Tina Varughese

Cross-Cultural Communication Expert and Work-Life Balance Advocate
Calgary, Alberta

What Tina is Passionate About

Virtual or In Person Keynote: Be VISIBLE at Work 

Everybody should be seen, heard and acknowledged at the workplace. However, how do we accomplish this when we don’t know how to elevate ourselves at work? BIPOC understand that being able to communicate effectively in the workplace leads to potential advancement, enhanced productivity, optimal performance and employee engagement. In fact, allies, advocates, and accomplices of BIPOC also know how important representation at all levels within an organization truly is.

Successful organizations understand managing diversity drives profitability, leads to innovation and promotes an inspiring workplace culture.

Key takeaways

• Individualistic and collective cultures: How values change the way we communicate
• Cultural differences in communication: Indirect vs. direct speaking styles
• Effective day-to-day communication when English is a second language
• Non-verbal communication: Why the “unspoken” word is the most important of all
• Why networking in Canada feels ‘foreign’ and strategies to ensure it’s more effective
• Practical and tactical strategies to empower BIPOC team members to become more visible at work
• Why diversity, equity and inclusion should matter to the sustainability of any organization
• Why global companies lose millions in revenue due to a lack of understanding of cultural differences

50 Shades of Beige: Communicate with the Cross-Cultural Advantage 

Are issues like these causing stress, conflict, confusion, time and money in the workplace?

• Why does this client/co-worker constantly interrupt the conversation? Is he not interested in what I’m saying?
• He never looks me in the eye. Clearly he does not respect me.
• Hua said she’d complete the proposal last week yet she still hasn’t. Does she not understand it’s important?
• Gustavo never has an opinion during meetings. Was he the best candidate for this job?

Why this topic?

Successful organizations understand that being able to communicate cross-culturally in the workplace leads to enhanced productivity, performance and employee engagement. Managing diversity drives profitability, leads to innovation and promotes an inspiring workplace culture.

Target audience

Everybody and anybody! Everybody can benefit from communicating more effectively, however, when 20% of Canada’s population is foreign-born (and much higher in urban centres), communicating with the cross-cultural advantage is arguably one of the most important types of communication to understand and benefit from in the 21st century. Any organization with a culturally-diverse client base or increasingly multicultural workforce would benefit greatly from this topic.

Key takeaways

• Cultural differences in communication: Indirect vs. direct speaking styles
• Individualistic and collective cultures: How values change the way we communicate
• Effective day-to-day communication when English is a second language
• Non-verbal communication: Why the “unspoken” word is the most important of all
• How global companies lose millions in revenue due to a lack of understanding of cultural differences
• How to use the VAK model of Communication (visual/audio/kinesthetic communication styles) using the cross-cultural advantage

Recruiting and Retaining Foreign Workers for Success and Sustainability 

Are issues like these causing stress, conflict, confusion, time and money in the workplace?

• During the interview this foreign worker couldn’t engage in small talk and won’t address past achievements and accomplishments, yet seems highly qualified. Is he?
• Zeeshan’s accent is so strong that I can’t understand him when he calls me with off-site with questions.
• I often offer Pierre constructive feedback, yet he never implements it.
• Vilma continues to speak Tagalog with Caridad around patients. Will patients feel anxious and confused?

Why this topic?

Successful organizations understand that being able to attract, recruit and retain a qualified worker with appropriate skills, personality, attitude and motivation can be challenging at the best of times, let alone when chronic labour shortages exist in both skilled and non-skilled occupations. A shortage of skilled labour limits the ability to increase sales or production, which is why many successful organizations recruit foreign workers. The top source countries for foreign workers are India, China, Pakistan and the Philippines, all collective in nature. Collectivists often recommend suitable candidates because of their commitment to family and community, giving employers access to a rich database of potential recruits. However, managerial hiring practices are not standardized globally. Religious practices coupled with English as a second language can also affect productivity and profitability if not managed effectively.

Target audience

Sectors experiencing critical labour shortages including but not limited to: oil and gas, healthcare, agriculture, hospitality, tourism, information technology and trades.

