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Meet Leigh Pearson, Director of Facilities, Environment and Procurement for Staples Canada

In 2007, Leigh started working at Staples as a Management Trainee and has worked her way up. Today, she is responsible for the facility maintenance, repair, and service related programs for all Canadian properties (305+ locations) as well as setting the sustainability agenda and identifying key focus areas for the company. For her efforts, Leigh was named to Canada’s 2014 and 2016 Clean50, which offers recognition to Canada’s leaders in sustainability for their contributions over the prior two years and has been honored by Retail Council of Canada twice in the area of Sustainability. Currently, she sits on the board of the PRSM Charitable foundation.

My first job ever was… At age 13, I began working at a fast food venue on a local beach in our community.

I chose my career path because… Honestly, it chose me. Facility Management is not a career I was even aware of. My initial path was broadcast journalism. While in university, I worked in the Flooring Department of the Home Depot, and it was the first time I really stepped outside my comfort zone. That was the beginning of my move towards Facility Management, even if I did not know at the time. 

My proudest accomplishment is… First and foremost, my proudest accomplishment is being a mom to my 10 year-old daughter Kenzie. Professionally, there have been a few. First, creating the facilities department from a concept on paper to a group of talented individuals handling over 60,000 work orders per year and covering all properties in Canada. Second, the evolution of sustainability at Staples. Third, becoming active in my industry, attaining my designation and being on the board of directors for PRSM (Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association). 

My boldest move to date was… I don’t believe my boldest move has occurred yet, but gaining the confidence to feel I could not only serve on an industry board but also to pursue the chairmanship was a highlight as was attaining recognition for our sustainability work. 

I surprise people when I tell them… I have been at Staples for 21 years and it was my first full time job. 

My best advice to people starting their career is… Ask questions, seek to understand, listen to what is not said. Do not fear silence, or admitting when you do not know the answer. 

“Ask questions, seek to understand, listen to what is not said, and do not be afraid to say you don’t know the answer.” 

My best advice from a mentor was… The importance of authenticity and embracing and celebrating what you are good at. To celebrate and support other women – grow the network. 

I would tell my 20-year old self… Work hard but don’t compromise yourself or your values.  Ever. 

My biggest setback was… Facilities is hard to define and often measured by the things that go wrong as a result changes in structure or direction could mean re-building/re establishing credibility and the value proposition of Facilities. It is not about one set back it is about knowing how to grow and learn from each misstep to not take it personally and continue to foster positivity and a culture of customer service and continuous improvement. 

I overcame it by… I think this is something as an industry we are always working to overcome. Being visible, being open and embracing my communication skills to sell the value of Facilities, and tapping into my creative side to show a commitment to process and operational efficiency. And if there is not a seat at the table – pull one up. 

Work/life balance is… Not totally possible. Attempting to have work/life balance means being self-aware and making decisions that ultimately allow you to feel a sense of self control. It is a difficult process of creating value and a positive experience personally and professionally. It is always a work in progress. 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I am more introverted than my profile or persona would suggest. I think I have a decent sense of humor. I find value and satisfaction in creating and designing. I am also a proud dance mom. 

I stay inspired by… Possibilities and the ability to take chances. 

The future excites me because… I am determined to make the most of it and to embrace the next chapter. I see the opportunity to help pave the way for others. 

My next step is… To continue to develop the team and the value proposition, to further industry awareness, to foster facilities as a career, to shine a light on the need for skilled trades and understanding the cost of quality, to encourage young people to pursue their passion, to create their personal brand and live it.

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