Our Team

Challenge Factory views people as equity, not as assets that depreciate over time. Our team is the key to Challenge Factory’s success, from top to bottom, from beginning to end.

Led by our founder and president, Lisa Taylor, Challenge Factory has a core team, specialized associates, and paid interns—and everyone is valued as we do meaningful work, learn, and grow together. People join and stay with us because our culture is built on a foundation of trust and courage. We foster and depend on a flexible work model and an intergenerational, entrepreneurial spirit. 

Challenge Factory’s dynamic, multidisciplinary team has a shared commitment to helping purpose-driven organizations and communities shape the Future of Work. We work to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals and make business a force for good.

Our Core Team Members

Lisa Taylor

Lisa Taylor
Founder and President

I thrive when working with disruption. In 2003, I started researching how to provide people in their 50s and 60s with new experiences that would break them out of routine career patterns and challenge the “successful, but not satisfied” mindset that seemed pervasive in my corporate career. The spark of an idea for Challenge Factory was born and, in 2012, as the oldest baby boomers were turning 65, I launched my own business. Challenge Factory was the first company in Canada to offer career services specifically designed for older workers. Our purpose was to enhance work for employees of all ages by re-engaging those who had been left to languish. My unique background in older worker career development and workplace engagement led to my appointment as an Associate Fellow at the National Institute on Ageing (Toronto Metropolitan University). I am proud to have been recognized as a WXN 2022 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award winner.

I’m passionate about not wasting potential and believe that we need new models, tools, examples, and heroes to help us shed outdated career and work-related thinking. I love making sense of complex concepts and use my MBA in Strategic Management and Public Administration (York University) to bridge corporate and policy considerations when shaping the Future of Work. My ability to link real-world practice and public policy resulted in my selection as one of five members of Team Canada at the International Centre for Career Development and Public Policy. 

My work has been recognized in Canada, Singapore, and Scandinavia, and I am the co-host of two podcasts and the author of five books, including The Talent Revolution: Longevity and the Future of Work  (University of Toronto Press) which I wrote with Fern Lebo, and the Retain and Gain series of career management playbooks (CERIC). I’m often asked to provide media commentary and can be counted on to provide a different and informed view of daily events.  

I sit on the Boards of Directors of CERIC and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR-A) and I’m a member of the Association of Professional Futurists. I’m also an active community leader within my synagogue. Being connected to different communities matters a great deal to me and I seek out opportunities for meaningful volunteerism that helps people and communities thrive. 

Emree Siaroff

Emree Siaroff
Vice President

I believe that companies, and the people within them, are integral to building the local and global communities that we all want and need in our lives. As Challenge Factory’s Vice President, Leadership and Consulting, I bring this belief to the leadership development, trusted advisory, and strategic human resources work that I do every day. 

I’m a strategic thinker and a results- and change-oriented leader. With thirty years of domestic and global HR experience, including leadership and executive roles at Stantec, BDO Global, Xstrata, and Hudson’s Bay Company, I’m very proud to say that Challenge Factory has allowed me to find my own Legacy Career®, where I use my expertise and experience to pursue activities and collaboration that give me purpose.

I offer wisdom and passion that help drive the importance of culture in an organization, and an understanding of how HR can engage people and deliver sustainable value by enabling the business.

Being part of our team means being truly valued as we do meaningful work, learn, and grow together. The centre of our work culture is a caring community. We can’t help our clients if we’re not able to come to work as our authentic selves.

Many years ago, I received a Bachelor of Arts in Administrative and Commercial Studies from the University of Western Ontario, a Certificate in Human Resources Management (CHRM) from Seneca College, and a Certificate in Strategic Human Resources from Queen’s University.

Taryn Blanchard

Taryn Blanchard
Head of Research

I’ve done a lot in a short amount of time. I got a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Toronto before turning 30-years-old. I did brief stints as a reservist in the Canadian Armed Forces and an intelligence analyst at a private investigation firm. I spent a summer on an archaeological dig in Peru. I worked in the non-profit sector on issues of free expression, privacy, and access to information, during which I helped persecuted journalists around the world find safety.

In 2020, I came on board to lead Challenge Factory’s research mandate. After working in academia, joining a small business was a thrill. Every day, I use my expertise in qualitative research methods to develop work-related business insights, carry out projects that measure purpose-driven impact, and create content that our clients and audiences want to read and find useful. This role also means I’m able to continue telling people’s stories, which is why I pursued anthropology in the first place.

