Karen Swyszcz 0:01
I’m Karen Swyszcz and you’re listening to the Bacon Bits ‘n’ Bytes Podcast. This is the podcast where a bit of business and a byte of technology come together.
All right, let’s take two. Hi everyone, and thanks for tuning in to another episode of The Bacon Bits ‘n’ Bytes podcast. Today I’m chatting with Shann McGrail. As the Executive Director for Haltech, part of the Regional Innovation Center Network in Ontario, Shann and her team are focused on the growth of startups and scale-up innovation companies. Having run her own software and consulting company focused on talent and creating successful partnerships. She identifies firsthand with an entrepreneurial mindset, combined with years of experience in sales, consulting and operations leadership roles at Microsoft, she brings a collaborative and strategic approach. Shann is also involved in women in technology initiatives through organizations such as Women in Communications and Technology, #HerHalton, The Innovation Factory’s Accelerator for Women Entrepreneurs and Haltech’s recently announced Beyond Boundaries program to help more women entrepreneurs to think big and go global with their businesses. Ten years of improv training and performing has turned Shann into a big advocate of leading with yes and she loves to introduce these concepts into business.
Shann McGrail 1:40
Welcome to the show Shann.
Shann McGrail 1:44
Well, thank you very much. It’s my pleasure to be here.
Karen Swyszcz 1:47
That’s great. It’s funny because your bio, I practiced reading it beforehand before we record this episode, like two, three times and it’s funny, you know, when we record I seem to have stumbled on (laughs).
Shann McGrail 2:00
(laughs) Well, you know what, that’s always how it happens the minute the camera light or the record goes on that’s when we really start getting nervous.
Karen Swyszcz 2:06
Yeah. Okay, so let’s first kind of like trail back into growing up, would you consider yourself to be someone who often naturally assumed a leadership position? So I’m thinking, were you president or vice president of student clubs or the student council?
Shann McGrail 2:22
No, I really wasn’t. It’s not that I, you know, shied away from it necessarily. But, you know, the cold hard truth was, I was, you know, that unpopular kid in elementary school, and, you know, sort of took my fair share sitting on the sidelines. And then I think, you know, during high school started to figure out who I was a little bit more and I had lots of different types of friends. So I learned and grew differently because I had exposure to lots of different groups of backgrounds.
And then I think for me, I not to say I was a late bloomer, but I think I started to realize after university and as I started working, that, you know, my real strength was the ability to navigate through different groups to navigate through different conversations to bring people together. And you know, I would say if I look back, it wasn’t that I ever said, I want to be the leader or I want to be the one in charge. But what I always did know about myself and the way I reacted was that I was more about independence. And I always had this aspect of I wanted to do what was right and fair and just, and that sort of just seemed to translate naturally, as I grew a little bit and started working and figured out, you know, what do I like to do? Who are the kinds of people I like to work with? And then I think it was at that stage where my you know, my more of my leadership style started to emerge.
Karen Swyszcz 3:58
That’s quite interesting because I can kind of relate to growing up like in elementary school I was very, like shy and awkward and I got teased a bit and wasn’t very popular and yeah, it wasn’t until high school because the elementary school is rather small, but then yet coming into high school because it’s taking in all the kids from the surrounding elementary schools. So it’s interesting having a lot of different groups of friends and yeah, just felt like I could really connect with people better.
Shann McGrail 4:30
Well, and it was interesting because I, you know, in preparation for this, I was kind of thinking about some of the different questions and, you know, just different things that changed me in my background. And I would have said, you know, at the time when I was younger, say high school, I would have loved to have been a great athlete. I wasn’t. I would have loved to have been the genius in class. I wasn’t. I would have loved to have been, you know, the really popular, you know, cheerleader type I wasn’t. But at the same time, I think it really sort of forced me to understand and work with and get to appreciate different strengths of all of these different friends I had in different groups, and then start to understand the value of being able to connect the dots and see things You know, I learned this from this group of friends. So I’m going to take it, apply it over here. And then I’m going to take what I learned there to another group. So I think that’s a lot of what now translates into what I do.
