MRU graduate returns to receive award
On Sept. 20, I, along with other students, faculty and staff, got the honour of hearing Colleen Abdoulah speak about her time at Mount Royal and her life journeys that have made her a successful business woman and inspiring role model.
Abdoulah is the CEO of a major cable company called Wide Open West (WOW) and the only female CEO to lead a top five-cable company. She was in town to receive a Lifetime Distinguished Achievement Award at MRU’s annual Legacy Awards.
She is an inspirational speaker and storyteller who keeps you hanging on to her every word. Instead of the traditional dry speech followed by questions from the audience, Abdoulah had us howling in our chairs as she told us her adventures from growing up in small town Saskatchewan to how she has become an accomplished business woman.
She explained how having a passion ignites your road to success, even if you have to try out a few different projects along the way to find it.
“You might not find your passion right away, but you will find it eventually,” she said.
Abdoulah channels her passion into both her career and charitable causes that are close to her heart. Working for her family’s restaurant, Abdoulah said she learned how to work hard from a young age.
Abdoulah was then promoted to the project manager for the grand opening of Calaway Park after telling the CEO of the company how she would run the campaign in a board meeting in front of the whole company.
“I guess I struggle with boundaries,” she joked while telling the story, “I’ve since seen a therapist.”
The company’s manager gave her the job on the spot despite her young age and lack of experience due to her passion and drive for the theme park.
Abdoulah also channels her passion into helping others whenever she can, donating thirty per cent of her own income annually to charity. Helping others who are less fortunate is a value she said her family modeled for her and one she holds on to today.
At a relatively young age, Abdoulah moved to the states to pursue her career path. Although she has since resided in the states, adopting a daughter who she has raised there, she still considers herself a Canadian at heart.
“It is part of me, my soul,” Abdoulah said. “I love the Canadian people, my family history and the memories, the beauty of the country, the pace and size of the population. I try to get back at least once a year.”
When asked what advice she would give to Mount Royal students, she replied that students should take any opportunity you can get in the workforce, and to have faith in yourself in the process.
“It is all about enjoying the moment you are in; being good to others no matter what, because life is short and things can be circular,” she said.
“What you give comes back to you. I believe that. I have learned we are not what we do – we are much more than that. We cannot lose ourselves in our work.”
Emily Nachtigall is a second-year public relations student at Mount Royal University.