Even as I start to write this I’m chuckling to myself because I know I’m about to get in trouble. I’m ok with that, because the means justifies the end. When I first moved back to the region I now live, one of the first woman I met was next to me on a treadmill. What was striking about the encounter was that we were both women, in technology, the same age, and blonde. Until that moment, I had never had a person that understood the complexities of being all those things together.
We also discovered that we were both hugely passionate about where we lived and immediately starting dragging one another into volunteer projects. Then in 2010, I accepted a position that required us to work closely together. The result? I only admired her more.
She’s got a growing list of awards (Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award winner anyone?) and she was voted teacher of the year for the courses she taught when she wasn’t busily coordinating community partners and helping our region be named one of the Top 7 Most Intelligent Communities. In 2011, when my community got named because of her I immediately saw my phone ring, then my blackberry buzz, then an email pop-up and I knew that I was about to kiss my personal life good-bye for a period of time. I picked up the phone to hear her voice filled with energy “I’m going to need you on this.” Followed by the biggest compliment I’ve received to date “because I need another me.”
I actually don’t remember saying yes, but I’m sure I must have because before I hung up the phone I had three emails, reports to review, and a 7 am breakfast meeting scheduled for the next day. The relentless work would cause me to cancel my birthday and her to cancel an anniversary. Work life balance? Not this time but we were on a mission. Welcome to the world of glass cracking with Ms. Verner.
Recently, she headed up the road to Toronto Ontario. Not surprisingly I got the call that after being there for less than a year the City of Toronto had now made it on to the short list for intelligent communities. I joked with her (half seriously) that perhaps her arrival had instantly made the city smarter and that was the secret sauce. She asked about the chances of me taking some time off from my own community work to go up the road and work on this with her – our laughter filled the lines. “Not this time.” I replied. “This time I’m celebrating my birthday.”
So what makes Ms. Verner so successful at helping communities find their “smart spot”? The fact is that she has the unique ability to dive into a community’s fabric and uncover the stories that most overlook. It also helps that understanding how technology and human behaviour intersect happens to be a passion that makes her see connections that others do not.
Her commitment to technology for the betterment of positive life outcomes in communities is inspiring. In her current role as the Director of Intelligent Communities for Waterfront Toronto she is responsible for building out one of the world’s preeminent intelligent communities. We spend most of our conversations sharing technology strategies being used to make differences in developing nations, bantering between my Star Trek loyalty versus her dark force of Star Wars, and discussing her latest foray into intelligent communities. We also strategize on ways to get more women on to tech panels and bemoan the fact that despite all our advances as society we still find ourselves as the lone woman in a sea of men at our different tech meetings.
That said, her drive and passion makes her a force to be reckoned with. She continues to break down barriers and pave ways for our communities and it’s for this reason that Ms. Verner is definitely one of my favourite Glass Crackers!