Company Culture: The Key to Enjoying What You Do

corporateCulture3By: Genifer Rigor

There’s a magic equation for any desirable workplace that makes it one that is worth the early mornings and the late nights – somewhere between gratifying work, consistent challenges, and the obvious compensation and work-life balance, is company culture – the crème de la crème of any PR agency, or company for that matter.

Company culture is more than just open-concept spaces and foosball tables. There perhaps is nothing worse than an environment where challenging tasks are burdened all the more with a hostile top-down company culture. Workplace culture can be the difference between a sustainable and unsustainable organization and the reason for high or low turnover rates. It can also be the deciding factor for applicants when taking a job offer and an employer’s selling point when recruiting talent.

Company culture inspires creativity and productivity. Company culture is the organization’s mission and vision statements in the flesh. It drives the company with clarity by fostering transparency, honesty, and fun, all without compromising excellence. In the most well developed cultures can creativity truly thrive – its where fear of mistakes or judgement are at bay and new ideas and greater levels of motivation to perform are championed.

Company culture is the lifeblood of the workplace. When we think about how many years of our lives are spent at work, it wouldn’t be too far off to say that the workplace really does become a second home (and maybe even for some, a first). A solid company culture should alleviate workplace stress rather than add to it by promoting camaraderie as opposed to intimidation. When done right, company culture becomes a way of life – not just a set of lofty ideals.

The bottom line: We’d be lying to ourselves if we said that hard work is easy and enjoyable 100% of the time. The fact of the matter is we’ll be faced with some not so glamorous tasks, tight deadlines, and mistakes or misunderstandings along the way – but what makes any job worthwhile is undeniably the people alongside you and the culture that exists.

Image source: TVH


#FinishLine2014: Top 5 Marketing Events of 2014

In spirit of the year coming to a close, we reflect back on 2014’s most memorable events. After much deliberation and debate, we’ve compiled a Top 5 Marketing Events of 2014 list. May we learn from them and realize the power of marketing and media.

#5: P&G’s Always #LikeAGirl Campaign

With over 50 million views on Youtube, this video redefines the meaning of doing things “like a girl”

#4: The Fall of Jian Ghmoeshi


Where to even begin…To read about it: Click here

#3: Kim Kardashian’s ‘Break the Internet’ attempt (NSFW)

marketing event 3

Need we say more.

#2: Ebola Coverage


Informing or overhyping? And #FunFact, ‘ebola‘ was the third most searched term on, and fifth on Read more: Click here

#1: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Raising over $16 Million in Canada, and $100 Million in the US, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a major success in both raising funds and awareness.

Image Sources: CBC, TimesBerkeley Beacon

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#AskMagnolia: Goal Setting 101

By: Michelle Chang

In case you needed a reminder, here it is: There are less than 2 weeks left in the year. You can almost hear ‘The Final Countdown’ playing in the background as you read this blog post.

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This week, I asked Team Magnolia what are some goals they hope to achieve by the end of the year. Meet some of the team and read what they had to say about goal setting.

Kelly Choi, Marketing Communications Coordinator @ Magnolia Marketing Communications

Is there anything you’d like to accomplish by the end of 2014?

By the end of 2014, I want to finish updating my LinkedIn profile, create a list of goals for 2015, and spend more quality time with my family.

How have you been working towards realizing these goals?

Every week I schedule a specific time when I will update my LinkedIn Profile, and on a daily basis I’ll think about and write down goals I want to achieve in 2015. As for spending more time with my family, I’ve been exercising my authority to say ‘No, thank you’ to plans I do not need to attend. It’s all about making the conscious effort and taking the appropriate steps to achieve your goals.

What are some tips you use when setting and achieving goals?

  1. Time management is important. Set aside a few hours a week or a few minutes a day to work on your goals. Devote time with no distractions, i.e., Stop checking your Facebook, put your phone on airplane mode, etc.
  2. Be realist and specific!

Genifer Rigor, PR Assistant @ Magnolia Marketing Communications 

Please share one goal you’ve been working on this month.

I’ve been striving to manage my time better so that I can optimize each day

What are some strategies you use when you’re trying to accomplish a goal?

