My first month as Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Chairperson

A collection of thoughts about Jessica Dumas’ first 30 days as Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Chairperson.

Photo of Jessica Dumas outdoors in front of lawn and trees

Where it all Began

As I reflect on my first month as Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce chair, I’m taken back to why I got into being in business as an entrepreneur in the first place.  I spent my first professional years ‘job hopping’ and trying to find work that I was passionate about. A few of my initial opportunities had some connections to things I liked, such as event planning, social media, but I definitely gravitated to meetings and workshop facilitation. After getting a taste of doing things  I loved to do, it was hard to go back to anything that I wasn’t 100% passionate about. Some jobs had perks and benefits that kept me longer, like expense accounts and free parking, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t happy unless I was serving my dream. I love that as an entrepreneur I can take my business wherever I want to.

I think this role at the Chamber of Commerce is part of my destiny. I was invited to serve as Chairperson and I have always looked at leadership as service and a responsibility. It is an honour to be asked to serve as chairperson for such a reputable & influential organization. The initial conversation was in 2014 or 2015 and I said yes right away. It’s a responsibility that I take very seriously but at the same time I know I am going to have a lot of fun.

Memorable Moments

A major professional and personal highlight that has already happened in my role was when I introduced Michelle Obama to Winnipeg at a Chamber event on September 24th, 2019. I was Incoming Chairperson at the time and that was definitely my favorite experience. The coolest thing I have ever said on stage was “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome former First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama!” I still get goosebumps when I say it! 

Our Annual General Meeting (AGM)  and Swearing-In-Ceremony was also very memorable. We invited Elder Norman Meade to share an opening prayer and he lead us in the most outstanding prayer experience. He asked all the men in the room to stand and join him in a prayer specifically for all of the women. It was incredible and beautiful. In my swearing in speech, I shared some thoughts on my experience and vision, and I received a standing ovation. It was a moving experience for me. 

No Surprises so far

Being on the board for nearly 5 years, I can’t say that there have been any ‘surprises’. What has been most impressive is seeing how the staff communicate and work together. It has been fun getting to know our CEO, as we now have more phone calls and check-ins, but they are an amazing group of people who know their roles and I love working with all of them. I am excited about bringing my experience to the greater Winnipeg audience and adding value where possible. I have a lot to offer and I know the Chamber will give me plenty of opportunities to demonstrate that, whether through facilitating meetings, luncheons or other speaking opportunities. 

An Indigenous Woman’s Perspective

I have had a couple of conversations with groups who still see no women on boards and I think it is a shame. Unless your mandate is to simply serve men, you’re doing it wrong. My perspective as a women is proper corporate decision making needs to reflect the community you serve and that means ‘diversity’, and that includes women and LGBTQ+ peoples.

Twenty years ago, I heard that the Indigenous population would be one of the fastest growing populations in our province, and that then it would be ‘our best interest to build relationships and engage with them now’, and today it is even more urgent to engage.  There are a lot of great things happening in our city, but there is still so much work to do. Engaging with Indigenous populations is smart business.

Onto the next 30 days…

So, my first month has been extremely fantastic. I feel like there has been a lot of momentum with celebrating the welcoming stage of the role and in the next 30 days we will have had our first luncheon, business mixer and board meeting! So it’s really time to get down to business, but I will keep celebrating.

Get Involved with the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce

There are lots of ways to engage and you don’t have to wait for the chamber to come to you, come out to us! ‘The Chamber’ is a group of people who are working together to make great things happen for themselves but also for the greater community. Not only can the chamber do great things for your business and network but there are so many people out there with such incredible talent that it gets me excited to imagine all the amazing things that can happen out of new relationships so If you haven’t already, come and check it out.

Author: Jessica Dumas

Follow me on Twitter @ Facilitator, Indigenous Advisor

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