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The woman in charge

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

The woman in charge

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There is a saying that we are the sum total of our experiences and that those things we suffer, whether good or bad, somehow affect us. For Lisa Gale that sentiment is equally true.
But Lisa also recognizes that forces from her past and most notably within her family have silently dictated a lot of what she has done. Perhaps a lot of her drive and ambition to succeed are based on the fact that she lost two sisters to heart disease, something that runs in her family.
“One sister died when I was 18. She was five years my senior,” Lisa said “My second sister, who was younger than me, died at 27. What I am achieving I am doing for myself and my two sisters who didn’t get that opportunity.”
Lisa admits that her close relationship with God has been instrumental in framing her life and her success, especially since she realizes that she herself is at risk for heart disease. Hence her decision to cut out sugars, bread and really monitor her weight because of her health and being there to raise her son is paramount in her mind.
This self-described “tyrant” as a former student at Combermere has turned her life around, set high standards, earned an MBA before 30, and accomplished a pretty impressive resume within a short space of time.
Professionally she is at the top of her game, as the first female executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. But even being here is something that Lisa couldn’t have scripted. Though her sisters never lived to age 30, she never thought that would be her own fate.
“A 35 I did not anticipate that I would be where I am,” she said. “Ten years ago I embarked on a new path and during that process I would have thought of other career paths. I am an economist by profession, but when this opportunity came up I applied, I prayed and it happened. I came on board and I was able to draw on skills I didn’t know I had.”
Three years into her tenure at the Chamber of Commerce, Lisa has made great inroads professionally in a world often dominated by men. Though she admits that being a woman brings a whole new perspective to her job, and to how she balances her life.
“I have these man capabilities in that I can compartmentalize my world,” she says with a hint of humour. “When I’m at work, I’m at work, but when I’m at home, I’m fully there, I have a whole home ethos. I look forward to going home of evenings.”
She also credits her husband Greg for being understanding and flexible in terms of the demands her job sometimes places on her.
“I choose the functions I go to, I don’t go to all,” Lisa said. “Bringing the balance is something that I work towards on a daily basis. Getting out the house on a timely manner and returning is important. I must admit in the first two years at my job I put in some very long hours because I just learning the business. I still work long hours because I love what I do but I’m conscious that it must still allow me to be a wife and a mother.”
Lisa is the quintessential working mother and wife married for ten years with a three-year-old son, Ethan. In the throes of a demanding career finding that ever-elusive sense of balance isn’t something that she seems to struggle with.  
“I am very conscious that my family needs me,” she says. “One of my new year’s resolutions, along with eating healthier was to work smarter. My downtime, which is on weekends is devoted to my family. I have two stepchildren as well. I love taking care of my husband and I make a point of not bringing work home. I try to ensure that I find time for family, not just my immediate family but my extended family as well.
“I’m very spiritual and I love God,” she says proudly. “I am raising a little man of God. In terms of my career, I prayed for things and God has been answering my prayers. I just signed a new contract with the Chamber of Commerce, so God has been really faithful.”