WMNinTECH: Magaly Charbonneau proves that with organization and drive you can have it all

Midway through our conversation with Magaly Charbonneau, she describes an exercise she picked up at the Coaches Training Institute in studying to be an executive coach.

Called ‘The Wheel of Life‘, it is used to help coaches assess and define the gap between where the client is and where they want to be. A circular graph is divided into different sections, including Friends & Family, Marriage/Single Life, Career, Money/Finances, and Health. The client is asked to rank their happiness in each category on a scale of 1 to 10. Once a baseline has been established, the coach works with the client to gradually improve the different sections one point at a time, slowly restructuring the focus and layout for improvement.

It is something Magaly has been completing herself ever since she took the course in her early twenties. To this day she re-examines her Wheel of Life each January. The impressive level of self-awareness she demonstrated as a twenty year old, compounded with the discipline and organization of maintaining the habit ever since go a long way in explaining Magaly’s success in the high tech industry since her first venture, Hostopia in 2001.

“When I graduated university I started in the printing industry and I joined an entrepreneurial group called Young Entrepreneurs Organization (YEO) and this is how I got excited about high tech,” Magaly told MTLinTECH. “While I was in YEO I met two high tech entrepreneurs who were starting a company called Hostopia. They were raising money and became my friends within YEO and I got into the first angel round with the startup. I eventually got out of the printing industry and I invested in Hostopia and I joined as VP Sales. We built that company together for nine years before we were acquired by a Fortune 1000 company in the US called Deluxe Corporation. So it was a very fun ride, I had a lot of fun doing that, and that’s when I totally fell in love with high tech.”

Magaly lived in Toronto for 18 years, where she finished a BA in economics at York University. While still working at Hostopia, she moved back to Montreal and became very active in the startup ecosystem here.

“I got involved with Anges Quebec and started getting a lot of deal flow from that organization. It’s a great group here in Montreal for when you want to get to know entrepreneurs and invest in companies. So I invested in Anomalous Networks [since acquired by Tangoe] and was on the Board of Directors until we successfully sold the company.”

After that, she invested in PasswordBox and became the COO. She helped build the company until it got acquired by Intel in 2014. She also continued her involvement in multiple other local ventures.

“I am an investor in many companies here in Montreal. A few are: Poka, Marmott Énergies, Bus.com, I am a limited partner with iNovia Capital, I serve on the investment committee for iNovia Capital. I’m on the board of directors at AddÉnergie [a startup that builds charging stations for electric cars] and the Caisse approached me to represent their investment.”

It seems as though Magaly was destined to have the sort of high-powered business career she has created for herself. She grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and her father had a family business in the printing industry. She recalls telling friends and family around her when she was young that one day she would run her own business and be a boss. Perhaps the only surprising thing has been that she ended up in high tech, a sector she knew little about [as there was little to know] when she was younger.

“It all started when I was in YEO and I met the Campbell brothers, and I was extremely fascinated with software and e-commerce and where those industries were going. And I realized that what I was doing in my more conventional industry wasn’t going to go as fast and wasn’t going to be as successful as the high tech industry. I actually took a big risk. I sold my house and I put all the money into Hostopia, which was a very risky startup back then, in the hosting industry when websites were just starting. And then I just continued from that moment to love that market. I just thought: ‘It’s the future. It’s where we need to put our money. It’s where we need to work. It’s going to be incredible.'”

But above all, it is her organization, time-management and self-awareness that have proven the foundations of her success.

“What I tell women is you can absolutely do everything that men do, and you can absolutely do everything that you want to do, just not all at the same time. So obviously, when I was pregnant with my daughter, and it was month 9, I wasn’t raising money in Silicon Valley for my startup. You need to time things a little bit. A man can do that. He can have a baby that’s 9 months along and still be working 100 hours a week. But I just find as a woman, I don’t feel I got stopped ever for being a woman, but I needed to time things a little better.”

Her advice to other women: to be more direct in asking for what you want and proclaiming your goals.

“I think the biggest problem is not to be afraid to say what you want, and not to be afraid to ask your boss or your partners where you want to go.

If you work in a large high tech enterprise company and your dream is to become the president of a division, well call the CEO and tell him and ask, ‘How can I get there?’ I think most people are sort of afraid to do that, and women more than men. I think as women we need to express ourselves even louder to get where we want to get.

It’s never been a better time in my opinion to be successful as a woman because men can take paternity leaves now. When I was having kids, first of all technology wasn’t as advanced as it is now, it’s easy to take meetings virtually anywhere now, you can deliver what you’re supposed to deliver. So there’s never been a better time for women to be successful and to realize all their dreams, you just have to time things a little better and not be afraid to ask for the flexibility to do what you need to do. Having said that, I’ve worked my butt off. So while I was on maternity leave, I was still working hard at home every day so that my deals could advance. That’s life. You have to make those decisions as well.”

While her own personal work ethic and determination have been instrumental to her career success, Magaly is also quick to point out the importance of good collaboration and the importance of strong partnerships, both in business and in personal life.

“I think as a career woman, one of the most important things is choosing a partner that is equal to you and that is going to be supportive of you when you want to be really aggressive and driven and succeed. And when you want to work a little less and have more time with your children, it’s important to have an amazing boss and business partners that are going to be supportive of that as well. So there’s a lot of things to manage. And as a woman we have more things to manage than men because we’re the ones making those babies.”

Magaly is living proof that with the right amount of focus, determination, and organization, you really can have it all.

Have you read the rest of the WMNinTECH series?
Caterina Rizzi trailblazes a path for women techies in Montreal – March 29
Angelique Mannella on taking chances and being open to unexpected opportunities – April 5
Photo by Eva Blue


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