Program matches students with top executives

The Calgary Herald catches up with ATB CEO Dave Mowat and finalist Brittany Pitruniak after their CEO x 1 Day event.

By: Mario Tuneguzzi

A new program aimed at grooming Canada’s future business leaders launched Tuesday with the pairing of an Edmonton university student and one of Calgary’s top executives.

Brittany Pitruniak, 23, a fourth-year communications student at MacEwan University, spent the day shadowing Dave Mowat, president and chief executive of ATB Financial, during the Odgers Berndtson CEO X 1 Day initiative that matches post-secondary students with leading managers.

“I really got an understanding, and a very personal view, of how busy he is and not just how busy he is but how much he’s giving back to our community,” said Pitruniak, who’s considering a career path in international relations and advocating for female involvement in politics.

The day began with Mowat’s talk to the University of Calgary’s president, executive team and deans and later included a trip to the Calgary Humane Society and the opening of a junior ATB branch model in a middle school.

Mowat said the program offers him the chance to gain the perspective of people outside the company.

“I think the risk sometimes (running) a business is you get to drink your own bathwater sometimes. So to have a different perspective, to meet and gain a bit of an understanding, it keeps all your perspectives wide instead of narrow,” he said.

“Brittany is pretty flexible and she’s got definite ambitions as a person but isn’t really hung up on one path or the other and I think maybe that’s a little bit different than other generations who kind of get zoned into one thing. It’s probably a little bit healthier. You probably find more opportunities keeping those options open.”

Odgers Berndtson, a global executive search firm, launched the program in Europe seven years ago before bringing it to Toronto in 2013. It expanded to Alberta and British Columbia this year.

Participating Calgary CEOs include Nancy Knowlton, the co-founder of Nureva Inc., who started SMART Technologies Inc. with her husband, David Martin. Ken Mullen, president and chief executive of Savanna Energy Service Corp., is the other participating Calgary executive.

Greg Pocherewny, a partner in the Calgary office of Odgers Berndtson, said 21 CEOs are participating across the country compared with 11 last year.

“Every day for a student is going to be different depending on the CEO’s plan for the day. We go through a fairly rigorous process not only of screening the students then matching them to a particular CEO based on not only interests but the personality,” he said.