Moya. Early Life Experiences

posted October 15th, 2010 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

I asked Moya to tell me about the experiences in her early life which she believed had the greatest impact on her work life and career.


Moya said the best experience she had was having the mother she had.  She said: “She’s just the most amazing person. She is almost 80 now and she’s unbelievable. She lives in the little community of Coley’s Point, Newfoundland and a big week for she and my Dad is to go to the Bay Roberts library and read six month-old New York Times and talk to each other about what they’re reading. When I said to them, the news is six months old my dad said, Moya, when you get to be my age you don’t need to know that it happened yesterday, you just need to know that it happened, it’s all history darling.  I really think having the mother I had was the best experience of my early life because she told us we could be anything. She also told us that she wasn’t ever going to help us with our homework and she never did.  She said I teach kids that have learning disabilities; none of my kids have learning disabilities, so get out your books. In those days, it was quite unusual to have a working mother but my mother worked.  We always ate very early and she would clear the table after dinner and say, okay dinner’s over, get out your books and we were just expected to do that and if there was a scholarship on the go she would say well you know I expect one of you to get it, that’s it, that’s all. She would say you’re all going to university, although we probably didn’t have two cents to rub together.  The most our family ever made was $28,000 a year, in the best year we ever had. My father fixed everything going and worked seven days a week. My parents struggled every month to make the two ends meet but as far as they were concerned we were all going to university and when the time came for us to put the applications in and there was money attached to going to university, they just said well you know there’s a scholarship, you’d better get it.” 


Moya said in terms of her earliest experiences one of the things that really paved the way for her was the expectation of performance, no excuses. She says that is the first thing which comes to mind. In her mother’s mind, if her children didn’t have anything wrong with them, they were expected to perform. You were expected to get out your books and study because the expectation of performance was always there. 


Moya says her parents could see that there was this bigger world out there and they wanted their kids to experience it. For them, it started with education which was university but it also involved travel and this perspective had a significant impact on her. She says as much as Newfoundland is a mecca for everybody who was born there, in terms of making the pilgrimage back there at least two or three times a year, her parents never felt that way. Her parents said there is this whole big world out there, go see it. 


Moya says: “I remember when I was about 14 a big deal for my mother was to get out of the house on Sunday afternoon and walk to Edwards Drug Store. She would pick one of us every week to go with her.  I don’t know what she got at Edwards Drug Store, probably nothing; it was just a place to go, a destination. However, when the Vogue magazine came out she always bought it which was a huge frivolity for our family. My mother didn’t dare tell my father that she had spent what was in those days, maybe a $1.50 or so. She would come back and she’d say, now, when everybody’s gone to bed we’re going to look at this magazine.  She loved to sew and she knew every kind of fabric known to mankind and could make patterns on her own and if we had anything to go to we looked good because mum made it for us.  She would look at those dresses and she could tell what they were made of just by looking at the pictures. We would sit side by each and she’d say, now, your job in life is to have a real reason and a real place to go to wear dresses like these because she knew that the people that wore those dresses were at the top of society and had achieved something in the world. I would have to say the earliest influence in my life that really got me thinking beyond my home land, my home place, was my parents.  They were great and my mother in particular was pretty amazing.” 


Moya says when she started working she had some really great mentors on the work front.  She says when she was a very young person her second job in the federal government was in the Department of Labour where a new Deputy was appointed who came from the Department of Finance. Moya says: “He was one of these brilliant people that had written their entire PhD, I swear, on three pages. He was a ‘math guy’ from Yale who had taught at Brown. He was just the most fantastic leader. I was a young person and I certainly was not a mathematician so I wasn’t of his discipline and I happened to be working on this piece of legislation that had been languishing. One of the reasons it was languishing was because the banks would not sign on and it was legislation that would apply to all federally regulated sectors including the banks. This man was brought in to the Department of Labour to get the job done.  The Canada Labour Code had not been changed at that time for about 20 or 25 years and this guy was an economist, with a PhD in economics and a PhD in math and he certainly didn’t know very much about industrial relations or labour law. However, he was a great leader and unbelievably smart. He talked to people about various pieces of this legislation and I had worked on the one section that was really sticking in the craw of the banks and at first he thought the section was malarkey and we’re just going to take this whole section out of the Canada Labour Code and then he realized that it wasn’t malarkey.  You know, this is where the brilliance came in and he stopped to read and think and talk to a lot of people and he realized it wasn’t malarkey.”


She continued: “The work that I had done and I had done it for about two years by the time he arrived, he valued it.  He took me with him to his meetings with the CEO’s of the banks and I was just 26 years old and a relatively new lawyer and didn’t know anything about anything in terms of how the real world worked but it provided me with an education that I could not have gotten from any book because he took me to meetings and introduced me as his colleague.  Here I was, this junior person in the Department of Labour and we were talking to Bill Mulholland and he said: ‘I’d like you to meet my colleague Moya who actually is the expert in this area. Let’s discuss where you have objections and let’s have a reasoned persons’ debate.’ Being treated like that by someone of his stature and brilliance gave me a huge amount of confidence.” 


Moya says when this man, she so admired and respected said to her a year later, when the legislation had passed, that he thought she should go to work for the Privy Council Office which in her mind was so far removed from the Department of Labour, particularly for a 26 year-old without an economics degree, she was prepared to seriously consider it. She says jobs in this area were usually subject to big competitive processes and she found herself asking him: “What do they do? I didn’t even know what they did, and he said you should go and work there.  They’re having an intake process and I think you should just go.  Of course, behind the scenes he was saying to people even though she’s not an economist and probably hasn’t done any more than high school math, I think she’ll be really good over there because I think she really gets to the crux of stuff quickly and I think that she knows what’s important and what’s not and you’ll be glad to have her and that was really the beginning of my career.”


Moya says when she thinks about her early experiences she always thinks of him. She says he is a friend and mentor to this day and she does not do anything in her career without speaking to him.  She says this was a very important experience which made a lot of things possible for her because it gave her the confidence to do things that she didn’t have any background in. She says she didn’t have a network she just had one person that she trusted telling her he wanted her to take this new position and that he believed she was really going shine in it.


What Strikes Me?


The profound impact of the expectation of performance… no excuses. 


Parents can influence a child’s perspective on the world, for a life time.


The growth which is possible when opportunities and experiences are provided with generosity.


It only takes the support of one person to have a significant impact on your career and your life.


The profound impact of a mentor on one’s career and life experience.


Being treated well by someone of stature and brilliance provides a huge amount of confidence.


What Strikes You?


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