Anthropology is the study of humanity: human behaviour and identity, communities and cultural groups, structures and systems, language and so much more. (Did I mention I also got a degree in linguistics, way back when?) Making sense of the Future of Work allows me to explore an essential part of humanity and what it means, simply put, to be alive today.

I’m also Challenge Factory’s resident writer and copyeditor. Need a perfectionist who’s always looking for ways to ‘word that better’? I’m your person. I’m a certified business ghostwriter with over 10 years of professional writing and editing experience. These days, I do freelance work for academic, small business, and corporate leaders, including a wonderful independent non-fiction publisher.

My own writing can be found in publications like the Toronto Star, Policy Options, Careering, and Challenge Factory’s blog. I’m the co-author of The Canadian Guide to Hiring Veterans and editor of Workforce Architecture.

Justin Doran

Justin Doran
Project and Operations Manager

As Challenge Factory’s Project and Operations Manager, my job is to ensure that both our external clients and our internal team stay organized, on track, and maintain the high quality and standards that allow us to do amazing work. Communication is critical to our success, and I pride myself in keeping everyone transparent, consistent, and organized across our many workstreams. I adapt to every challenge that comes my way and lead teams through change so that our clients and partners are satisfied, believe in both Challenge Factory and their own organization, and have a great experience while tackling complex Future of Work challenges. 

I’m a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and come from a background in education. I have a Master’s in Sociology from the University of Guelph, a post-graduate Certificate from Georgian College’s Research Analyst program, and an HBA in History, Sociology, and Anthropology from the University of Toronto.

Emma James

Emma James
Policy and Research Associate

As Challenge Factory’s Business Development and Administration Associate, my job is to facilitate collaboration in the advancement of the Future of Work. A public policy enthusiast, I enjoy exploring innovative policy solutions for meaningful, relevant, and actionable change to shape, rather than respond to, the Future of Work. I view my work through a lens of empathy – the human side of problem-solving. For me, it’s all about people. 

As the InterGen Lab Manager, I collaborate with our team to mobilize ideas into action. I coordinate and oversee the completion of work for the lab, and I am responsible for the day-to-day management and success of the program. I also work with our partners and collaborators to ensure we meet objectives and outcomes. I am passionate about identifying and flipping the assumptions we commonly make about a problem as to develop creative and innovative approaches and solutions to address complex and multi-faceted challenges of all kind.

I joined the Challenge Factory team in 2023 while completing my MPA (Master of Public Administration) from the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. I also hold a BA in History and Political Science from the University of Alberta and I am currently working toward a graduate certificate in Applied Creativity and Innovation.

Mariel Ferreras

Mariel Ferreras
Marketing and Graphic Design Coordinator

I’m the creative force behind Challenge Factory’s visual identity and online presence. I have an affinity for simple, minimalistic designs that tell a story. As the Marketing and Graphic Design Coordinator at Challenge Factory, I play a central role in developing and executing marketing campaigns, designing compelling graphics, presentations, and other content, and promoting the company’s brand. I led an overhaul of Challenge Factory’s brand portfolio—including the logo, typography, slide decks, newsletter graphics, and other visual assets—and continue to elevate the company’s social media, websites, and publications. I’m especially proud of my work on Workforce Architecture magazine and Hidden Sector, Hidden Talent: Mapping Canada’s Career Development Sector, a 300-page research report that presents a data-rich evidence base using human-centric design.

I’m known for my ability to think creatively, tackle every challenge with grace, and deliver results. I always recognize the importance of collaboration and meeting deadlines. In addition to working with Challenge Factory, I’ve worked as a freelance designer with start-ups, small businesses, and social media influencers on projects including branding, illustration, and web design. I value continuous learning and growth, having earned a Diploma of Education, Graphic Design, from Algonquin College’s School of Media & Design, and I’m currently pursuing a second Diploma in Computer Programming from Algonquin’s School of Advanced Technology.

Our Trusted Advisor Team

Sheila Rider

Emree Siaroff

(Yep, same guy as above.)

In my role as a Trusted Advisor, I believe leaders need more than simply a coach. Leaders need a partner in their corner. They need someone they can talk to, who not only asks the right questions but also gives them answers when they’re needed. Leaders need someone who’s also there to lend a helping hand when it’s needed. They need a confidant they can trust.

