2013 Winners

Sudbury | Executive of the Year

Brenda Tremblay

Brenda Tremblay

Brenda Tremblay heads up the operational side of Canada's second-largest science centre. But Science North's chief operating officer actually cut her teeth while working at a small tourist lodge just north of Sudbury.

As the lodge's general manager, Tremblay integrated new tourism and corporate packages, while focusing on personalized customer service. Those early achievements set a path of success for Tremblay, leading to her current role 25 years later.

"I'm pretty proud of the business sense that I've been able to acquire while here," Tremblay said. "That is not my educational background—I have a bachelor of science degree—but my love for customer service-focused business really came when I worked at that little lodge."

Starting out as Science North's house manager in 1988, Tremblay worked her way through the ranks, influencing change as she went.

In 1993, after the centre's caterers didn't renew their contract, Tremblay came up with the idea of Science North running its own food service, which allowed the centre to better serve its customers, keep local people employed and return a profit.

When the centre started looking to expand its reach to international customers, Tremblay spearheaded the business plan that led it into the Asian market. Its travelling exhibit, Creatures of the Abyss, is currently installed at the Hong Kong Science Centre and will next travel to the Guangdong Science Centre. Science North has identified South America as its next target market.

"We need to spread ourselves around; we can't be dependent on one market because we know things happen," Tremblay said. "Yes, China is growing, but what happens if it stops growing?"

The international sales business now accounts for 20 per cent of the centre's total annual revenue, and supports 20 jobs at Science North, with an estimated additional 20 spinoff jobs throughout Northern Ontario.

Evolving the company annually to adapt to changing times is always a key focus for Tremblay.

"My role here is really about efficiency, driving profit, driving what the customer needs," she said. "We're always focused on that and we always do that very, very differently from year to year because you have to adjust. You have to adjust to the changing demographics that are around Northern Ontario."

Tremblay credits her mentor Jim Marchbank, Science North's former CEO, with fostering an open-door policy in which she was encouraged to brainstorm new projects. Sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn't, Tremblay said, but she was never discouraged from bringing her ideas forward.

Keeping a busy staff motivated, delegating tasks properly and keeping balance in her life remain challenges, the last of which she attributes in part to her fastidious work ethic, and in part to being a woman.

"I think a female in this position, no matter what their background, is probably going to struggle a little bit more than a male because we tend to want to get down and help everybody solve all their problems," she said. "We're all like that, right?"

"You have the support systems around you—use them," she added. "Don't be afraid to say that you need help."

Now that she's established in her career, Tremblay is looking to spread her talents through the community. She's sat on various councils and committees over the years, both related to her work in tourism and outside the field. One passion is her role as treasurer with the Sudbury Youth Basketball Association.

Volunteerism is one way she said she can repay the fortune she's experienced living and working in Northern Ontario, and she encourages other women to do so as well.

"Certainly my first years here, I was so dedicated and raising a young family," she said. "Now I'm at the point, for the last five years, where I can start to give back to the community. I think that's important to remember."

Sponsored by: