Faces of Entrepreneurship FT. Sophia Leong

Sophia Leong, Executive Advisor of Development and International Relations at uOttawa

Sophia Leong embodies an entrepreneurial spirit and has passion for innovation. She emerged from two technology start-ups and remains advisory board member of a few start-ups. She was a recipient of numerous awards for outstanding contribution during her time at Nortel Networks and Nortel Technology. Sophia closed off a six-year term as a member of the Council of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and currently is an independent board member of Royal College International.

Sophia first started at the University of Ottawa as the Executive Director of uOttawa’s Executive MBA program, where she successfully led the program to achieve two consecutive #1 Global Positions, ranked by CEO Magazine. She is now the Executive Advisor of Development & International Relations.

Sophia enjoys mentoring others and sharing advice to help young entrepreneurs. She is a frequent speaker on innovation and leadership at the local, national and even international level.

What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

Entrepreneurship is about solving problems with easy to implement solutions that matters to a critical mass that would pay/benefit. It must be anchored by courage, persistence, resilience, self-awareness, and generosity from ones that care. If I must distill it, here are the three main points and it would be:

  • setting in motion what I think to be true and what I believe is needed by a targeted group of people/organizations that could benefit/pay for the product and/or services.
  • having the courage to chase a future state, believing it to be true even with imperfect information, and in the process attract, work and leverage teams of smarter people to help bring the ideas to reality.
  • having a ‘no fail’ attitude and having a core team that shares the same value and drive, as well the awareness to pivot since entrepreneurship involves many moving parts that are constantly in motion.

How are you entrepreneurial?

I am comfortable with change and believe in a well-lived life that embraces the risk of not having a ‘good career’. My drive is anchored by purpose, community contribution and wealth creation. I am confident in what I bring to the table as well as my shortcomings. I am honest enough to understand the power of meaningful collaborations, relationships and partnerships that embrace diversity and value. Conformity for the sake of conformity does not work because it is an innovation killer. New ideas could only flourish when borders/structures are pushed, tested and applied legally without the threat of penalties. So, I work with a lens of possibility with teams of smarter individuals that are united to do good work, as well as a belief that wealth would flow when the ideas/solutions positively impact the targeted group of people/organizations that could benefit/pay.

How does an entrepreneurial mindset contribute to your life?

The comfort of embracing change is a big plus as well as having a strong home team. The joy of celebrating ‘small or big’ wins is the process of building resiliency for days that are challenging. The mindset also offers flexibility and clarity with a full respect to time, in both personal and professional context. The ability to zero-in on problems and to look for solutions that would positively impact others have added such tremendous value to my life. Throughout my career, I’d worked with amazingly talented individuals, with a few that were challenging in nature. We continue to be in a strong circle of friends. I’d also worked with self-serving individuals with egos that relied on hierarchy and process, who saw new ideas/approach as threats. I find it very easy to walk away since they do not deserve the time. What the mindset continues to teach me is to listen, learn, refine, do and grow with urgency, without losing my sense of humour or the ability to be grateful.

*This feature was published as a part of the Faces of Entrepreneurship Campaign, 2021–22.

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