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Dawolu Saul | Canada | Your Own Spin

Executive Director, PM Products and Visual Communications – Privy Council Office | Ottawa

My name is Dawolu, also known as Olu. I have over fifteen years of communication experience within the Federal Public Service, combined with over ten years of film, television and radio broadcast production experience. Originally, from Guyana, South America, I immigrated to Canada with my family at the age of seven and after a childhood that consisted of what felt like a move every few years, now call Ottawa home. I pride myself on being a charismatic leader, who puts organizational priorities, the wellbeing of staff, and providing a clear vision and direction at the top of my priority list. A new mentee asked recently “what was my path to success”? In response, I had to pose a question of my own; “what exactly defines me as being successful”? When asked about my journey, it is difficult to know where to start. Absolutely, I can start with my first professional employment or perhaps my first job in the federal public service, but in truth, I think I have come further in the past few years than in the earlier years of my professional career.

What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?

I think for the longest time, I struggled more with internal hurdles rather that external ones. My parents raised my siblings and me with the mind-set that we had to work twice as hard to get half as far. Our “peers” who by virtue of being born in Canada and looking like the majority were starting life from the pole position. Any accomplishment made would only be if we were able to demonstrate without any doubt that we had merited it. Of course, I knew that systemic barriers existed; designed within the system to disenfranchise me, however, my biggest hurdle was to self-doubt. I am sure you know what I mean; that nagging voice whispering that you really are not good enough, you do not really belong at this table, or, eventually your incompetence will show and the gig will be up. I think, I only recently snapped out of this mindset with the realization that I was making positive impacts within the organizations I was a part of, and in the lives of employees, and colleagues.

What books are you currently reading?

I am currently reading, “Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading” by Marty Linsky and Ronald Heifetz. Named as one of 100 Leadership & Success Books to Read in a Lifetime by Amazon Editors, this gem was a gift from a former boss for whom I have great respect.

Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your pursuits?

Honestly no. (Well maybe my decision to ride a motorcycle) I feel blessed in this respect. When I think of my family, and those I truly call friend, I have a solid support network. Don’t get me wrong, I have made my mistakes and done stupid things, but they have been there to tell me that what I did was stupid, and they have my back, and are there to help pick me up, and keep me moving forward.

What would you say was the single most influential factor in your success?

Frankly my faith! I depend on my Saviour to direct my path. I can be stubborn and try to do things my own way, but the Lord has this awesome way of reminding you who is really in charge. While the jury is still out on the definition of success, I constantly advocate to those who aspire or find themselves in leadership positions to be sincere and authentic. Not only with those they are privileged and responsible for leading, but to themselves also. Make this authenticity part of your personal brand and it will serve you well.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started?

Faking it until you make it, will only take you so far, (and to be honest you will not make it by faking it). Be yourself, give it your all, and never give up. You will reap what you sow.

What advice would you give to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?

Use the experience of others as a guide, but don’t ever be afraid to put your own spin on things. Always define the objective before you begin any endeavour. Ask as many questions as you need to understand an issue or perspective. Personal branding is important, so figure out who you are, and what you stand for as soon as you are able.


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