Claudia Hepburn, CEO
Following an exhaustive search across Canada, Claudia Hepburn was appointed as Windmill’s first CEO in February 2017. The creation of this new top leadership position at Windmill Microlending is a reflection of the organization’s growth in prominence, relevance and geographic reach across the country. In her first year in the role, Claudia has led a restructuring of the organization, launched a campaign to raise $5 million through a community bond on the SVX, and led the team to surpass the goal of approving 30% more loans than the previous fiscal year.
Ms. Hepburn’s experience building innovative, national organizations makes her uniquely qualified to lead Windmill’s ambitious strategy for rapid growth and serve many more immigrants nation-wide. Ms. Hepburn is a widely recognized Canadian leader in the field of human capital development. In her most recent role, as Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Next 36, she was instrumental in creating a platform for accelerated development of young entrepreneurs. Prior to that, she was the Fraser Institute’s first Director of Education Policy and founded Children First: School Choice Trust, a program that gave grants to lower-income families to assist with school tuition.
Claudia has been named one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence and is a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. She serves on several boards and councils including The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, Fraser Institute, Kids & Company, and C.D. Howe Institute’s Human Capital Council. In 2014 she skied 125km to the Magnetic North Pole to support veterans through the True Patriot Love Foundation. Claudia holds a BA from Amherst College and an MA and B.Ed from the University of Toronto.
Mary Ellen Armstrong
National Director, Marketing & Communications
Mary Ellen is a senior communicator and social marketer with a background in consulting, media, publishing and journalism. Her specialty is strategic communications in service of high-priority business and social objectives. As Director of Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs at Trillium Gift of Life Network, an agency of Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, she dramatically increased the number of Ontarians registered as organ and tissue donors.
National Director, Client Success
Originally from Colombia, Paula has spent her career supporting thousands of international professionals. In the past, she pioneered ESL programs and oversaw various employment services and bridging programs supporting internationally-trained professionals. Most recently, Paula joined the faculty of George Brown College as a professor in the Career Development Practitioner program. Paula has served as a mentor to newcomers, she is the former President of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Colombian Professional Association and is an Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Fellow.
National Director, Operations
Carrie joined Windmill (then IAF) Saskatchewan in March 2014 as the Executive Director. In April 2015, Carrie was appointed as the Director, Operations for the newly amalgamated Immigrant Access Fund Canada.
Prior to her work with Windmill, Carrie spent more than 20 years in the charitable sector in Saskatoon; supporting CEOs and Board members within St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation, and operational and human resource management for Lakeview Church.
Jon Lam, CFA
National Director, Finance & Risk
Jon is a finance professional with deep operational experience in the start–up software and non-profit sectors. His entrepreneurial spirit has driven him to build companies that range from tutoring high school kids in math to building video games that have been played by over 4 million people. Most recently, he has been focusing on giving back to the community – volunteering on the Board of Directors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Calgary for 9 years, and then as their Director of Finance for the 2 years before he joined Windmill in 2017.
National Director, Development
Jeni joined Windmill in January 2018 to lead the development, implementation and management of our fundraising strategy with the aim of enabling up to 50% growth in the number of new loans approved per year and long-term organizational sustainability, as well as developing a strong fundraising team.
Jeni was most recently the Director of Development for the National Music Centre. She led the team that raised over $135 million for the construction of Studio Bell.
Board of Directors
Laura Wood – Chair
Assistant Deputy Minister, Shared Services, Service Alberta
Laura is an experienced strategic and corporate planner focused on value creation and business performance. Laura is currently working for the Government of Alberta as Assistant Deputy Minister, Shared Services, Service Alberta. Prior to joining the Windmill board in June 2009, Laura was a management consultant focused on systems transformation serving the energy industry. Laura held the position of Vice President and Chief Information Officer with UFA Cooperation Limited after working in the Fortune 100 energy sector as a senior advisor and leader of global business transformation and technology initiatives. She spent a decade delivering technology and consulting services abroad and has worked in many worldwide locations including the US, Canada, Europe, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia and The People’s Republic of China. Laura has a passion for social and economic development and social change and is focused on the application of technologies to advance change programs.
Vanessa Desa – Vice Chair
Community & Social Justice Advocate
Vanessa is a passionate social activist who has a broad range of experience in the areas of community development, immigrant integration, anti-racism, family violence, and children and youth. A strategic thinker with the ability to foster and build collaborative and strength based initiatives, Vanessa has worked as an employee and consultant in both the public and not for profit sector, and has also volunteered with numerous organizations including the Edmonton Community Foundation, Edmonton Women’s Shelters, the Africa Centre, the Edmonton Out of School Time Programs Collaborative and Brander Gardens ROCKS. In 2009 Vanessa was honoured with a YWCA Woman of Distinction Award for her advocacy work around immigrant and refugee children and youth.
Drew Thomson, MBA, FCPA, FCMA – Treasurer
Drew retired at the end of 2018 after 12 years as the Chief Financial Officer of the Law Society of Alberta and the Alberta Lawyers Insurance Association. Prior to joining the Law Society, Drew was Vice President of Business Development for the Certified Management Accountants of Alberta. His career experience includes senior financial management roles in radio and television broadcasting and the retail fashion clothing industry. In addition to his professional accounting accreditations, Drew holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Alberta and a Masters of Business Administration from Athabasca University. In addition to serving as Windmill’s treasurer, Drew is on the boards of Carbon Management Canada Research Institutes and the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education.
