor to CN Rail Fleet management and eventually to Headquarters of Ford Motor Company Canada. As a mother of 3 young girls she is passionate about sharing her experiences and inspiring future generations to achieve their full potential and actualize their dreams.

Kim Thiara Headshot
Kim Thiara

President and CEO AceTronic Industrial Controls Inc

President and CEO

AceTronic Industrial Controls Inc

There is a relatively small segment of leaders in the business world , individuals who are able to build relationships, trust and rapport with almost anyone, and in turn, are able to broker those relationships and make connections between people, creating partnerships and alliances and motivating forward momentum in order to "get things done".

Kim Thiara has been instrumental in positioning AceTronic Industrial Controls Inc. as the leader in the plastics market. She has spent the last 27+ years establishing a name for herself as the best source for plastic processing products, repair and calibration, culminating in the 2008 purchase of AceTronic, a company founded by her father, Harb Mushiana in 1983.

As President and CEO of AceTronic, "getting things done" and driving results through collaboration, partnerships and relationships, is what Kim is about. She radiates an enthusiastic and sincere passion to service her clients in all facets the organization.

Since joining AceTronic in 1991, Kim has led the Company through both diverse and challenging times. Kim took over the reins from her father during a period of market volatility and persevered with the creation and launch of several new product lines. Throughout this period she demonstrated an unwavering commitment to continuous improvement and growth of a mature and established operation. Under Kim’s leadership, AceTronic has achieved consistent revenue growth and built a roster of customers within North America. She served as the Toronto Chair for the Toronto Chapter of CAMM (Canadian Association of Mold Makers) for 7 years and is the newly elected Chair for the organization, effectibe May 2022. Kim is the first woman elected to this position. Canada’s mold making segment represents a $2 billion share of the Canadian economy . Kim also held a positon as Board Member with the APMA (Auto Parts Manufacturers Association). APMA is Canada’s national association representing OEM producers of parts, equipment, tools, supplies, advanced technology, and services for the worldwide automotive industry. In 2018, automotive parts shipments were over $35 Billion.

AceTronic is now moving into its 3rd generation with the addition of Kim’s 2 daughters actively involved with the business

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Marina Najm

Process Specialist at Husky Technologies

Marina Najm is a Process Specialist at Husky Technologies.  She specializes in polymer engineering, and she graduated with a Masters in Chemical and Biological Engineering from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. She has been involved in in teaching positions, research roles, programming projects, and a startup business.  Her goal is to keep learning new and creative ways to apply and communicate engineering concepts.  Her creative interests also extend into music, painting, and digital art.

Dr. Solmaz Karamikamkar Headshot
Dr. Solmaz Karamikamkar

Process Specialist at Husky Technologies

Dr. Karamikamkar is a Process Specialist at Husky Technologies, where her passion for science and applied science, with a focus on processing and sustainability, finds full expression. She earned an M.Sc. in Polymer Engineering from the Tehran Polytechnique University as well as an M.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of British Columbia (UBC) followed by a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toronto. In her role at Husky Technologies, Dr. Karamikamkar contributes to manufacturing practices, ensuring that the industry is equipped for the increasing demand for scientific precision.

Special Guests

Nour Hachem-Fawaz Headshot
Nour Hachem-Fawaz

President & Founder of Build a Dream

Nour utilizes her 15 years of experience as a workforce advisor, mentor, and influencer to inspire youth to make informed career choices that challenge the status quo.  

Nour Hachem-Fawaz wants to change global perspectives on women’s contribution to society. Inspired by her mother’s perseverance to excel in a male-dominated field, Nour dug deep into the ‘why’ behind the lack of women in skilled trades. She realized that the barriers keeping women out of these rewarding careers were common to other male-dominated paths and created a non-profit to encourage and empower young women to explore careers they may never have considered. 

Nour’s challenge to listeners is that one must first address internal preconceptions before being capable of making significant strides that transform our work and world. A brilliant connector and facilitator, audiences are drawn to her candour and unique perspective from an extensive career in workforce development and her lived experiences as a woman of colour. She shares energetic stories of what leaders are doing right and offers real-world examples of how embracing diverse workplaces accelerates success. 

