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Interview with Keynote Speaker 

On Wednesday, November 1, Crofton House held its annual Career Conference for Grade 11 and 12 students. This year’s theme was ‘Curiosity’ and keynote speaker, Elizabeth Thomas-Raynaud '89, spoke with students about how curiosity can be cultivated through cultural exposure, staying open to new opportunities, and knowing when and how to act upon changing circumstances.

Elizabeth addressed the shared experience of Crofton House with students. “Just like you, I had the same privilege of attending Crofton House. And I’m not using this word lightly. It’s a huge privilege to go out in the world with a Crofton House education. You’re powered by a ‘can-do’ confidence, you know how to learn, and you know how to work for what you want. You’ve been given a perspective of caring about goals that are bigger than yourself and make you want to contribute to the world, your families, your professional fields, or any other spaces that you’re engaged in,” said Elizabeth.

Using the analogy of travelling the road and encountering the roundabouts in life, Elizabeth said, “My first roundabout was what to do after Crofton House. Deciding to study at UBC, I tested my curiosity and interest in journalism, writing first for a student newspaper and then doing an internship at the regional news station BCTV.”

Elizabeth continued to lead with curiosity about the world around her. Choosing to pursue a Master’s in International Journalism in England became a pivotal moment. “If you chart that moment of my life on a graph, it would be a summit year. I lived with three other students from different countries than mine. There were 40 students from over 30 countries in my course. Many of them had also been journalists in their home countries. I learned as much from them as I did from my course.”

Living, learning and working abroad and gaining exposure from her mentors helped Elizabeth pursue her career aspirations with bravery. “I secured internships at the CBC Bureau, then later at the ABC News Bureau, and eventually attended the United Nations in New York to research my thesis on the global campaign to end violence against women.” The internships included high-level press briefings in  London, and the research in New York meant engaging with activists doing the most incredible, yet difficult, work on this topic, “and at the same time, it was a thrilling experience for a young wannabe,” said Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was ready to turn these experiences into the start of a flourishing career in broadcasting but the journey is not always a straight line. She came close to offers at major networks but fell short due to uncontrollable external circumstances, such as foreign working restrictions and corporate mergers that halted hiring. Reflecting on periods of change, she says, “The bad news is nothing lasts forever. And the good news is nothing lasts forever.” Following this roundabout, she met her husband, moved to France and started working at the International Chamber of Commerce.

Elizabeth recounted some of the challenges she experienced in her personal and professional journey such as the deep heartbreak over the loss of her mother, navigating living abroad through a pandemic, and discovering institutional failings of discriminatory pay at work. To navigate roundabouts such as these, she recalled the advice from a mentor. “It was important to check in regularly on whether I was still learning and decide whether to stay in a role or move on… Being told this reassured me and today that’s my hope for you,” she said. 

She used this advice to check in with herself and took a step back from work. “My curiosity during my sabbatical led me to an executive course at MIT in artificial intelligence and new frontier technology. Together with my experience, this positioned me to be offered a role setting up and leading the Secretariat for a new initiative, called the Global Partnership on AI, which the government of Canada and the government of France had launched through an agreement with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).”

Elizabeth has now taken up a new role leading the OECD Global Forum on Technology, addressing questions on quantum technologies, synthetic biology, and immersive technologies. 

Though there can be great strides or moments that feel like steps back, the path will always unfold where there is curiosity. “Start with that one choice. What do you want to learn? Or what do you love that you want to learn more of? You've got your curiosity, use it to stay open. Use your courage, so when you do find that opportunity and the chance to take it, you’re willing to do so.”

Closing with remarks on her cherished friendships from CHS, “I've spent 22 years away from Vancouver but my CHS friends and I still care about each other as if no distance exists. So I wish for you two things. The first is a life of curiosity-driven learning and discovery. And the second is wonderful relationships to bring meaning to that shared experience. Servabo Fidem.”