Karen Swyszcz 5:26
I’d like to talk about, you know, the various roles you had at Microsoft. So what are some lessons you’ve learned from working in and working with some of the biggest and most respected technology companies?
Shann McGrail 5:38
Whoo, that’s a really, really great question. So I feel extremely fortunate to have had that opportunity to work in a big company. And some of the great learning that I had when I first started my career, I worked for another very large company, who eventually was bought and merged in with Hewlett Packard. And I would say when I started off, I learned the value of having really good core foundational skills. And for me, I started in sales. So I built my skills around communication, presentation skills, understanding how to communicate technology and business value. And those, you know, learn those early on had a lot of opportunity to get practice, and, you know, continue to build on those skills throughout my career.
The other thing that I learned early on being in sales is such a phenomenal opportunity and anybody who’s contemplating what to do with their career, or if you’re at that stage, or you’re just starting, I would absolutely advise people to get some selling experience. And it’s because you, you learn a lot from your customers, you learn, you got to learn how to take rejection. And you’ve got to learn how to sort of reframe opportunities and think about timing and really how to how to seize the opportunities that do come your way. So that would be one thing is that a career in sales is extremely valuable, even if you decide to go down another path later on and you know, all those foundational skills around communication and presenting and articulating problems and you know, the value of technology, absolutely core.
And then I would say a little bit later on, as I, you know, moved into Microsoft and then started to advance and take on more leadership positions, I think my skills around you know, how do you work with people and how do you tap into the potential of people and, you know, harness what they’re capable of, and bring them along on whatever the mission is. So I think that would be one thing that I felt as I moved into more people management role was really important for me. And then I think the other all up one that was a lesson from working in big companies is that ideas are cheap, right? Anybody can come up with an idea. The real value is in what are you willing to do? What action are you going to take to make that idea a reality?
Karen Swyszcz 8:33
So what was it like, you know, having gone from a big company to working as the Executive Director for Haltech?
Shann McGrail 8:42
Well, I had a little bit of a stop in between. So after I was with Microsoft is when I was running my own consulting and software company with my partner. And, you know, it’s very different. You know, when you’re working for a big company, and you have this big brand to rely on. There weren’t too many people that I that I couldn’t call and say, Hi, I’m from Microsoft, I’d like to talk to you about, most people would be willing to listen and to grant you that meeting.
When you go to a smaller company, you’re just establishing yourself, you’re not knocking on the doors of people who don’t know you, but instead, you’re really tapping into your network and you realize how important that the trust you’ve built throughout your career starts to become when you’re working on your own. And you know, then there’s a lot of simple things that you get in a big company that don’t happen in a small company. And that could be anything like you had a marketing budget and a big company. You know, you don’t have that in a small company. You had somebody who worried about accounts receivable or payable, you don’t have that. You realize when you’re looking for somebody, it’s just you. And one of the you know, one of the other things I’ve often found funny is, when I worked for Microsoft, for example, and I got an error, you know, some sort of a technology or call your administrator, I could call somebody today when I get that error. There’s nobody to call. I am the administrator.
Karen Swyszcz 10:15
(laughs) So I’d like to talk more about leadership. So we kind of you mentioned a little bit about, you know, tapping into the potential of people and tapping into the potential of people. I think I could probably make a blooper episode out of this. If you’re okay with it. All my stumbles today. (laughs)We talked about tapping into the potential of people. What other characteristics would you consider to be necessary to be a good leader?
Shann McGrail 10:42
Being a good listener, and in genuinely listening with curiosity and empathy, and I think if leaders bring that to the table, you know, whether they’re new leaders or more experienced leaders, I think that’s incredibly valuable because people, when they feel listened to they trust you when they trust you, you know, that’s when you can really uncover the potential and that’s how you can really engage them.
