ISANS’ New CEO Inspires and Challenges

Paula Knight, ISANS CEO

Paula Knight started her life in Nova Scotia as a new immigrant and returned to the province to take on the role of CEO at ISANS.

In her early 20s, Paula moved to Canada from Wales. The people, ocean, and mountains made her fall in love with Nova Scotia because it reminded her of where she grew up. Here, in "her second home" as she refers to it, she forged her future by starting an incredible 25+ year career in both the corporate and non-profit sectors, creating strong bonds with the community and making lifelong friends and lasting relationships with colleagues.

“I’ve created a beautiful life in Canada, and I want that for others,” says Paula. “I’m incredibly excited to have this opportunity. It truly is full circle for me to deliver on the ISANS promise of welcoming immigrants to Nova Scotia to a community where all can belong and grow.”

Joining ISANS on February 20, Paula looks forward to spending time with staff to learn about the important work they do and building on the organization's outstanding reputation of providing excellent service to clients. She is also committed to realizing ISANS' vision and strategic plan by exceeding the expectations of clients, employees, and stakeholders.

“I love the challenge of moving into a new sector and the opportunity to learn and grow,” she says. “My leadership transcends different sectors, but it’s important for me to understand the needs of the people who are supported by ISANS. Perhaps not surprisingly, the sectors I have experience in intersect and in many ways align so well with my new role.”

Keen to inspire people to do their best work and feel valued, Paula believes in empowerment and the importance of making time to have fun. “It’s important to have levity, and I know I’m more productive and happier when there is fun and joy in my day – it makes the hard, busy work worth it,” she says.

Paula's life philosophy is to "be ambitious for the success of others," which is reinforced in every interaction she has with individuals, teams, and organizations to support and empower them in achieving their goals. Through her personal experience as a mother of a non-verbal son with autism, she has learned how important it is to focus on what is possible and how being an advocate for the needs of others can drive change.

She’s also been inspired by stories of people’s strength, courage, and resilience through her work in cancer care and social housing and in leading technology initiatives that drive positive social impact.

“It [my life philosophy] also comes from my own experience where others have empowered me, supported me, believed in me, cared for me,” she says with a big smile. “You cannot be successful alone, and by putting others’ success first, you gain so much more.”

It’s this type of personal investment and the need to feel fulfilled outside of her role as a full-time caregiver that also makes Paula so accessible. “I lead with empathy, and much of that comes from understanding that you don’t always know what people are dealing with in their lives and how important it is to see things through their lived experience,” she says.

Paula has also channeled this energy into her passion for supporting women in leadership and mentoring young women with the ambition to move into leadership roles. “I feel incredibly proud when I see women I’ve had the opportunity to know and support excel in their careers and life,” she says.

The COVID-19 pandemic made her reflect on where and with whom she wanted to spend her time, and after several years working in Ontario, Paula decided to call Halifax home once again.

“Reflecting on my love of the province and community here, I knew this is where I wanted to be,” she explains. “I’m quite fearless when it comes to big life decisions, and I’m really happy that I decided to return to Nova Scotia at this time in my life.”

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