The 2023 Women of the Year Awards: Entrepreneurial Leader – Winner

The winner of the Entrepreneurial Leader category of The 2023 Women of the Year Awards is Karen Dosanjh, vice president, marketing and communications, OSI Digital.

Karen Dosanjh
Vice president, marketing and communications, OSI Digital

Karen Dosanjh has undoubtedly grown over the course of her 30-year professional career, but the characteristics that led to her first job are still very much intact. As a huge hockey fan raised in Richmond, Dosanjh had the dream of working for the Vancouver Canucks.

“In those days, you knock on the door and show up with your resume,” she says. After being informed that the team wasn’t looking for students or interns, she found another way in. “The foundation, the nonprofit, they’re always going to take hands. I learned really quickly that to get your breaks, you have to pay your dues.”

She used that to gain experience and leveraged it into an internship in media relations with the Canucks, where she produced the team’s media guide for the 1993-94 season—a memorable one if you were a fan of the club at the time. The local papers covered the project. “That tenacity to never take no for an answer, keep pushing through and creating space for myself where there wasn’t space before has stayed with me,” Dosanjh says.

It’s hard to argue with her. After working in communications for a couple of industry organizations, Dosanjh became the marketing communications manager for ISM-BC, an IT services consultancy that was partly owned by Telus. A few years later, Dosanjh played a critical role in setting the company up to be fully acquired by the telecom giant. She ended up spending some 15 years there, becoming a media spokesperson for Telus. “There was no one who looked like me in that role,” she says.

After that, she joined a Burnaby-based company called Bit Stew Systems as senior director of marketing and communications. “I walked into a small startup of 20 software engineers in their hoodies,” she recalls. “And I’m like, I’m going to help you build your brand.”

Dosanjh says that, as a female walking into male spaces, she had a lot of skills and talent that they needed. “I helped them build a brand from the ground up,” she says. “They had a great idea—the data intelligence platform—and all the branding that came around that, the marketing, the structure, that was my team.” Bit Stew was acquired by GE Digital—a subsidiary of American conglomerate General Electric—in 2016 for US$153 million.

“Early in my career, if you asked me in the late ’90s, I tried very hard at that time to fit in, to be like the others around me, to take on more masculine qualities,” she says. What I learned over time was to bring my natural, best qualities as a woman to work; things like empathy and intuition, nurturing, being a good mentor—they made me a better, more authentic leader because that’s who I am.”

Currently, she serves as vice president, marketing and communications, of California-based management consultancy OSI Digital and recently wrote a book tracing the origins of the first Sikhs in Canada. 

When she was originally in talks to take on the role at OSI, she told her husband that she was going to ask for it all. “I’ve been conditioned culturally to ask for nothing and to not raise my voice, so I wanted to go in and ask for everything.”