And I’ll share a quick story about when I was at Microsoft, and I was, you know, early on junior in my career, I was not yet a manager. I was an individual contributor. And I was working in the office in Ottawa, and the President of Microsoft Canada, came for a visit and he was, you know, had customer visits. But then he took some time to meet with a few employees in a one on one meeting. So I was lucky enough to get this one on one meeting. And of course, I’m a little intimidated. I haven’t been with Microsoft long. This is somebody who’s really big and important. So I’m a little intimidated. But I remember walking into the office where the meeting was. And rather than sit behind the desk, this gentleman pulled his chair around so that we were sitting side by side, and he leaned forward and he said, Tell me about yourself. And it was just like this, this moment of Wow. Like he’s not trying to intimidate me. He really wants to know who I am and what I think is important, and it was just this really small motion of where he put the chair, how he leaned forward and into the conversation, that from that moment on, I went, yeah, it really is about listening. And it really is about engaging through that.
Karen Swyszcz 12:34
Do you think anyone can be a leader?
Shann McGrail 12:38
That is to me about you have to want it. But you have to be also willing to do the work of leadership. And I’m talking about the kind of leadership that I think is important today.
Leadership isn’t a position. Leadership is about the actions that you take.
So if people are willing to take the actions, they’re willing to develop themselves, then I think, yeah, anybody can be a leader because it doesn’t matter about your title. It matters about who you are and how you are.
Karen Swyszcz 13:10
Mm hmm. So as someone who works with innovation companies, why do you think some large global corporations are resistant and hesitant to innovation?
Shann McGrail 13:21
The status quo, right? We’re all like, we’re all human. And when you think about change, a lot of times we say yes, we’re comfortable with change, but in reality, we’re more or less programmed to stay exactly the same way we are today and not to seek out uncertainty. So when you put you know, a company who’s been successful, they’ve got their revenue predictable, they know who their customers are. It’s really, really tough to shift that and say, Okay, now we’re going to innovate, we’re going to think about a completely new market, we’re going to disrupt the market we’re in, we’re going to change the products or services that we offer. It’s really tough. And I think at the core of it, it’s about that uncertainty. And you know, it’s great when you know who your customers are, you know where your revenue is, it’s tough to then sort of say, we’re going to change that we’re going to refocus, and we don’t know what it’s gonna look like.
Karen Swyszcz 14:16
Mmm-hmm. I can also think about like some large corporations who failed to innovate and then, unfortunately, ended up tanking such as like Blockbuster and Kodak, so I think if anything large corporations to stay competitive, they really should look into how they can become innovated and how to keep on innovating in this day and age. Would you agree?
Shann McGrail 14:43
Oh, yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And there was a stat I forget exactly what it was. But it used to be the number of companies on the Fortune 500. It was something like let’s say 50 years, 25 or 50 years was the average length of time a company would be on that list. And now it’s down to 10 years. So I think that illustrates, you know, how fast change is happening and how important innovation is. And you know, the fact that companies aren’t doing it fast enough when they’re at that level. But you made me think of something else that gets in the way, when you mentioned, you know, companies like Blockbuster that just failed to innovate. One of the things that gets in the way is ego, right? You think you’re already doing it really well, what could somebody else have to teach you? So I think that’s a huge one that gets in the way of innovation and change.
Karen Swyszcz 15:43
Mm-hmm. So on the other end, more often than like startups, they’re huge advocates for innovation. So what would you say are some key innovation strategies if they’re looking to scale?
Shann McGrail 15:57
Well, there’s a couple of things. I mean, when we look at the startup and the innovation community, right, they’re all about disrupting the status quo. So they can do that by disrupting the market. So they can kind of create a new market for their products or their services. They can, you know, disrupt products and services that already exist. So what market do we sell? Are we going to create a new market? Or are we going to create this new product or service that nobody has seen before? So those are some of the different options that they can explore in terms of how they go to market and where they can find their foothold. I think, what they really have to be thinking about what they do think about what we see every day at the Innovation Center is you’ve got to get customers on board, right? So there’s a very predictable customer journey for startups. Right? You start with the idea, then you have to do some discovery, right? Is this really a valid idea? Does something already exist? What are the alternatives? So you do that kind of research. And then the next stage is validation, you have to go out, you have to actually talk to people who would buy this and get their feedback, right? So you make those changes, you figure out what does the minimum viable product look like? Get that feedback, and then start to get those first few critical paying customers on board. So you know, as you get through that validation stage, then you get into efficiency and scale. And during those stages, that’s when you’re, you know, you’re optimizing your operations, you’re bringing your team on board, you’re growing your executive staff, so you’re kind of building it step by step. So from that perspective, it’s a little bit predictable. But it’s a tough journey, right? There’s always lots of unknowns and things that can get in the way.
