Included in the Thursday, May 4 print edition is our Women in Business magazine where we highlight South Okanagan women who are making a difference in the community and in the business world. Sarah Martin and Julie Ellison are two of the women we have highlighted.
The Lower Similkameen Community Services Society is widely considered a model organization and building it up also encourages a lot of personal growth.
That is something that both Sarah Martin and Julie Ellison have both found in their time at the LSCSS, starting from when they both began as financial clerks to their current executive positions they hold today.
Martin signed on as clerk in 2009, and Ellison in 2016. Both grew with the organization, with Martin taking over from previous executive director Eileen Oliver-Bauer and Ellison becoming the director of finance and operations.
With a rural talent pool, the LSCSS has built up its staff out of the people available and interested in the organization, growing them and their skills like Martin and Ellison did.
“It’s a real hallmark of the organization in a small rural community, you’re often recruiting for skills and abilities and growing within the jobs,” said Martin.
In both of their cases, it was their natural talents and skills and the passion they put into their work, and their willingness to go out and learn more in order to better do their jobs, that ended up earning them places higher up the ladder.
“I think it really is about transferable skills. You may not know how to be a housing coordinator, but if you have people skills and you have some systematic paperwork skills and administrative skills, we can teach the rest as it comes along,” said Martin.
That kind of promotion and education from within is now being recognized, and even the subject of discussion at a recent conference by the BC Nonprofit Housing Association.
It was something that the LSCSS had already been doing for years.
In the last few years the LSCSS has opened up new housing projects that it manages on behalf of BC Housing, including the large scale Ambrosia complex that also houses the society offices, as well as organizing many of their programs. The LSCSS provides programs that cover all ages, from small children to seniors and everything in between.
Seeing their team grow over time is one of the perks with the LSCSS, and one of the highlights is seeing the difference the organization makes to people in the community.
“I think part of that gratification when we see the help that people get or the difference that housing makes, it extends to the people on our own team that have leveled up in professional skills, that have developed relationships with colleagues, especially since we’re training up from rural capacity perspective and seeing people come away with work skill development,” said Martin.
Over the years they’ve worked out their methods for handling their responsibilities.
Ellison prefers to batch things up and work on them in groups, such as setting one morning for HR tasks and then the afternoon for accounting, while staying ready to adapt in case of surprises.
“You have to be protective of your time and know when you need to take a break,” said Ellison. “So there’s a balance between being available to people and saying, you know what, I actually have to concentrate because I’m writing somebody’s employment contract and if I don’t get this right there are consequences.”
As a community not-for-profit organization, the LSCSS has often been considered a model for others to follow. For Martin and Ellison, a part of that is the team that they have built up and work with, and another part is being constantly willing to learn more.
“Don’t stop learning, whatever your field of work is, and sometimes that learning is learning self care,” said Martin. “The flip side of that is don’t be afraid to farm things out, reach out for experts or other resources.
“I know business owners who have no idea how to do the books and they kind of try and they think they miss a lot of opportunities for their businesses by being unwilling to spend the money and time to find someone who knows what they’re doing.”
The LSCSS has also been proud supporters of Women in Business through networking and training opportunities.
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