I always put my goals down on paper by making a list, a timeline, and simply breaking it down into actionable steps I can do each day. At work, before I leave the office I list down the things I need to get done the following day by priority. At home, I do the same thing before I go to bed. This gives me a clear outlook on my goals and ensures that nothing slips through the cracks.

How are you doing so far with this goal?

I’ve definitely been much more organized lately and have been able to manage my time better, which leads to being more productive. Even though I know I can still strive to be more efficient, there’s still a great sense of accomplishment when I cross off even the small items on my list.

What is some advice you can give to those setting resolutions for 2015?

With any goal, it’s important to dream big, but to also be realistic. Being realistic will help when unexpected factors come up. Much like working at a PR agency, it isn’t entirely rare for a priority to appear that was not expected. This is where being adaptable and open to change comes in – and perhaps that’s the greater goal to achieve at the end of the day!

Image Source: TheMotivatedType

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The Interview – It’s not about you, it’s about what you offer the employer

By Phoebe Yong, Principal, Magnolia

We’ve all heard the interview “advice” on how to prepare, how to land the job, how to impress….

At Magnolia, I interview candidates for available positions at the company, but when Magnolia goes after a new client, I see our first meeting as an interview too, only then we’re in the hot seat. When we pitch a company it’s very similar to pitching ourselves individually for a job. The same rules apply and the stakes are just as high.

There is the competition to consider.

How do you stand out? In the agency world, I often refer to it as a “beauty pageant” where several agencies come through the door to show and tell and at the end, a “winner” is crowned.

No different than a job interview this way.

Preparation shows you want the job.

During the interview it’s a given that you will be asked about your experience, attributes, and skillset to do the job. If you don’t have at least some of these, it isn’t the opportunity for you. But if you’ve researched well about the company, their offerings, what you think may be missing, their customer service, what differentiates them in the industry – this shows that you’ve made the conscious effort to learn about them and shows your keenness to contribute to their success. Come prepared with questions, commentary and insights to their business and be bold in asking thoughtful questions.

It’s not about you.

Certainly, the main reason for the interview is for your potential employer to find out more about you. Remember that at the end, the main goal is to find out if you’re the right fit and whether you have the right skillset to have a positive impact on the company and your team members. As such, the more you know about the company, the leaders or decision makers, the more you can be prepared to ask the right questions and have an engaging, insightful conversation to separate you from the pack.


Image source:

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Mind The Gap: The Generations in Today’s Increasingly Digital Workplace

By: Kristina Lee

When you think Gen Y and Digital, they seem to be joined at the hip. In our increasingly hyperfied-Googlefied-pursuit-of-instant-gratification culture, Gen Y has grown up in an age where it’s all things digital. At this year’s Beyond Pink Vancouver conference, a panelist of Baby Boomers and Millenials got together to discuss what kind of impact Gen Y is having on the workplace today and what each generation can learn from one another.

Here are some key quotes and themes that resonated in the room and got a lot of heads nodding:

Embracing the power of being succinct – “I translate real life into 140 characters and my 19 year old mentee thinks in 140 characters.

What matters to millennials is a work, life balance that helps nurture their passions beyond their professional boundaries – “Having flexibility around time..take vacation when you want…as long as the work is done.

As young women in the workplace, we break barriers every day and need to continue showing each other support – “As we women climb the corporate ladder, don’t forget to cheer each other on.

You can view a short video here for a flavor of the discussion & tell us what you think!

PR/Marketing Careers: How to be an agency superstar

PR/Marketing Careers: How to be an agency superstar

By: Hanah Van Borek

Working at an agency might seem glamorous; you get to work on exciting events, launch amazing new products, and work alongside the media. However, behind the scenes, the hours are often long, the deadlines can at times be brutal, the clients tough to please, and the work itself challenging.

What better place to get your career in MarComm started? It comes down to experience, and in this industry if you show your keenness and have the right abilities, you’ll get to try your hand at a huge variety of projects and gain experience at a rate you never imagined possible.

No two days are typically the same and while you may master a good method for managing all these demands, you’ll almost always be learning new things along the way. That learning is also often much faster than usual; agencies work at an accelerated pace.

So think you’ve got what it takes and want to give it a try? Here’s a few key qualities that stand out to us agencies.

