Learning Resilience

Toronto lawyer Alix Herber shares her insights on career success and nourishing the soul

At age 17, Alix Herber moved from South Africa to Canada, a life change that she credits to developing resilience, a quality that she prizes. Navigating a new country, combined with her parents’ emphasis on appreciating how hard it is for people who don’t have basic rights, helped her build resilience, she says. “I’m a big fan of resilience and perseverance; that’s half the battle to being successful. I think having a good work ethic creates an opportunity to develop resilience that you can work through during those tough times. And you need to be proud of your work. If you’re just doing a half-arsed job you’re not going to get anywhere very quickly.”

That approach has stood in her in good stead in her career as a labour, employment and human rights lawyer and partner at a large global law firm— so has relationship-building. “I have really good relationships with my clients, and that’s a big motivator for me. I’m interested in how people live their lives so I’m always chatting to people. That’s usually how I connect with them and get to know them over time,” says Alix. “I want them to feel like I’m their strategic partner helping them perform their duties well and making their lives easier.”

Outside of life in her 20th floor office, Alix seeks fresh air and natural surroundings in her neighbourhood in Toronto’s east end, like biking and walking on the Leslie Street Spit (a long stretch of land that juts out into Lake Ontario) or visiting Riverdale Park to see the animals at the historic working farm or going sledding with her son. Not surprisingly, she chooses natural spots for vacations too—recent trips include Iceland (“I love the starkness of the environment. It was so beautiful and nourished the soul”) and back to South Africa and Botswana to go to a game reserve with her extended family (“We saw cheetahs, guinea fowl, giraffes, lots of impala, a pride of lions. It was amazing.”)

Whether she’s in the office or out, Alix lives by a few different maxims. “I say to a lot of my associates that if you’re developing your career, you only have one reputation and it’s up to you to create the reputation you want to live with. Just be careful with it because you don’t get a chance to repair it very often.” Throughout her career she has also learned the value of capability. “I think as you mature you learn there’s no point stressing about things you can’t control, and that you’re capable of solving problems. Trust your own capabilities and you’ll figure out solutions, even if you don’t initially think of them.” And, Alix operates under the mantra of “Be kind.” “You don’t know what’s going on in everyone’s lives, and all you can control is your own actions,” she says. “Just be kind to people.”

Alix Herber, Toronto, Labour, employment and human rights lawyer and partner, Fasken