After 23 years at First Credit Union in various roles such as accounting clerk, marketing manager, branch manager, VP marketing and community, COO, acting CEO, and VP people and culture, Sandra McDowell is starting a new chapter.
In 2014, McDowell launched eLeadership Academy, an online business offering leadership/coaching training and professional development on a national and international basis. In the last six years the response has been so positive that as of December 31, 2020, it is now her full time path and requires a virtual team of contractors to help manage.
McDowell was the recipient of a CCUA National Young Leaders Award and a World Council Young Leader Award in 2005. With the prize money earned she obtained advanced certifications in leadership, neuroleadership and human resources. She is the author of Your Mother Was Right: 15 Unexpected Lessons About Leadership and the Brain and now spends her time inspiring others through her programs, speaking engagements, webinars and executive coaching.
“With my passion for doing this work I always knew it would lead me down this path the more there was interest in it; the more demand there was [I knew] I would always follow that,” said McDowell. “Everybody who I’ve worked with has always known that and supported me in that, too. My colleagues, my teams at First Credit Union, we could all see that this work was needed both within First Credit Union and externally.”
McDowell’s eight-week online programs have had more than five hundred participants. Most of the students are from Canada, some from the USA and most recently a woman signed up from Kenya.
“I have a passion to be able to give [this knowledge] back to people in a way that’s digestible and accessible for all and not just a select few,” said McDowell. “It was an amazing organization and opportunity to work at First Credit Union and work on these things.
“The word leadership doesn’t necessarily mean manager or position of authority. Leadership is everybody, meaning we all have leadership in the way that we show up and manage ourselves, the way we work with each other. So when we talk about leadership it is about the leadership of all.”
Over the past year, McDowell refined some of the curriculum to meet people where they were at leading in COVID times.
“I’ve always been virtual in terms of where I live here in Powell River; I do like to travel for speaking but I prefer to be home,” she said. “I feel Powell River is the best place in the world to live. I prefer to be home with my family in this beautiful place, so for me, figuring out how to do what I love online started back in 2014.
“When 2020 happened and the whole world sort of looked online I didn’t need to pivot because I was already there, but I definitely saw the increase in demand.”
Through her studies and work McDowell said she has learned that leadership also applies to parenting and all relationships.
“When it comes to emotional regulation and how you show up and understand how our moods impact others, what we say and how we say it, it’s all common sense stuff and then looking at the brain and really weighing in and understanding what fear does to the brain, what change does to the brain, what stress does to the brain,” she added. “These things transcend the workplace; that’s why it’s applicable to all.”
McDowell said she is looking forward to the career shift and having more personal balance as this becomes her entire focus. Her mission is to help people become human-centric leaders and the vision for the future is to have leadership development opportunities accessible to all.