2011 Winners

North Bay | Private Sector

Angela Johnston

Angela Johnston

More than 30 years ago, when Angela Johnston was a chambermaid at the Relax Inn, the ladder to the top looked daunting.

She climbed the rungs one by one, taking on the role of night auditor, then front desk manager, assistant general manager, general manager, and then director of sales and marketing.

The girl from Gowganda is now the regional director of sales at Westmont Hospitality Group, responsible for 13 properties across Northern Ontario including all of the Comfort Inns in the North.

At every property, Johnston increased sales to record levels or implemented record breaking programs, and was the 2009 recipient of the Ted Day Tourism Award for her contribution to the Northern Ontario Tourism Industry.

She credits her dad for her work ethic. "He was a workaholic. My husband would probably call me one too, but I prefer to call it being driven."

Driven might be an understatement. Johnston was back in the office after only 18 days following a complete upper lung removal due to cancer. She was emailing as soon as they'd let her have her cell phone back.

"My work ethic helped me deal with the cancer. I wasn't going to give up. I kept telling myself, 'I've overcome many things and I can overcome this too'."

Along her climb, she never got too comfortable, remembering the words of one of her bosses who said, "When you think you've got to the top of the ladder...be prepared, I am slapping up the next ladder."

Each of the rungs on her career ladder helped her understand the hospitality business from a new angle, and she has a solid appreciation of the different jobs.

"When you speak to people in jobs you have held, you get a better respect level. They know you've walked in their shoes—and they can't pull the wool over your eyes either."

Johnston is considered a role model by her organization, showing what hard work and dedication can do.

"I like to encourage the flowers in our organization to bloom by giving women encouragement to step outside their comfort zones and grow in their careers."

She's content with her place on the ladder and is now more interested in moving others up the rungs.

"I always wonder what I can teach others. I practise what I preach, that your word is your bond, and that we should all take pride in what we do, no matter what the task at hand. For employees, I always encourage them to make magic for their customers. For others I mentor, I hammer home that they should never give up on their dreams."

Johnston has encouraged several of her staff members to become general managers of other properties.

"Mentoring people, or paying it forward, pays itself back twentyfold. I couldn't be happier when I get calls from former employees thanking me for pushing them...or when they call for advice. It's very rewarding."

She's also willing to talk about the struggles she's faced in her life, including abuses against her as a young girl, so that other women know they're not alone.

"It's easier to talk about cancer, but I feel like it's time to be open, especially with our youth." Johnston mentored at-risk young entrepreneurs for more than five years.

"If they are facing or have faced abuse, they need to know that they too can overcome (it). They need to know they can turn 'I can't' into 'I can'."