Tracey McVicar, Venture Capitalist and PowHERful Philanthropist

Tracey McVicar is a busy lady, and when we say busy, we mean it.  At this time, this Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada (as recognized by the Women’s Executive Network in 2014) balances a career in corporate finance, the care of her adopted son, her philanthropic work and corporate and volunteer board commitments.  Oh yes, and somewhere in there, she takes care of herself!

 

PH:  Tracey, how would you describe what you do in your corporate life?

We make equity investments in companies led by founders who want to realize on their life’s work and leave a legacy.

PH:  How would you describe who you are?

I’m an incredibly lucky person – I was born into a family that valued education and hard work in a country and at a time where opportunities abound for educated, hard-working people.

PH:  Who most inspires you?

My grandmother, who worked until age 75 doing a job she loved while heading a household full of family, friends, laughter and fun.  As a head nurse, she inspired decades of students and built enduring relationships with her colleagues.  She always told me that the nurses knew more than the doctors (!), and she let me practice reading in elementary school by going through the urology case histories in her office.

PH:  Describe your Mission.

In 2001, I decided I wanted to be a teacher in an inner-city New York school.  I gave up my job and set myself on a path to earn $24,000 a year because I thought that was what ‘making a difference‘ should look like.  Then 9/11 happened, and the world changed.  The rules for foreign teachers tightened, and it became obvious to me that I should go back home to my friends and family.  I still loved finance, so I went back to the investment business.  I am convinced that here I am working at my highest purpose and here I can accomplish the greatest good.

PH:  Describe how you stay powHERful and on top of your game?

I have great family and friends around me who help to keep me grounded.  They never allow my ego to get out of control!  Life moves so quickly – in so many directions – that I find I’m constantly calibrating back to centre.

PH:  What is your ultimate dream for your Mission and where you’d like to take it?

I like the way Warren Buffett thinks about giving – he finds the organization doing the best work in his area of interest and he funds them generously.  He doesn’t feel the need to set up yet another foundation or NGO just because he likes seeing his name on it.

What is your definition of success?

I love how Ralph Waldo Emerson put it:  “Success:  To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded!”

Describe what success looks like.

Having the luxury of helping others because all of your needs are met.

Describe your success strategy in one sentence.

I always show up – ready or not!

One thing that you feel has been most pivotal or useful thus far in your career?

Understanding that no decision is made with perfect information, otherwise the answer would be obvious.  The trick is to use experience and common sense to make the best decision you can under the circumstances.

You have been named one of Canada’s top 100 most powerful women.  You’ve also been listed in Business in Vancouver’s Top 40 under 40.  How do you feel about these accomplishments, and why do you think you were named?  What advice to you have for other women looking to be recognized in business?

I’m most happy to have been recognized because of the pride and joy it gives my family, but titles and awards are just that unless you can live up to them.  As a woman in business, any positive recognition received builds credibility – and I find, I am now able to get others the recognition they deserve which is the best part.  This year, I worked with a group to recognize seven women whose accomplishments I felt were unsung in the business community – now that’s an honour!

Best advice ever received…

“Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Proceeds from your annual golf tournament recently funded a breakfast program for a local elementary school.  Can you tell us a bit more about that?

I met Daphne Bramham from the Vancouver Sun about a year ago.   I’m a huge fan of her writing and her dogged pursuit of justice for those who can’t speak for themselves.  Her work on behalf of Adopt-a-School and the plight of foster children in BC hit a special chord with me, and through Golf for Good we were able to support an entire school’s breakfast program for three years [see the full l article here.]  Golf for Good is a golf tournament organized by volunteers in the investment community in Vancouver.  We will celebrate our ninth tournament on June 16, 2015 at University Golf Club.  We’ve raised net proceeds of over $1.1 million for local and international organizations that “do a lot with a little”.  In addition to Adopt-a-School, they include Big Sisters, Atira Women’s Resource Society, the Vancouver Japanese Language School, Room to Read and the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.  Go to www.golfforgood.ca to register or volunteer!

Golf for Good is a sellout every year.  What advice do you have for charity golf tournament organizers?

·         Make the tournament fun, not serious.  Don’t use handicaps as it will extend the round and deter newer golfers from participating.  Try to ensure everyone gets a prize;

·         Make sure you have mechanisms on several holes that will keep the pace of play moving – we use a pro to hit on one of the long par 5’s, and we have trivia holes that allow players to tee up as close as the edge of the green.  We aim for a sub 5-hour round;

·         You can also use scramble rules that keep the pace of play moving such as the two putt rule; and,

·         Include holes with refreshments and fun prizes – if there’s any waiting time, it can be well spent.

How do you balance between being a high-performing executive, a single mother and your own self-care?

(Laughing)  I’m not sure I have the answer.  Personally, I don’t silo anything.  There are times when my son comes with me to a function or a meeting and other times when I need to work during Sunday dinner.  And yes, daily I am aware of the need for my own self-care.  It’s a work in progress!

What would you say your Top 3 Excellence Habits are (ie. habits that ensure your success)?

  • I’m a list person – they help me to set priorities and manage my time.
  • One of those lists is of people that I’m actively trying to help with new roles, including board seats.  Thinking of others stops life from being “all about me”.
  • I sleep well.  I don’t hold on to things that happened during the day.

Describe collaboration and what it looks like/feels like on the ground – how does it show up in your life?  Why is it important for women or is it?  Are they getting better at collaborating or worse?

There is an amazing sisterhood of executive women in Vancouver that can be called on to provide advice, help, support or commiseration.  When I see this group at work, I’m so proud, and I feel like we can accomplish anything.  We don’t need to legislate power and position for women – we already have it!!

Describe a favourite hobby or adventure and why.

Golf – I started playing for business but I keep on playing for the love of it!

Favourite energy meal or healthy snack.

I love my Vitamix!  My favourite morning smoothie is spinach, mango and mint.

Favourite indulgence or treat.

Salt & vinegar chips, hands down.

Mark and Chantal from Montreal!

#1 thing on your Bucket List?

Carrying the torch in 2010 was a great bucket list item.  Finding my son’s birth mother so he can meet her if he wishes, and so that she knows he’s well is number one on the list now.

 

I never leave home without my…

Phone, of course!

Looking back at your 2006 Top Forty under 40 write-up, are there any answers you’d change or update now nine years later?

I might update the reading list but otherwise, no!

Can you share your thoughts on mentoring young women?  What do you feel some of your most valuable lesson are that you could pass on?

Both men and women can be amazing mentors, sponsors and champions, so have an open mind!  A mentor will give you advice but a sponsor or a champion will pick up the phone and actively advocate for you – be open to both.

I was lucky to have both female and male mentors and sponsors, and it made all the difference.  It also showed me the importance of taking on my own mentees – you’re never too young to help someone else.

One piece of advice I have to those seeking to build a relationship with a mentor or sponsor:  Make good use of the time you have together – come prepared with specific questions and areas where you need help or advice.  It’s very hard to answer broad, open-ended questions like “What opportunities should I be pursuing in the investment industry?”.

It’s a wrap. Any final thoughts?

“The fastest way to succeed is to look as if you’re playing by somebody else’s rules, while quietly playing by your own.”

Michael Konda

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