Top of their game: Ottawa's Corporate Businesswomen of the Year

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For more than three decades, the Women’s Business Network has celebrated the accomplishments of Ottawa’s most dynamic female business leaders.

The WBN will hold its annual awards gala on April 24 at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre. In the lead up to that event, OBJ will profile recipients in the corporate, professional and entrepreneur categories.

Meet the nominees in the Corporate Businesswoman of the Year category.

Janice Menezes: Running the numbers

Current job: Chief financial officer, Lockheed Martin Canada

Hometown:  Barrie, Ont.

Education: Bachelor of mathematics in accounting, University of Waterloo; chartered accountant

First job: Page at the Barrie Public Library

“I’ve been told the military is an old boys’ school, but I haven’t met any of that at Lockheed.”

As a child, Janice Menezes loved using numbers to understand the world around her. That desire ran in the family, too: Ms. Menezes and her two siblings all enrolled in the same field of study at the University of Waterloo – accounting, naturally.

In a sense, Ms. Menezes (who is based in Ottawa) is still making sense of numbers today: she is the long-standing chief financial officer of Lockheed Martin Canada, a defence systems integrator whose customers are NATO allies (principally Canada’s Department of National Defence).

A big piece of the action comes from overseeing a $2-billion program to modernize Halifax-class frigates, a mainstay of the Canadian navy for two decades. Lockheed received the contract in 2008 and it still forms a large base of revenues today, Ms. Menezes says.

Another big project is the Canadian Forces’ health information system, which may include the addition of mental health data soon. The system aims to make it easier for ships on the go to pull up medical records.

Lockheed Martin Canada posts about $50 million in revenues a year, and has 770 employees in its overall operations. Revenues for the Ottawa office, which has 236 employees, are not disclosed.

Ms. Menezes began her career articling for a chartered accounting firm, but decided that she would prefer the slower pace of working as an accountant in another field. Some of her other positions include working at an aviation company and at Dow Chemical.

Besides making contributions to the defence community, Lockheed does try to give back. It’s a large supporter of the United Way, which Ms. Menezes usually enjoys – except, perhaps, for the day she was invited to don an Ottawa Senators jersey for charity.

“Being from Barrie, I’m close to Toronto and I am a Leafs fan. I took a beating,” Ms. Menezes jokes.

Among Lockheed’s other numerous contributions in Ottawa are to Habitat for Humanity, the Boys and Girls Club, Glebe Robotics and the Canada-Wide Science Fair.

It’s all a part of cementing Lockheed’s reputation in the community.

The Canadian operation is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and does far more than the F-35 airplanes that are talked about in the media, Ms. Menezes adds. – Elizabeth Howell

Luise Sander: Flying high in geophysical circles

Current job: Co-president, Sander Geophysics Ltd.

Hometown: Ottawa

“The company is very well-known all around the world for its strong safety culture.”

When you’re a family-owned business in Ottawa flying airplanes as far away as Antarctica, gaining a customer’s trust is a combination of displaying ethics and an impressive safety record.

With zero aviation accidents in its more than five decades in the sky, Sander Geophysics Ltd. stands out in the global airborne geophysical survey sector, says co-president Luise Sander.

The company’s fleet of 17 aircraft fly anywhere from 80 metres to 500 metres above frequently mountainous or hilly terrain, searching for oil or conducting environmental surveys, among other applications.

Major projects for the firm now are taking place in Malawi, Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Indonesia and elsewhere around the world. Revenues are not disclosed because the company is privately run, but Ms. Sander says sales are growing yearly. SGL has 160 employees, mostly based out of Ottawa, except for the pilots, who are everywhere in Canada.

“We are known for being ethically solid in the field of airborne sensing and exploration, and for our safety record,” Ms. Sander says. One of its biggest challenges is the paperwork associated with getting airspace approvals, which is where the company’s experience – it has done airborne surveys since 1958 – is an asset.

Although the company is a family business, Ms. Sander began her career in computer programming, briefly working for another firm. She performed several roles at SGL before becoming co-president with her brother Stephan in 2002.

“We grew substantially” during that time, Ms. Sander recalls, saying that one of her main challenges was to implement more structure while keeping the friendly atmosphere of the family business during that time.

“It’s about knowing employees and their strengths,” she adds.

Among Ms. Sander’s most notable charitable contributions is to the Canadian Exploration Geophysical Society Foundation. She has been associated with the foundation for a while, and was elected as a director in March.

The foundation has a mandate to “support, nurture and promote geophysics” for universities, as well as in government and industry, for the aim of scientific advancement.

Three employees from her company also are volunteer readers with OttawaReads, an Ottawa Network for Education program that pairs employees with local schoolchildren to promote literacy. – Elizabeth Howell

Dianne King: The engine behind the spotlight

Current job: General manager, Freeman Audio Visual

Hometown: Toronto

Education: College degree in business administration

First job: IT department at Photomat

“We make sure the customer looks incredible to their delegates and who they’re trying to reach out to. We’re the behind-the-scenes people.”

For Dianne King’s company, getting somebody miked up for a presentation could range from working with the leader of an association to the leader of an entire country.

Freeman Audio Visual’s portfolio of events includes the behind-the-scene technical management of the Gatineau leg of the 2010 G8 meeting of world leaders, which included participation from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“We were fortunate. We did the audio, visual and camera lighting for the G8. We set up the whole thing,” Ms. King recalls.

Her firm (formerly called AVW-Telav) is enjoying 30 per cent revenue growth annually, with associations, corporations and government all “very big” factors in that success.

Freeman now has 70 to 100 full-time employees in the “capital region” (which includes the zone from Kingston to Gatineau) and an additional 300 around Toronto.

Ms. King began her career in the IT portion of Photomat, a Toronto company that was sold to a U.S. firm in the 1980s. Ms. King was set to follow the company to San Diego until she met her future husband.

To stay in Toronto, Ms. King joined what was then called Video One (now Entertainment One). She ran the IT department, then switched to accounting and purchasing.

“I had a natural ability in sales, so I ended up (supervising) any new salespeople that came on … I also had a very strong ability for customer service and communicating on how the business worked,” she says.

This interest eventually sent her to Calgary, where she was director of sales, and later to senior positions in Ottawa, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Then the president of AVW-Telav (whom Ms. King met through work) offered her a position in Ottawa. Ms. King stayed in the capital for 22 years until moving recently to Toronto to oversee southwestern Ontario.

Her charity contributions include CHEO and the Royal Ottawa, and she once even offered a suicidal woman a place in her home. That woman is now married and has her own business, Ms. King said.

Until recently, Ms. King also sat on the board of directors for the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and Ottawa Tourism.

“I was very active and influential in the Ottawa business community and always tried to be there,” she says. – Elizabeth Howell

Organizations: Lockheed Martin Canada, University of Waterloo, Sander Geophysics Ltd. NATO Department of National Defence Canadian Forces Dow Chemical United Way Ottawa Senators Habitat for Humanity Boys and Girls Club Canada-Wide Science Fair Canadian Exploration Geophysical Society Foundation Ottawa Network for Education Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and Ottawa Tourism

Geographic location: Ottawa, Barrie, Toronto Canada Antarctica Malawi Papua New Guinea Colombia Indonesia Gatineau Kingston U.S. San Diego Calgary Edmonton Vancouver Southwestern Ontario

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