Running your own race comes with some twists and turns

Candace Hill is the manager of brand planning and execution at Farm Credit Canada

Candace Hill is on a journey of self-discovery.

The manager of brand planning and execution at Farm Credit Canada says she’s coming off a year of “fascinating perspective” that’s led her to see life through a different lens.

That’s a pretty powerful statement to make and one that grabbed my attention on our recent phone interview. To understand it, we need to go back a little and look at what shifted Candace, a wife and stepmother to three adult children, to this new place of meaning.

Candace, on the far left, with her husband Ryan and her three stepchildren Paul, Alexandra and Jordan

Candace grew up in Melville, Saskatchewan with her mom, dad and a sister who was 18-months her elder. The family farm, owned by grandma and grandpa, was five minutes down the road and offered a childhood filled with animals and fun on the farm.

Saskatchewan in the early 1990s, according to Candace, was considered a ‘have not’ place to be so that pushed her to study out of province at the University of Lethbridge, in Lethbridge, Alberta. It was a smaller university, she said, and well known for its business management program, which was the discipline of her choosing.

Coming out of university, Candace didn’t go into agriculture. In fact, she said, “Agriculture, to me, wasn’t even an option or a consideration.”

Instead, she started her marketing career in a credit union and by age 26 had worked her way into a managerial role.

It wasn’t until about 12 years ago that Candace became fully immersed in the agri-business sector. After working as a marketing manager for a number of years, she took a new job with Viterra, co-leading the company’s brand strategy.

“I never thought in a million years I would be helping to write and create a crop protection guide but there I was,” she said.

Navigating the ups and downs that come along with being a woman, a professional, a stepmother and a wife is a lot, so about 15 years ago Candace took up running to get some physical and mental relief.

“Running became something I realized was necessary for me to manage the twists and turns of life,” she said.

Candace started out small and worked her way up to completing a half-marathon. This gave her the confidence to go further and by 2017, she had remarkably completed nine full marathons and there was no stopping there.

“There was just something about saying I was training for my tenth marathon,” Candace said.

Candace may have been mentally prepared for marathon number 10 but her body had other plans. Years of overuse had finally caught up with the runner, resulting in a number of injuries to her ankle, pelvis and hip. The injuries became so severe that Candace had to re-evaluate her entire running program.

It was time to slow down and focus on recovery.

“Last year was really challenging,” she said. “It has been so hard to not get out there and run.”

To Candace’s surprise, the hardest part about healing her body wasn’t physical but mental. She’s spent many hours trying to find meaning in her current limitations and coming to terms with it all.

The past year, she said, taught patience and the value of focusing on what you can do versus what you cannot. It showed that pushing through pain isn’t always the best option, and in fact, it usually does more harm than good.

Candace learned that others will step up and take over responsibilities that need to be handled and that’s comforting to know. And she had to remind herself regularly that one of her favourite quotes by Gabby Bernstein - obstacles are detours in the right direction - were not just words but a mantra to live by.

While Candace was struggling with her running life, her professional life was continuing to soar. In January, she took on a new role at FCC, becoming manager of brand planning and execution.

The position means leading a team of 10 people, offering support and helping the team attain its goals. It also means sometimes having to fire someone who isn’t working out.

Building a career as a woman in agriculture takes mental stability, just like training for a marathon. Candace said quieting her inner critic is actually one of the

most challenging parts of her job.

Candace speaking at the at the Advancing Women in Ag conference in Niagara in Oct 2018. Her presentation was called 'Leadership, Long runs, and Life.

“I have an inner mean girl who likes to tell me ‘you’re not good enough.’ It’s crazy how I can feel all together and then the next moment, I question everything,” Candace said.

Candace said she could be her own worst enemy and it’s not other men or women in the industry putting up the roadblocks, she’s doing it to herself.

“I often wonder how much I hold myself back but it’s about getting out of my own way and applying for that new leadership position or taking on that new role,” she said.

Years of experience have changed how Candace approaches her career and she

admitted there are things that happened in the past- like bosses telling her to dress in suits like the men do- that she just wouldn’t put up with at this point.

She also thinks some of the sexism in the agriculture industry is generational. Her stepdaughters, who are 18 and 20, would never put up with treatment like that, she said.

For the most part, Candace said her career has been filled with people who raise her up and that includes the women she interacts with in the Ag Women’s Network. The connection and community are her favourite parts of the organization.

“How we come together to support each other, to share and open up, and to help other people realize they’re not alone,” Candace said.

Within that, her bigger desire is to have more conversations about diversity in agriculture. According to Candace, AWN has done a good job at making people feel welcome, no matter their background and the industry should do the same.

“This percolates in my mind a lot. Diversity of thought, diversity of perspective; that’s the only way we’ll be able to continue,” she said.

#member #leadership

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