I bring over 30 years of leadership experience, having held senior HR roles in the retail, manufacturing, mining, and professional services industries. This has afforded me a level of knowledge and wisdom that can help you work through the challenges you face as you navigate both the present and the Future of Work.

What questions do you have about Challenge Factory’s Trusted Advisor Leadership Counsel? Send me a note at [email protected] and let me know a good time for us to connect.

Bob Cavnar

Bob Cavnar

Over my 40-plus-year career, I’ve matured from an enthusiastic young oilfield worker into a seasoned veteran with decades of C-suite experience. My time in business and non-profit leadership has given me a unique perspective and helped me hone a keen understanding of complex problems, building teams, and coaching individuals. As a lifelong learner, I’ve continued my journey through a longstanding mindfulness practice and by expanding my understanding of social justice, the environment, global energy policy, and workplace safety.

I’m keenly focused on rethinking the Future of Work through interdisciplinary and multigenerational teams. I’ve become a voice for energy industry reform and innovation, writing for the Huffington Post, Houston Chronicle, and several blogs. I authored Disaster on the Horizon, a book about the deepwater well blowout, and have appeared on national and international news networks.

A native Texan, I worked pipelines during the days while earning my Bachelor’s degree at Eastern Michigan University at night. Navigating my way from the field into management, I completed my education at Harvard Business School and earned an MBA at Southern Methodist University. After a stint in energy banking, I ran public and private companies for over thirty years, holding the positions of Chairman, CEO, COO, and CFO while leading multinational operations, mergers, and turning around failing companies. In later years, I branched out from traditional energy into innovative renewables, cryptocurrency banking, and international trade.

Today, my focus is helping others maximize their highest potential for themselves and their companies while working to leave behind a better world for my children and grandchildren. I’m a member of the Board of Directors of Space Center Houston, retired chairman of the Board of Directors of the Houston Grand Opera, and co-founder of Recipe for Success Foundation, dedicated to improving childhood nutrition.

Randy De Piero

Randy De Piero

I have more than 30 years in progressive leadership and ownership roles in the recruitment industry. Starting in a research-based role, then moving into client management, business development, and management capacities, my career within various iterations of privately owned, small boutique and global firms culminated with achieving a Managing Partner role that had oversight over all aspects of the business.

Compelled by a deep interest in starting a company, my co-founders and I launched a recruitment services firm from scratch and grew it to maturity, leading to acquisition and integration. This enhanced my knowledge and appreciation for the good and not-so-great aspects of these types of transactions. Ultimately, people and their impact play the biggest part of any business success, in any setting. Helping develop leaders and teams became my focus and where I find my greatest joy and impact.

To me, a trusted Advisor is about navigating the more turbulent waters that tend to become suddenly more significant in the latter stages of a career journey. This can happen at any stage of course but the trend becomes more pronounced as individuals start to take stock of what they’ve done and what’s left to do. And with that there is a recognition or dawning that we are all being shaped and formed by something and that something may prompt the need to be explored. Questions will arise around topics like meaning, purpose, significance, and destiny. Questions that might challenge the notion that a journey is less about where you’re going but rather who or what you’re becoming.

Does this personal career work sound awkward, cumbersome, or unwelcome? I used to think so. Now, I know that asking meaningful life-changing questions can lead to meaningful life-changing answers—and the discovery of peace and perspective. Today, I bring my clients a wealth of learnings, lessons, and knowledge about what it means to grow, both personally and professionally.

In my free time, you’re likely to find me helping at my local food bank, biking down quiet country roads, or going for hikes with my wife of 35 years. Relationships are a vital part of the human condition, so our dinner table is a key gathering place for our kids, significant others, friends, and extended family where lively debates abound and the “question game” (yup, there’s that word again) awaits anyone who dares to play.

Sheila Rider

Sheila Rider

I believe companies are more successful when people within them know what their best work looks like and are enabled to do it. Understanding our potential and actively working toward leading ourselves and others from our strengths can build powerful teams, organizations, and communities.

My strengths include my ability to think strategically, analyze productively, manage projects against effective plans, lead change, get results, and, most importantly, understand and engage people.