  • Team Player Attitude

Every person has their role in the agency; their strengths put together make it a success. Without the right level of cooperation and willingness to collaborate, the best results are not achievable. While employees may have ownership over their own projects, someone who is ready to step in and offer their skillset when they see the need is invaluable to the company.

  • Assertiveness

When challenges get in the way, an assertive person works through them and sees that the job gets done even without leadership. When this person sees the reigns loose, they take them with confidence. This in turn puts the team’s confidence in them.

  • Creativity

Creativity is a must for all aspects of the job, from brainstorming design concepts to developing PR angles, but where this really benefits the agency is in problem solving. When under the pressure of events and launches, for example, the ability to think on your feet and present solutions fast puts you ahead of the pack.

  • Determination

To not only meet but go beyond client expectations demands perseverance. If a client keeps coming back with new requests and time is running out to get results, someone who can rise to the challenge is a force to be reckoned with.

You only get one first impression – Make it count

first%20impressionBy: Phoebe Yong

Continuing our theme of making that first impression, I’ve across many resumes in my career. From entry level to mid-level management – all with one purpose – get a job.

I see resumes as an opportunity to tell a story. But this story is about you, the job candidate. Stories about your purpose, ambitions, skills, experience and interests. When you write that story about you to land that job, it needs to stand out and captivate your reader.

Here are some key considerations in writing your resume that makes a great first impression:

  1. Clean, professional looking – ensure your resume reads well which means the layout is well organized, easy to identify headings and subheadings, and consistent use of fonts. Taking pride in how you present your resume speaks directly about you and what type of employee you would be.
  1. Be purposeful – most resumes should not exceed over two pages. With limited space, ensure each section and the words you put in those sections are meaningful and has relevance. Customize your resume to the position, and take the time to ensure what you list as experience, objectives and interests are applicable and significant to your potential employer.
  1. wow%20factorThat “wow” factor – when you read a job posting, there tends to be a strong theme on what the candidate needs to have – whether it’s creativity for a web designer, technical acumen for a technical writer, social media savviness – ensure you highlight a skillset or achievement that matches this desired trait to leave a strong lasting impression.

It’s the strong lasting impression that will help you stand out from the rest of the crowd and help you land the job that you want.

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Making A First Impression


By: Hanah Van Borek

You never get a second chance to make…

A good first impression.

Talk about pressure! The permanency of that first glance, first handshake, first moment, is nerve inducing in itself, never mind all the work of giving the perfect answers and demonstrating your amazing qualifications.

Such a defining moment shouldn’t be left up to chance and while we don’t always have control over circumstances, you can better your odds of success.

To start with, hopefully you don’t need reminding to have these basics checked off on your list, i.e. dress appropriately, no unkempt hair, no chewing gum, good posture, maintain eye contact, firm handshake.

Yes we’re in the 21st century and modern professionalism tends to allow some casualness, but this is a job interview and if you don’t take yourself seriously, no one else will. So no yoga pants, I don’t care if they’re black!

With the more superficial considerations out of the way, let’s go a bit a deeper and look at tricks to set the mind frame.

Fake it till you make it – An adage helpful for those with extra nerves. Great to think of if you’re applying for a position that might require more experience than you have. If the confidence isn’t coming naturally, just imagine you do have all the right stuff, how would you feel then? This doesn’t mean be disingenuous and put on heirs. It simply means be the person for the job and let that emanate through your body language and your answers.

Be in the moment – Being asked the tough questions, you’ll be thinking on your feet and normally a little more awake than usual. But if you’re already thinking of your answer before the interviewer’s done asking you’re not giving them your full attention. Breathe and maintain full awareness. This will help you avoid losing eye contact and fidgeting which is highly distracting and connotes anxiety.

Be prepared – We give this advice in media training to professionals of all levels. Often nerves are simply a product of not knowing what to say. If you have practiced your responses by anticipating potential questions, and taken the time to review the job description, you’re going to take your stress levels down at least a notch or two and it will already be apparent when you walk through the door. Don’t wing it! This is your career.

Keep your eye on the goal – which is… to show them you’re the one to hire! That means no veering off into your personal life or what you did on vacation. While some small talk is necessary to break the ice, each time they turn it over to you to speak is an opportunity to prove why your skills fit the bill. This is useful again for any gaps in experience you might have. By driving the conversation towards the goal, you can highlight the relevant background you do have.

