Marisa Fabiano on Mentorship, Sponsorship and Professional Development

Tell us about your role as Senior Vice President of Finance at Rogers.

As SVP of finance, I report to the CFO of Rogers Communications and am part of his operational finance team. I support Rogers Media, which includes several divisions, like television, radio, sports, digital publishing, The Shopping Channel and the  Blue Jays. It’s a big and diverse basket of assets, and it is changing every day as audiences move from traditional platforms to online and mobile.

What helped you get into the senior position that you are in today?

A couple of things, and hard work would have to be at the top of the list. But another thing for me is taking ownership of my personal development and learnings. I’ve always invested in my development, like taking various leadership courses at different universities, participating in ISO certifications, learning about lean manufacturing and improving my coaching skills.

I think another key item is having a good mentor. There has been one person throughout my entire career that I can always rely on for advice. And beyond a mentor, something that has helped me the last several years has been a sponsor. Having a voice at the executive table that supports me and speaks up about my abilities and value to the leadership team has been a key to my success.

How have your mentors and sponsors helped you?

Earlier on in my career  I was using a mentor to coach me on getting to the next level.  I was too short sighted, and my mentor helped me lay out the stepping stones for the career that I wanted, which included identifying the professional development I needed to reach my goals.

As I moved higher in my career, a sponsor was someone who validated my performance and leadership abilities. I sought out a leader who had a strong voice around the table; who was heard and respected, and then I would build a relationship with that person. To get someone to endorse  me, however, meant that I had to make sure they saw my potential. They have to see the value I was creating and that I was delivering what I said I would deliver.

How have your professional development initiatives helped you?

I’ve worked for several companies in totally different industries, and they have all been very competitive and fast-paced. Taking the extra step to know the products and understanding the language was key for me. It made me a more informed stakeholder around the management table. It is important for me to be able to follow the conversation, ask appropriate questions to build my understanding, and ultimately this made me part of the decision making team.

As a woman, especially starting out in my career, I wouldn’t voice my opinion unless I was 100 per cent confident. My mentor pointed out that this was a weakness.  Through their help as well as professional development and learning more about the business and its respective industry  helped me challenge decisions and made me a more valuable team member. If I didn’t feel confident enough to speak up, I made sure that next time I did.

How has diversity affected your career?

Most of the management teams that I’ve worked with have been male dominated, with maybe a third of the people around the table being women. Despite whatever the number is, I think the important thing is to think of yourself as a valued and respected member of the team. And to have a voice. Be confident and be able to contribute - that’s what it means to be part of a team.

Often times the men just don’t think of some of the other issues that come up, and so I, as a woman, have to speak up as a leader and a business partner. 

Diversity is something that we talk about around the senior table, and we look to build teams that are not just diverse for the sake of diversity, but to be effective.  I consider myself a sponsor for certain people in the organization, and I think about diversity in the people that I sponsor.

Do you have any advice for your younger self?

I’ve learned that it’s ok to make mistakes. In my earlier days it would have been nice to know that, and to not be so hard on myself when I do make mistakes. I think it’s my in nature and working in finance to be risk adverse, but stepping out a bit more and making mistakes along the way isn’t always a bad thing.

As the years go by, I feel as though if something doesn’t sound right, I’ll rely on my gut and challenge it. I’m not always right, but it’s good to ask those questions and solidify your understanding. Take the mistakes as learnings, and it comes back to speaking up and being a confident team member.

What is a quote that you live by?

“Live every day like it’s my last”

You hear too many stories of executive burnout and people coming down with stress-related diseases because of their jobs. I remind myself to step back and put everything into perspective. I like to take on challenges at work, but I also like to take on more personal challenges as well. At the end of the day, work is a part of your life, but not your entire life. Sometimes you need to take time to recharge and make decisions that are important to me. 

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