CEO Message

Happy Women’s History Month to all of our Profound Impact ambassadors! March is a time to celebrate nationwide the historical achievements of women around the world.

On March 8, 2021 Profound Impact was honoured to host the first virtual #ChooseToChallenge International Women’s Day event for Waterloo Region in collaboration with Women in Communications and Technology — Waterloo Region and other participating organizations and female leaders. The day was filled with inspiring conversations and meaningful connections  celebrating the trailblazing women that enrich our Waterloo Region community every single day.

Thank you to my team and the group of corporate, academic, non-profit and community leaders from across Waterloo Region who came together virtually and safely this year to recognize and celebrate the profound impact women have made and continue to make within our community. 

This month we are pleased to highlight the impactful journey of Adele Newton. Not only is she an inspiration and mentor to young women, she has also been a valuable contributor as a business development professional at Profound Impact. We wish her continued success in her retirement.

As we step up and accept the challenges presented by COVID-19, the success of the Waterloo Region International Women’s Day virtual event showcased how online virtual events continue to be on the rise and will play an important role in our future due to the uncertainty that lies ahead. Hosting your next virtual event exclusively on the Profound Impact platform ensures a safe and secure platform for not only your organization, but all of your attendees as well! If you’re interested in learning more about the Profound Impact’s digital engagement communities, check out our free self-assessment tool here

Warmest regards, 

Sherry Shannon-Vanstone 

IWD 2021

IWD 2021 Waterloo Region virtual event powered by Profound Impact

Represented in the image above, nearly 400 attendees from four countries participated in the International Women’s Day event hosted on the Profound Impact platform.

Instead of our monthly Profound Connections webinar, this month we hosted the International Women’s Day Waterloo Region virtual event, put on by Women in Communication Technology — Waterloo Region Chapter, exclusively on the Profound Impact platform. Bringing together Waterloo Region community members from all over the tri-cities and townships on our platform allowed for important conversations to happen seamlessly. We hosted nearly 400 registrants and together celebrated the women of our community and the amazing work that they are doing towards ending gender bias and inequality.  

Throughout the all-day event, conversations, affirmations thanking our community through a series of video vignettes, entertainment and musical interludes took place that specifically highlighted women and organizations who have chosen to challenge gender bias and inequity and have helped to create an inclusive world that empowers women and celebrates their achievements.

Speaking remarks were made by incredible women across Waterloo Region involved in various areas of work including science, technology, mentorship, and youth engagement. A few standout remarks include: 

“Everyone can be a mentor to someone else and I think it’s really easy to get caught up in this sort of imposter syndrome of ‘I’m not far enough along in my career to be a mentor or I haven’t got the expertise in this particular area,’ but you do.” 

— Renata Rusiniak, Principal and Founder, Green Horseshoe Solutions

“Take action whether you want to be part of WCT-WR or some other form of mentorship program. Reach out to someone for coffee and push your confidence.” 

— Mansi Baxi, Software Engineer, Manulife

“Some of the best things that make me a strong leader are pieces of my life that I left at home at first.”

— Caitlin Macgregor, Co-Founder & CEO, Plum

“Don’t underestimate yourself. Probe and explore opportunities more before you say no.”

Dr. Deborah MacLatchey, President and Vice-Chancellor, Wilfrid Laurier University

“Take encouragement and run with it.”

Jacqueline Hewson, Vice President and Market Leader, BMO Private Wealth at BMO Wealth Management – Canada

With over six live panel conversations, participants were able to engage in important conversations that revolve around women in our local community. We are grateful for all those who participated and encourage women of all ages to get involved in this empowering and welcoming community. Events like this remind women everywhere how strong we are and the power our voices withhold in unison. 

Adele Newton

Adele Newton

Strategic Partnerships Pioneer and Mentor

The Impact of Making Connections and Fostering Mentorship

As the oldest of five children, including three younger sisters, being a mentor to young women and a leader is something that has always come naturally to Adele Newton. Over the course of her career, she has wanted to provide others with the guidance and support she didn’t always have.

