Where The Lightning Struck: Pamela Devonshire Builds Business and Community Connection
“My passion, my love, is to reconnect with my community and help them,” shares Pamela Devonshire. She grew up in Scarborough, Ontario and now lives in Toronto. With British Scottish on my father's side and Mohawk on her mother's side, when she reconnected with her Mohawk roots, she was welcomed by her community with open arms.
In high school, she wasn’t a strong student and she was ready to move away from her hometown. She struggled with math and to find motivation, but did well in English. She loved reading, worked in retail and was saving up to go to George Brown College. Considering the options they had there including marketing, sales, computers, and a few other things, she opted to pursue sales.
“You really have to find your passion and find your path.”
Because she was paying for her schooling, she really wanted to get her money’s worth and excelled in her studies, even as one of the few girls in the business program. It was hard, but she was good at managing her time to juggle part-time work and school. She made lifelong friends who made a difference in her career. “It's really important to stay in touch with people and connect with them, because you can help them, they can help you,” she offers. What she learned, she uses in her work doing business development for a Crown Corporation.
“Go where your heart is; don't let people limit you. Do your research, do your homework.”
Someone she went to school with got a good job selling transportation and he took her out to shadow him at work. She felt it was something she could do and when an opening came up, she applied and got in. Devonshire was confident she could get out there and build relationships, business and sales. Working for salary and commission, she was paid well working in sales.
With a love of reading and putting together a plan, she’s paid to develop ideas for her employer. She finds her work fun and challenging and finds confidence in being an “idea woman”. That confidence grew with knowledge, because looking back she wasn’t all that confident when she was younger. Devonshire makes the most of over three decades of experience and puts her research skills to work, finding information, leveraging contacts and reaching out to people.
Even though she has a big network, she doesn’t limit herself to her existing circle, asking friends to make introductions to keep expanding her connections. She likes to pick up the phone or meet face to face to make a personal connection. Devonshire believes that what goes around comes around, she always tries to help people, even if it means doing things after work when she’s busy.
On her career journey, the biggest challenge she had to overcome was trusting herself and not accepting the negativity of family members who were discouraging but well-intentioned. Instead, she was true to herself and stayed on her path. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a book she recommends that helped her out to shut down naysayers.
If she could give a message to her younger self it would be, “Trust your gut. Trust your instincts. Some people are amazing and they really have your best interests at heart, stay in touch with them and keep that friendship going.” In contrast, she also thinks when people show you who they are, you should believe them and move on.
To maintain her mental health in a stressful and demanding job, she tries to maintain a balance with her family and partner. She writes a daily gratitude list, drawing from what she learned in Al Anon, a group she believes has really saved her life. Devonshire encourages others to check it out if they need support.
Her inspiration comes from her community and her family. She discovered her Indigenous ancestry over 20 years ago because her grandmother hid her identity for her protection. Her grandma moved away to further distance herself and didn’t tell the truth until her husband passed away. When she found out where she was really from, she started making connections in community and finding long lost family members.
As an avid reader, she read the book "From Where I Stand" by Jody Wilson-Raybould and was introduced to her concept of being an “in-betweener”. She decided she wanted to help her community and stay in touch. She wrote her own book called Where The Lightning Has Struck about her ancestors and a friend illustrated the book for her, another friend laid it out and another friend printed it for her. The proceeds from the book are donated towards language instruction in her community, with over $10,000 of donations so far.
Her advice to young people planning to leave their home community is, “Stay connected… Do what you can to help. If everybody helps a little bit, it goes a long way.” She encourages young people to think about what they can do to help their community thrive and do that.
Her passion, her love, is to reconnect with her community and help them, because they received her with open arms. Thriving in a male-dominated industry, she learned to follow her heart, and lead with it in connecting with others. Pamela Devonshire built a career from relationships and networking and created a life of cultural connection the same way.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.