Frances Wach – Secretary
Executive Director, Saskatchewan SPCA
Frances is the Executive Director for the Saskatchewan SPCA. She is highly involved in the community with a variety of organizations, including Toastmasters. Frances was drawn to the join the Board after hearing about the program and its values from a supporter. She thought it would be a good program to be involved with as it helps individuals achieve their goals which benefits the individuals personally as well as our country.
Vladimir Ahmad – Director
Senior Vice President, Operations & Business Transformation, Canadian Western Bank
Vlad is an experienced international banker specializing in turnaround sales, service and operations. Since 2014 Vlad is the Chief Operating Officer of Alberta Pensions Services Corporation (APSC), a Crown Corporation providing administration related services to more than 500 participating employers across Alberta and pension-related services to over 342,000 members and pensioners. Before joining APSC, Vlad established a new greenfield bank in Eastern Europe and prior to that spent 22 years with HSBC, one of the largest banking institutions in the world, where he held various SVP, EVP and CEO level positions in a variety of roles and locations such as Hong Kong, Mauritius, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. Vlad is fluent in Serbian, Arabic, and English and comfortable in Russian. Vlad is passionate about freedom, equal rights and education.
Leanne Cheng – Director
Senior Manager, Risk Advisory, Deloitte
Leanne a Chartered Accountant, is currently with Deloitte in Vancouver. Leanne has had 15 years of combined experience in the field of accounting and audit with Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., WestJet Airlines, Ernst & Young LLP, Canada Revenue Agency and Alberta Teachers’ Association. Leanne joined the IAF board in November 2012 and has volunteered with other organizations, including the Edmonton Food Bank and True Vision Ghana.
Adam Felesky – Director
CEO, Portag3 Ventures
Adam Felesky is the President and Managing Partner of Portag3 Ventures GP Inc. (“P3V”). P3V manages the Portag3 Ventures LP, an exclusive corporate fund sponsored by Power Financial Corporation, IGM Financial Inc. and Great West-Life. Adam is the Founder and former Chief Executive Officer of Horizons Exchange Traded Funds, a leading exchange-traded, fund provider in Canada. Adam was also a director and founding investor of BetaShares Exchange Traded Funds in Australia managing over $2.0 billion in assets under management since its launch in 2010. Adam also led the launch of an ETF platform in Colombia. Prior to founding Horizons Exchange Traded Funds, Adam worked in JPMorgan Derivative’s group in New York. Previously, he worked in investment banking for JPMorgan Canada and CIBC World Markets, respectively. Adam was a two-term member of the Ontario Securities Commission – Investment Funds Product Advisory Committee, is currently a member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and is actively involved with the DeGroote School of Business, and is the donor of an annual full scholarship to a first year MBA student. He also works with the Innovation Factory reviewing potential opportunities and supporting existing portfolio companies.
Tara Holmes – Director
Tara is principal of an educational consulting firm that specializes in developing professional learning resources for the English as a Second Language (ESL) and settlement sector. She is author of several publications and holds a PhD in Education. Her research study explored the transition experience of internationally-educated immigrants returning to their professional fields. She is an active community volunteer and has received an Honorary Lifetime Membership from TESL Canada for her contribution to the ESL field.
Carsten Jensen – Director
Partner, JSS Barristers
Carsten is one of the founding partners of JSS Barristers, a Calgary based litigation law firm. Carsten’s practice focuses exclusively on civil litigation, with an emphasis on corporate and commercial litigation including commercial class actions, oil and gas disputes, shareholder disputes, multi-party litigation and arbitrations. In 1998, Carsten commenced a two-year leave of absence during which time he acted as senior legal officer and eventually team leader at the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) in Geneva, Switzerland. The UNCC was established to process and resolve compensation claims arising from Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait. Carsten is a past bencher (director) of the Law Society of Alberta, which is the governing body for lawyers in Alberta, and in that role he served at various times as Chair of Finance, Chair of Credentials and Education, and Chair of Conduct. Carsten is a past-President of the Law Society of Alberta. Carsten currently serves on the advisory board of the Alberta Lawyers Insurance Exchange, the regulated reciprocal insurer providing professional negligence coverage to lawyers in Alberta.
Andreas Souvaliotis – Director
Founder & CEO, CARROT Insights
Known as one of Canada’s leading serial social entrepreneurs, Andreas is the Founder and CEO of Carrot Insights. Previously, Andreas founded Green Rewards, the world’s first eco-points program, fused it with the very popular AIR MILES program and ended up rewarding millions of citizens with their favourite loyalty points each time they made healthier or greener shopping choices. This was followed Social Change Rewards, a similar social venture with a global focus, which he also co-founded and led. Andreas’ achievements in influencing and rewarding behaviour change on a mass scale have been recognized by social responsibility leaders from around the world, including The Prince of Wales. He is a prolific writer and speaker; Chair of the advisory board of the Centre for Responsible Leadership at the Queen’s School of Business; Chair of the national committee on climate change for WWF Canada; and serves on several other academic and non-profit boards. Andreas is a very active member of the Young Presidents’ Organization, where he has served as National Membership Chair for Canada and Chair of the Toronto chapter.