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Associations Build Up Business Leaders


In the world of industry, many leaders, current or future, may find themselves feeling isolated and alone or with a barrier blocking their growth that they can’t overcome by themselves. For these people however, there are options available in the form of professional services provided by associations.

Professional associations and organizations are available throughout Alberta, Canada and the world for every industry. These associations provide vital services for those looking to advance their careers to their pinnacle, help them build on their existing knowledge and provide networking connections to like-minded professionals.

The first professional service association Business in Edmonton talked with for this article is MacKay CEO Forums. Founded in 1999 by their founder Dr. Nancy MacKay, it has grown to an international association providing learning opportunities for business leaders the world over.

To learn more about MacKay CEO Forums, Bernie Kollman, Forum Chair tells us about the association and what makes it tick at its heart. “MacKay CEO Forums is a peer mentoring program established to help executives and CEOs tackle their biggest challenges and pursue their greatest opportunities. Our Founder, Dr. Nancy MacKay, established our dream to populate the world with inspiring leaders. We do this by creating a safe place for leaders to share, to learn and to grow together.”

In order to better understand how they provide learning and opportunities to create inspiring leaders, Kollman explains the services that the association offers for professionals. “Through an annual membership, leaders are part of a peer group that meets for six full day sessions plus a two-day retreat. Each session has a learning opportunity provided by a carefully selected guest speaker. Together, our members explore these new concepts and look for practical applications to immediately apply to their workplaces. Through skilled facilitation by the Forum Chair, members support each other through shared experience focused on their biggest challenges or opportunities in a highly confidential and trusted environment. “

Further breaking down the local connection in Edmonton, Kollman says, “In Edmonton, we have established several forum groups led by three forum chairs with offerings for both executives and CEOs. Globally, MacKay CEO Forums has over 1,200 members and 60 Forum Chairs. We also have a virtual offering for executives and CEOs who prefer to meet remotely.”

Professional service associations like MacKay CEO Forums can have value that is hard to narrow down, but we asked Kollman to best describe the value they can have for CEOs and other business leaders around the world. “The role of the CEO or senior executive can be lonely and at times, overwhelming.  Now more than ever, there are immense challenges and emerging opportunities that have not been faced by leaders in the past. MacKay CEO Forums offer a highly trusted, judgement free group of peers to explore the opportunities and develop innovative ways to overcome the challenges. Together there is strength, support, friendship, admiration and accountability developed in our Forums.”

For more information regarding MacKay CEO Forums, or to contact them if you are a CEO, senior executive or business owner looking to expand your knowledge base and reach out to others in similar positions, visit

Looking at the more educational side of professional services, we reached out to the 1000 Women movement, established in 2010 in Alberta by NorQuest College to enhance opportunities for students. The current campaign aims to raise money and strive to provide opportunities for women looking to earn an education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. In the past, barriers both social and financial prevented women from entering these fields, but with the help of associations like the 1000 Women, women have been entering the STEM fields in record numbers that continue to grow every year.

Catherine Vu, current Chair of the 1000 Women Committee, gave us a rundown about 1000 Women and their goals for the association. “1000 Women aims to make a transformational impact on the number of women working in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in Alberta. We’re in the first year of a three year, $3-million campaign that will create an inclusive, equitable and resilient legion of women ready to demonstrate their promise to their families, their communities and most importantly, themselves.”

Vu also gave us insight into the types of services that 1000 Women offers to those looking to pursue an education and career in a STEM-related field and ultimately boost the number of women in STEM. “Women working in STEM can achieve incredible things, but their potential will not be realized on its own. That’s why we are looking to energize the community of donors to empower hundreds of women to access STEM education and career opportunities. We know that opportunity alone is not enough, so we’re also leveraging partnerships with organizations who share our vision to create and support workforce pathways and develop mentorship opportunities.”

Vu continues. “NorQuest is also working to make sure that these women who join the STEM workforce do not arrive to a workplace culture that is not accepting of their talents, knowledge, and efforts. By incorporating equity, diversity, and inclusion training into industry through NorQuest’s Colbourne Institute for Inclusive Leadership, STEM workplaces across Alberta are becoming more welcoming and inclusive for women.”

1000 Women offers a large amount of value for women looking to get into STEM, and for the long-term growth of STEM industries through the inclusion of women. “NorQuest is well known for advancing the participation of women in the workforce while also extending beyond a traditional post-secondary institution to remove barriers into post-secondary education. By anticipating the emerging needs of both industry and learners, the college continues to provide the training required for success in the economy of today, and the economy of tomorrow. STEM jobs in particular future-proof the work force. We know this is where labour shortages will be in the future, and where labour shortages are being experienced now in fields like Alberta’s booming artificial intelligence and machine learning industries.”

Vu emphasizes, “Giving women opportunities to pursue — and thrive in — STEM careers helps narrow the gender pay gap, promotes healthy cultural and industry change, enhances women’s economic security and independence and ensures a diverse and talented STEM workforce.”

If you are interested in more information about 1000 Women, or to join the movement and make an impact, visit

Growth in any industry cannot be had in isolation. With the help of associations like MacKay CEO Forums assisting industry leaders to learn from each other and better pursue their goals, and 1000 Women assisting women getting into STEM industries, strength and resilience for industries can be found in working together for the betterment of all. If you find your career stagnating, then you should reach out to an appropriate professional service association related to your industry or position and start your journey towards professional growth with like-minded professionals.