“I had very few female mentors – but those I did have made a big difference to how I looked at progress in my career,” says Adele. “I know I would have been more confident and taken more risks if there had been more women role models for me. So if I can make the road a little easier and more visible to a young woman, that means a lot to me and to her.”

Creating her own way

When Adele started her BMath at the University of Waterloo, she expected to have a fairly straightforward career path as a teacher. She realized teaching was not what she had hoped for. Instead she created her own way, and after working in a series of positions at the university, she found her calling. 

“When I managed the President’s Club program for the University of Waterloo, I learned a lot about the importance of giving back to the university and the difference it makes to the institution. It was when I first understood the potential for connecting industry to the research part of the university and how that could benefit both parties.”

Over the years, Adele has facilitated relationships between industry and academia, which has led to countless research collaborations as well as valuable opportunities for students. Canadian companies, such as Alias Research, Side Effects Software, Bell Canada, and BlackBerry all benefited from connections Adele helped them make with universities around the world.

The value of mentorship

Her talent for creating connections has allowed Adele to pursue her passion for outreach and mentoring others. While working in the computer graphics industry, she became involved with SIGGRAPH, the world’s largest conference in computer graphics. Adele saw an opportunity to create programs to introduce children and teenagers to the field. She recognized the important role women play in mentoring others.

“I have almost always been the only or one of the few women in the room during my career. That’s just the nature of tech – though it is changing. When I suggested we have an outreach program for SIGGRAPH, I knew that most of the mentors would be male – but we had some wonderful women participate. I saw the kids’ eyes light up. These were kids where 10-14 years old from inner city schools in New Orleans. I knew we had sparked ideas and possibilities in them. It was very powerful, and I knew I wanted to keep doing this.”  

In more recent years, Adele co-founded LAUNCH Waterloo – an organization that aims to introduce children to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math through fun recreational programs. She is also a mentor in the Women in Communication and Technology (WCT) Waterloo Region Mentorship Circles, a program that connects women with mentors.

“Mentoring younger women is a joy! I love sharing my experience and being there for them to run their ideas by me and to provide insight that they may not have had otherwise.”  

A career filled with accomplishments

As Adele begins to consider retirement and focus on travel, writing and her love (and exceptional talent) for creating mouthwatering culinary creations, she can look back with pride on her accomplishments. She has influenced countless individuals – men and women alike – through her mentorship and guidance. Many of the research partnerships she facilitated continue thanks to the connections she originally created.

“I look back on my schooling and my career and am proud of the work I did with industry and universities and the lasting effect those programs have had. There are still research collaborations in place that started as a result of some of those programs. I know my work provided motivation and funds for students of all ages (from grade school to grad school) to go to school when they might not otherwise have thought to or been able to.”

Adele has been a valuable contributor to Profound Impact and will continue to work on special projects on occasion. While we are sorry to see her go, we are happy she will be able to indulge in her love of cooking and travel, and wish her all the best in retirement.

CEO Message

This month, I’d like to acknowledge all of the hard work that went into the Profound Impact activities in January 2021. During what always feels to be the longest month of the year, our team at Profound Impact kept ourselves extremely busy planning for an exciting year ahead. 

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the original registrants for our January 23rd webinar and for their understanding and patience with the rescheduling of that webinar.  We were thrilled to host this webinar titled “Realtime Pivot and Connecting the Dots for Multifaceted, Engaging Virtual Events at Scale: A University of Waterloo Faculty of Mathematics Case Study” on February 16th with the largest number of registrants to date. We hope you enjoyed Candace Harrington’s sentiments on how the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo is using their Waterloo Digital Math Community (hosted on the Profound Impact platform) to further engage their stakeholders by strategically pivoting from hosting in-person events to offering meaningful online experiences.

If you have people in your network interested in Profound Insights, please invite them to our March 23rd webinar titled “The Non-Linear Future of Work: Making Connections with Digital Communities”. Registrants will be invited to complete a free self-assessment tool on stakeholder engagement strategy.  Each organization that registers for the March webinar and/or submits the assessment will also be entered into a draw to receive up to four hours of consulting, at no charge, with Barney Ellis-Perry, Profound Impact’s engagement strategist. 

