Lawyer for change Kyla Sandwith

After years working as a lawyer in the oil and gas industry, Calgary based Kyla Sandwith started her own legal consultancy, De Novo Inc, and sits on the board of Energy Efficiency Alberta. She balances these roles with that of mom to three young kids (aged one, four, and five), and we wanted to find out how she does this, and what her work means to her.

Why did you start doing what you do?

The energy efficiency work came about 18 months ago, and before that it really hadn’t been on my radar to tell you the truth. I’m a lawyer who has moved from practicing into law firm management and do my consulting there, but when this opportunity came up it really resonated with me. What I focus on in my day job is efficient use of resources, whether that be human resources or natural resources. We need to be responsible in how we use our resources in work and our day-to-day lives, so that’s how I got involved.

What does this work bring to your life?

It feels good to do this. The more you learn about our environment and changes in our climate, you start to realize that the only solution is how we use those resources day to day, so it feels good to be able to change the conversation, help people manage their use of resources overall, and hopefully make an impact on the environment.

Why is this work important?

There are lots of people who will say that climate change isn’t real, or that it happens without our intervention, and even if that is true, I still think that being responsible with our resources is the way to go. Why should we be wasteful with what the world has to offer, particularly when those resources are non-renewable?

Has parenthood changed how you view your work?

It became less about me and what I wanted. Before kids I could work 24/7 and stress myself out and let that impact how I dealt with the world around me. After kids, I realized that not only for my own sanity could I not do that anymore, but also because of the role model that I wanted to be for them, I needed to change the way I work. So, I seek out balance, which is always a work in progress.

What do your kids think about what you do?

I don’t think they really have an understanding of it yet. They know that their parents tell them to turn off the water and turn off the lights because it’s wasteful, but that’s about as much as they understand about energy efficiency. But, they’re going to be starting in a better place than we did because schools are teaching them about environmental responsibility and reducing, recycling and reusing. It is something they will know from an early age.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other parents about working/living with purpose?

The one thing that has always worked for me over time is to really identify where my gifts are. I have the ability to identify problems with processes and procedures, then identify how to fix them and implement that fix. That’s where I feel most powerful and in the zone, and I’ve moved my career in that direction to allow me to best use those abilities. I think that’s what everyone should be doing. It isn’t a follow your passion thing, it’s about using those gifts in the best way that you can to benefit those around you.

What do you think you have in common with other moms?

We have so many common threads, and we’re all going through the same stuff while doing the best we can for those around us. It’s sometimes hard to recognize that, especially with social media where it looks like everybody is living a better life than us. Every once in while I’ll show everyone on social media how life really is and I’ll post something about how awful my day has gone, and I keep it real that way.

What’s been hardest about what you do?

Carving out time for myself. Everybody gets the best of me, and I get what is left over, which isn’t a lot. We all know that the happier and more fulfilled we are, the better we can care for everyone else, but I think as moms we tend to turn into givers and forget about ourselves. I think that we are fed a cultural message that if we take time for ourselves we are selfish, and we just can’t buy into that. It’s up to us to change that reality. I believe that, but at the same time, day-to-day, I don’t practice that.

What other moms do you admire?

There are a lot of moms that I admire for a lot of different reasons, from the stay at home moms to those who are traveling all over and still keeping it going at home. I really admire the moms who keep it real, because this is tough, and we are all just doing our best for our kids.

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