Shannon Byrne is one top woman 

Next time you see a ski instructor, get their number because you never know where they might end up.

In Shannon Byrne’s case she went from ski school to the CEO of a major high-tech company that’s impacting the way banks do business over the Internet all around the world.

But what’s even more amazing is that she’s managed to do this from a good-time ski town like Whistler. No wonder she’s just won the Wired Woman Society’s Woman of the Year Award.

The gala event brought more than 400 industry peers together last week to celebrate the achievements of unique Canadian individuals in the converging fields of entertainment, media and technology. Not only are the recipients accomplished in their careers, but they are also considered exceptional role models and mentors.

Wired Woman Society’s national vice president, Lynda Brown, said Byrne was the perfect fit for the top award.

"Shannon represents the very essence of a wired woman – someone who plays a leadership role in the technology sector while also encouraging and mentoring others. Her dynamism, professional acumen and love of life make her most worthy of this award and we are delighted to honour her."

Byrne is one busy woman. As the chief of Paradata, she travels across the countryside cutting deals and offering advice. She also advises Premier Gordon Campbell as a key member of his Technology Council.

"We basically look at ways to expand the technology sector in the province. It’s a really attractive option for many of us already but there’s plenty of room for more think tanks," Byrne enthused.

She’s also a first-time mom, she skis, she runs marathons, she windsurfs, she’s a mentor to many of her employees, she lectures at universities around the country and sits on boards for numerous foundations and organizations.

So what’s the secret to success?

"Discipline," she said.

"I try and balance all my commitments and consider them all as equally important. I even book fun times into my schedule. If I don’t, I’m not happy and then I’m not productive."

You’d think living in Whistler would be a distraction when it comes to keeping a corporate mindset, but Byrne said it’s quite the opposite. She considers the holiday lifestyle the perfect antidote to her busy working week.

"I love living here. We’re really settled. I found my husband here and we’ve just had the baby so I’m not planning on leaving any time soon."

Byrne said she tries to get up the mountain as often as she can, even if it’s for just a few runs.

"Why live in Whistler if you can’t have ski time? That’s why we’re all here really and that’s the philosophy for the whole company. If our staff just worked all day then they’re not going to be happy and they would leave and that’s the last thing we want."

At Paradata, Byrne’s blue chip clients include the Royal Bank of Canada and the Bank of Montreal and in the past year, Byrne and Paradata have been showered with accolades. Although she describes the notoriety as a team effort, her talent and tenacity are widely acknowledged as the contributing factor. Recognition includes the B.C. Technology Industries Association's Best Application of Web Technology Award in 2001; Byrne was one of Report on Business's Top 40 Under 40 choices in 2000 and Paradata took the top spot as New Exporter for the B.C. Export Awards 2002.

There’s no doubting Byrne has come a long way from her university days in Halifax, Nova Scotia where when taking time off from a master's degree in computer science she would spend time in Whistler at ski camp.

"I decided then and there this was the place for me but just had to work out how I could combine my degree and experience to stay there, which I eventually did and I’m loving it," she said contentedly.

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