Unleashing People Power

As an HR and cultural engagement strategist, Montana McTiernan strives to unlock the potential of other people’s lives . . . and her own

Asked when she enjoys having company on the road or at home, Montana McTiernan says: “I think I like it in more physically active circumstances. I’m completely OK going out for a drink or lunch by myself but I find it really motivating to have company for, say, hiking, jogging or spinning class. It’s nice to have someone to just get you there.”

“I’m not a huge fan of small talk,” she adds, “so when meeting someone for the first time or who I’ve known for a long time through work or social network, I prefer laidback conversation and exchanging of experiences or perspectives on things like technology, current events, movies, etc.”

Montana thinks a lot about people, their potential and how to unlock it. After graduating from Queen’s University, in Kingston, in 2012, she moved to Toronto to work in HR and “cultural engagement” – “an innovative form of HR that’s less about policies and procedures and more about using data and technology to optimize people’s performance.”

“I’m a huge proponent of investing in talent and growing talent, because at the end of the day people are the essence of any organization,” she says.

And unveiling their potential is often about striking a work-life balance, as Montana has done herself. She travels whenever she can, recently visiting France, England and Greece in different trips. Her career has been on a steady roll: She moved a few months ago from her position as Manager, Total Rewards at Holt Renfrew to become the HR Category Manager on the procurement team of the Ottawa office of Ciena Corporation, a network strategy and technology company.

And that’s the last piece of her balance puzzle. Ottawa is her hometown and the move brings her close to family again. To honour her mother’s two battles with cancer, Montana has thrown herself into charity work, helping to organize the Ottawa version of the Boobyball last October, raising $70,000 in the drive to “erase breast cancer.”

Although she moved six months ago, she says she visits the city she still loves on a regular basis. For a large part of the seven years she lived in Toronto, she made the St. Lawrence Market district her home, and enjoyed going to the bustling downtown market, hailed by National Geographic as one of the world’s best, on Saturdays.

“If you can, it’s best to get there at seven in the morning, before the crowds,” she says. “I really like going to the Farmer’s Market in the white tent with all the fresh produce. If you get there early enough, there’s a table set up with fresh farm eggs that are amazing.

In winter she likes to travel to someplace “warm, near water, taking a good book.” Montana is equally comfortable travelling alone or with companions. “I think the Wengage app will be very liberating for women when they decide they want that social aspect,” she says. “To be able to pick the people you spend your time with is a wonderful thing.”

Sidebar: Favourite Toronto Haunts

In the heat of summer, Montana likes to meet friends in the rooftop lounge of the Thompson Hotel, with panoramic views of the city skyline and a “great pool and wine list.” In winter, to the combat the cold, she indulges in pampering treatments at the Hammam Spa, on King Street West. As far as restaurants, she recently enjoyed dining at Kost, on the 44th floor of the the Bisha Hotel, with its “California vibe,” and Labora on King St. West, a Spanish tapas restaurant with excellent attention paid to detail, décor and ambiance.


Montana McTiernan, Ottawa, Ontario, HR Category Manager for Ciena