Fifth Wave Profile Series: When Emphasizing Empathy Pays Off

Posted: Mar 20, 2023

Perspective Squared

Ruth Wylie (left) and Melanie Grad (right), cofounders, Perspective Squared.

Melanie Grad and Ruth Wylie bring empathy and flexibility to Perspective Squared through their approach to strategy, creative, and production

Powered by Liisbeth Media. Written by Justine Abigail Yu

To hear Melanie Grad and Ruth Wylie tell it, starting a business together was simply inevitable; when Grad first hired Wylie as a freelancer for Variprix, a content design company, ten years ago, the connection between them was instantaneous.

“We were sitting in a boardroom working on a project together, laptops side-by-side, working on a spreadsheet and instinctively following each other’s lead back and forth,” Grad recounts. “We had this beautiful moment looking at each other like, ‘Wow you get me. You think the way I do.’

“We knew in that moment that we had to continue working together because it’s rare to find someone who can read your mind that way.”

Veterans of the media industry with decades of experience between them, Grad and Wylie have worked in everything from software development to journalism, events management to marketing. When Variprix shuttered its door due to the pandemic, the pair decided to go strike out on their own, starting Perspective Squared, a strategy, content,and digital media company specializing in production and live event experiences for the automotive, healthcare, and technology industries.

“We are a production partner that develops strategies and content to connect with audiences via visual communication, specifically digital media,” Grad explains. “For live events, we create the content for LED screens in exhibits. We work with the end client and the exhibit houses to ensure the content on the screen supports a cohesive experience and messaging for attendees. This means that we help to ensure everything from the exhibit architecture, the lights, the music, and the video content on screen all complement and work together to create a powerful, unified experience.”

In addition to live event experiences, Perspective Squared also works on other video production projects from developing strategic briefs according to client needs all the way to organizing and managing the overall production of the project. “This could include organizing and directing live video shoots, working with existing assets to create videos, or providing motion graphics or animation to bring an idea to life,” says Wylie.

Grad says that, for her, being a parent has had a huge impact on the “lens” she works from, leading her to seek out employment opportunities with “flexibility.”

“I’m a single mother. (I) bring that lens to the table. That has always been my driving force – to be working in places with flexibility. I’m a very hard worker but my hours may not always be conventional, but as long as the work gets done.” she says. “In the studio Ruth and I were working at together prior to Perspective Squared, I was in a fortunate position where I essentially ran the studio in a way where I wanted everyone to feel comfortable. I could leave to pick my son up from daycare and I worked from home later that evening. That was a choice – to set that example.”

When she was head of production at Variprix, Grad says she tried to lead with flexibility, because caregiving extends to many people.

“There was a man who lived in Newmarket (ON) who would drive downtown to Liberty Village everyday,” she says. “He had basketball with his boys twice a week and I said, ‘You better get your ass up there. Those are the important things.’

“Men and women – we all have other priorities. That opportunity really taught me that’s not something to compromise on when we’re running our business.”

Although they are at different places in their life, Grad says she’s learning a lot from Wylie, who, at 52, brings a “menopausal lens” to their partnership and business.

“For so long, for so many decades, no one spoke about it,” says Wylie. “Yes, you see women in later stages of their lives change their careers and do different things and that’s amazing. But how many of those women made those changes because they couldn’t navigate their current career path feeling the way they were feeling?”

“(Menopause) ebbs and flows – particularly (for me in) the last three months, I’m ebbing in the most challenging of ways. I adapt, sometimes daily, to my energy and focus levels, taking breaks and shifting tasks/priorities when possible,” she says. “ It most definitely makes me more aware of other people’s energy and trying to make a space for people to share feelings, ask for help, or to just be if that is what they need.”

Like the flexibility that Grad has sought out as a single parent, Wylie says she now finds herself adjusting her work schedule to prioritize her well-being as she goes through menopause.

“I grew up with the notion that to succeed you need to work harder and longer and keep your emotions in check. Success was intrinsically linked to performance, how much I did and how well it was received. I am working on reframing that notion, and today my success is more about being self-satisfied with the work I produce, how it is done and in the environment I help create for others to work within.”

The lack of these important conversations about their lived experiences have encouraged Grad and Wylie to open up space for more human conversations with their partners and colleagues. One area they strive to invest their time and energy in is through mentorship. As Wylie puts it, they,“want to make the time to be able to give back to the next generation of super producers and female entrepreneurs.”

“For example, we just wrapped up six days on set with a really lovely crew,” says Grad. “The conversation at the end was: we really loved working with you, but let’s have a coffee to talk about what you like to do so that we’re putting you in the right position next time. Just because you came on as an associate producer or camera assistant, we realize you have other skills and other interests. We can definitely put you in the same role the next time, but if we know what you like to do and we have opportunities to provide that, then let’s make that happen. Those conversations are important to us.”

“I feel very strongly about our efforts to create a business where we work collaboratively with others, creating a space that supports our team learning and growing and contributing to our shared success,” adds Wylie. “Growing the business and being profitable is unquestionably a goal, but the first priority is always the people and community we develop and grow the business with.”

Grad and Wylie emphasize the empathy and generosity that they aspire to bring to all aspects of their work. As Grad says, “It’s important for us to take what works and share it with other people. If you like our process, take it. If you like the way we structured our call sheets, take it. If you like the way we build, take it. Our success is not the ultimate goal. We want to see everybody’s success.

“Let’s all rise together. If we figured it out the hard way, take the easy way.”

Publishers Note: Perspective Squared participated in the Fifth Wave Initiative, a year-round program offered by CFC Media Lab and its partners to support the growth and development of women entrepreneurs in the digital media and commerce sector in southern Ontario. All enterprise founders in the Fifth Wave community are selected for both their potential and commitment toward weaving intersectional feminist ideals of equity and fairness into sustainable and scalable business growth strategies. Fifth Wave Initiative is committed to a minimum of 50% participation per cohort by members of underrepresented groups. The Fifth Wave is a LiisBeth ally sponsor at the Lighthouse level.

Fifth Wave , CFC Media Lab’s feminist business accelerator, has teamed up with media partner, LiisBeth  — a womxn-led and owned intersectional feminist media enterprise — to showcase its program participants and their companies. Throughout 2022, Liisbeth will feature the women founders, and their businesses, who are participating in the Fifth Wave program, a CFC Media Lab initiative. Read Liisbeth’s monthly digital magazine for feminist entrepreneurs or check this page monthly to learn more about the inspirational women who are choosing to develop their companies by employing feminist business practices.

Fifth Wave is funded in part by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.

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