Girl on Fire
A storied career journey
Post-graduation, armed with formidable training and an impressive demo tape, Alicia sought to secure a reporting job. She quickly learned that it was a difficult undertaking. “The market in Canada is so small. So entry-level jobs for someone like myself coming straight out of school, trying to get on air, is almost unheard of.” Setting her sights on the U.S., she got a common response: “There was no business case to bring me over because they would have to sponsor me for a visa.”
Alicia eventually got a reporting job with a cable network station in Hanover, Ontario, a year-long stint she describes as “a tough experience.” She elaborates: “It was a farming community of 9,000 people and I was literally the only Black person there.” Alicia goes on to share, with both humour and wryness, that on the weekend she relocated to Hanover, she went to a grocery store where she welcomed the sight of fellow Black people browsing the aisles – only to realize that they were her own family members who had accompanied her on her move.
Describing her experience with the job itself, Alicia recounts, “When I would show up to cover stories, sometimes, depending on what the topic was, people would think I was the entertainment. They would be so surprised when I would say, ‘I'm the reporter from Channel 6 news.’”
Alicia found herself making the two-hour drive to her hometown, Markham, every weekend “just to feel at home again, to be around people where it felt comfortable. Hanover never felt like home – the community nor the newsroom.”
After a year, Alicia decided that although she valued the practical experience she was gaining on the job, it wasn’t enough for her to continue living in Hanover. And for her to achieve her other life aspirations, she realized she would have to pursue a different path.
Alicia moved back to her hometown and took an Account Manager role at American Express, staying with the company for a few years until she longed to work in a field more aligned with her degree. In the years that followed, Alicia carved her career path, with her natural inquisitiveness, desire to build community, and passion for storytelling – the exact attributes that had driven her to pursue journalism – fueling her journey. She worked at FleishmanHillard as an Associate Consultant, at Six Degrees Medical Consulting as a Project Manager, and at KPMG, where she was most recently Director, National Tax Marketing; she was also a member of the firm’s Black Professional Network and Women's Interchange Network.
The importance of strong mentorship and leadership
Today, Alicia is Colliers’ Director of Global Content. Alongside her accomplishments in the realms of marketing, communications, and program design, Alicia is an effective leader: She not only makes team members feel seen – she makes sure they have opportunities to “show up” and speak up. She gives grace. She ensures people have time and space to speak their minds. She gives credit where credit is due.
Essentially, she leads the way she wants to be led.
Acknowledging the role mentors and allies have played in her life and career, Alicia intentionally gives back, providing the same inspiration and opportunities her mentors had given her, to others. She says, “I am where I am today because of great mentors and colleagues who opened doors for me and allowed me to sit at certain tables – which doesn't always happen.”
Alicia names a reporter at WSB-TV in Atlanta who made her feel seen and recognized her potential, crediting him as part of the reason she was “driving and pushing so hard for a career path in news.” She talks fondly of her colleague from Six Degrees who interviewed her for an Event Coordinator position – and didn’t give her the job – saying she would be more suited for a Project Manager role, which was not available at the time. “I just thought that was a nice way of letting me down. About a month later, she reached out and we proceeded through the interview process, and I was hired.” Alicia also gives credit to the HR personnel at FleishmanHillard who took a chance on her, hiring her as a PR intern even though she had been removed from the news industry for several years.
Using her voice to rise above obstacles and advocate for positive change
While change and progress have been made in the business world and the very industries in which Alicia has worked, from the news to the professional services sector, certain realities remain: Alicia often still finds herself being the only Black professional in a room or on a call, and she experiences microaggressions based on others’ pre-conceived notions and lack of understanding.
And it makes an impact: “I second-guess myself. I'm a very confident person, but I'll be honest and transparent. I think because I'm many times one of few, I can doubt myself. ‘Should I broach that idea? How will it land?’ It’s challenging at times, and it's not the place anybody wants to be.”
Alicia says that change is long overdue, and needed. “This shouldn't be the reality in 2023. I don't think it should be the reality ever, but it’s disappointing that this is where we are today.”
While Alicia has always been the type of person with something to say, her voice was made louder, and her advocacy for change stronger, by the tragic death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “I think that was a defining moment for most Black people, but certainly one for me,” she reflects. “While I already had a voice, I found my voice even more through that moment. People actually reached out to ask me how I was, and they wanted to know how I felt, in an important way, in such a different way.”
Making D&I part of an organization’s DNA
Asked what needs to happen to create and foster diverse and inclusive business environments and make concrete and lasting change, Alicia addresses embedding Diversity & Inclusion in an organization’s DNA, in recruitment, and in leadership: “Diversity and inclusion must be at the table-stakes level, a baseline expectation that all employees must be operating from – versus being a check mark. It can’t just come from the grassroots level; the tone should start at the top, coming through the entire funnel.”
She continues, “There has to be intentionality around hiring practices. Organizations should be setting more ambitious goals with representation. We need to have open and inclusive leaders. These challenges are systemic.”
Individuals and allies can help fuel this change too. “A big factor is education; allies need to take responsibility around educating themselves and not put the onus on underrepresented groups to do that,” says Alicia. “Listening is also critical. Allies should do less talking and more listening.”
A strong, undeniable – and necessary – voice
At this stage in her life and career, Alicia imparts the following advice to those at the start of their journey: “I’m going to share a quote I had read recently: ‘Your network is your net worth.’ Find a way to create community at work. Lean on people you know. Build connectivity and relationships to drive success – that has been the anchor to my success. Be willing to ask for help. Don't be afraid of failing; so many lessons come out of failure. And of course, find your voice. Have a point of view – and say it.”
Indeed, Alicia Gordon has a lot to say. “Storytelling is my superpower,” she says with a smile. Amidst her triumphs and obstacles, the hills and valleys she has traversed in both her personal and professional lives, she has chosen to express herself and what she believes in – even when it has been difficult. The light – the fire – in her has never dimmed, nor will it ever. Whether she’s in front of a camera, behind a news desk, or at the front of a boardroom, Alicia will always have an important perspective to share, a story to tell – whether it’s her own, or that of others yet to find their voice.