Karen Swyszcz 17:57
Are there any particular startups that come to mind that have disrupted a certain industry that you are really interested in or that you’re currently working with now?
Shann McGrail 18:08
Ah, yes, we have actually one in particular, that I can use as an example where it’s, what they’re doing is they’re disrupting nitrogen, the way nitrogen gas is used and delivered when it comes to food and food processing. So, you know, there’s ways today you see those trucks on the road that are transporting nitrogen gas. Well, there are other ways to do that and to create that. So we’re working with one company who I feel like really has an opportunity to disrupt the way people are doing things today and to disrupt the market that they’re in. So they would be a good example, we see, you know, so many different types of innovations from you know digital media and ICT, advanced manufacturing, med-tech and life tech, you know, we get the opportunity to see them all across the board. So when you ask one or two, one or two examples, you know, it’s so tough when we work with hundreds of companies, there’s so many fantastic and interesting ideas.
Karen Swyszcz 19:15
Mm-hmm. So I know you’re a huge advocate for women in tech. And I feel that the term women in tech is pretty popular. It’s used a lot these days, and in the media and in conversations. So, in your opinion, what would you consider to be the definition of a woman who’s in tech?
Shann McGrail 19:44
Well, I would probably go with the definition that it is broad. So women in technology can be those who are working in a technical role. So you know, whether that may be they’re working as programmers or they’re, you know, working on IoT and hardware, whatever it is. So they’re working in a technical role. I would also consider it to be women who are working in technology companies. So if you’re working for Microsoft you’re in tech, it influences everything that you do every day. So those who work in the technology industry, and then also those who are working in technical roles, and organizations that we may not initially think of as technology-based organizations, but perhaps they work in the, you know, the IT departments or something to that effect. But I think the, you know, the interesting piece about women in tech is that today, all companies have to be tech companies of some variety. So I think pretty soon when we say women in tech, we’re going to start to look at, you know, those who touch technology make decisions about technology, buy technology, or know how to be productive and optimize with technology. So I think it’s going to stay pretty broad. But my ultimate, you know, my ultimate hope is that we’ll see more and more women who have the technical skills, comfort and savvy to be part of it.
Karen Swyszcz 21:08
And you’re involved actually, in a lot of technology, women in technology initiatives, based on your bio. I was wondering if you could briefly describe each of them starting off with the Women in Communications and Technology.
Shann McGrail 21:21
Sure, yeah. I’ve been working with an organization called Women in Communications and Technology for quite a number of years since, you know, since my time at Microsoft, and currently what I’m working on with them is what’s called a blueprint for women’s leadership. And this is about looking at the practices that large companies have in place that help to advance women in technology roles, and promote more women into senior leadership positions. So with them, I’ve been working on you know, how do we take all the different practices and look at? What are the ones that represent true leadership? What are the ones that represent emerging leadership? What does it look like when you’re just at the start of that journey? And we’ve organized all these practices in such a way as to give organizations and ability to look at what do we do today to help develop and advance and promote women in the organization? And what could we do to be even more effective in doing that, so that we’ve got a gender diverse workforce. So that’s been a really exciting project, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to, you know, probably over three or 400 different leaders across Canada and understand what works, what doesn’t work and what the most effective actions are, to move to the point where we have much more gender equity and technology roles and leadership than today when we’re sitting at somewhere around 30%. So that’s been a lot of fun and really engaging and lots of great conversation and a ton of opportunity for Canadian organizations to move forward.
