Episode 182 – Sherry Shannon-Vanstone – A Profound Impact

“We have 20 people, plus we have 10 countries of origin among those 20 people so it’s a diversity of thought, diversity of individuals and perspective. Also, it’s interesting when you come together, especially younger people now – they think more than just the paycheque. They think about flexibility, family, and impact. What’s their impact, what’s our impact going to be.” – Sherry Shannon-Vanstone

  • Sherry Shannon-Vanstone is the founder, CEO & President of Profound Impact, a company with an AI-powered tool called Research Impact that helps academic and industry researchers find the perfect funding match.
  • In honour of her late husband, Scott A. Vanstone, Sherry founded Profound Impact in 2018 — a next-generation social engagement and interaction platform for use by universities and their alumni to engage, discover, and measure the impact that the institution and its community have on technology and the world. It also aims to build a sense of community for a global audience of affinity groups such as women in STEM and entrepreneurs.
  • Sherry was the recipient of the prestigious Leadership Excellence Award in Entrepreneurship for 2020 from Women in Communications and Technology (WCT). In June 2019, Sherry received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws (LLD) from Western University and in 2015, she was awarded – WOW – the World Waterloo Region’s Female Innovator of the Year.
  • Sherry holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the University of Tennessee and was a cryptologic mathematician with the US Government. Sherry has resided in Canada for 26 years and holds citizenships in both Canada and the US.
  • Listen in as Sherry discusses her lifelong passion of mathematics and empowering women to pursue education, and how it fuels her role as an entrepreneur and advocate for more women founders, investors, and entrepreneurs. Sherry talks about her company, how it started, who and how it serves. Sherry and Patrick have a robust conversation around core values, integrity, culture, mentorship and clarity within in all of that. Sherry also recounts a story that demonstrates the sometimes surprising and positive result of being faithful to our values.
  • Over her career, Sherry has made a significant contribution to the spectrum of digital industries from cryptography to telecommunications and technology, while also making a major contribution to the advancement of all women. She is an extraordinary leader and visionary who has made a material difference to the roles women play and their influence in the digital economy.
  • Show Notes
  • [00:42] Patrick introduces his next TEDM guest, Sherry Shannon-Vanstone.
  • [02:15] Sherry and Patrick get started and Sherry explains her role as a serial tech entrepreneur and matchmaker for researchers and research funding in a way that is efficient, high value, and cost-effective with the use of AI.
  • [05:35] Sherry unpacks the way in which research projects and funders find Profound Impact (and vice versa) and the kinds of institutions Sherry and her team work together with.
  • [08:09] How did Profound Impact come to be? Through a few other iterations in connection impact and career impact, which simply didn’t scale for the revenue they desired to reach, Sherry went to some university clients and got to the bottom of their real pain points. Research opportunities that need timely funding unburdened by the manual slog.
  • [12:52] Sherry talks about the work she did that familiarized her with AI (it’s been around for some time!) which eventually brought her to the world of start ups and the gratifying business of providing solutions. She discusses the two sides in the current use of AI, one generative (apps like ChatGPT) and another that Profound Impact uses which automates processes that an algorithm can solve at a velocity far faster than a human is able.
  • [17:43] As founder of Profound Impact, Sherry explains how starting her company resonated with her lifelong passion of mathematics, empowering women to pursue education, and advocate for more women founders and entrepreneurs. She learned as she put herself in a front-line role, that building great culture and environment in business was what she wanted to do.
  • [21:40] Sherry describes her upbringing and background, and the influences she had in her life that contributed to the core values she embodies, and which fuel her interest in the entrepreneurial world.
  • [26:08] A conversation about core values which is no stranger to this podcast! Staying aligned in her core values is crucial in Sherry’s world. Staying true to them has led her to fight for her team and even leave great jobs with travel, and autonomy due to a conflict in values. Ultimately this is part of what led her to start her own company and build the culture and environment she wanted to be a part of. She explains the way in which her teams come together, start, and continue the conversation of why they are in business.
  • [32:28] Patrick opens up a conversation about integrity starting with his view of it, followed by Sherry’s perspective which includes accountability when she’s fallen out of integrity. Sherry encourages us to be kind to ourselves when we do.
  • [37:56] Sherry and Patrick continue the core values and culture conversation as Patrick describes the approach he takes with his team and Sherry shares her own story to demonstrate the sometimes surprising and positive result of being faithful to our values.
  • [44:31] Patrick recounts a story about a young pro golfer to show how being in integrity with ourselves is the most important and only way to have inner clarity. For Sherry, there are things she can compromise on but when it comes to those values at the core, she won’t. Although she concedes she doesn’t get it right every time, she will admit when she’s been wrong.
  • [48:45] Sherry highlights the people in her life who she has been able to count on including her sister, former husband, and business mentors. A few pearls of wisdom: don’t be afraid to ask for help, trust your gut, and when you feel someone may be at risk – share that with them.
  • [56:20] So in Sherry’s experience, what holds people back from seeking mentoring? For a lot of people – rejection. Sherry advises and reminds herself – be clear with your ask.
  • [61:08] Circling back to one of Sherry’s passions – supporting women in business. Based on her own experience with the imbalance of women to men in business and the lack of women investors, Sherry identified a gap and started talking to other women. Specifically, she wanted to broaden the playing field of raising capital with and for other women.
  • [68:09] Looking forward, Sherry shares her intentions for her company, where she fits in, or doesn’t and making sure it all aligns with her core values. In reverse, when Sherry starts a company what is her end-goal strategy?
  • [72:04] The Great Rapid-Fire wind down! Android or Apple and why; favourite music genre; favourite movie; favourite swear word; room-desk-car; message at the pearly gates.
  • [76:12] Sherry’s gratitude.

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