“What's new? What's around the next corner? What can we see? What can we learn?"
Saying that Juanita Lohmeyer has a passion for learning is like saying the sun has a passion for shining; it just seems to happen, without effort, and because it can. And because Juanita, a Program Director in Business Transformation & Technology Operations at TELUS, appears to move from one learning experience to another so naturally and easily, it's tempting to say she's known from the start exactly what her goals would be and where they would lead her. Of course, the reality of her life is more complex and interesting than that.
Like others profiled here, Juanita never expected to major in computer science at UBC. Having her sights set on chemistry, which she’d enjoyed in secondary school because she’d really liked conducting experiments, she found to her dismay that in university courses “we were talking a lot about electron valences and I got pretty tired of that.” Moving on to explore math, she thought it a good idea to take a computer science class and to her surprise found she really liked it. That course introduced her to the tenets of programming in Scheme, which she later built on by learning JAVA and C++. After this introduction to the field, she took a CS class that focused heavily on real-world business applications and from there was fired up about the discipline and ready to commit to the program as a major.
From the start Juanita was interested using computer science as a bridge for connecting her strengths in math with her growing interest in methods for improving business practices. Cognizant, too, that in the business world she would need to focus on communication skills, she decided to minor in German, a decision that was instrumental in her move with her husband to Germany following her UBC graduation. There she worked for two years at T-Mobile as a software developer and configuration manager. One of the most interesting projects she oversaw at the telecom was in developing an online prepaid system for SIM card use in mobile phones, where T-Mobile customers could load up their cards in gas stations and other locations prior to using their phones.
In 2003, Juanita and her husband traveled for six months and then moved back to Vancouver. There Juanita began working for a small R&D firm engaged in digital rights management for downloadable media. Significantly smaller than T-Mobile, her new workplace gave her an opportunity to experience the unique sets of strengths and concerns that startup companies face. Having both areas of experiences helped her to then move into work at TELUS, where she has been employed since 2003.
At TELUS Juanita has worn a number of hats and it’s at TELUS that her capacity for developing new ways of contributing to superior management and business practices has blossomed. From 2003-2005 she worked with TELUS Technology and Operations as a business analyst where, among other things, she led a series of strategic deals that resulted in a $600K savings for a consortium of business users, including TD Canada Trust, IBM and CBC. With Juanita at the lead, her team was a finalist for a British Columbia Technology Industry Association (BCTIA) Team of the Year Award. In 2005 she moved to the credit services portion of the company, where she led a team of 19 finance representatives during a period in TELUS’ history that saw a labour disruption, the addition of voice-recognition and customer care and billing upgrades, a site relocation, and a merger. Despite such upheaval, Juanita’s team prospered and won Treasury and Risk Management magazine’s Alexander Hamilton Gold Medal in 2004.
In 2006 Juanita became a TELUS Quick Win manager in Technology and Operations, overseeing a team of 17 specialists, each of whom engages in various aspects of business analysis, requirements gathering, software development, and prototyping for as many as five distinct projects. In this role Juanita’s singular skills as technologist, manager, and business applications specialist are all brought into play. A typical week for her involves three major areas. The first, on which she spends the most time and which she enjoys the most, is in mentoring and coaching her team, most of whom are relatively young employees fresh from CS and/or commerce programs in university. She finds the greatest reward in this area of her work, as she’s able to help her team members develop individual strengths and refine their professional trajectories. Second, she does a fair amount of strategizing, envisioning, and prioritizing with team members, as each is responsible for a number of different projects. In this way, she notes, team members “take ownership” of their work and parlay that ownership into valuable learning opportunities. Third, Juanita works hard to communicate with and among team members to identify problem areas before they escalate; in this way she finds “that there are a lot less fires to fight,” and she and her team are able to focus more on long-term problem-solving rather than defusing short-term crisis situations.
Taking what she’s learned in the work world as a learner and as a manager has allowed Juanita to become a much-valued mentor both at TELUS, where she has been able to promote 10 of her mentees into new positions, and in the UBC Tri-Mentoring program as well. There she’s worked so capably with several senior students that she’s been awarded the university’s Amazing Mentor Award. Believing as she does that people should do what they’re good at, what they like, and what there’s a need for, she counsels CS students to capitalize on their strengths to move forward in their careers and she cautions them against thinking they have to be “great at everything.” Such a mindset leads people to think that success depends on things like having to “talk like Bill Clinton or someone else who’s famous,” for example, rather than focusing on their own strengths to construct a career that’s increasingly fulfilling.
As can be imagined, Juanita brings the same passion for learning to activities and ventures outside of work as she does within. She and her husband are accomplished deep sea divers who have dived in the Red Sea and off the coasts of Belize, Thailand, Australia, and British Columbia. She loves snowboarding, back-country skiing and hiking. She regularly travels and figures she’s visited 35 countries at this point. She loves to spend time with friends and go wine tasting in the Okanagan. To decompress from the many activities in her life she regularly practices yoga and teaches weekly yoga classes in the fitness centre at TELUS.
If that isn’t enough, Juanita is also currently finishing up an executive MBA program jointly administered by Cornell University and Queen’s University. With graduation to occur in 2009, Juanita looks forward to continuing to apply her skills in management and technology, perhaps in a position that has a broader managerial scope.
When asked how she manages to do all that she does, Juanita is quick to explain that her method is slightly different from the norm. “Some people call it a ‘work-life balance.’ I prefer to have areas of interest in a lot of different areas. Whether that be at work, whether I’m concentrating on a specific project, I want to be fully immersed in that. Or if I have some sort of hobby I’m doing at home, I want to be fully immersed in that as well. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m about balance, but I’m about really immersing yourself in what you want to do in that moment.” So far it’s been a winning strategy that continues to pay off in greater and greater rewards.