Karen Swyszcz 23:25
Shann McGrail 23:27
#HerHalton is when I joined, Haltech, the team had already been working on #HerHalton, and it started about three years ago with an International Women’s Day and the team decided, Well, why don’t we do a breakfast? Why don’t we celebrate the achievements of women in business and leadership and technology across Halton Region? So as I understand it, that first breakfast, I thought, if we get 30 people to come out, that’d be a good day. And then I think somewhere around 75 showed up and then from there, it sort of sprung into, you know, peer to peer meetings and discussions, more Women’s Day events. So last year, we had well over 100 or 120 people. This year, we’re planning another event that’s taking place on March 5, at Rattlesnake Point in celebration of International Women’s Day. And you know, we’ll probably see somewhere around 150 people join us for that. So it’s just been a great opportunity for us to bring together women and men and any other supporters who want to really celebrate what’s going on, as it relates to gender diversity in the region and business success for everyone. So that’s been #HerHalton and it’s been tons of fun, and we’re continuing to move that forward.
Karen Swyszcz 24:45
Yeah, I’ll be honest, I’m not a morning person, but I went to it last year, and it was definitely worth waking up early for. I really enjoyed the speakers. Sorry, what was that?
Shann McGrail 24:57
I hope we’ll see you there this year.
Karen Swyszcz 24:59
Yeah, actually, I will be attending and I thought it was also great to see, you know, a few men attending the event as well because I think like even though we say it’s like celebrate women and to, you know, have conversations with, of course, like men are invited, as well, you know, if they want to learn more about how to incorporate women in tech or women in leadership, of course, you’d want to attend these events and you know, have those conversations with women.
Shann McGrail 25:31
And you know what, Karen, I like I, to me, this is a really, really important topic. I recently did an interview talking about #HerHalton and that was my point as well. And this year, the theme for International Women’s Day is Each For Equal. And I would love to see more men come out and join us, right? Because all of the you know, the men, and when we get into this discussion about equality, that means everybody has to be part of the conversation. And we all have to learn together. We all have to collaborate, but the more men we see you come and join us and we make them feel comfortable at these events. Like they can ask questions and they can, you know, raise topics in discussion. I mean, I think that’s really gonna get us a lot farther faster. And I’ve said, you know, when I think about #HerHalton and some of the women’s events that know guys you’ve got, you’ve got wives or girlfriends or sisters or daughters or cousins, whatever it is, you know, come along to these events and participate because we do want to hear what you have to say and we want to share what we’re thinking about.
Karen Swyszcz 26:41
Yes, definitely. Okay. So the third initiative is Innovation Factory’s Accelerator for Women Entrepreneurs. Could you give a brief summary on that?
Shann McGrail 26:50
Sure. Yeah, I’d love to so our sister Regional Innovation Center in Hamilton, I had been doing some work with them as an entrepreneur in residence. And with the team there we were talking about the fact that when you look at technology companies, there are only about on average, 13% or so who are female founders. So not great. And we decided that we wanted to put together a program to help more women further their entrepreneurial thinking and focus it not just on what are some of the business topics that every entrepreneur needs to be thinking about, but what are some of the things that women in particular face? And what are the challenges, but not just the challenges. What are the opportunities that can really make them successful and what would unlock opportunities for them to create new markets or find new customers? So we, we started that up and the group is still going. They have some fantastic events there that are really focusing on some of the things that women have identified as being really important. Like, you know, my negotiation skills. I feel like I just don’t do as great of a job as I could. So we put together a session and talked about negotiation skills.
There was a discussion that we had around pitching to male investors, because if you pitch your idea, let’s say you’ve got a product, and I’ve seen a number of companies who have a product, a service that is meant to be marketed to women. Let’s say it’s for, you know, health of some variety and issues that only women deal with. Well, when you pitch to male investors, they may not understand the market, they may not understand the implications of your solution. So how do you make sure that you pitch in such a way that those investors understand what you’re trying to do? And you know, hopefully, give you the capital so that you can grow and scale. So those are just some of the examples. So that was a program that we put together with funding from the Brookfield Institute and the gang in Hamilton still has it going on and we love to promote their events. And then that led us as I got to Haltech to another initiative called Beyond Boundaries. So that’s one we’re really focused on helping women entrepreneurs scale their business. So they’ve already got their business going, and it’s about how do we help them take it to the next level?
Karen Swyszcz 29:30
Wow, I am just blown away by how many things you’re involved in. I mean, even though this conversation is mainly about leadership and women in tech and in innovation, I’d also like to know, how do you manage to juggle all of this?
Shann McGrail 29:42
(laughs). You know, it’s funny because when I didn’t really stop to think about am I involved in all that many things until you said it but I would say and this is also another lesson from along the way. Nobody does anything by themselves. So I’ve always been fortunate that you know, I’ve got great, great teams, great colleagues, other people who are just you know, fabulous to be around who I can tap into for their you know, whether it’s hands-on support or idea generation or connections. I’d say you know, that’s been a big learning is you never accomplish anything on your own. You really have to surround yourself with smart people, talented people, people who are willing to do work.
Karen Swyszcz 30:27
Yeah, it kind of reminds me of this proverb. And hopefully, I’m saying it properly. It’s like, if you want to go fast go alone. But if you want to go far go with others.
Shann McGrail 30:45
Karen Swyszcz 30:47
Okay, so we’ve mentioned all the different initiatives. So as someone who is a leader who’s passionate about innovation and women in tech, what do you think? Can we do more to create more opportunities and to create more progress and connect the two areas of innovation and women in tech together?
Shann McGrail 31:07
Yes, exactly what that is, I feel like it’s always a series of small steps. So I don’t think it’s like this one big huge thing. But if I think about what I try to do in a day, it’s always little things that hopefully down the road have a big impact. So you know, it’s like throwing the pebble in the water and then all the ripples it creates, but I think about you know, when I talk and work with our female tech entrepreneurs, I’m always thinking about what’s one thing I can do to help them today? Is it an introduction? Is it a couple of words of encouragement? Is it you know, helping them just, you know, sit down and make a decision that they’re wrestling with? So for me, it’s, it’s about every interaction that I have, what’s one thing I can do to help those women entrepreneurs? And then when it comes to, you know, how do we connect the entrepreneurial side to you know, innovation in technology? Um, you know, if I had that conquered I, you know, I don’t know what I would do next. But again, for me, it’s always like, well, what’s the one action I can take? If somebody is wrestling with the technology decision? Is there something I know that can help them or is there someone I can introduce them to that can help them? And then I think the last thing I would say is, it’s always about examples, right? So I love the opportunity to see young women, girls, students who come into our space here in Burlington or in Milton, where we’ve got an office and watch them if they’re with their, you know, their parents or relatives or whoever it may be when the eyes open up and they see what it’s like to be an entrepreneur and they see other women doing things that they could be doing. So I think that, you know, if you get a chance to show somebody and talk to them about what’s possible, then I think there is motivation there for them to go and, you know, do the learning, acquire the skills and, you know, make it happen for themselves.
Karen Swyszcz 33:13
Based on what you said, it makes it seem like it’s not as daunting, I guess, as most people would think, you know, talking about just interacting, like making an introduction, just like making compliments or offering suggestions. And that’s definitely you know, little steps that can help move things forward.
Shann McGrail 33:29
Yeah, exactly. And you know, what, I think we all sometimes need encouragement. So sometimes it’s just Hey, you’re doing a good job. And you know, I’d like to tell you that, right. So some days people just need to hear it.
Karen Swyszcz 33:40
Yeah, it makes a difference like because you can easily tell yourself, I’m doing a good job. This is great. I’m getting somewhere. But it makes so much more of an impact when somebody else tells you the same thing (laughs).
Shann McGrail 33:51
Yeah. And that would be, you know, that’s another great point that I’ve learned along the way is feedback is really important. It’s not always the positive and encouraging feedback, sometimes being honest with people is what they need most from you.
Karen Swyszcz 34:05
Mm-hmm. So before we sign off, I’d like to talk about your improv training because I’m really curious to learn more about it. How did you get into it firsthand?
Shann McGrail 34:17
(laughs). It was, honestly, I had read something in the local newspaper at the time about an improv group and an improv class that was starting. And I was curious about it. I had some experience with community and things like that. But I was traveling a lot. And you know, I was kind of getting out of touch with doing anything very creative. So it caught my eye. And, you know, I’ve often heard people refer to it, it’s a little bit of a gateway drug.