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KNOW NO LIMITS – Q&A with Anne Harvey, Vancouver Coastal Health


By Phoebe Yong

Magnolia MarComm was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to Anne Harvey of the Vancouver Coastal Health this past week. Anne is the Vice President of Employee Engagement at the VCH and has forged a successful professional career managing a broad portfolio of Human Resources functions at VCH. This Q&A highlights her thoughts on her chosen career path, women in the workplace, and above all, encourages women of all ages to Know No Limits.
Please see an excerpt of the interview below: 

Q: “What is your position at Vancouver Coastal Health?”
A: “My title is Vice President of Employee Engagement which is the Human Resources department for Vancouver Coastal Health. I’ve had the position for nine years with a very broad portfolio that includes everything from Labour Relations, Clinical Education, Health and Safety, Recruitment and Retention, Lean Process Improvement, and Management Education. It’s a very, very broad Human Resources portfolio.”

Q: “How did you get this job and how did it evolve?”
A: “I was asked to apply for the position by the previous CEO of Vancouver Coastal Health.”

Q: “Were you working at VCH beforehand?”
A: “No, I was working for the BC Nurses Union.”

Q: “In what capacity? May I ask?”
A: “I was the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Negotiator. I headed up a very productive set of contract negotiations between the health authorities and the BC Nurses Union in 2004. The CEO of Vancouver Coastal was looking for a more innovative approach to Human Resources than had been traditional in health care in the past.”

Q: “What do you mean by wanting a different approach as opposed to traditional?”
A: “First of all, I think they were looking for somebody with innovative ideas. There were some long standing problems like high sick leave and injury rates that needed a new solution, there was also a huge skill shortage gap for nurses and no one had been able to solve these problems. Secondly, VCH was looking for a more collaborative approach to working with unions. In the 2004 negotiations with the health authorities and the province, we had a number of innovative ideas that were agreed upon and implemented. Obviously, the only way we could reach an agreement on some new approaches was through collaboration between the health authorities, the Health Employers Association and the union.”

Q: “So it’s a collaborative effort with lots of key parts?”
A: “Yes. In that round of bargaining, we actually used a mutual interest bargaining model, which emphasizes more alternate dispute resolution rather than positional bargaining.”

Q: “Now, how many work within the VCH?”
A: “VCH has approximately, 20,000 employees, 5,000 volunteers, and there are 2,500 physicians who are not employees but are affiliated with VCH and have privileges in our hospitals and programs.”

Q: “What would you say is the best part about your job?”
A: “The opportunity to try out new ideas. I have been really, really fortunate ever since I came to Vancouver Coastal Health that when we come up with a new idea and a new way of approaching things, we’ve never been told no.”

Q: “Can you give me an example of a new idea that you introduced and that was accepted?”
A: “Our most recent idea addresses the fact that we have a problem with bullying in health care. It’s a problem internationally in health care. Particularly in the emergency and operating room environment where there is a lot of stress. We had a very good policy on the face of it but people weren’t reporting when they had complaints. We would only hear about them three of four years after they were experiencing the problem. So, we came up with a new program where we put in a 1-800 number for people to report bullying complaints to our Employee and Family Assistance program. Then, they could either get some counselling through the Employee and Family Assistance program or the program would refer their complaint on to a Human Resources advisor, who would investigate the complaint and help them resolve it. This had never been done before, so it meant that we had to be very transparent and recognize we had a problem with bullying. Not every organization would want to be transparent about that but we took it to our executive team and they said, ‘Yes, go ahead. We don’t know how successful it will be. We aren’t sure it’s a big a problem as you think it is but try it’ and we did. So we launched that new program on February 26th, which is No Bully Day. ”

Q: “Of this year?”
A: “Yes and since then we’ve had over 200 complaints reported. So that’s tremendous and we are now not only getting those reports in but sending out how those reports are being resolved in the VCH newsletter. So we’re being very transparent about the results saying these many are being resolved with apologies and one has been resolved by suspension. The senior executive was discussing it this morning and saying, ‘Wow you were right! This is really good because if we have that many complaints we do have a serious issue, more than we thought and we’re really glad that you raised it and that your team is working on it.’ That’s the joy of my position. That we have a culture at Vancouver Coastal of innovation and if you have a good idea, you get to try it out.”

