Convocation address by Glenn Ives, Chairman, Deloitte Canada, member of QSB’s Advisory Board

Posted on July 01, 2015

Mr. Ives delivered the following address at Grant Hall on May 22, 2014 to the graduating classes of QSB’s Master of Finance, Master of International Business, Master of Management Analytics programs.

Good morning to all of you. Thank you Chancellor Dodge, Principal and Vice Chancellor Woolf, Dean Saunders, Rector Nick Francis, faculty, families, friends, and of course our graduating Masters Classes of 2014!

Well done!

As I look at the faces of the graduates - I see pride, a sense of achievement and a little relief – you are DONE.

Today you are convocating from six Masters’ programs: Finance, Management Analytics, International Business, Public Administration, Industrial Relations and Urban Planning.

Some of you attended full-time, some part-time. Some of you have families or have been in the workforce for years and came back to boost your careers – some are just starting out. You represent nine countries – nearly 30% of you are women! What a diverse and accomplished class of graduates!

I am honoured to be in your company today.

When I was preparing to speak today, I thought about all the graduation ceremonies that I have attended as a student, father, mentor, employer or friend. Each one is special, but they all mark a doorstep to the next chapter of your life. You are crossing this doorstep in many ways, leaving old lives behind, maturing, and becoming more confident. You may be thinking “Will I get the best out of this life? What do I need to do?”

I thought about what I could say that might be helpful and that you could remember. I’ll leave it to the business advisors, headhunters, and mentors to talk about what your next steps should be.

What I want to share with you are three things that are central to my career success:

The first – HUMILITY - Being humble without losing your edge

The second - Speaking from the heart

The third – The courage to say YES

Let me start by saying I know how exciting today is for you. You will very shortly possess a Queen’s University Master degree.  You should be extremely proud of yourself. It is a major accomplishment — not many people have Master's degrees.

You have proven your academic fortitude and intellectual capacity. The Queen’s brand guarantees rigour. Completion of your programs has taken effort, stamina, drive and motivation. Today we acknowledge that you have succeeded. And you will reap the rewards in the long term – I am sure of it.

While I believe this is a moment to be celebrated, my first piece of advice to you is to stay humble. Do not fall into the trap of believing that you now have a golden key to the universe. While this Master’s degree is a major accomplishment, it will not be the last achievement you will have in your life. It will not be the only mountain you must climb. Do not get complacent.

You have the parchment (or you will, shortly) but you will still have to work hard to get the job you want. You have a parchment, but you will still have to prove your value once you get the job. And even with a parchment, you will reap greater rewards if you never stop seeking, growing, and learning from others and about your work

Being humble is a good thing. What do I mean? For me – I introduce myself as a partner from Deloitte, a mining audit partner based in Vancouver, a partner who was asked to be the Chair of Deloitte. Those who achieve great things in life are those who build one accomplishment on another but never feel they are at the top of their game. They challenge themselves to learn more, reach farther and climb higher.

So my first piece of advice to you is be humble enough to keep stretching – to keep reaching for the golden ring. And it will be yours.

My second piece of advice is to speak from the heart. This is actually good advice in all areas of your life! What does it mean to speak from the heart? It means knowing what you are passionate about;  knowing why you are doing something (what is your purpose?); and, being clear with yourself (and with others) about your values.

We must all ask ourselves:  What do I TRULY believe in? What do I TRULY need and want out of my work? What you truly believe will shape the way you approach your work – what you find rewarding, what you find enjoyable to do.

These speak to your values, which can be as obvious as wealth or recognition, but you may have other types of values.

For me, when I was 39, I had a difficult career choice to make — CFO of a software company or a return to professional practice as a partner.  Standing in the shower on Thanksgiving  Saturday when I needed to make a decision, I thought – my family can have a life-style that I am comfortable with, whichever job I take. I ignored money and took the job that excited me the most.

Since that point, when I am offered jobs – I never worry about the money – instead I ask:  What would I rather do?

My life would have been easier if I had thought about my values earlier and made some decisions. It is very hard to be passionate about something that does not fit with your values. Figuring out your values at this stage of your life and career will serve you very well. But one thing remains true – when you are certain of your values, your words and actions resonate with other people. When you are certain of your values, you trust your instincts and are willing to take calculated risks. When you are certain of your values, you speak up if you have a concern. You are not afraid to ruffle a few feathers if necessary. When you are certain of your values, you understand that HOW you communicate, is as important as WHAT you say to others.

Speaking from the heart and having integrity about what you do and say will instantly connect people with you. The poet Maya Angelou says, “People know the truth when they hear it.” This is not only important in business, but also in your personal relationships

The final piece of advice that I will leave you with is simple and often quoted – it’s an oldie but a goodie. I’m sure you know the poem by Robert Frost –

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And sorry I could not travel both

I, I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I want all your ambitions to be fulfilled. I want you to grow old, be satisfied when you look back at your life.

I want you to say,

  • YES I have taken risks. I have made a few mistakes. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.
  • YES I have had a wonderful career and ended up in a place that I did not expect.
  • YES I have done myself, my family and my community proud – I have no regrets and I have not settled for anything.

Saying YES means being willing to take chances. Sometimes we shy away from uncomfortable situations – it is easier to take the path of least resistance. My friends thought I was crazy to return to professional practice. Some thought it was a mid-life crisis (much cheaper than a buying a ferrari or marrying a new wife). But that less travelled road has taken me to an incredible job that excites me every day – it has brought me to Queen’s today!

My advice to you, Class of 2014, is say YES at every opportunity. Be willing to take the road less travelled. You have proven yourselves capable and up to the challenge. Your parchment is the evidence.

So please take a moment to mark this occasion as the doorstep to the next chapter. Look at the person to your right - the person to your left.  You may or may not recognize this person as a friend, but from now on, you will recognize them as a fellow graduate — someone as driven as YOU have been; someone as hopeful about the future as you are; someone with as much capability and opportunity to succeed as you have.

I hope the Class of 2014 will be the ones to say ‘yes’:

  • Be humble and build something great.
  • Speak from the heart and have integrity in everything you do.
  • Take the road less travelled. 

Graduates, you have much to be proud of. Once again, I offer you my sincerest admiration for a job well done.

Friends, family and colleagues gathered here today, please join me in congratulating the Class of 2014.


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