Karen Swyszcz 34:51
Shann McGrail 34:54
So you try an improv class and just, you know, you’re wanting to try the next one and the next one. So that’s what happened to me was about 10 years ago, when I took the first class and then I, you know, got a little bit hooked and found some, you know, some new skills and met some new people and just started to have fun with it. And then over the years, just took some more classes and, you know, got into doing some performances and now I’m part of the Oakville Improv Theatre Company Board. So yeah, that first class was that gateway drug for me.
Karen Swyszcz 35:36
What was it like performing the first time around?
Shann McGrail 35:39
Oh, I can tell you that. It was one of those moments where you’re like, what have I done? Why did I commit to doing this? I like I don’t want to do it.
Karen Swyszcz 35:53
Shann McGrail 35:55
You know, it’s, it’s for sure stage fright. But then you know, you get out there and the thing with improv is, you’re gonna fail. So, you know, just take it, accept it, learn from it and go do it again. So I had lots of times where things did not go very well. And it, you know, wasn’t fun. But then it’s like anything else. You get that one moment when you genuinely felt like you did a good job and the audience was there with you and you hear the laughs or you hear them feel like they’ve really tapped into some emotion, then it makes it all worthwhile.
Karen Swyszcz 36:25
Mm-hmm. I had no idea like Oakville, even had an improv group like, because when I hear improv, I automatically think of Second City and Second City is like in Toronto, so I didn’t realize like they had improv groups that were more local.
Shann McGrail 36:37
Oh, yeah. So we’ve got this the second Friday of every month at QE Park. There is a family theater sports show. And then the last Sunday of every month at the Kerr Street, on Kerr Street at the Moonshine Cafe, we do more of the adult performances where it’s a, you know, beverages are available. And it’s a little bit more of a bar setting and a completely different type of show and lots of fun.
Karen Swyszcz 37:05
Ah, I’ll have to check it out. So how has your improv training like translated it into your current role as the Executive Director for Haltech? Do you cause you mentioned you know, you gained some skills and what particular skills, did you find were useful in your improv training?
Shann McGrail 37:20
It really, for me, it’s this whole concept of saying yes, and saying yes, doesn’t mean that you’re going to do everything but saying yes, and how I translate it into what I do professionally is, it’s about creating the possibility. So you know, for example, if I said to somebody, do you want to go on a picnic and they say no. Well, there’s nothing else to talk about, right? There’s nothing else that we can do after a no. But if I were to say that cause someone said Yes, I’d really like to do that I’ll pack the sandwiches. Well, now you’ve got some action. So if you put that into a work setting, every day we hear ideas and consciously or subconsciously we shut them down. Well, that’ll never work. No, you can’t do that. There’s not enough money. So if you put that aside for a minute and open up by saying yes, and create an opportunity for letting ideas emerge a little bit, you may get to places that you know, were previously unavailable, right? So if you shut things down, you’re never going to get there. But if you create this open environment where you take suggestions and offers and you see where they go, then you can decide what action you’re actually going to take. But you’ve got to give ideas room to breathe. And I think that’s where for me improv comes into my professional life and some of those techniques around saying yes and building off of ideas.
Karen Swyszcz 38:00
So would you recommend entrepreneurs to take improv classes?
Shann McGrail 37:12
I absolutely would. In fact, we’ve, we’ve done a couple here at Haltech, where I’ve, you know, just shared with groups, you know, here’s what I’ve learned. And let’s have some fun and play with some of the improv games and techniques. So for sure, it helps you think on your feet. It helps you generate ideas, brainstorm. There’s all kinds of great benefits, so absolutely would recommend it.
Karen Swyszcz 37:33
Awesome. So if people wanted to connect with you online, where can they find you?
Shann McGrail 37:37
Probably the best place to find me is LinkedIn. So it’s Shann McGrail and be happy to connect with people. That’d be wonderful.
Karen Swyszcz 37:45
Excellent. Well, thank you so much again for chatting with me today. It was really great conversation.
Shann McGrail 37:50
Thank you so much, Karen. I really enjoyed it.
Karen Swyszcz 37:53
Thanks, everyone for tuning in. And stay tuned for more episodes. Ciao for now.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai