Welcome to IT World Canada’s community slideshow! Every month we’ll be asking the Canadian technology company leaders that we write about so often about a topic so that we can all get to know this community just a bit better. This month’s topic sticks to the summer theme of vacation habits.
Here’s the question we asked: “What is your approach to staying connected when you’re on vacation? How important is it to keep in touch, or do you make sure you’re offline. What devices do you bring with you, if you do at all?”
We received a lot of great responses, and for part two we are sharing what the vacation habits of these 13 Canadian executives.
Some answers are edited for length.
Jaime Leverton, Vice President and General Manager Canada of APAC
“Finding the time to take vacation can certainly be a challenge. However, in the long run, I believe spending personal, quality time with family is essential for any executive. This summer, I took a couple of weeks to travel to Central Europe with my family. With Wi-Fi everywhere, I chose to stay somewhat connected, but primarily for email triage. While some people like to disconnect completely, I didn’t want worry, and ‘what ifs’ can dampen the vacation. I found this approach worked, as business ran smoothly and I returned from my trip creatively refreshed. I was brimming with new ideas, recharged and ready to engage with my team to solve our customers’ business challenges.”
Michael Murphy, Vice President and Country Manager of Citrix Canada
“I pre-arrange time(s) with certain individuals (Admin, Manager, Managers, et al) to check-in via text/email/phone to see if anything is urgent and important. It is important and necessary to stay in touch and being offline is a matter of opinion. While on vacation, there are gaps in the day that one can easily check-in for at least 1 hour per day. Mobile phone, laptop/tablet, Mobile Wi-Fi hotspot (optional).”
Carrie Davis-Sydor, Vice President of Sales and Alliances of Cimpl
“It depends on the type of vacation. If it’s a mini vacation I will bring my phone and check it once a day. If it’s a bigger, remote vacation I turn off my email and just check texts in case of an emergency. For me it has become increasingly important to stay in touch because of my new role. I now report to the president and my back up is the president, and I have to make sure nothing escalates behind me. I just bring my smartphone on these vacations.”
Dave Wright, Chief Operating Officer of TribalScale
“Personally I always make a point to stay connected to the office while on vacation. I find it is important to keep a finger on the pulse while up north of the city, travelling abroad or while enjoying a ‘staycation’. I tend to do this by setting up calls before leaving the office to ensure I can still enjoy time with my family, while still attend the important discussions that need to take place back at the office. It also allows me to hit the ground running when I return to the office.”
Fawn Annan, President and Chief Marketing Officer of IT World Canada
“I always travel with my smartphone because it keeps me from worrying what is going on and allows me to relax by staying connected. I know it’s an oxymoron but it highlights my MO — a workaholic. I never bring my laptop because that feels like real work!”
Damien Serjeant, Director of Partner Sales Canada of Veeam Software
“Staying connected is very important – most of the time. However, it is also just as important to take the time to appreciate the other parts of our lives that make us who we are. Spending quality time with your family and allowing yourself to unwind, enjoy, relax and appreciate is just as important.
I feel that in order to be the best you can be, you need to take the time to just relax. I work very hard to ensure I honor this time, and this means I am present in the moment and I do not allow myself to get distracted. In order to ensure this, I turn off all electronics … in fact, I don’t bring any electronics with me. It is not easy, but I know it’s the only way that I can truly decompress. Instead I spend the time talking to people, learning about something new from someone new, taking a tour, or just lying on a beach and listening to the waves. When I come back from vacation, I am rejuvenated, full of energy and ready to go.”
Shaheen Yazdani, Vice President of Intercept Group
“I travel frequently to my vacation property in Playa del Carmen, and with today’s modern business options most times clients are not even aware I’m out-of-office. Our agency runs the full stack O365 suite, providing constant connectivity to my staff through Teams and the flexibility to lead meetings from virtually anywhere through Skype. We embrace the work from anywhere culture, and recently invested in an agency cottage for our team to share on a rotating basis, giving them an opportunity to get out of the office for up to a week at a time without taking any vacation. What I love about working abroad is great weather, working across time zones, and having no commute. I can bring my laptop to the balcony or local café, then sign off early and take my kids to the beach when the sun has passed its peak. Wi-Fi is less relevant now with great mobile roaming packages, but I always make sure to schedule unplugged days abroad to enjoy time with family.”
Mike Brown, Chief Technology Officer of ISARA Corporation
“In our industry, we are in a very creative pursuit as we need to spend our time inventing and innovating cryptography to keep systems safe from the quantum threat. It is essential to get time away, in the evening, on weekends and on vacation, to let our brains unwind and solve problems in our subconscious. Much like leaving a field fallow will help crops grow better in the next season, time away allows your brain to do its own “garbage collection” and be refreshed for new problem solving. So, I view vacation as a corner stone to ensuring that we can be at our best when we are at work. Now as an executive sometimes I need to be accessible, if there is a customer problem, but I’d rather spend most of the time out of coverage in a canoe on a lake! I would personally check in once or twice a day but people also know that they can phone me if there is an issue.”
Deidre Deacon, General Manager of ViewSonic Canada
Deacon only reads email while on vacation, and even then just every two days. Her strategy is not to be the back up to any other executive. She realizes that is very hard to do but its one way to accomplish a total breakaway while on vacation. She is completely offline and only brings her iPhone, and will only engage with the office in an emergency.
Wayne Berger, Executive Vice President of Regus Canada
“I try to limit reviewing and responding to email while on vacation as everyone needs an opportunity to reset their bodies and minds. While on vacation, I will try to limit checking email to once first thing in the morning and once at the end of the day to ensure that there is nothing pressing that requires my direct action or response. My leadership team and I also have a great understanding that they can text me with any urgent need that requires my support and I will respond quickly. Beyond that, I am fortunate to have a great team that manages their business very well.”
Benjamin Bergen, Executive Director of the Council of Canadian Innovators
“Achieving a perfect 50/50 work-life balance becomes less of a priority when you get to work in a field that you are deeply passionate about, like I get to at the Council of Canadian Innovators. When I take time off, either on the edge of one of Ontario’s lakes or hiking up the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, my phone is always within reach but I check it less frequently and instead focus my energy and attention on the world beyond the screen.”
Doug Heintzman, Blockchain, Health Care, and Public Sector Practice Leader of Burnie Group; Co-Founder of CueContext
“In the summer I spend my vacation time on an island in Georgian Bay. Wi-Fi makes the whole experience tolerable and counter intuitively, less stressful. After a couple of years of trying to unplug completely, only to have to endure the pain of a month plus of trying to catch up and get back on top of things, I adopted the practice of getting up an hour earlier than the rest of my family and doing a triage and dealing with or delegating the immediate fires and filing everything else to be dealt with in an orderly manner upon my return to the office. This, combined with a pretty good ability to compartmentalize, allows me to de-stress, enjoy my time off, and come back recharged.”
Bruce Croxon, Partner of Round13 Capital, co-host of The Disruptors, and former Dragon
“Everyone is different in how they work and there is no right or wrong way when it comes to downtime. For me, when I am in on a company or project I am all in. I stay connected through any way my partners choose. My ‘breaks’ are short in nature but I choose activities that demand 100 per cent focus (surf, ski, tennis) so for that period of time I’m ‘all out’. I find a change is as good as a rest.”