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Speaker Biographies

RDC is pleased to welcome distinguished speakers who will provide a breadth of their experiences to students attending Backpacks to Briefcases. 

Adam & Andy Dawson
Adam started his post-secondary journey at Red Deer College and obtained his Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Alberta with a Major in Strategic Management & Organization and a Minor in Management Information Systems. Combining his education and passions together, Adam discovered his niche in the visual arts and digital marketing space by founding Phlatout Media and Are You Social in 2015. Never one to sit still, he continues to develop and expand his skills in visual media and digital marketing by combining his passions for vehicles, motorcycles, snowmobiles, market research, entrepreneurship, design, video editing, and everything in between. He is also an avid builder of all things mechanical and enjoys working on and driving custom motorcycles and vehicles in his spare time. 

Andy also started her education at Red Deer College and graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Arts, honours degree in Social & Cultural Anthropology. She attended field schools in China and West Africa that fueled her desire for travel and visual & digital ethnographic research. Her photography and videography work takes her to Europe and the Caribbean capturing Heavy Metal festivals, and North America capturing motorcycle tours and rallies. In her spare time, Andy volunteers her ethnographic research skills to a variety of digital forums with members reaching over 35,000.

Lise Stransky 

Lise Stransky is a Certified Career Development Practitioner (CCDP) and the founder of Careers That Work for You, where she assists her clients with all things career.  She graduated from the University of Guelph with a BA in English. If she had a dollar for every time her father asked her, “What are you going to do with a degree in English?”, she would be a millionaire.  When she graduated, she waited for job offers to come rolling in. But her transition from backpack to briefcase did not quite work that way. And really, she had no idea what kind of work she would enjoy.

Since she graduated from university, she has found and enjoyed work as a brake pad specialist, Christmas Elf, sandwich artist, university recruiter, travel writer and career advisor. She has worked as a career advisor for over 15 years and has also completed a graduate certificate in career development. She could talk about careers and job search for hours – a sign that she really enjoys what she does.

Before she started her own business and became a self employed ‘portfolio careerist’, Lise was employed by the University of Calgary Career Services, the Certified General Accountants (now CPA Alberta), and the Calgary Board of Education and the University of Guelph. Now, she divides her time amongst private clients; contracts with Olds College, the Government of Alberta and the University of Calgary Continuing Education program; and in her spare time, she bakes cookies, is active on LinkedIn, reads fiction, rides her bike on the backroads of Alberta and chases after her two small boys.             

Phil Bota   

Summiting Mount Everest was a life-changing experience for Red Deer climber Phil Bota. In 2011, at the age of 22, Bota made his way up the second tallest mountain in the world. During his climb, Bota gained humility, confidence and a certain power to inspire others from his experience.  

Ryan Townend

Business and entrepreneurialism has always been a driving force behind Ryan.  Growing up in small town in Saskatchewan, he refined his business acumen at the University of Saskatchewan.  Ryan applied his marketing talents in a not-for-profit setting until he could no longer ignore the entrepreneur within, and relocated to Calgary and co-founded William Joseph Communications. His bold ambition was to create an agency that wielded smart strategy as the foundation for innovative and on-the-mark creative. From humble beginnings, the agency has grown to house a diverse team of industry experts, with Ryan providing leadership that is guided by his unending passion for forming enduring client relationships. When he’s not travelling between his various offices visiting clients, you can usually find him hanging out with his dogs (fur-kids) or ripping around on his motorcycle. 

Tammy Cunnington

It was 36 years ago that Tammy was injured when a plane crashed at the Ponoka airshow. From near death at 6 years old to a Paralympian at 40, Tammy brings a message of perseverance, resilience and encouragement in her public speaking engagements. She is a role model to the next generation of athletes and to anyone with a goal that appears unreachable at times. She overcomes obstacles every day and has the drive and dedication to keep fighting.

In Tammy’s short but sensational para-swimming career she has represented Canada at the 2015 World Championships, 2015 Para Pan Am Games (winning 3 medals), 2016 Paralympics in Rio, 2017 World Championships, and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships (winning 2 medals). She has earned four Canadian records, 1 world record and been a member of Team Canada for four years.  Now, she has her sights set on Tokyo’s 2020 Paralympics! 

Tammy is a strong advocate for health, fitness and sport and volunteers to encourage others in this area by being an ambassador for Fast and Female, The Rick Hansen Foundation and working with the 2019 Canada Games.  She also believes in giving back and supporting her community and encouranges others to do the same by volunteering with Canadian Blood Services and the Ronald McDonald House.  Tammy’s motto is Passion=Victory and she applies this to all areas of her life and works to instill it in those around her.