School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Finding a good work-life balance

April, 2016
By Natalia Mukhina

Alumna Rebecca Sutherns

Alumna Dr. Rebecca Sutherns

“When I was a student, there were a lot of things I was good at, but which I didn’t necessarily enjoy doing,” says Rebecca Sutherns, Queen’s alumna ’92. “To be good at something and to love it do not always coincide, but if it happens, you are fortunate. In my business, I have found that.”

Sutherns is the founder and principal of Sage Solutions, a consulting company based in Guelph, Ontario which provides customized facilitation, strategic planning, and coaching services. The client list is impressive and very diverse. She also holds a PhD in Rural Studies, with a focus on sustainable models of rural women’s maternity care in Ontario, and a Master’s in Public Administration. She is a devoted member of her community, a lover of travel, and a mother of four. The main question that arises after hearing all this is how on earth does Sutherns contrive to cope with all these tasks?

“I always was passionate about learning new things and juggling multiple projects, which gave me a chance to gain varied experience,” responds Rebecca with smile. Originally from Mississauga, she chose Queen’s to obtain a university degree because of its excellent reputation and high standards of education. An additional advantage of Queen’s was its location, which allowed for independence but also occasional weekends at home. “Family has always been of great value to me.”

Thinking back on her Queen’s years, Rebecca recalls the powerful atmosphere of support and encouragement that helps uncover where students’ real interests and opportunities lie. She considers Queen’s a perfect place for young people, very energetic and fun but also academically rigourous. She speaks warmly of Sociology professor David Lyon, with whom she enjoyed working as a research assistant, as well as other families in the community who mentored her. Rebecca keeps in touch with a lot of Queen’s alumni. One of them is her husband, by the way. He too is an entrepreneur and Professional Engineer. They got married while they were Queen’s students.

With an Honours BA in Sociology and French, Rebecca continued studying as an MPA grad student at Queen's. This program augmented her studies with an understanding of the broader context of public service and policymaking, and certainly helped in the preparation for her future career, first in international development and now consulting. Sutherns asserts that Queen’s contributes a lot to its graduates’ careers: “Everybody who graduates from Queen’s holds much promise for employers. Queen’s graduates have transferable skills that give them flexibility in job markets.”

Alumna Rebecca Sutherns with family

Alumna Dr. Rebecca Sutherns with her family

Sutherns has come to the conclusion that running her own business perfectly suits her personality and busy lifestyle. “Consulting and facilitating appealed to me, because I enjoyed personal interaction and helping solve problems in diverse settings. I definitely love working directly with people more than only behind a desk,” explains Rebecca. She believes that a facilitator is a “guardian of good process”. In theory, any facilitator can work with any group well, if he or she has the professional skills to do so. “I think it is partly true,” comments Rebecca. “However, the more knowledgeable a facilitator is about a specific market, terminology, and context, the better the group’s result.” For Sutherns, that knowledge lies primarily in the community benefit sector, where she works with community collaboratives and senior leaders in health, education and social services.

Sutherns knows how important it is to find an optimal work-life balance. She was finishing her PhD program at the University of Guelph while pregnant with her third child. “And I started studying when my eldest was one-year-old,” smiles Rebecca. “I just can catch onto many disparate things quickly, and it works both in my business and at home.” Rebecca Sutherns’ motto might sound like “Work should fit well into life.” Her professional and personal journey proves that it is achievable.

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