Written by: Guneet Benipal, Marketing and Communications Associate at Matrix360

Each year in Canada and the United States, the month of February is designated to commemorate Black history where we honour the historical importance of the Black community and its contribution to society. According to Time Magazine, Black History Month originally began in the United States in February of 1926 with a Black American scholar, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, often called ‘The Father of Black History’. Dr. Woodson focused on increasing the awareness and understanding of the significant contributions the Black community made to evolve societies globally. In 1979, Toronto became the first Canadian municipality to proclaim February as Black History Month in recognition of the efforts of many individuals’ and organizations’ direct social and economic contributions to Canadian society. 

Matrix360 believes that Black history and Black contribution to Canada’s framework should not only be limited to February. We strongly advocate that Canada needs to celebrate and promote the everyday excellence of the Black community in education, business and community throughout the year. To honour the contributions of Canadian leaders while celebrating Black History, we have commenced a bi-weekly feature called: The Leadership X-cellence Spotlight Series to showcase the journey of Canadian professionals through inspiration to achieve. The series will connect the human experience while amplifying the importance of voices who are contributing to the evolution of the workplace through action and words of inspiration. 

As we partner with business leaders to evolve Canadian workplaces and businesses, we recognize the importance of showcasing leaders who are expanding the boundaries of excellence for the Canadian economy. Our first X-cellence Leader is responsible for leading and connecting talent to opportunities for one of Canada’s leading real estate and investment management firms, BentallGreenOak. Monique Ashpole, a Talent Acquisition Lead plays a significant role of building collaborative and forward thinking teams that contributes to the framework of BGO’s growth and success.

Monique Ashpole, Talent Acquisition Lead at BentallGreenOak

Where were you born and what is your cultural background?

I was born in Hamilton, Ontario and my family is of Jamaican heritage. I consider myself Jamaican Canadian and honour both my cultural background as well as my Canadian upbringing, it’s shaped me into who I am. 

What inspired you to work in the field that you are in today?

Like any youth, I was conflicted about what I wanted to pursue as a profession. I studied Business Administration for my undergrad thinking that it would be a valuable degree to have, no matter where I landed. It was throughout my studies that I discovered a passion for Human Resources – people. Today, I work as part of an HR team that leads talent recruitment for a variety of positions across Canada and the USA.

What are some of the struggles you faced throughout your career and/or life journey that you would like to highlight?

I graduated during a recession and the business degree that I thought would get me in the door at any job didn’t help much as I hadn’t chosen a major. I had taken a variety of courses in all the relevant streams (HR, Marketing, Finance, etc.) but in my pursuit of being a ‘jill of all trades’ – I realized I was a master of none. In order to continue to pursue a career in HR, I recognized I needed to go back to school to round off the education and training I had already received. This set me back a few years with my class cohort but I’m thankful I did it. I learned a valuable lesson: never be afraid to invest in yourself.

Did you have any role models and/or mentors that have helped shape your career?

I haven’t had the chance to receive mentorship in my career but I believe it’s so important. Today, I’m inspired by disruptors that are tackling and bringing to light critical issues in the workplace. I began following Minda Harts who recently wrote a book called “The Memo” that highlights the on-going struggles that women of colour face in professional work settings such as biases, pay inequity etc. I always wish to be engaged in work that makes a difference in the lives of others. So for me, I look up to people who share that same intention.

What is your mantra or what are your words of inspiration?

“It’s your career – prioritize your development.” Someone said this to me once and it resonated with me. Many people I council look for opportunities for career growth through their title, manager/supervisor or company. My advice; don’t wait for anything to be given to you because you may be waiting for a long time.

“Prioritize what’s important –  be proactive in seeking out skills, challenges and stretch projects that will help you grow and shape you into the professional you want to become”.

You should never stop learning. While some people may have the privilege of working in environments that are conducive to this – most people I know don’t have that experience. 

Monique Ashpole’s story is one that many young individuals can relate to: the uncertainty that post-secondary students may feel about their program and area of study is completely normal and many young professionals do return to school. Monique is a prime example of someone who broke boundaries and developed her capabilities to be in the position that she is today. She realized that there is no right or wrong time to go back to school and continue investing in your future and learning new skills. Her perseverance and dedication to making herself a priority is what helped her become the leader of recruitment and talent management at BentallGreenOak.