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Victoria Pelletier: “Your story informs your future; it doesn’t disqualify you from living into that future”

“Your story informs your future; it doesn’t disqualify you from living into that future.” My origin story is marked by my teenage mother’s addiction, abuse, and mental illness. In many ways, I raised myself, even though I was fortunate to be adopted by an incredible woman. I tell my story these days, instead of hiding […]

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“Your story informs your future; it doesn’t disqualify you from living into that future.” My origin story is marked by my teenage mother’s addiction, abuse, and mental illness. In many ways, I raised myself, even though I was fortunate to be adopted by an incredible woman. I tell my story these days, instead of hiding from it, because it made me strong instead of weak.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Victoria Pelletier, Vice President, Talent & Transformation IBM.

Victoria Pelletier is a senior executive with over two decades of corporate and board experience in strategy, operations, growth initiatives, M&A and business and talent culture and development.

Victoria is also a published author, an in-demand public speaker and regularly appears on national television and radio. She is a visionary leader with a passion for innovation, creativity and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. In fact, Victoria has won both the 2020 Mentor of the Year award from Women in Communications & Technology AND the 2019 HSBC Diversity & Inclusion in Innovation Award.

An inspiring professional with impeccable credentials, Victoria is a trusted voice among peers and emerging executives.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My backstory is the kind that ends up in police blotters or Child Protective Services manuals. My childhood was nonexistent. Because my biological mother and her extended family were messes, I learned how to survive. In many ways, I was the adult in my family of origin. While it was hell, I developed some amazing skills back then. I can fight through obstacles, I can improvise, I can manage a crisis. Would I go back and do it again? No way. Did it shape who I am in some positive ways? Absolutely.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I am one who has always loved to challenge the status quo — and I’m fairly vocal in the process — I believe in radical candor but doing so from a place of care and compassion. I am lasered focused on delivering excellence and great outcomes for those constituents I serve, however doing so with a concentration on positive impact and “doing the right thing”. A big part of this centres around my professional work, advocacy and public speaking on culture, leadership and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in business and our community. While many wouldn’t think this is disruptive, for many, this work is as disruptive as it gets. Whenever long-established systems are examined and upended — wow — that can be explosive. Challenging deep rooted systematic ways of working and leading and the policies, procedures and measurements associated with this causes great unrest and I enjoy being the disruptor at the heart of it.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I love to tell my wardrobe story. No, this is not a wardrobe failure memory. Some time ago I was working for the company that produces athletic apparel that half the planet wears. You know the one. Swoosh. One morning, when I walked into my office at this juggernaut’s building, I was broadsided from colleagues who noted that I was wearing another apparel brand to work. I just grabbed something comfy from the closet. Well apparently, when you work in apparel you should only be pulling your employer’s brand from the closet.

Here’s what I learned: If you are planning on rising in an organization you love, you better be “all in” on the organization’s products/services. If you’re not practicing brand loyalty, how can you expect your target audience to do so?

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Professionally, I’ve spent more time watching leaders who I aspired to be NOTHING like, so instead, they inspired me to grow, to take risks, and to encourage and develop others. I am grateful for all of them. Yes, sounds sad, but it’s true. Some of the people who help us the most are the ones who’ve taught us the least. As a result, I’ve been very focused on being the kind of positive mentor to others that I wished I would have had. I am very honoured to be recognized and awarded recently with the 2020 Mentor of the Year award by Women in Communications & Technology.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

It’s always important to pick your moments. What I mean by this, within the context of this conversation, is that disruption for the sake of disruption is not the appropriate route. I love being the disruptor, but with purpose.

When we are in a time of triage for example, when an organization is under tremendous pressure because of an internal or external crisis, dealing with the crisis rises above stirring or creating disruption. In the early days of COVID-19 for example, when we were all trying to figure out how to continue to keep our organizations afloat as the economy tanked, I had to shelve disruption to take care of my team and our clients.

Disruption is always welcome when there’s not a crisis afoot. Now that life has stabilized into somewhat of our “new normal”, it’s time to pull out the sledgehammers and keep taking hits on the old systems that perpetuated the reach of the “isms” that diminish and deny us.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

What an important question.

The one I’ve claimed and shaped in my own language is “Know your Why?” Whether I’m leading a huge project for my organization or planning a family trip, I always make sure to articulate purpose. Where am I heading and how am I staying on course? This is my WHY.

“Your story informs your future; it doesn’t disqualify you from living into that future.” My origin story is marked by my teenage mother’s addiction, abuse, and mental illness. In many ways, I raised myself, even though I was fortunate to be adopted by an incredible woman. I tell my story these days, instead of hiding from it, because it made me strong instead of weak.

“Know where the off ramps are located.” Face it, sometimes great plans fall apart. That goes for relationships, work, and just about everything else. When you know you can’t continue down a particular path, it’s good to know that you have an exit strategy. While you don’t need a huge plan on the contingency shelf, you need a plan.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

You know, I accomplished a lot before the age of thirty; I was COO of a company by age 24. As a relatively young executive (or so I like to think, but my kids might disagree!), I have an amazing opportunity to mentor and mold the young leaders who aspire to lead great organizations and contribute innovative ideas to our shared body of knowledge.

I’m shaking things up by living into my role as a business “influencer.” Through talks and writing, modeling and one-on-one mentoring, I am taking the gospel of positive culture, leadership and diverse, equitable and inclusive business and community to very public stages (albeit predominantly the virtual stage these days!) so that others will be equipped to take steps on behalf of their organizations and communities. I’m also encouraging my audiences to understand their “Why?” What is your vision for business and life and how are you honing and marketing your Why — your brand — to the world?

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

One of the biggest challenges faced by women disruptors, besides their own fears that hold them back, is often their male counterparts. Yes, I said it. Even the amazing men who initiate change in their organizations are still enslaved to some extent by patriarchy. In the Western World, men — especially white men — are viewed as leaders and worthy of our respect even before they say their first word or take the first action. So, the question I ask my male counterparts to consider goes something like this? Are you a real ally or just speaking into the microphone that you have been given by default? Male disruptors: Are you willing to yield your time and privilege and more importantly, your voice and your demonstrable actions, so that those who will benefit from the disruption of old systems can lead the disruption from the front?

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

I most recently listened to both Michelle and Barack Obama’s audio books which were fantastic. I have a wide variety of genres that I like to listen to including news and politics, business, true crime and some “mindless fun” and comedic types. I’m have recently discovered the podcast called The Guilty Feminist. If your audience hasn’t checked out this British gem, they need to give it a shot. This beautiful platform celebrates the power and giftedness of women through humour, frank conversation, and aspiration. When I first heard the podcast, a diatribe on burning bras that was raw and hilarious, I almost spit out my tea all over myself. I think this is a significant podcast because it forces women to honestly discuss their challenges and their root causes. It’s produced by women and features many disruptors.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to empower the next generation of women to lead and disrupt in their individual environments. I want young woman to know that they are powerful and equipped to accomplish anything they set their sights on. That includes leading organizations, nations, and change movements.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

In true disruptor form, I’m going to offer my own quote for this one: “Be unstoppable.” Depending on who you are and where you are at this point in your life, my words will have a variety of impacts. “Be unstoppable” grows out of own spirit of resilience in the face of challenge and opportunity. If you trust your vision and your ability, no one can stop you.

How can our readers follow you online?

Find me on the social platform of your choice!

My personal website: https://victoria-pelletier.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/victoriapelletier/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PelletierV29

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/victoria_pelletier_unstoppable/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Victoria.Pelletier.Speaker

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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