Leah Olson-Friesen grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan in a community of less than 100 people.
She moved to Montreal — the second-largest city in Canada — to do her undergraduate degree at Concordia, launching a career that has taken her to management positions in the private sector at CP Rail and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, as well as leading senior roles in provincial and federal governments.
Today, she has returned to Saskatchewan to rethink farming. As CEO of DOT Technology Corp., Olson-Friesen leads a company that is changing the agriculture industry through artificial intelligence.
Autonomous farm equipment is revolutionizing farming by helping fewer farmers to earn a living in order to feed growing populations, while the efficiency of this new technology is reducing carbon emissions for future generations.
How Concordia paved the way to success
“The transition from small town farm girl to getting undergraduate and graduate degrees in Montreal is probably not something that I would have imagined when I was growing up.
“I’m very grateful for the education I got at Concordia. It’s a university that embraces diversity of opinion and for the liberal arts programs, critical thinking and analysis is a great foundation for anybody in business.”
Greatest challenge to overcome
“I have always been passionate about farming, but didn’t see a path forward for myself in the industry. Farms tend to be in very rural areas and that can make it a challenge to get younger people. This labour shortage is a very tough element to overcome in agriculture. Artificial intelligence allows farmers to do their work very efficiently and reduces their requirement for skilled labour.”
Best career advice
“Always do the right thing by following your ethics, and set your ego aside. When you’re in an executive role, it can be hard to apologize or admit when you make a mistake, but it’s typically the right thing to do.”