Speaking out for what’s right
Shanna Wilson wouldn’t have predicted her path.
From Conception Bay South, Newfoundland to Victoria, B.C., Wilson’s career with the Canadian navy has taken her across the country and across disciplines. With educational backing in applied chemistry, psychology and business, Wilson is currently working towards a master of laws degree and a Harvard strategic management graduate program.
“If someone was to ask me at 16 going into military if I thought that I would get to this point, I don’t know if I had any concept of that,” says the Royal Roads MBA graduate, who transitioned from science to business for the team-based approach. “I have been lucky because it’s been … a well-rounded experience.”
Wilson works for the Personnel Co-ordination Centre, Maritime Pacific Headquarters, located at CFB Esquimalt. Her current role is human resources based, where she works with others to ensure the Kingston Class fleet is resourced appropriately. It is what she refers to as a “coconut shell game,” where you take a look at the resources available and balance the operational needs with the available staff, to ensure everything fits.
Early this year, she travelled to Ottawa to speak at the House of Common’s Standing Committee on the Status of Women Canada about her work with Defence Women's Advisory Organization (DWAO). As the volunteer national co-chair, Wilson works with the committee to identify and help address systemic equality issues facing women in the forces.
“This group is to find out whether there are things that are in the structure of the military that prevent women from joining or wanting to stay around,” she says. “It’s only recently that women have been able to participate in all the trades, so there are structures that never considered what if you are a woman. Pregnancy is a big one … sexual harassment being the obvious one.”
The experience has really opened her eyes to the higher level operations of DND, she says, noting it has allowed her to better understand different chains of command and reporting structures in regards to policy development.
The opportunity was the first time she had spoken in front of a crowd like that since her classroom experiences at Royal Roads, Wilson says. With all of the group presentations it’s hard to believe that anyone would be uncomfortable with public speaking by the end of the program, she adds with a laugh.
The experience in Ottawa wasn’t that unlike her time presenting case studies for the MBA program.
“You do a quick stakeholder analysis of your audience. It is government, but it is business related,” she says. “If I was ever going to look for a challenge public speaking wise that was a pretty good one!”