I have over 30 years of experience leading local, national, and global HR teams, including leadership roles at Hudson’s Bay Company and Stantec. I have successfully led complex projects impacting thousands of people and enabling hundreds more to build and action their own plans successfully. I thrive doing both because they involve getting things done through people. Enabling career development through impact and achievement is my passion.

For me, being a Trusted Advisor means using my experience, insights, and skills to help individuals, leaders, and teams navigate the increasingly complex world and Future of Work.

I have a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Toronto and a Certificate in Human Resources Management (CHRM) from Humber College. I’m an active volunteer in my community, including at a local hospice and food bank.

Elaine Cruise Smith

Elaine Cruise Smith

What matters to me is fostering authenticity in the workplace and cultivating a culture of safety and trust where people, ideas, and business can flourish harmoniously.

I am a solution-focused businessperson with a background and expertise in Human Resources leadership. I find joy in building strategy, pragmatic problem-solving, innovation, and growth. I have been told that I am a trusted, forward-thinking advisor and consummate relationship manager who takes a hands-on approach in developing emerging leaders and helping individuals and organizations succeed.

I have 25+ years of senior Human Resources leadership and a reputation for developing talent and creating engaged and energized teams. I am proud to say that I have twice been named to HRD Magazine’s Hot List, the who’s who of Canada’s HR Executives working to impact business outcomes and achieve overall excellence in all aspects of HR.

I have held senior HR positions with St. Joseph Communications, Worldlynx Wireless/Bell Mobility, and Hudson’s Bay Company. In addition to holding CHRP and CHRL designations, I have experience in numerous industries—including technology, financial, manufacturing, and consumer packaged goods.

I am passionate about guiding individuals toward their fullest potential and their own unique versions of success. In my personal time, I find fulfillment in coaching mid-life women to live their best lives through fitness, nutrition, and mindset coaching. It is my life’s purpose to facilitate transformative journeys where individuals and organizations embrace their strengths and overcome obstacles to reach their goals.

Barbara Wilson

Barbara Wilson

With over 20 years of experience as a learning, talent management, and career development professional, I’ve held leadership and consulting positions with organizations ranging from large for-profit corporations to community-based non-profits. My approach combines my strengths as a coach, educator, and trusted advisor, enabling individuals and organizations to break through barriers and unlock their full potential.

During my extensive work in the financial services sector, I focused on improving individual development and career literacy across entire organizations. I also worked with internal business teams on strategies and tactics to enrich their integrated talent development plans. In resource-limited non-profit organizations, I built and nurtured strategic partnerships, leveraged data-driven insights, and efficiently managed programs and relationships to drive organizational success and impact.

In 2012, I discovered career development as a profession and knew I had found my calling. As a consultant, I’ve provided clients with labour market analysis, interest holder mapping, client surveys, model and framework development, and actionable recommendations. I am proud to be a Certified Career Development Practitioner (CCDP).

Since 2023, I’ve had the privilege of working with Challenge Factory as an Associate Consultant, with a front row seat to their thought leadership and transformative approach to the Future of Work. I am thrilled to join their Trusted Advisor team, helping leaders articulate their values and devise strategies to navigate their professional journeys. 

Managing and leading in today’s work environments is hard. Everyone deserves someone in their corner.

Our Research Advisor Team

Candy Ho

Candy Ho

Dr. Candy Ho is an international award-winning career development educator and scholar whose expertise is recognized globally through keynotes and engagements. She has been featured in BNN Bloomberg, The Globe and Mail, Financial Post, Canadian Business, National Post, and CTV News.

Originally from Hong Kong, Candy currently serves as Chancellor’s Research Chair at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), while also teaching in KPU’s Educational Studies department. In this unique capacity, she teaches courses that help students consider their educational and life experiences, and how these experiences can enable them to achieve their short- and long-term goals, ultimately helping them design the life they want to live. Candy also relishes in developing current and future generations of career professionals as she teaches as a sessional instructor in Douglas College’s Career Development Practitioner Program.

Prior to becoming a faculty member, Candy worked extensively in university student affairs in areas such as first-year experience and student transition, campus and residence life, career and volunteer services, co-operative education, academic advising, and university advancement. Her collective professional experiences to date culminated in her doctoral dissertation investigating the conceptions of post-secondary career influencers in student career success, and she readily shares her expertise locally and globally. Finally, she currently serves as Chair of CERIC, a Canadian charitable organization that advances education and research in career counselling and career development, in order to increase the economic and social well-being of Canadians.