Q: “Right and something like this shows that whatever people’s complaints are, are not going to ‘deaf ears’, you guys are actually doing something about it.”
A: “Exactly. The problem with bullying is it causes a great deal of anxiety for people. People with that level of anxiety end up on sick leave or even on long-term disability because they develop serious anxiety and depression. So it’s a really important issue.”

Q: “Along that same question, what is the most challenging part about your job?”
A: “The most challenging part is that health care is the most complex industry or sector and it’s very difficult to predict how a new program or decision will affect the organization in terms of patience and employees. You can make a decision over ‘here’ that has an unintended consequence over ‘there.’ Then of course because the health care budget is such a large portion of the provincial government’s budget, funding is really a challenge.”

Q: “Do you mean managing the budget or getting the budget? What do you mean by that?”
A: “It’s getting funding for initiative. It’s difficult and challenging so we really have to link how any new human resource program or our existing human resource programs affect the bottom line. So we have to work really hard to translate our work into dollars and patient care hours.”

Q: “Moving away from this position, what would you say was officially your first job?”
A: “I pumped gas as a teenager, I worked as a waitress, chamber maid – all jobs when I was in high school you know?”

Q: “So what about officially as a career?”
A: “I was a Lab Assistant at Imperial Chemical Industry.”

Q: “A lab assistant, interesting. So in the science field, did you like it? How long did it last?”
A: “Maybe a year. I didn’t like it really, it wasn’t my passion.”

Q: “And what about education wise, where did you go to school?”
A: “I went to school in Britain. I finished a Sociology degree with a major in Modern Industrial Society. Then much, much later I took a Master’s in organizational design from the Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara. That was online as part of distance education for the most part.”

Q: “In terms of your career path, did you know that you would end up in HR when you started taking these classes? Obviously you love what you do.”
A: “You know, I didn’t plan a career. Actually, I will be retiring in the next two or three years and I don’t know what I’m going to do when I retire either. But what I’ve always done is looked for what I find fascinating, that’s why I took Sociology. After that I took Journalism.”

Q: “What area of Journalism?”
A: “News reporting because I found it fascinating. Probably journalism was the only decision I actually tried to do. Everything else, I just stayed open to opportunities. As I saw an opportunity, I would switch and go into something new.”

Q: “Were you driven by your gut or money? Do you mind me asking?”
A: “Well no. I had children very early. I had my first child when I was 20. I had always wanted to travel and I was living in Britain and by the time I was 23 I had two children. So, I realized that I wasn’t going to be doing that much travelling just from an economic point of view. So I decided that I would live my work life as an adventure. So I looked for things I found fascinating. Jobs would close down and I would see something else or I’d be working in a job and somebody offered me another opportunity. Most of the time, when I switched I’d earn the same or more money but a couple of times I earned less.”

Q: “Oh interesting. So it wasn’t money that guided you then it was always about that adventure.”
A: “It was really the enjoyment of the work.”

Q: “So if you were talking to young women today, especially from an HR perspective who doesn’t know what to do with their career, what tools would you recommend for them to find that right career path?”
A: “I don’t know because I puzzle with this one myself. First of all, definitely watch your interests. You have to love your work. You may not know the job you want, but look for the area that has the content that fascinates you. For example, I didn’t work with Sociology ever but I was fascinated by Sociology and it was extremely helpful when I moved into Journalism, Labour Relations, and now in Human Resources. So don’t get hung up on the exact job. Look for the content area that fascinates you.”

Q: “Be guided by those interests right? As you were growing up, who were some of your role models for women? Whether it’s somebody personally or famous, was there anybody that you looked up too?”
A: “My mother was very career oriented, so she instilled those values. Both my parents worked extremely hard. The best thing you could say about someone in our family is that they were hard workers. I was growing up just after the Second World War and my father began a business. In fact, he began three businesses, one after the other until he finally made it but he was extremely successful in his chosen field. So, I did see both my parents do much better than you would have predicted based on their education level or social class, which of course is very big in Britain.”

Q: “Yes of course but I hear you about hard work, nothing replaces that doesn’t it?”
A: “No, nothing replaces that.”