Key takeaways

• Why Canadian hiring practices sometimes inadvertently ‘screen out’ suitable candidates
• Effective interview techniques with individualistic and collective cultures
• Face to face, phone and email: Effective day-to-day communication when English is a second language
• Workplace conflict resolution across all cultures
• Death by meeting: How mismanaged global teams waste time and money
• Non-verbal communication: To shake hands or not to shake hands… that is the question
• Are we speaking the same language? Constructive feedback across cultures

Inclusive Leadership: From Silos To Solutions 

Are issues like these causing stress, conflict, confusion, time and money in the workplace?

• The sales managers are at ‘lunch meetings’ all the time, whereas we’re on site working. How does the sales team expect to make our deadline with that attitude?
• I believe in an open door policy but Anil is in my office all the time and I’m struggling to complete my own work.
• Mary Ann’s negativity is decreasing morale. I’m worried it’s affecting our productivity. How should I approach this with her?
• Joe is highly respected by his crew yet working 15 hour days. Will he burn out eventually? I can’t afford to lose him

Why this topic?

Creating a great organization isn’t just about breaking down cultural barriers. It’s about building a workplace where everyone works towards a common purpose and feels included despite title, rank or position. Successful leaders understand people do not leave jobs. People leave people. Today’s successful leaders believe not only in investing in themselves, but encouraging others to grow, to learn and to develop in order to build inclusivity and trust, breakdown silos, foster employee engagement, encourage open lines of communication, promote creativity and create a healthy, happy and inspiring workplace.

Target audience

Leaders, managers or skilled professionals from any organization wanting to increase productivity, build inclusivity, and enhance employee engagement would benefit greatly from this topic.

Key takeaways

• Breaking down silos: How to create respectful, communicative, inclusive and collaborative teams
• Delivering constructive, influential, inclusive and solution-based feedback
• Death by meeting: Five key steps to inclusive and effective meetings
• Inclusive personal and organizational purpose: How recognizing others’ contributions gives you a stronger sense of purpose
• Negative Nellie and Nasty Ned: How to actively listen, include and empathize to change negative behaviors at work
• The importance of stress management for leaders

Successfully Selling and Servicing to All Cultures 

Are sales, negotiations and customer service suffering due to issues like these?

• Vikram continues to negotiate on the house price even though we have a signed contract. How do I explain I cannot reduce the price anymore?
• This client shook my hand like a ‘wet noodle’. Is he not interested in buying insurance through me?
• My entire team is Caucasian. How can we increase business in multicultural markets?
• Jennifer is my ‘top performer’, yet many prospective male clients won’t look at her. Is it because they do not respect women?

Why this topic?

The population in general is becoming increasingly multicultural. One-fifth of Canada’s population was born outside of Canada (much higher in urban centres)-making it one of the fastest growing niche markets today. Second and third generation immigrants are highly influenced by parental values, beliefs and cultural nuances. With diversity comes opportunity, and potential for growth in sales, brand loyalty and profitability. By building trust and rapport through understanding, recognizing and respecting cultural differences, successful companies can capitalize and profit from this often untapped market.

Target audience

Sales and service professionals from any organization with a culturally-diverse client base would benefit greatly from this topic.

Key takeaways

• Work less, sell more: Increase repeat and referral business cross-culturally
• Are we speaking the same language? Successful cross-cultural negotiations
• When yes means no: How communication styles differ across cultures
• Multicultural marketing: Spending dollars strategically in multicultural markets
• Non-verbal communication aka “The Seinfeld Syndrome”: Are you a loud talker and losing business because of it?
• What women need to know to succeed cross-culturally
• I don’t understand: When strong accents inhibit communication and what to do about it
• Million dollar mistakes: How global companies fail due to a lack of understanding cultural differences

Ctrl-Alt-Del: Give the (Re) Boot to Work-Life Balance 

Are issues like these causing stress, anxiety, guilt, weight-gain, sleep-deprivation, and negativity?

• I have a demanding job often taking work home with me. When am I supposed to find time to exercise?
• Between work, kids’ activities, cleaning the house, and preparing meals I’m exhausted. Does everyone feel like this?
• I always take on additional projects at work and at home. I don’t seem to have any time to breathe these days. Why do I say ‘yes’ to everything?
• I feel like a hamster on a wheel with little to no time for myself.

Why this topic?

