“Show up and do what you say you’re going to do.”

élan Data Makers president Kate Wighton discusses her journey to the top

Kate Wighton, president.

This February, élan Data Makers will celebrate its 40th anniversary. The company, a division of Horton Trading Ltd., has become Western Canada’s largest data-entry service bureau by providing both on-site and off-site data-entry solutions. President Kate Wighton has been at the company for 17 of those 40 years, beginning as a receptionist. Wighton recently talked to Advantage about her background in philosophy, her experience moving up the élan Data Makers’ ladder, and the importance of a mentor.

Advantage: You’ve been at élan Data Makers your entire career. Can you describe how you got to élan and your path to the top?

Kate Wighton: I grew up in Ontario and moved out west after I graduated from university. I have a degree in philosophy, and my first “real” job was as the receptionist here at élan. I was promoted within two months to the role of personnel recruiter/marketing assistant. From there, I was promoted to Vancouver personnel sales manager. I did that for a while, and was promoted to branch manager of the Vancouver data centre, a position I held for three years. In 1998, I became vice president of operations and was responsible for all of our branch offices, which included Vancouver, Victoria [British Columbia], and Calgary. Five years later, I was promoted to president.

Of all those positions, do you have a favourite?

I’ve been with the company for 17 years now, and I often longingly look back at the day when I was the receptionist and things were so much simpler. But seriously, my favourite position has been this one because I get to make more decisions and I’m really in the middle of the action.

What would you say has been the advantage of being at one company for so long?

Warwick Reid, who has been my boss and mentor since I started here, told me years ago that if you find a good boss or a good employee or a good customer, stay with them. I truly took that to heart. I found my place, and the company has always supported me.

When did you know business was your calling?

I started getting a lot of responsibility and opportunities early on. I enjoyed winning and implementing projects. As a 23-year-old, I had a lot of responsibility, and pretty quickly in my career I was hiring people and letting people go. Some people work their entire careers and never get to do that much. That’s also the advantage of a medium-sized business like ours: you do everything. Now I touch on everything from marketing to accounting to sales to operations.

How has your philosophy background influenced you?

I think philosophy has given me the ability to comprehend and the ability to really read and write very well. I learned to make decisions quickly by following logic. I truly believe I learned just as much studying philosophy as I did getting my MBA.

What makes you most proud in your job?

The team we have. It was my good fortune to find Warwick, whom I love to work with, and I’ve been extremely lucky with recruiting people and retaining people. We have had great success promoting from within the organization. Seven years ago, we had a group of operators who started in our data centre. One of them is now a project manager. Another is the data-centre manager, and another is one of our programmers. We have several other employees who have been with élan for more than 30 years.

How have you seen your industry change in the last handful of years?

Data entry used to be a huge industry. We’ve had to evolve. We do a lot more key-from-image work now, not as much paper-based. And we do a lot more complex data entry, where in the past it was more simple forms like surveys. Now it’s health data, or data where interpretation is somewhat required—it’s not just a name and an address on a form.

What do you think makes élan Data Makers unique and separates it from its competitors?

For one thing, we don’t have voicemail. We want clients to always get through to a person. We respond fast, and we do what it takes to get the job done. We are problem solvers for our clients, and we understand that their success is critical to our success.