BrainStation has announced an expansion of its New York operations, including a 35,000-square-foot campus and a multi-year investment of over $20 million.
Meet Marie-France Cardin, the Founder of The Winning Partnership and a BrainStation professional development student. After 35 years of experience working for global organizations like PwC and KPMG, Marie-France is taking on her first major entrepreneurial endeavor. Looking to advance her skillset and better prepare for a competitive digital landscape, Marie-France decided to pursue digital skills training, and has recently completed her fourth Certificate Course at BrainStation.
We chatted with Marie-France about her experience at BrainStation, why she decided to invest in her education, and how she’s using her newly developed skills.
Can you tell us a bit about your career and education background prior to BrainStation?
Many years ago I studied Public Relations at McGill University in Montréal, and then went on to do a certificate in Broadcast Journalism. Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some large organizations – Molson Breweries of Canada, the Montréal Chamber of Commerce, Steinberg/Ivanhoe Cambridge, PwC, the Montréal Exchange.
For the past 18 years my career has been dedicated to partnering with professionals at KPMG as the National Director, Pursuits and Proposals, to win new business as part of a targeted pursuit effort. After my first five years in Montréal as a bid manager, I moved to Toronto to deploy sales enablement support. I led a team of 35 people operating from Canada and India. Working shoulder-to-shoulder with the practitioners and sales and marketing resources, we submitted proposals to both private and publicly-held organizations and government. I had to focus on ensuring that the end-to-end pursuit process was scalable and agile in order to meet the needs of clients, procurement, and technology.
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You’re in the midst of starting your own business, can you tell us about it?
My new venture is called The Winning Partnership, and with it I’m embracing the opportunity to join forces with emerging industries, professional services, and not-for-profits to frame and deliver solutions that speak to the needs of their clients. Using agile, iterative principles we will work to co-design imaginative and original approaches to help compete, grow and succeed in fierce environments through sales enablement expertise.
In your opinion, what is the value of developing your technical skills before diving into an entrepreneurial endeavour?
Clients are very sophisticated and well informed, and as an entrepreneur in client services you have to solve for a problem. So if you want to be in a true partnership with your clients and collaborate efficiently with your associates, you need to have the technical skills to back up your claims. No one can excel at everything or work solo, but I think it’s crucial to surround yourself with the right people and skill sets to be able to handle diverse challenges.
You recently completed your fourth course at BrainStation, what has been your motivation behind taking each of these courses?
I’ve been speaking the same lingo for the past 18 years, and I needed to look at things from a different – and fresh – perspective. I enjoy taking courses, but I am not an academic and prefer instructor-led training to learning something on my own. So the idea of frequenting a technology school in my neighborhood that has campuses across North America was quite appealing. Also, being surrounded by intelligent, technologically capable individuals is quite fun and really helps push your boundaries.
Do you feel like the courses have complemented each other?
I’ve taken Design Thinking, Agile, Digital Marketing, and Data Analytics. Design Thinking and Agile were definitely complementary as they both deal with the process of building digital products and developing processes for solving business problems. I have no doubt that these two courses will be very helpful as I partner with clients in the future.
I took Digital Marketing and Data Analytics so that I could develop a better understanding of the two subjects. In today’s world, I need to be in a position to discuss and integrate with my clients when necessary, and want to make sure that my skills and knowledge are up to speed.
What are the most valuable lessons you have learned in your BrainStation courses?
Look for the problem to solve, keep on being curious, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and collaboration is the key to success. Be sure to push your boundaries outside of your comfort zone.
How are you using the skills you’ve learned to further your business?
In addition to completing four BrainStation courses this year, I’ve invested my time learning more about the Cannabis Industry. For our final project in the Data Analytics class, my workgroup volunteered to look at data on recreational consumption. The outcome of our analysis was to determine the number of cannabis retail outlets required to satisfy demand in Toronto and eliminate the black market. Now, my plan isn’t to open a retail cannabis store, but the analysis we completed shows that there is definitely room for the Ontario government to grant more licences – over 100 of them in Toronto alone – to meet the demand.
Can you describe the learning experience at BrainStation? What has been your favourite part?
From the first time I walked into BrainStation to enquire about Design Thinking, I’ve loved every minute. The ambiance is conducive to learning in an agile, collaborative manner and I cannot praise the experience, expertise and knowledge of the instructors enough. I appreciated that the instructors bring a consultant approach to the curriculum and aren’t tied to one specific organization. Their wide industry experience and network are a big plus in the learning environment, and I’ve been very impressed with their ability to adjust to the students in class and tailor their instruction when needed to meet the needs of the broader group.
If you’re interested in professional development, BrainStation offers courses in Data, Design, Product, Marketing, and Development. Simply connect with a Learning Advisor to find the best option for your goals.