Thank you for your ongoing support. We look forward to seeing you on March 23rd.  Additionally, our team is collaborating with WCT Waterloo Region chapter and  other Waterloo Region organizations including Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Waterloo, Rotary Clubs , BMO, RBC, Durrell Communications, Vidyard, Perimeter Institute and OpenText for a full day program on March 8th to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021. This year’s theme is Choose to challenge. We hope you will join us for this free event.

Warmest regards, 

Sherry Shannon-Vanstone 

Hugh Williams

(A version of this article was originally published on https://cscan-infocan.ca in honour of Professor Williams’ CS-Can|Info-Can Lifetime Achievement Award)

Hugh Williams
Hugh Williams

Cryptography Research Pioneer, Professor and Mentor

As Hugh Williams looks back on his career, he recognizes that there have been many people and conversations that have set and sometimes changed the direction of his career.

“There are a lot of people who influence you in different ways,” says Williams. “You don’t even think of it at the time, but they all make a difference in your life.”

Williams became fascinated with number theory as a teenager and set his sights on pursuing a math degree at nearby McMaster University. When a former math teacher, Mr. Watts, offered to take him on a tour of the University of Waterloo, he realized it was a better fit.

“I got an interview with the great Ralph Stanton. He and I had a lengthy chat. He was impressed enough that he provided me with a scholarship that would pay for my first year,” says Williams. “I liked Waterloo. I liked the newness of the place.”

In 1967, Waterloo converted their math department into a mathematics faculty and created five separate departments, one of which was called Applied Analysis and Computer Science.  Don Cowan suggested that Williams pursue his PhD degree in computer science. This move set his career in motion.

“Computer science interested me because I wanted to understand how you can solve problems that arise in number theory,” says Williams. He completed his PhD under the supervision of Ron Mullin, and by doing so is an academic brother of noted researchers Scott Vanstone, Doug Stinson, Jerry Lawless and Paul Schellenberg. Williams is also the academic grandson of William Tutte, a founder of graph theory and an alumnus of Bletchley Park, Britain’s secret facility set up in World War II and staffed with young mathematicians with the purpose of breaking Nazi codes.  Hugh Williams’ Academic Family Tree, developed for the Profound Impact platform, shows his full academic ancestry.

After completing his PhD, Williams accepted a faculty position at the University of Manitoba where Ralph Stanton was building a new department of Computer Science. His research continued to focus on computational number theory, but things changed again in 1976 with the publication of the Diffie-Hellman paper, New Directions in Cryptography.

“At that time, cryptography was practised as a dark art not as an academic subject,” says Williams. “But grant money was readily available. I was right there when all this stuff started to happen around me. There were things that we discovered – real surprises. Ideas that seemed so very theoretical with no practical applications turned out to have practical applications. It was always amazing.”

In 1980, during a visit to Stanford University, an opportunity to attend a lecture by Martin Hellman led Williams to write his most cited paper by far on public key cryptography.

“At the time, I didn’t think much of it at all,” says Williams. “After the class, I had a chance to talk with Ralph Merkel, one of Hellman’s students, for a few minutes. He told me about a result of Michael Rabin that came out of Harvard. I started thinking about it and prepared the paper. It was all because of a chance conversation.”

In 2001, after 31 years at the University of Manitoba, Williams was invited to join the University of Calgary’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics as the Alberta Informatics Circle of Research Excellence (iCORE) Chair in Algorithmic Number Theory and Cryptography. He was instrumental in establishing one of Canada’s leading research centres in cryptography and information security.

Although he officially retired in 2016, he continues his research and collaborates with students and other researchers. He considers the students he has taught and mentored to be the most important part of his career.

“The students were the most important thing,” he says. “I could teach them and watch their interest flourish. It was kind of like being a parent. My favourite time was when a student would come in with some computer output, plop it down on my desk, and then we would work to figure out what was going on.”

His students, his research, and his many accomplishments are all sources of pride for Williams.

“Naming a particular accomplishment is like trying to choose a favourite child,” says Williams. “They’re from different times and different parts of life. As you get older, one of the pleasures is to have the ability to look back and see the impact.”

