One of my goals this year was to put some more time into developing my career so I could set myself up for long term success. To help achieve that goal, I joined my company’s Mentorship Program last winter. All the great conversations I’ve had with my mentor have inspired me to reach out to the other successful people in my life about how they’ve gotten to where they are today and what advice they would give their younger selves. I’ve already learned so much more then I hoped for, and I wanted to share some of the great advice I’ve received during these conversations.
Mike graduated from the University of Alberta in the mid 90’s and then moved to Calgary to began his career with PricewaterhouseCoopers. After spending over 10 years with PwC, he spent a few years working for Carma Developers (now Brookfield Residential) in Calgary and BC Transit in Victoria. He is now back at Brookfield Residential and is currently Edmonton’s VP of Finance and my mentor.
What was your first job out of university and how did you land it?
I was in the UofA’s coop student program and did a term at PricewaterhouesCoopers. It was common for them to hire coop students full time upon completion. It was the 90’s, the market was not very good, and good jobs were highly competitive. I’ll never forget getting that offer for full time work – I was completely over the moon.
What did you learn from that experience?
Like I said, the market was tough and highly competitive. Looking back, I think I found success in that first job through hard work, being very proactive, my network (in this case the coop term), and luck. In a lot of ways, those four characteristics are still areas that I think would result in success. Or at least greater chances of success.
You worked in Scotland for a while, what made you decide to take that opportunity?
I had always wanted to go International and doing it through work seemed like an ideal opportunity from both a professional and personal perspective. It was an amazing experience. Very challenging yet incredibly rewarding. I chose Scotland because of the common language (or so I thought), the work experience I would get, and to be close to the Scottish highlands.
What used to be your biggest weakness? How did you overcome it?
A lot of weaknesses are not completely overcome with, you just learn to manage it better. Mine is FOMO. I can get caught up in taking on too much, wanting to be involved in everything. Trying to maximize every minute of the day. Like I said, I just manage it better now realizing that it’s impossible so I need to focus. Trying to find balance between family, career, and personal ventures has helped. Ironically, the less time I have the more focused I have to become and it forces me to narrow down my options.
What was one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome it/ what was the end result?
My biggest challenge was a conflict I had with a former colleague. It really challenged me from a professional and personal perspective. I knew I had to make a change but the change not only impacted me, it impacted my family. That was the real difficulty in it. Don’t be scared to make difficult choices. Avoiding them is worse. At the end of the day, I made the change and it all worked out very well.
Have you ever made a big mistake? What did you do about it?
Yes – all the time! Luckily, I am always surrounded by people better than me to catch my mistakes or help me out of them. Mistakes are part of learning and what makes not just people, but organizations successful. It sounds cliché but it really is. If you’re not learning from your mistakes, then you’re not pushing yourself. I talk to my kids a lot about this as well, it’s not about falling down but about getting up.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
My first week at my first job at PwC. They had all the new hires across North America in Dallas and one of the lead partners told all of us to work hard, have fun, and make time for the relationships you’ll build along the way as many of those you will have for the rest of your careers. I dismissed it at the time but it was very true.
For someone who is starting their career, what is the best way to gain respect and be taken seriously?
It sounds cliché but Brookfield’s values align with my personal values. Passion, integrity and community. I really feel that living these values both personally and professionally helps reputation and credibility. Also, be curious and have fun with what you are doing no matter what the challenge.
Looking back on your career, is there anything you regret or would do differently?
I’m very happy with where I am so looking back, I wouldn’t want to change anything that would have stopped me from getting to this point professionally or personally. If I catch myself thinking of this question, I try to stop myself and think about where I want to be and how to get there vs looking backwards.