Sheri Somerville

CEO, Atlantic Chamber of Commerce

What are you most proud of professionally? And who or why?

 There have been many milestones and achievements along the way because I’ve always been a person who needs a goal post to work towards. So, there have been many goals achieved that put a smile on my face including this past year when I attained professional accreditation.

But to be entrusted and charged with the responsibility as CEO—as a woman and as a communications professional—it is as humbling as it is a source of pride for me. And with that, my goal is to help make it a little easier for the next generation of women and communications professionals to take the helm.


What's your vision for Atlantic Canada in 10 years? What’s our biggest opportunity now?

 Our biggest opportunity right now in Atlantic Canada is the opportunity for revitalization and change. You often hear the phrase: ‘be the change you want to see’ and I’m seeing that people are genuinely open to trying something different and to shaping a dynamic future for the region. You really see it in our young people and young professionals. I’ve always liked change, trying something new, so I think it’s an exciting time. For my part, I want to help fuel their fire, vitality and passion to create and grow because our future is in their hands.


What was your greatest stage of growth? What made it a shift for you? 

My parents used to say to me: There are many stages in life Sheri, don’t try to do it all so fast. Enjoy each one as it happens”. As a teenager though, I was eager to get out into the world…so that answer sucked! But in hindsight they were right.

There are many stages of growth as you enter the workforce and acclimate in your career. What I know now is that each was an important and necessary component for my ability to do the job I have today—you can’t just hit the ground running and go from entry level to the C-Suite. Even if you start your own business there will always be lots to learn along the way. The key is to keep learning.

Of course, the stages are different for everyone, but the trick is to identify where your gaps are address them, ensure you learn what you need and then move through to the next stage. But also to allow a little room for serendipity to naturally happen.

Looking back, it’s pretty cool to see how my path unfolded and I’m even more excited about what the future may hold.


What's your favourite or most read book or podcast? Now or at each of your greatest stages of growth?

I just read Team Spirit: Life & Leadership on One of the World's Toughest Yacht Races by Brendan Hall.

 Those who know me know I’m passionate about my profession, sailing and travel, so for me this book was the trifecta! It is a must read for anyone who wants to become an authentic, introspective and empowering leader that cultivates the same qualities in their team.

 You know, the best piece of advice I ever received from a mentor was to “hire smart people and let them do their thing.” This book takes that very approach and shows you how to a create proficient, self-sufficient, high performance team in a unique, limited, and sometimes ferocious setting—just imagine 18+ strangers, on an 80-foot yacht, in the middle of the ocean for 10 months.



What's your deepest learning from this past year? How did/will you apply it?

Be fearless. It’s that simple.

We all have things that scare us. But don’t ever let that stop you from accomplishing your dreams, goals, passions and living your best life. A little fear is a good motivator to succeed. And to be honest, the best jobs I have ever had (and the best life experiences) all scared me a little.

Of course, there are a lot of motivational mantra’s out there—find what works to empower you to move past or embrace the fear and take the leap. Succeed or fail—just go for it.

 For me, I’m trying some new directions and programs for our business. Am I afraid they will tank? Definitely. Have I and our team done everything we can to prepare them for success? I think we have.

 So I just had to take the leap.

 Now we wait to see how it turns out…


 Who's inspired you, directly or indirectly? How have they inspired you?

 First and foremost, my parents. They showed and continuously told me that it is possible to do anything. So, I’ve always believed that anything is possible.

But honestly, I find inspiration around me daily. There is no one person or event I can point to (other than my parents) that significantly outshines another in this regard, but rather so many people, moments and experiences which have moulded my thinking and approach to life and to work.


What would you have done differently? 

Absolutely nothing. I’ve had a good run so far!

I am who I am and where I am today because of each moment, person, experience—good, bad and ugly—I’ve encountered along the way.

What were your priorities and how did they help you overcome some of the struggles you've faced?

 My overall goal throughout my career was to be known as a person who could be relied upon to ‘get the job done.’ Yes, I’ve had goals of progressing along corporate ladder and of entrepreneurial pursuits as I went out on my own as a consultant—but at the root of it all, was an unwavering desire to be continuously challenged and to do the best job I could possibly do.

Today I would now add mentoring to the top of that goal list. I’ve encountered so many women and communications professionals in the last few years eager to know how to get the coveted ‘seat at the table.’ To this end, I want to help women and communications professionals ‘stretch their professional muscles,’ realize their full potential and goals, and get whatever seat they want.

How have you recovered from fractured professional relationships? What uncomfortable truths have you learned about yourself in those experiences?

 People laugh when I say this, but hey it’s true, “Sheri’s not for everyone.”

It took me a lot of years to realize this. But we all encounter people we don’t ‘click’ with or that we ‘butt heads’ with along the way. The key is to try and handle it professionally, learn from the experience and move on. Sometimes hard to do, but necessary for growth and progress.

I think the key is have empathy for others, to be able to forgive, and oftentimes more importantly, to be able to say you’re sorry—depending on the situation.

Self-awareness is fundamental to professional evolution and acclimation.


Atlantic Chamber of Commerce CEO, communicator, entrepreneur, advocate, middle sister, mother of two fur babies and a foster koala, lover of bold colors, world wanderer, sailor, cyclist, summit junkie, newly-minted tri-athlete