An Indigenous Leader Inciting Meaningful Change in the Community

Apr 13, 2023
picture of smiling woman wearing a hat
Meet Jade Jocko (she/her), an active member in the Accelerate Her Future (AHF) community as Mentor in the Fellowship Circle and outgoing chair of our Advisory Group (AG).

Jade Jocko is an HR Professional with over 12 years of experience in the energy industry. She is passionate about building relationships with others and is invested in driving meaningful change that improves the employee experience and organizational culture. Jade has led several Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives and was the Chair of her organization’s Indigenous Employee Resource Group (ERG) for several years. Jade is currently Employee Relations Advisor at an energy company, focusing on the foundational pillars of team leadership, employee engagement and DEI. She is a member of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation and was born and raised in Moh’kins’tsis (Calgary) in Treaty 7 territory.

As current member and outgoing chair of our Advisory Group, Jade took time to share with us her contributions to the AHF community, her active work in DEI and more.

Leadership Inspired by Indigenous Values and Principles

As a member of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation and previous Indigenous ERG Chair at her company, Jade continually incorporates Indigenous values and principles to her daily life, including her approach to leadership. “I take inspiration from many sources including Treaty 7 Elders, knowledge keepers, and the Anishinaabe philosophies of my ancestors,” Jade explains, based on her learnings, there are key aspects of “the Anishinaabe way to live:”
  • Treat the earth, and all that dwell upon it, with respect
  •  Show great respect for your fellow beings
  • Work together for the benefit of all mankind
  • Give assistance and kindness whenever needed
  • Do what you know is right
  • Look after the well-being of mind and body
  • Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good
  • Be truthful and honest at all times
  • Take full responsibility for your action

Jade recalls Elder Casey Eaglespeaker, Blackfoot Elder from Kainai Nation storytelling about the buffalo, “‘Education is the new buffalo,’ so are the hardships that we may face.”

“In storytelling, buffalo are known to walk into the storm, rather than away from it. They are fearless, with the wind blowing in their face, they stand firm and continue their journey.”

“The buffalo is a symbol of resilience and overcoming adversity,” Jade reflects, “we are always learning from our connection to the land and our surroundings. We must have courage and trust in ourselves that we will overcome the challenges we all face and be stronger for it.”

Jade has embedded these beliefs throughout her Human Resources career, in her efforts to advance DEI as a key priority in building employee engagement and a culture where all people can thrive. Jade describes how “earlier in my career, I was heavily focused on DEI Volunteerism through Employee Networks (also known as ERGs).”

One of the dilemmas Jade faced as Indigenous ERG Chair was balancing goals of the organization and the community. “Often being recruited to support key business challenges or consulted as a subject matter expert left me feeling an ownership that went beyond DEI volunteerism and advocacy, and instead felt at times as though we were carrying out aspects of the organization’s DEI work in its entirety,” Jade considers. “Employees often join ERGs to find a sense of community and safe space where others can relate to challenges they may face.” Today Jade advocates to move from placing the burden on marginalized groups to a top/down, bottom/up approach.

According to the PowHER Redefined White Paper Report, in an attempt to improve DEI, companies may inadvertently press their Indigenous, Black and women of colour to provide unpaid labour through informal roles. Accelerate Her Future’s Founder, Dr Golnaz Golnaraghi, recently spoke to an audience about the important role Employee Resource Groups play but given the monumental task of doing DEI work, it can lead to member burnout. This work is not the job of one person, one department or one ERG, it requires active engagement of leaders, executive champions and active allies at all levels throughout the organization. ERG’s also need to be well resourced by providing members with paid time, budgets, and recognition.

As an Employee Relations Advisor, Jade finds purpose in the work she does that “truly makes a difference or impact on an employee’s life, in moments that matter such as supporting an employee through an impactful life event, providing guidance to Indigenous colleagues on navigating the expectations of the corporate world, or tackling tough issues to improve employee experience,”

“Whether through addressing interpersonal issues, building leadership capability, or employee advocacy, I take pride in the level of care and emphasis that I place on building relationships to ensure employees feel safe, have a voice, and are living authentically.”

Jade also uses her own voice to challenge thinking and put focus on the structures, systems or barriers that may get in the way of creating a truly diverse, inclusive and equitable organizational community. This can be a challenge in a large organization. “DEI tactics often focus on employment equity groups which can create challenge if they are trying to influence or transform the culture without any authority,” Jade reasons.

