70 Countries…and Counting

Consultant Sandra Herriot chats about getting to know the world through food, wine, photography—and good shoes

Sandra Herriot is the managing director and founder of a boutique learning and consulting firm, specializing in experiential learning, strategy and coaching, team-building and leadership and content for meetings and events. So it’s not surprising that the experiential learning piece is part of her approach when she’s visiting a city—and in 20 years of business travel in various roles in marketing, facilitation and business development, she’s been to an astonishing 70 countries, from Kazakhstan to Egypt to Ecuador. Her camera often comes along for the ride to help her get the full flavour of an area.

She likes to take photographs in Toronto too, which she considers her “second city” (it’s a reasonable drive east of her home base in Erin, Ontario). “I like to go out and explore areas like the Distillery District or Queen West,” she says. “There’s so much to take in and so many different things happening in the city that you just have to put on some really comfortable shoes and go out,” she says. “Pictures of architecture, interesting places, art exhibits—they all help you capture the feeling of a city.”

While she’s in the quirky, cool Queen West neighbourhood, a favourite spot is the Queen Mother Café, a boho-chic eatery that has been part of the scene for 40 years (and the building is well over 150 years old). “It’s very casual, has a really great little patio and is just so authentic,” says Sandra. “The food is fantastic. I’ve travelled all over the world and their pad thai has to be my absolute favourite.” (The chef draws on her Laotian roots to create the Thai-Laotian menu.) And when she’s heading west of the city (near Sherway Gardens shopping centre in Etobicoke) she makes a point of visiting Via Allegro, which she loves for its traditional Italian risotto, spaghetti Bolognese, and stellar wine cave.

Another way she gets to know her surroundings, whether at work or socializing, is through conversation. “Good conversation is being interested in the person you’re speaking with. I always feel it’s much better to be interested rather than interesting,” she says. “Ask ‘what do you like to do?’ not ‘What do you do for a living?’ Good company and conversation helps open up your mind to new insights and new perspectives, and hopefully brings some laughter and good memories.”

So in the spirit of good conversation, we asked Sandra, “what do you like to do at work?” She’s motivated to do great work by seeing how it impacts the people around her. “I really love to see people learn something new about themselves, or make a change that will impact their well-being. It’s watching light bulbs go off: ‘oh yeah, I get that, if I do something this way, it will impact me that way.’ That’s inspiring.”

Those years of travel have given her an incredible perspective on different cultures, she says. “It really helps you understand that we carry such similar qualities. The hearts of people, no matter where you are, are typically the same.”


Sandra Herriot, Erin, Ontario, Managing Director, Riot Productions