-Story and photography by Lia Crowe
Late one afternoon on a hillside east above Kelowna, I drove down a long driveway flanked by acres and acres of cherry trees loaded with almost-ripe, pink fruit. At the end of the drive, the land opened out onto a beautiful home and sweeping lawns perched on a precipice with incredible views of the Okanagan Valley and lake — the blue-grey clouds billowing up over the hills and rays of yellow sunshine cutting through like swords.
Stepping out of my car, I felt a sudden sense of peace created both by the land and the smiling face of Renee Wasylyk, who greeted me at the door. We sat in her elegant living room, complete with a grand piano, to chat career, life, style and where they all intersect.
Renee is the CEO of Troika Developments — but what does that really mean?
“I’m the external face of the company and I have a role and responsibility to lead in terms of strategic planning. I also take a lot of responsibility for the cultural aspects of the company, our brand and reputation, the health of our employees and what we’re doing to support them as people and not just as ‘productivity measures.’ For me, that last part is a real focus. Outside of that I’m also the front face of the development arm, pushing projects forward. I’m not someone who sleeps — [I get] three to four hours per night — and I’m not tired.”
As I reflect on that (being a person who can’t function with less than eight hours of sleep), Renee admits to working 80-100 hours a week, adding that the joke around the office is, “Renee works 20 hours per week…while on vacation.”
“I don’t believe in work/life balance; I believe in work/life integration. It’s about gaining fulfillment from all the aspects of the job and not needing to have separation. I do a lot of fun things — I volunteer on boards, I get to be active, go to gala events — some might see that as work but I see it as fun. Women will continue to be overwhelmed [trying to obtain work/life balance] until we reframe it, choose another perspective.”
Within this perspective, I wonder which aspect of her work fills her cup the most. “It is two things. One, I am a huge people person — being around people really energizes me — but the real juice in what I do would be the creative process. I love looking at a new piece of land and imaging what is going to go on here. What is it going to look like? How is it going to feel? How can people connect, how can a family play in the street, or how can they garden? For me, that process of imagination, bringing vision to life is absolutely one of the most awe-inspiring things I can do.”
Moving on to the lighter side of life, style, Renee says she went through a style transformation in her early 30s.
“I wanted to stop dressing like a man, to be feminine and bring that to the boardroom. So I’m okay wearing a dress; I will always show respect by wearing a blazer when appropriate to respect the audience and to show up with a certain level of decorum. But having said that, I am very feminine. I will wear a suit with ruffles or lace details. I love when things move or flow and have a certain elegance to them.”
Outside of work, Renee says, she’s most passionate about her three children. “I’m one of those working moms that has some guilt, so I perhaps overcompensate for that by being really present in their lives. I asked my kids what do I do really well as a mother and they said … ‘you give us wings and then you let us fly.’ If I accomplish nothing more as a mother than that, I will have succeeded.”
What one quality would she like to pass down to her children?
“Passion. I always say… don’t follow your passion, follow opportunity and bring your passion. And with that you will be successful.”
|Inspired Style with Renee Wasylyk. Lia Crowe photography
Uniform: Dresses or anything black.
All time favourite piece: Anne Fontaine blouse.
Favourite pair of shoes: Jimmy Choo strappy sandals.
Favourite Daybag: Michael Kors
Favourite jewelry piece or designer: Semi-Precious Multi-Stone & 18K Yellow Gold Five-Strand Bracelet by Marco Bicego Jaipur Collection.
Necessary indulgence: Good skin care line.
Scent: Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue or L’Imperatrice.
Must have hair product: Shine Spray by Davines.
Beauty secret: “I use coconut oil for moisturizer.”
Favourite Artist: Douglas Coupland.
Piece of art: Tearful Encounter by Thomas Barbey.
Favourite Fashion Designer: Victoria Beckham – “Beautiful and practical.”
TV show character that inspires your style: Robin Wright in House of Cards or Kerry Washington on Scandal.
Favourite Cocktail/Wine: French 75 or an Old Fashioned.
Album on current rotation: If You Leave by Daughter.
Flower: Gerbera Daisy.
Favourite city to visit: New York or London.
Favourite Hotel: “I am a Fairmont girl.”
Favourite App: “I wish I could give my phone away!”
Favourite place in the whole world: Island of Capri: “That’s where to look if you can’t find me.”
Fave print magazine: Elle or Glamour.
Coffee table Book: Humans of New York Stories by Brandon Stanton and Atlas of World Architecture by Sebastian Markus and Michelle Galindo.
Last great read: The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith by Gabrielle Bernstein.
Book currently reading: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
Favourite book of all time: “Impossible for me to pick just one!”