In their shoes: Students compete to be a CEO for a day

Finalist Samantha Sim shares her experience at Twitter Canada with The Ryersonian.

By: Kayla Hoolwerf

Students across Canada are competing for their chance to spend a day walking in the shoes of a senior executive.

“CEO x 1 Day” is organized by Odgers Berndston, a global executive search firm. After receiving positive feedback from its pilot last year, the company decided to bring the competition back and expand.

A total of 21 CEOs — almost double from last year — from companies located in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver will spend the day showing a third- or fourth-year university student what it takes to be at the top.

“Leaders come from all disciplines,” said Jacqueline Foley, the chief marketing officer at Odgers Berndston. “We’re looking for Canada’s next leaders, the next generation, and we want to give them an opportunity to see what it’s like.”

There is a five-step selection process that narrows down who becomes a finalist. Feedback from last year’s event showed that the rigorous recruitment process is beneficial to students.

Beyond getting to spend a day with the CEO of a company, students learn how to package and promote themselves. Those who make it past the first round go through a leadership assessment. Odgers Berndston works to find an assessment test that actively reflects students’ characteristics.

“Students haven’t been in the workforce, so we pick a tool that helps to measure where they’re at now in their life,” said Foley.

The students are matched up to organizations that best suit their leadership characteristics and personality. Each student goes in with a different perspective of what they want to get out of the experience.

That’s why Saad Rafi, the CEO of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, waits to see what the finalists’ interests are before planning out their day.

“I don’t want it to be a cookie cutter tour,” he said. “We cater to the individual.”

Samantha Sim was the only Ryerson winner from last year. She spent a day with the CEO of Twitter Canada.

“Unless you know someone in the company, how else do you ever get to do that and see the inner workings of a company?” said Sim.

She is interested in the tech and communication industry, and says the CEO x 1 Day competition gave her the chance to see the business side of the industry. Sim said the reality is that you don’t always know if you’re going to like something until you’re immersed in it.

Applications for the first round can be submitted until Nov. 7, 2014. Students can apply here.