“Leaders are the key to unlocking any organization’s ability to own, promote, and drive any meaningful change in DEI strategies. Long term sustainability needs to explore solving systemic inequities which is no small feat to tackle.”

From General Member to Chair: Jade’s Commitment to AHF’s Mission

AHF’s Advisory Group (AG) consists of individuals working in business, tech and postsecondary sectors, providing strategic advice representing the voices and lived and professional experiences of our community to reflect our “nothing for us, without us” philosophy.

Jade joined our AG in 2020 as one of our inaugural members, and over the years has continued to contribute her perspectives and advice, ultimately serving as the first Chair of the AG in 2022.

When asked what motivated her to join AHF’s AG, Jade reflects, “in the summer of 2020, at a time when we all felt isolated and had little control over what was happening in the world, the opportunity to join AHF’s Advisory Group was a perfect opportunity to be part of social change,” Jade recalled, “getting involved with a social enterprise that aligns with my core values felt effortless.”

As Chair of AHF’s AG, Jade emphasizes how “being chair deepened my understanding and appreciation for what it takes to develop and grow a social enterprise which requires a significant amount of energy, grit, and passion.” Jade reflects, “Each AG meeting, I was in awe about the team’s remarkable achievements and accolades as they continue to set the bar higher each quarter. The sky’s the limit for AHF!”

“Golnaz, and the AHF team are a remarkable group of leaders and they inspire all of us to follow our passions, purpose, and to live authentically. I was thrilled to continue alongside an incredible and diverse community of talented women.”

Jade has been deeply involved in AHF’s initiatives, including as a 2021 Fellowship Circle panelist (Navigating the Workplace as Black, Indigenous and Women of Colour) and panel moderator (Mentoring as a Pathway to Allyship and Sponsorship) as well as a 2022 and 2023 Fellowship Circle Mentor. For the last 3 years she has also been part of the fellowship selection committee which uses a blind application process. She enjoys learning about all the amazing early career talent across the country. When asked by Golnaz to become a mentor, Jade reflected on the feedback about what makes a mentor stand out, such as “their ability to facilitate inclusive conversations in the group circles, to create a fun environment where all voices are heard, lead with empathy, care, and supporting career goals.”

“The Fellows and Mentors are incredibly special, and I learn so much from the community every session. Magic happens when you bring a community of women together who make you feel seen, safe, and supported!”

We couldn’t agree more, Jade!

Meditation as a Method to Treat Burnout

When asked how she looks after her mental health and wellness, Jade gave us key insight into the benefits of meditation, “over the last three years I am proud of the meditation practice I’ve cultivated as it’s become a cornerstone of my mental health.” Jade recalls, “I began to meditate as I was in a dangerous place of burnout. Navigating a full-time corporate career as well as being a full-time student, encountering an unexpected family health crisis, all while living through a global pandemic. Aside from the significant stress and anxiety, I felt that I wasn’t ever present, but seemed to be always worrying about the future or fretting about the past.”

Jade began exploring using the Headspace app, “at first I couldn’t sit for three minutes with my own thoughts, I wanted to crawl out of my skin and checked the timer to see how much time I had left,” Jade explains, “what drew me into the practice was the neuroscience of meditation. I was fascinated to learn that I could naturally change the neuroplasticity in my brain and form new neural connections by adopting a daily practice, so I kept at it.” Several studies show
that consistent meditation improves neuroplasticity, including enhanced cognitive functions and reduced age-related brain degeneration.

“Fast forward to today, I have a consistent morning meditation practice where I sit for 10-15 minutes before I start my day. Over the years I’ve gone through ‘seasons’ of meditation. Sometimes it’s harder or easier to sit depending on what’s going on in my life. To help deepen my practice I completed a Meditation Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course with the Director of Headspace in 2022 which required 45 minutes of daily meditation for 8 weeks,” Jade says, “The course focuses on mindful meditation training and practice but at its core is about the journey of self-development, healing, discovery, and learning about oneself.”

“It’s a lifelong practice, where there is no destination. It’s about the journey. My belief is that the greatest gift we can give ourselves is the journey towards yourself. We are medicine.”

Such great points from Jade, thank you for your meaningful reflections and passionate commitment to our mission.