CEO for a Day

Two student finalists share their impressions of shadowing an executive for a day with 24 Hours Toronto newspaper.

By: Linda White Right

Kobisan Rasaratnam spent a day in a CEO’s shoes. The University of Waterloo student shadowed one of Canada’s bestperforming executives as part of a program to help future business leaders learn what it takes to steer companies to success.

“I learned about the importance of being able to maintain relationships and respect your team members. From the custodian to the CFO, every employee brings something to the organization,” the accounting and financial management student says of lessons learned while spending the day with Cineplex Entertainment President and CEO Ellis Jacob. Rasaratnam was among 20 students selected by global executive search firm Odgers Berndtson to take part in its CEO x 1 Day program. On the day he participated, Cineplex announced its earnings and he had an opportunity to listen in on a conference call with analysts.

The program is also designed to help students gain insight into what it takes to foster a culture of innovation and collaboration. “I learned about the importance of leaving your ego on the side and focusing on your work so you can lead your team to new heights and continue to innovate.” says Rasaratnam.

“Believing there’s always something you can improve upon will help your company become stronger and stronger. I also learned never be afraid of challenges.”

The program is designed to uncover Canada’s most promising talent and accelerate their development as leaders. “We’re doing this because there’s a leadership gap,” says Rob Quinn, partner at Odgers Berndtson. “When we survey executives, 90% say they don’t have the replacements they need to fill executive roles.”

Executives are looking for leadership skills and business acumen, he reports. “You can’t take a course in those things and you can’t Google the answer. A lot comes out through mentoring…you need to talk to people and ask questions. This program gets people on that track by starting the mentoring process.”

Ryan Smith of BC’s Simon Fraser University was matched with Goldcorp Inc. President and CEO Chuck Jeannes. “I got to be in the boardroom for the year-end earnings call.” says the business student. “It was an amazing experience to see the CFO and Senior VP of Operations give their take on the year’s performance.”

He learned a variety of lessons. “One of the big takeaways of the day was that the big differentiator among people at all levels and in all industries is communication skills.” Smith says. “I got to watch (Jeannes) do live television interviews…and also take calls from newspaper journalists. I saw his ability to communicate the company’s mission and values and his outlook on the future.”

The program is a win-win, with participating CEOs welcoming the chance to learn what the younger generation is looking for in a job and career, Quinn says. This year’s candidates ranked the top things they look for when choosing their first job: stimulating work and opportunities for advancement came out on top.

Incentive plans, autonomy, competitive salaries or even a recognizable brand were of less interest to students.