Like A Boss: Barb Agostini
We have officially launched our series called “Like A Boss” where we will be interviewing and spotlighting prominent business women in our community. Our first interview is with Barb Agostini, of O2E Brands, where she is Vice President, Partner Recruitment; read on below to learn more about Barb, her journey, and her incredible career.
It was a lovely, sunny afternoon at the O2E offices where we had the opportunity to meet and chat with Barb, a recruitment and marketing maverick.
Beacon: Who is someone you consider to be a great leader?
Barb: The reality is that what lead me to here was Brian (Scudamore). I’d go and see him speak before I worked at O2E. What he does here is exceptional. I’ve met other business leaders or owners or others who became millionaires but he’s just so real. He puts goal setting into our business, and he creates opportunities for people to accomplish their personal goals. I admire him as a leader because he very much wants people to be connected. He knows every employee’s name. He’s generous, he invests, he cares about people. I got to go to Africa last year! He wants to know what’s going on with turnover and retention. He’ll even work in the call centre and take calls from customers.
Beacon: You’re a mother to two boys. How do you maintain your work-life balance?
Barb: I have a great support system and when I’m with my boys I’m 100% present. When I leave work for the day, I don’t have a problem shutting down. If I have work to do, I’d rather wake up an hour earlier to get it done than take it from their time. If they want to talk, I close my computer, and I listen and ask questions. I’m able to be really focus with them. I make sure I always do something with them like if it’s sunny out we will go for a hike or to an outdoor festival on the weekend. They help me cook, they have their chores. They’re my number one priority and everything I do revolves around them. Because of this, balance has always been easy. I never take time with them for granted ever. They do great in school, they’re in sports, they don’t miss things but I don’t overbook them or myself. We focus on one sport. I always let them try things but I never overcommit them to the point where we don’t have family time.
Beacon: What is a strategy people could use to advance their careers?
Barb: When I’ve had a goal in terms of a position I wanted to attain, I’ve said ‘I really like what this person does’ and what are the gaps in my skills. I would always identify the gaps I needed to get stronger in. I would take the initiative to proactively build those skills so you’re ready for it when an opportunity comes up. When the opportunity comes up you can say ‘I didn’t have that experience but I took those courses, I volunteered for this, it’s moved me closer.
Beacon: In your opinion, what will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
Barb: It will be the pressure to do it all and have it all. When I was growing my career, it was self driven, not societal or economical. There wasn’t the pressure to be a business woman and run a family. I always felt it was a choice to have either or both. Over the past 10+ years especially, I’ve experienced more women feeling the pressure or requirement to have both. I’ve met women who’ve chosen one or the other and feel the need to share why when both paths are individually massive accomplishments. The world has become more demanding and feeling the need to be “on” all the time has made it more challenging to have balance. But, I also see this new generation of women are wired to do more - so they’ve got this!
Beacon: Who is your role model, and why?
Barb: I had a few, but they were all strong, independent women. Here are five and why:
When I was little, I looked up to Cyndi Lauper and Angela Bower (from Who’s the Boss). One for being this unique performer that stood out from the crowd and the other for representing a 'take charge' woman that had a big career and took care of whatever her family needed – even when she couldn’t do it herself. To me, these were uncommon women among uncommon women.
Then came the icon, Oprah. I don’t know many woman of my generation (and others) that didn’t somehow draw power from exposure to her that anything was possible.
The two career role models were very different – one a career waitress and the other a young executive well ahead of her time. The first I met while working in my mid teens at my father’s restaurant. She showed up every night looking so refined. She wasn’t like the others. She was there to create a great experience for anyone that she was serving that evening and she loved it. She took so much pride in her craft and was my introduction to customer experiences and taking ownership of work and results.
The other I met in my early 20's. She (Debbie Bortolussi) was an in-demand HR executive – and she was young, in her late 20's or in early 30's. Twenty years ago, this was pretty unheard of so I was immediately drawn to her. I had the opportunity to work with her on a few occasions and soaked up whatever I could every chance I had. She could command a room – confident, intelligent, innovative and inspiring. Additionally, what I admire to this day about her was how open she was to sharing her knowledge. I’ve more often been exposed to people protecting their knowledge in fear of watering down their differentiation. She taught people along the way so they could be better and she loved seeing people grow.
The role model that's remained my constant in life is of course my mother. Sharing “why” would take a novel to cover though.
Beacon: Do you have anything else to add for our Beaconites to know?
Barb: Don’t get complacent, always stay relevant. Listen to audiobooks or read books. I’ll read the tried and true business books, and intertwine them with the fad ones. Never stop learning, reading, trying new things. 'WTF' - be Willing To Fail. If you don’t fail you’re not trying hard enough. You need to fail once in a while because you tried this, you tried to innovate.
* Excerpts edited for brevity and clarity.