Nour earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Windsor and expanded Build a Dream across Canada while completing her MBA, raising children, and earning many awards and accolades. She spends each day following her passion: creating equity not just in the workplace, but in all of the spaces around us. 

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Nicole Verkindt

CEO of Buggy.ca

Nicole is an entrepreneur, CEO, angel investor and board member. She founded Canadian tech business OMX, a global procurement platform. She is now the CEO of Canadian rapid logistics business Buggy.ca. Nicole is on the Board of Canadian Commercial Corporation, and is a frequent technology commentator on CBC. She was a “Dragon” on CBC’s Next Gen Dragon’s Den, dedicated to early stage technology businesses and was an investor on Gimlet media’s podcast show “The Pitch”. Nicole is a frequent angel investor and was named StartUp Canada’s woman entrepreneur of the year and one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40.

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Florine Ndimubandi

Black, African & Caribbean Support Tutor at GECDSB

Florine Ndimubandi's extraordinary journey combines a deep passion for community work and a love for music. Graduating from the University of Windsor in 2020 with a bachelor's degree in Marketing and a minor in French, she currently excels as a program coordinator at ACFO WECK, where she supports and coordinates impactful programs benefiting the French community. Beyond her career achievements, Florine's exceptional talent as a singer has earned her widespread recognition, captivating audiences with her captivating performances, including a standout role as Effie White in Dream Girls. Her vibrant personality, unwavering determination, and positive spirit fuel her dedication to making a meaningful difference in the lives of others, all while pursuing her musical aspirations.

In every aspect of her life, Florine shines as a role model, showcasing the perfect harmony between her dedication to community service and her unwavering commitment to the performing arts. With boundless enthusiasm, she continues to enrich the lives of those around her, leaving a lasting impact through her invaluable contributions to society and her passion for music.

Desiree Norwegian Headshot
Desiree Norwegian

Manager, Indigenous for Aecon in their nuclear division

Manager, Indigenous Relations. Desiree Norwegian is a member of Liidlii Kue First Nation, she is part of the Dene clan from Northwest Territories. Desiree graduated with a bachelor’s in business administration with a specialization in accounting along with obtaining a Chartered Professional Accountant designation. Desiree’s is currently working as the Manager, Indigenous for Aecon in their nuclear division and is driving her passion for Indigenous engagement, rights, equality and reconciliation, gender diversity, and teach/talk about building a cleaner energy future and the huge advantage that nuclear power plays in our society (green power, medical isotopes, small & advanced modular reactors, and great careers in stem & skilled trades).

Desiree’s experience as a business owner in the nuclear sector and all the work she has done to bridge the gap between industry and Indigenous communities is a huge asset to the Aecon team and she is currently leading the way by carving a path within their projects for more Indigenous participation/inclusion through education, equity, employment, and business opportunities/partnerships. Desiree’s passion and strong desire to make a difference for our generation and for the next seven generations has led her to advising on provincial and federal policy and sitting on many non-for-profit boards such as, Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business (CCAB) and Build a Dream.

Two of the Dene teachings are 1) take only what you need and share everything you have and 2) the knowledge you are given is not yours, it is to be passed on. Being guided by her Dene roots she inspires
and shares her knowledge of everything she is taught in hopes of inspiring all people around her. She is always more than welcome to chat about opportunities, passions, or finding your why and how to change our world, every person counts!!!

Cheryl Young Headshot
Cheryl Young

Enbridge Senior Specialist within the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team.

Today at Enbridge, Cheryl is a Senior Specialist within the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team. She was seconded to this role in 2021 with a mandate to build programs and partnerships that create opportunities to attract and retain more women to Enbridge, with a focus on front-line operations and construction, and STEM based roles.

 

Prior to assuming her current role, Cheryl was a Senior Human Resources Business Partner at Enbridge and was accountable to provide HR strategic support and coaching, for executive leaders and their leadership teams to deliver on strategic organizational priorities.

 

Cheryl has over 25 years of Human Resources experience and has held various HR leadership and advisory roles, across various sectors. Cheryl received her BA from the University of Guelph, her Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL) from the Human Resources Professional Association of Canada, Labour Relations certification through Queen University, and is currently enrolled in a Master of Psychology Counselling graduate program.

 

Based in Chatham, Cheryl lives with her two teenagers, although splits her time between Enbridge’s Chatham and North York offices.