Only 23% of working Canadians are highly satisfied with life. In fact, one-third of Canadians feel they have more work to do than time permits. Work-life balance is not a gender issue. Men have the same issues balancing career and family as women do and also struggle with obtaining work-life balance. With technological advances coupled with more women entering the workforce due to economic pressures, work-life balance can seem evasive and unobtainable. But with essential tools, tips and strategies, employees can minimize stress, maximize efficiency, improve productivity and boost positivity both at work and at home. Increased work-life balance leads to lower employee absenteeism and turnover rates and higher levels of employee engagement.

Target audience

Anyone struggling to manage their stress and achieve a healthier work-life balance.

Key takeaways

• 168 hours=168 hours: Why more time does not mean more balance
• Five key stress busters that are essential for a healthier, happier, and more balanced life
• Tips and tools for difficult conversations at work and at home
• Increasing your work-life balance score with the Japanese concept of ‘kaizen’
• Cultural differences in the perception of work-life balance
• The high cost of always saying ‘yes’
• Retrain your brain for positivity
• Having it all… or having it all right now?
• Prioritize your life the way you want your obituary to read

The Human Side of Unconscious Bias 

First impressions, positive or negative, are made in seven seconds or less. We all make quick assessments of others without even realizing it. We are not born with bias. Biases are formed by past situations, experiences, background and culture. Unconscious biases typically exist towards gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability (both physical and mental), and weight. Most of us will say “I see people for who they are” but do we? Unconscious biases affect and impact decision making both professionally and personally with real impact. Recognizing, managing and mitigating unconscious bias promotes diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion drives innovation, increases productivity, and stimulates creativity while promoting a healthy, happy, engaging workplace culture

Key takeaways:

-The Neuroscience behind Unconscious Bias (“No blame, no shame”)

-Managing and Mitigating Unconscious Bias in Recruitment, Retention and Employee Engagement

-Breaking Bias- Strategies for Gender, Maternal, Affinity and Ageism

-Sesame Street 2.0- One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong…..or does it?

-How Diversity Drives Innovation, Creativity and Productivity

Why Creating a Culture of Inclusion affects Positivity, Profits and Purpose


“With the aim to continue fostering a happy and healthy workforce, Syncrude’s Women’s Interest Network (WIN) recently sought out Tina Varughese to give employees her presentation on unconscious bias and diversity in the workplace. Over the course of three days, Tina delivered four equally, funny and informative sessions, each met with resounding success.  It was a delight to see how engaged employees were and their genuine desire to better understand and embrace inclusivity. Tina even received unsolicited emails from staff thanking her for teaching something they hadn’t previously thought about or recognized, which clearly demonstrates the value-add she brought to the Syncrude organization.”

Michele Toma | Government & Public Affairs | Syncrude Canada Ltd.

Virtual Leadership: When Communication, Collaboration and Compassion Intersect 

Are issues like these causing stress, fear, confusion, inefficiency, insomnia and productivity in the work from home space?

• I am lacking focus and motivation while working? How can I make my day more productive, efficient and even energizing?
• Fear, ambiguity and negative thoughts continually creep into my head. I feel deflated, angry and immense sadness. When should I be concerned if I’m situationally depressed, anxious or both? What can I do to protect the mental health of myself and my family?
• I do not know how to effectively connect with clients in a virtual environment? Can I still build trust, authenticity and continue to strengthen relationships with clients, customers, suppliers and team members or is everything on hold?
• Covid-19 feels like a living nightmare. How can I become purposeful, passionate, mindful and meaningful controlling what I can for a stronger and more resilient outcome for all.

Why this topic?

With the sudden onset of Covid-19, organizations were forced to pivot, adapt and plunge into uncharted waters while facing overwhelming uncertainty. Despite title, rank or position we are all leaders at work and at home and have the capability to impact, influence and inspire others through intentional actions. Virtual leadership begins with effective communication, collaboration, empathy and understanding. With employees becoming increasingly demotivated and disengaged coupled with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and addiction on the rise be-cause of the pandemic situation, it is imperative to lead with compassion, transparency, integrity and most of all resiliency as we stand together apart.

