Photography by Harriet MacSween.
Anna Baird, PwC alumnus from 2008 to 2010, joined us on the phone to talk startups, gender equity and her time at PwC Canada.
Anna Baird knows a thing or two about startups. In her spare time, she offers advisory services to the community through her LinkedIn long-form posts on the subject. But that doesn’t stop her from partaking in some of her favourite startup products—namely Blue Marmalade London, whose claim to fame is luxury nightwear at an affordable price.
“They do these incredible pajamas and velvet kimonos and things,” she says excitedly. “Helen White, who started the company, is just so creative and I really like talking to her and getting to know her products and what she produces is just brilliant. In an ideal world, that would be my life.”
Though she’s not a designer, Baird’s life is what some may consider ideal. When she’s not travelling around Europe, Middle East and Africa building relationships as a Global Client Executive out of LinkedIn’s office in London, she can be found delivering talks on the importance of women in the workplace, or working as an advisor to inploi, a UK-based startup network for the hospitality industry. And in between that, she enjoys the best part that comes with living in Europe: the food.
Baird began her PwC career in 2008 as a business analyst in the firm’s consulting practice. She worked closely with former partner and PwC Digital Services leader Philip Grosch’s team to launch the firm’s CRM platform, helping to create a cutting-edge sales system at the firm. Working with the team helped her figure out the customer experience equation, which would be integral to her future career moves.
“PwC was the first time I stepped into what felt like a terrain of incredible minds,” she says. “I was very lucky to be surrounded with people who were open to teaching and who took me under their wing.”
After PwC, Baird moved to CEB (now Gartner) and eventually landed a director of revenue position in London. From there she migrated to the role of Global Relationship Manager at LinkedIn in London, working closely with professional services firms, including PwC offices globally. While learning the ins and outs of firm structure and how to build internal and external client relationships at PwC helped lay a foundation for her trans-Atlantic career, Baird also credits growing up in Canada as helping her adjust to the new environment.
“I was very lucky growing up and in my studies that I was exposed to what I thought were some very global, very intricate views that took into consideration many countries, many places.”
Those same diverse and intricate views are now integral to the diversity, inclusion and belonging component of Baird’s personal brand. When she learned about PwC’s commitment to HeforShe, a solidarity campaign for the advancement of women initiated by UN Women, she had to be involved. Baird’s passion for the campaign helped further shape and propel her personal brand and would later prove to be a strong platform to inspire others both in her professional and personal life.
“I gave myself three key focal points,” she says when talking about her commitment. “One was being able to get sizable amount of my male senior sales leaders to support me, to read about the program and to pledge themselves to be allies and to be sponsors within their team.”
“The second piece,” she continues, “I'm still working on, which is using more language that invokes a different conversation with both my clients and my colleagues. When I'm using language where I talk about an executive team and I say ‘and she might decide to take that decision.’ It's [a matter of] choosing to include the female language instead of regularly using male terms to refer to an individual or group.””
The third piece of her commitment is to take on more speaking engagements, which has taken her as far away as the WNorth Conference, a global gathering for female leaders held recently in British Columbia, Canada, to something more close to home for her at the York House School, her high school alma mater. Baird speeches focus on diversity and inclusion, highlighting personal brand, mentorship, gender parity and championing the value women bring to the workplace. She believes that speaking at WNorth on these topics helped create a sounding board for women to echo their own experiences and work through them together as a group.
“I had these incredibly intelligent, very powerful, very thoughtful people in the room. Women and some men, who had joined for some part of the discussion and what you felt, being on the stage was that people were thinking about their own experiences in relation to what you were sharing.”
Baird certainly has the ability to connect with people from all walks of life, which has made many contact her with stories about the startup world. She’s already published two long-form posts on LinkedIn which she dubs Startup Soup for the Soul. Her insights come from the interactions she’s had with friends and family sharing their stories of the highs, lows and in-betweens of startups. A throwback to the popular ‘90s series Chicken Soup for the Soul, Baird believes that sharing these stories on LinkedIn can bring some positivity to the startup community. That belief, combined with the ability to have big-picture dreams can create a bit of certainty in what can seem like chaos.
“Even though there will be things that challenge you or might set you off course, ultimately if you have that drive and you have that belief that you're doing these activities or you're making those decisions for the right reasons, that's almost all you can really ask for.”
Between all of these elements of her personal and professional life, Baird still finds time to reflect fondly on her time at PwC Canada and still connects with the friends she made while working at the firm. She also considers herself lucky to still be involved with the firm in some ways—whether she’s working with member firms or helping to champion the firm’s commitment to gender and diversity.
“I believe in a lot of what PwC stands for and all the great values and what I obviously learned being there. Now I get to see it almost as an outsider-insider. So I've been there and sort of know some of the internal goodness.”