A conference room with tables and chairs, and the Gather North logo displayed on the projection screen

Kena Paranjape

Kena Paranjape

Co-founder, BRIKA

Kena Paranjape is the Co-Founder and Crafter of Brand at BRIKA, a retail concept focused on creating and living a well-crafted life. After earning an MBA from the University of Toronto, she created merchandising strategies for Old Navy, Banana Republic, Joe Fresh, Indigo and a high-end eco-lifestyle concept shop. Kena writes a newsletter called No Rain, No Rainbows focused on the idea that we all have the choice in every moment to make our lives more beautiful. She also consults for small brands, artisans and designers and leads workshops and speaks about creativity and personal growth.

Shannon Lee Simmons

Headshot for Shannon Lee Simmons

Founder, New School of Finance

Shannon Lee Simmons is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Investment Manager (CIM), media personality, author and founder of the New School of Finance. Simmons is widely recognized as a trailblazer in the Canadian financial planning industry. She is the author of bestseller Worry-Free Money, writes a monthly column for The Globe and Mail, is a personal finance columnist for CBC’s On the Money and Metro Morning, and a financial expert on The Marilyn Denis Show.

Avery Francis

Head of Talent Strategy, Bright + Early

Avery Francis is an unconventional HR expert with over 10 years of experience working in Human Resources and Talent Acquisition with dedicated experience in the tech and creative design space. Having recently been featured in HRD Canada’s hot list in the Top 27 HR Professionals in Canada Avery continues to play an active role in the growing tech space in Toronto. Always looking to what’s next, Avery works with leading startups to navigate the world of talent acquisition and build a creative culture worth being a part of. A champion of diversity, inclusion and belonging, Avery is a founder of the Bridge program for female engineers as well as DITTO (Diversity and Inclusion Talks TO). Formerly the Head of Talent at League and Director of Talent at, Avery leads Bright + Early’s talent strategy and inclusion projects.

Lightning Talks: featuring you!

Group of women laughing

The perfect weekend kick-off

After dinner on the Friday night of Gather North, we have a tradition of listening to Lightning Talks. They’re 5-minute presentations from members of the Gather North community, and light a spark for the weekend. We hope you’ll consider giving a Lightning Talk presentation at Gather North.

You can talk about anything you want! Past talks have included: an introvert’s guide to navigating teams; a crash-course history lesson on Hedy Lamarr; an explainer of how a two-person team divides their tasks; a hilarious tale of working with a professional voice coach; tips for being the only non-technical person on a technical team; a heartfelt confession of maternity leave imposter syndrome; and insightful anecdotes of balancing concurrent careers in writing and web development.

Everyone at Gather North is encouraged to consider giving a Lighting Talk presentation. More details on the submission process will be sent to attendees this summer.