Q: “Generation Y because is the audience I may be speaking to throughout this campaign, ones that are coming out of university. Do you have any advice for them or comments about this generation in terms of how they may succeed?”
A: “Well what I notice about Generation Y is that they have strong community values, which is great! I think it’s really important that they hang on to those values and look for work that allows them to express their values. I think that’s absolutely key; to be aware of their expectations and how their expectations might be different from people working around them and be aware that there are different expectations at work as well as at home. I think we all tend to think, what we expect is what everybody expects and I don’t find that as true. So we should be aware of what our own expectations are and being open to understanding that other people have different expectations, I think is really important. ”

Q: “My last question is about the campaign theme that we’re doing, which is Know No Limits. What would you like to say to women today about knowing no limits?”
A: “What I notice, which I am just amazed about and I think is wonderful is that when my generation had children, we tried to hide the fact because it was so new to have working mothers it was easier not to talk about it because it generated less opposition. What I’m really proud of about young women today is that they are raising these issues about the challenges of being parents and employees. Also, young men are too and I think it’s wonderful that there is more discussion about that and people are bringing those issues forward rather than trying to keep them quite.”

Q: “Are you saying I that in terms of knowing no limits that just because you are going to be a working mom, that shouldn’t hinder you or hold you back?”
A: “No it shouldn’t hold you back at all and you should be able to talk about the challenges of being a working parent. I think you need to actually talk about it because there are more and more, particularly in the public sector, value placed around working fathers because of their employment contracts. I think it’s important people talk about those challenges openly and find way to reconcile their differences. I know that we’ve moved some of our meeting times for team meetings, not because the women in the team have childcare times but two of the men in our team have child care times. And so, I’m really glad that we can now debate that and say how do we accommodate this? How do we change the working hours? How do we change the meeting times?”

Q: “Interesting, it’s really about accommodation isn’t it?”
A: “It is. I think what the next ten years is going to be about is: there will be skill shortages in all sectors. Specifically, those in Canada and the US are showing that women’s participation in the workforce is dropping slightly. So young women are going to be extremely valued and sought after as employees because we are going to go into shortages. I think young women have a really good opportunity in the next ten years to advance their careers and maintain the working parent balance because they will be in demand.”

Q: “Yes that’s promising for them isn’t it?”
A: “Very.”

Q: “And then the last question is that is there a lesson you wish you knew then that you know now?”
A: “I don’t tend to think about regrets. I have a great career in that it’s extremely varied, extremely interesting and I’ve enjoyed it all.”

Q: “You’re very lucky too for that. Thanks for your time.”

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Know No Limits – Magnolia’s Social Media Summer Campaign – Join us!


By Phoebe Yong

This past week, I’ve watched several commencement speeches in the media delivered by smart, highly successful individuals, and safe to say, over achievers.   As I watched and listened to their inspirational wishes for these young graduates, as an entrepreneurial woman, I couldn’t help but also think about the young graduating students at the  high school and elementary school level — in particular the young women and girls who even at that young age have so much to consider before entering adulthood.

This is why I’ve decided to dedicate part of our social media campaign this summer on a project I’ve called “Know No Limits”. Sounds a bit like a Nike slogan doesn’t it, but truthfully, I came up with this idea while enroute back from a business trip.

My daughter is graduating from Grade 7 this year, marking a milestone in her young educational pursuit and I often hear her talk about different professions she would like to strive for. The usual professions that are often targeted for women in health care and education are mentioned. Then I thought about how cool it would be to initiate a campaign where women in all sorts of careers, maybe not quite as traditional, encourage young women and girls engaged in the idea of knowing no limits to their success in whatever they want to do.

Using social media the goal of our team will be to spread the message this summer that young women today can achieve anything they set their mind to it, and here are the many examples of great women in all sectors and professions to tell you how they did it and the obstacles they overcame.

Lastly, I want young women to know if they choose to do something they love as a career, then each day isn’t a chore or drag but a true reflection on their purpose in life to live out their passions and contribute to being an awesome human being in our society.

So please help me this summer by passing the word of “Know No Limits” for young women out there and in the coming weeks, I hope you will enjoy the interviews, short articles, and blogs on how women are living their full potential because they dared to Know no Limits.

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