Sandra Shimmin

What is a ‘systems leader’? What unique qualities or characteristics make someone a ‘systems thinker’? These are questions that have reverberated in my own mind from the early years of my own career.  What I have discovered during my twenty plus years in Human Resources is this: being a ‘system leader’ and a ‘systems thinker’ is an important aspect of how I work. 

There is power in relationships: within ourselves, with our clients, our colleagues, and even in our communities. Within all of these relationships, at their very root, is innate curiosity. This curiosity drives us to learn more, and helps bring a deeper understanding and new opportunities for personal growth and change.  We grow exponentially when we develop and expand our collaborative networks. It also demonstrates why systems thinkers are able to thrive at every level of an organization, and why systems thinkers are found in every walk of life. I am very thankful in my career to have worked with, learned from, and built lasting relationships with many, including Karen Caine, a thinking partner at Organizations by Design Inc. It is in these special relationships we discover a shared passion for service and for contributing to, and creating, positive change. 

My own curious nature has led me to work with various populations in a number of different capacities. My fondest memory, my most memorable work, is based on what I call a ‘soul love’; a profound connection I developed while working with a women’s cooperative in Central America. In 2016 I moved to Nicaragua where I spent a year supporting sustainable economic development programs for women. Systems thinking played a key role in my success there because I was able to draw on my own personal network, and my close relationships in Canada, to help create a variety of skill development initiatives. This work will always be near and dear to me because it eventually enabled this Nicaraguan women’s cooperative to create marketable products and services focused on expansion and growth in the tourism industry in their communities. 

This work proved to be especially powerful and meaningful. Observing first hand, the impact this work had, and how it fostered relationships that have endured for years, all stems from a systems based approach. My many years of working from this perspective have helped me create positive outcomes and opportunities from women in another country, and in turn, it validated our global connectedness.  

The next chapter of my systems thinking journey is taking shape in two very different streams. First, I have been working with a colleague to develop a certificate program designed to strengthen new leaders. I am excited to facilitate the development of emerging leaders so they can explore their awareness of self, and of others. I find this work very rewarding because it  encourages leaders to embrace their own systems thinking approach as they expand and build on their own leadership capacity. I have also entered a second, very different career, in the beauty industry. In this role I am drawing on my own personal learning so I can focus on making intentional connections, while working to create an abundance mindset in colleagues who may not be accustomed to building and nurturing professional networks. 

I have been met with pleasant surprise and encouragement, and I am excited to see where the next phase of my learning journey will take me. In short, I believe, when we intentionally look for ways to marry relationships with collaboration we grow and change in unique, and unexpected ways. The pathways that develop are immeasurable and very exciting. If you want to read, or learn more about me, please visit me at or I am always happy to collaborate with others and support personal growth and movement.