This is a virtual interactive, ‘hands-on’ inspirational keynote utilizing Zoom where attendees will participate in live polling, group chats, slide shares including videos, morale-boosting activities and Q and A to promote social inclusivity, engagement and unity

Key takeaways

• Standing Together Apart: How to create respectful, communicative, inclusive, collaborative virtual teams
• Death by Virtual Meeting: Four key steps to inclusive and effective virtual meetings, virtual sales and virtual social inclusion
• When Fear Takes Over: How to Actively Listen, Empathize and Empower Others’ Towards a Positive Paradigm
• Immunizing our Mental Health
• The Power of Surrendering to Circumstance: Why Letting Go Strengthens Resilience
• The Transformative Power of Servitude: Why Serving Others Provides Purpose During Difficult Times

Why You Need Tina

Described as a ‘dynamic, engaging, knowledgeable and humourous’ speaker, Tina is often rated as ‘the best speaker of the conference’. Her interactive approach is insightful and her delivery is highly entertaining. She breaks down barriers to create a comfortable and fun space where people ask the questions they might otherwise be afraid to ask.

Tina is an Indo-Canadian daughter of first generation East Indian parents, which allows her to find ‘the best of both worlds’ and shed light, knowledge and most importantly universal humour into the intercultural workplace. Her experience as a mother, daughter, wife, sister and friend impacts her keynote delivery on work-life balance and generational differences. Her key message is to “Strive for progress rather than perfection.”

For fifteen years Tina Varughese, B.A.; B.Comm, worked with immigrants in her roles with the Province of Alberta’s immigration office as well as running her own successful relocation and settlement firm. She is a contributing writer for the Human Resource Institute of Alberta’s Network magazine, Calgary Real Estate News, Home to Home magazine and nationally syndicated Mompreneur Magazine.

Tina has been the face of diversity, literally, when she was chosen to be in Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty representing beauty in diversity. With two kids, five fish and one husband, she resides in Calgary where she recently began hip hop classes.

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Why You Will Love Tina

“Your session was very engaging and funny and your style of presenting is open and welcoming and encourages people to want to have a balanced lifestyle. I am still laughing about your story about your Mother and the bacon and pancakes. I have told my colleagues that story here in Ottawa. They all had a chuckle!”

Kathy Magee
Volunteer Specialist, Parks and Recreation, City of Ottawa

“Just a quick note to say what a pleasure it was to meet you and to participate in your sessions at CanSPEP 2015! You are an amazing presenter, very engaging and passionate and entertaining.”

Shawnna Dickie-Garnhum
Sales Manager, Discover St. John

“This is the type of session I have been seeking for some time. Our organization embraced an increasingly diverse workforce,but the appropriate tools, like this session, have not been offered. At the leadership level, there is an expectation that staff will challenge respectfully. Without understanding the cultural differences, organizations may not achieve excellence.”

Elsie Hutton, CFO
Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

“You rock! Loved your sense of humour, was so refreshing! It was a great reminder for me to take care of myself.”

Christine Tienkamp
CMA, Business Advisor, MNP

“You are incredibly motivating, energetic and one of the best keynote speakers I saw that day. I would really love to share what you told us with my executive team.”

Izzah Khan
Institute of Sustainable Energy, Economy and Environment

“Sometimes people cross your path and make a difference in the direction you are going. Interestingly you did this for me with your ‘work-life’ balance presentation. You have such a charismatic way of presenting your topic! Your sense of humor and your personal experience brought your presentation to life.You made accountants laugh…imagine.”

Marie-Josee Cantin, CGA
Divisional Corporate Controller Stuart Olson Dominion Construction

“I can’t say that I have ever enjoyed a speaker as much I enjoyed you. You are witty, charming, funny, and engaging. You have inspired me. Well done.”

Deborah Davy
Director, Tourism Toronto

“I LOVED your keynote and could have sat in that conference room all day listening to you. It really shows that you are in your element and love what you do. Thank you for speaking with such passion about a topic that a lot more people need to hear about these days. You were definitely one of the people that I automatically felt a draw to. You have a beautiful soul and possess the energy of a million watt light bulb. Keep up the good work!”

Kevin Robitaille
Bilingual Coordinator Groups Porter Airlines

“Tina was straightforward and funny!  Our team was very appreciative of the humourous delivery of her important message reminding us how to be productive while juggling the pressures that surround us.”



Caroline Blair-Smith
Senior Advisor to the CAO City of Halifax


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