Colleen Phillips-Davis

Name: Colleen Phillips-Davis

Education: Neuroscience, Psychology, Human Resource Management

Profession: Career Education

Years of Experience: 23 years

When you were a child, did you envision becoming what you are now?

I have always had a passion for education, curiosity about the world at large and how we interact with each other. Why do we do what we do? What makes us laugh, smile, cry, be angry? I had a fascination of human behaviour and physiology and spent hours pouring over various books. I was a voracious reader – my gym bag was filled with books. The Toronto Public Library was one of my favourite places. I also loved math. My favourite toy as a child was an abacus – I loved counting, multiplying, adding, dividing – there is a logical beauty to numbers.

Can you please tell us about your journey? When did you first think to yourself, “I made it”?

Taking the road less travelled – I like variety and wanted to take a program that combined physiology, psychology, sociology and economics. I chose Neuroscience which combines all these areas – the function and dysfunction of the human mind and how it can impact all aspect of your life. During my studies at U of T, I was part of the work-study program. I applied to be a research assistant and employment relations assistant. However, in one of those pivotal moments in your life, I decided to come out of my comfort zone which was science and labs and opted to take the employment relations assistant role. I was shy and truly believed that this job would present the opportunity to meet with people from different walks of life – students, staff, employers. An opportunity to grow, learn, while assisting students and employers to meet their career and hiring needs, respectively. That decision changed the course of my life – it allowed me to combine my interest in human behaviour and my desire to help others with that lifelong seeking of knowledge in the world of academia.

Did you face any challenges on your journey to get where you are? Do you currently face any challenges?

Creating opportunities for our Black students. Letting students know that there are so many careers paths that they can pursue beyond becoming a doctor, lawyer or accountant. They can be an astronaut, psychologist, bioinformatician, technical writer, botanist, professor, genetic counsellor, data scientist, audiologist, brand manager, producer, interpreter, and more. Our young people are so intelligent, but due to a lack of support and structural and institutional barriers, their abilities to achieve their fullest potential are inhibited. I want them to believe in who they are currently, to envision what they can be in the future and subsequently work toward that vision to “conceive, believe, achieve”.

What skills do you believe a person needs to succeed in your profession?

Empathy, determination, resilience, confidence, knowledge of different sectors ranging from finance to health care, ability to build strong relationships, adaptability and the ability to embrace change.

What advice would you give to others who aspire to be where you are?

It is okay to take the road less travelled, network and meet with and talk to others in the field. Don’t be afraid to stand out, be authentic, let your passion shine through, conceive your goals, and believe you can achieve them. Learn from your mistakes, reflect and come back stronger. Embrace learning in all its forms.

Can you please share one goal you achieved that you are extremely proud of?

Working with the Canadian Forces to help them set up a surgical field unit as part of their strategy to engage and recruit doctors and engineers.