Kendra is a City Builder working in urban development in Toronto.
What is your morning routine?
I reserve weekends for friends and family. The busier I get, the more I make sure to be strict about shutting things down and enjoying a change of pace. During the week, I like to go to a morning gym class. It’s a great way to start the day, but also, I have an incredible group of ladies, who also happen to be in urban development (you know who you are) and we always go together. No matter what, I know I get to see my friends, and it’s nice to start the day with a smile. I am also addicted to coffee with cinnamon!
Tell us about your career path
I actually kind of fell into urban planning. It has been a sort of zigzag move toward development. I started working at a small planning firm in Toronto while I was still at McGill University completing my undergrad. I spent each summer working there and life-guarding at the IYC. I actually think it was this combination that developed my love for city planning. I got to see the city from two very different perspectives. One, where I was immersed in the downtown core, running through the streets running various errands, and the other, looking at the growing skyline of the city and becoming fascinated about how ‘all this stuff gets built!’
School was a big thing for me. I wanted to understand not only process, but design as well, so I went to do a Masters in Architecture with a focus on Landscape Architecture and Real Estate at Cornell University. This gave me a unique, but well-rounded breadth of skills that I could take back to the Toronto city building industry.
Another key part has been making connections. While still in my masters in New York, I connected with what is now NXT City organization as well as the Urban Lands Institute and it has been these connections that solidified my place in city building. Both of these organizations continue to be key to my success, and I am a big believer of paying it forward. I try to schedule a chat/meeting with someone I think I could learn from, but also make time for anyone who thinks they could benefit from my connections.
What challenges do you or women face in your industry?
The industry is dominated by men but I find that is not a problem, but rather an advantage. That being said, I was raised in a community that taught women to be very strong and compete to the top. In my personal opinion and experience, I find it more challenging to work with other women because there is still the idea that we are not ‘in it together’ and rather, we must compete against each other. I have some key and amazing female colleagues in my industry and we are so great at supporting each other, but I think we are still the minority (again, you know who you are). As Madeleine Albright so strongly articulated, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” We need to create that strong equivalent ‘boys club’ to help get us to the top!
What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?
Say hi to strangers! You never know who they are and how they may impact your life or how you will impact theirs. If you commit to something, don’t back out – that said, learn to say no. Love your friends and make sure to pick up the phone when they call. Take night classes once a year.
How do you separate work life from your personal life?
I don’t really separate it. I like to call it work-life blend, and I always make sure to be there when my friends and family need me.
What inspires you?
Incredible city builders that have the courage and knowledge to propose and implement development in Toronto that may go against the status quo like Jennifer Keesmaat, Derek Goring, Leona Savoie, Councillor Wong-Tam, Salima Rawji, Michael Emory, Joe Berridge and Adam Vaughan. Also, my sisters and my nephews and their energy inspire me. Lastly, the incredible story of my mom who left the United States working in oil as one of the first female C-suite level employees at Shell Canada, and then moved to Toronto to teach business and work alongside the Jane Jacobs movement in the Annex. She’s always been inspiring to other females.