Welcome to the first edition of Spark Speakers, a blog series highlighting and gaining insight into the lives of Spark Conference’s defining speakers.

Sean Wiltshire has been CEO of Avalon Employment Inc for the last 26 years, where he has helped countless individuals around the world with disabilities find employment opportunities. He has also lent his expertise in diversity to various executive boards and committees and has received numerous awards including Atlantic Canada’s Top 50 CEO’s. Sean has recently been honoured with the “Zero Project Award” at the United Nations in Vienna, Austria as part of a team from York University that has worked to solve employment and diversity issues in Southeast Asia.

We recently reached out to Sean to ask him a few personal questions about himself and his professional experiences. Here’s what he had to say…

Who is someone you admire professionally?

I would say that I admire certain characteristics in a person both personally and professionally. These are easily identifiable. The traits of a leader, someone who teaches without expectation of repayment, someone who gives of themselves to causes or activities that they are passionate about, someone who values diversity and does not accept the manta of “tolerance” versus “acceptance.

This does not mean only the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, this is everyone involved with a community or organization at every level. Leadership is not about leading, it is about supporting others to see the leader within themselves.

What is your personal mantra and why did you choose it?

I laughed at this question, because I have a couple,

“Go BIG or Go HOME!”

I truly believe that there are times in your life were you have throw caution to the wind, and give it everything that you have. That each time you do something outside of your comfort zone will allow you to grow in ways that you don’t expect. Besides it’s only new the first time.

“How much Fun can I have before I die?”

Life, and experiences are limited, our time is limited. With this mantra I never forget to have fun, to take time to pause and laugh. Sometimes out of joy, sometimes out of frustration. It is a reality check on wasting time and energy on things that do not add to your life, but rather take away.

It is known that we can expel the same energy into being angry and frustrated as we can into being happy. I choose to be happy.

What makes you happiest in your job and outside of it?

I truly believe that I have the best job in the world because I get to make change. Impactful change for individuals with barriers to finding and keeping a job. Not an endless cycle of dead end programs, but support to get a real job, in the real world, with real pay. How much better can your day get when it is based on someone asking you to support their dream of getting a job?

Outside of my work I am passionate about volunteering. I give my time to lots of activities but my passion is in working in Southeast Asia with people with disabilities and female acid survivors to find employment for them in their country. I have been using my professional experience volunteering with an international project for the last three years in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. I travel there several times a year and work directly with individuals and companies to make the link for people in finding employment when they have a barrier. You return from experiences like these fundamentally a different person, you see your role in the world differently, you see that one person can make a difference, and that the world is not as big as it seems. I will also be talking about my work in South East Asia in my speech at the Atlantic Conference, so people can look forward to some funny and challenging stories about my experiences landing in a huge jet on a cracked runway in a monsoon in Kathmandu, and then experiencing two earthquakes in the first three days.   


Sean Wiltshire will be speaking on bettering your work-life balance as the Closing Keynote Speaker for the upcoming Atlantic Conference for Administrative Professionals on April 27, 2018.