CEO Message

Sherry Vanstone

This month I’d like to recognize all of the positive changes and lessons learned from 2020 that will carry over into this year. 

One of the largest adjustments in 2020 was the shift from in-person events to virtual events and to highlight virtual events on the Profound Impact platform this month our webinar series, Profound Insights, is thrilled to host its third episode titled “Realtime Pivot and Connecting the Dots for Multifaceted, Engaging Virtual Events at Scale: A University of Waterloo Faculty of Mathematics Case Study” on January 27th at 12pm EST.  

If you have people in your network interested in Profound Insights, please invite them to this upcoming webinar. Each registrant will be invited to complete a free self-assessment tool on stakeholder engagement strategy.  Each organization that submits the assessment will also be entered into a draw to receive up to four hours of consulting, at no charge, with Barney Ellis-Perry, Profound Impact’s engagement strategist. 

Thank you for your ongoing support. We look forward to a healthy and productive 2021! 

Warmest regards, 

Sherry Shannon-Vanstone

Profound Connections

Impact Stories: Scott Vanstone

The Impact Stories series highlights individuals in our global community who are making, or who have made, a profound impact on inspiring collaborative solutions to the challenges faced by our world today.

Ron Mullin, William Tutte, Scott Vanstone, Alfred Menezes

Scott Vanstone — Pioneer, Visionary and Mentor

When Scott Vanstone first learned about Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) in 1985, he recognized it had the power to change the world. Today, ECC is one of the most powerful types of cryptography securing most of the devices we use every day. Its success is due in large part to Scott’s vision, research and perseverance and to those he mentored and trained during his career as a researcher, professor and entrepreneur.

Scott’s journey from PhD student to world-renowned researcher and company co-founder can be traced back to Bletchley Park, Britain’s secret facility set up in World War II and staffed with young mathematicians to break Nazi codes.

When the Department of Mathematics was founded in 1960 at the newly-established University of Waterloo, its chairman, Ralph Stanton, had the foresight to recruit influential faculty members — including William Tutte, the founder of graph theory and Bletchley Park alum.  In addition to teaching and research, Waterloo offered Tutte the opportunity to mentor graduate students in the emerging field of cryptography.  Ron Mullin was one of those students.

Ron Mullin arrived in Waterloo in 1959 to finish his graduate work and became first-ever UW graduate, receiving an MA in mathematics in 1960.  

Scott Vanstone graduated with his PhD in Mathematics from the University of Waterloo in 1974, working under Ron Mullin’s supervision.  Scott established his career as an assistant professor of Mathematics in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization (C&O) and, during the early part of his career, concentrated on pure mathematics. However, he quickly became intrigued with cryptography and its potential for real-world applications. 

In 1985, he co-founded Certicom Corp with Professors Ron Mullin and Gord Agnew to commercialize a new mathematical method and chip architecture the team had discovered. 

In addition to his work as a researcher and entrepreneur, Scott was also known for his ability to collaborate with others and bring out the best in his students. He had a unique ability to identify talent immediately and worked with his students to help them achieve their Masters or PhDs and encouraged them to push themselves.

Although Scott passed away in 2014, he continues to have an impact on the future of cryptography. 

Alfred Menezes, now a professor in the C&O Department at UW, was one of those students. Scott visited Menezes’ Brampton high school to encourage him to attend the University of Waterloo. Menezes went on to receive his PhD in 1992 and his thesis was published as the first book on ECC. Today, Menezes is recognized as a leading expert in cryptography. 

Michele Mosca, also a professor in the Waterloo C&O Department, is researching the new generation of cryptography that will be needed with the advancement in quantum computing. As Mosca works on advancing quantum computing and building a stronger cyber immune system, he has looked to Scott’s early work in building Certicom’s contribution to ECC as a playbook. 

Spanning more than 80 years, from breaking Nazi codes to building quantum computers, Scott Vanstone’s distinguished academic heritage and ground-breaking legacy are testament to the profound impact of connections and collaborations.

Scott Vanstone’s Academic Ancestry (click images for larger)