Woman of the Week: Helen Ziegler

At Helen Ziegler and Associates, located on the 24th floor on Dundas Street West, is a painted portrait of a nurse with her face turned away. What is interesting about this piece is that it is positioned in such a way that it seems she is looking out of the window and onto the heart of the city – the CN Tower. Though in Toronto this is considered a premium view, something in the nurse’s face looks unfulfilled.

Perhaps this scene is meant to represent any one of the 8000 healthcare professionals who come to Helen Ziegler and Associates seeking change and employment in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar or Kuwait. But instead maybe it is a depiction of the company’s president, Helen Ziegler, before she found formed her company and found her calling.

“I am just restless – I always have been, intellectually restless,” says Ziegler, who wears all black with a long, chain-link necklace she acquired in Europe.

Intellectually accomplished might be more accurate, with her masters in social work from Wilfred Laurier followed by an MBA from Western University. However, it’s really her experience—or rather the depth of it—that makes this woman truly fantastic. Having worked as a nurse, a marriage counsellor, the owner of the popular magazine Med Hunters, as well as a mother of three children and a wife of an equally restless cardiologist, Ziegler wasn’t sure where her mind would settle. Then her Middle-East healthcare provider agency “fell into” her lap.

“I went to Saudi Arabia with my husband and three kids where he worked as a cardiologist, after a year I came back,” says Ziegler. “I have always worked, I had always had a career and my operating motto has always been never depend on a man and I’ve been married to the same man for a long time. So I came home and formed this company in 1981.”

Thirty-two years is quite a long commitment to make for a woman whose brain is constantly searching, but given that her company is a marriage of all passions—counselling, research, nursing and communications – boredom has not been an issue to date.

“Every day I play a different role. I answer the phones just like any of the other employees here and see where the day takes me,” says Ziegler. “I don’t think of myself as a figurehead or icon at the office, I am just one of the workers. If I am a role model it’s because I can combine having a very demanding job and family while never losing sight of the details.”

In Ziegler’s profession of managing thousands of people’s careers and essentially lives (the company also finds housing for its American and Canadian workers), she feels details are what has kept her business a leading venture. A woman’s attention to detail is why she prefers to work with the fairer sex in her office and what she loves most about being a woman herself. Her advice to becoming a superwoman: snagging a fulfilling career while maintaining a successful home life are actually one and the same.

“Having interesting work that absorbs you and holds your attention is crucial. At the end of the day make sure you come to the table with your own story, if you are happy in yourself I think you are more tolerant and loving in your home – don’t be self sacrificing.”