2018 Best EMBAs: Pascal Larose, McGill-HEC Montreal

Pascal Larose

McGill-HEC Montreal

“Philosopher, military officer and father passionate about finding innovative and actionable solutions to complex problems.”  

Age: 42

Hometown: Montreal, Canada

Family Members: Penelope (daughter) and Emmanuel (son)

Fun fact about yourself: I am a specialist in establishing sugar shacks (small cabins where sap collected from maple trees is boiled into maple syrup) in impossible locations. In order to share Maple Syrup, a unique North American product, with other nations, I decided (while in Egypt) to conduct a Sugar Shack event in the desert. To have a real sugar shack, you need snow. We made a twelve cubic foot pile of snow using a meat grinder to turn ice blocks into snow and cooked maple syrup on the spot. I repeated this event in Paris below the Eiffel Tower on a 30˚ Celsius day in June, and in both Sierra Leone and Gambia. These sugar shack events helped more than 2,000 people discover maple syrup.

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.A. in Philosophy from l’Université de Montréal; Master2 (M.A) in History EPHE Paris La Sorbonne; advanced studies and Brevet expert in defense management, Ecole de Guerre de Paris; EMBA McGill-HEC Montréal; US Cavalry Leaders Course; Certified LEAN SixSigma Green Belt.

Where are you currently working? National Defense: Chief of Staff of 35th Canadian Brigade Group, Canada

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Director of Operations 2nd Canadian Division; Commanding Officer of Canadian HQ in Egypt; First Information Management Officer (IMO) in the Army;

Canadian Decoration, United Nations Medal in Sierra Leone; Canadian Peacekeeping Medal; Canadian Joint Operational Command commendation (Afghanistan); Commander of Expeditionary Force Command commendation (Egypt); Multinational Force & Observers commendation.

Publication of article in Le MONDE; Winner 2nd prize essay on Philosophy in La revue Philosopher;

Toastmaster; Community work for Nez Rouge (anti-drink and drive organization).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Since my academic background was in social science, I had no formal background in finance. Throughout my career, I’ve managed important budgets but I always managed to be surrounded by good CFOs. For the finance module of the EMBA, however, I had to do it myself. It surprised me how much my philosophical approach of asking the right questions was compatible with the financial sciences. Through financial intelligence, I was able to succeed above my expectations in the finance module.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am very proud of having conducted, at various command or staff levels, operations in homeland security such as ice storms, flooding, search & rescues, avalanche control, First Nation Emergency evacuation, President Obama’s visit and the Fort McMurray Wild fire.

The one I am the most proud of was conducted in 2016. The newly elected Canadian Government decided to admit 25,000 Syrian refugees in a very short time frame. I was tasked as Director to plan and conduct the military support for this operation. This was the first time the “Whole of Government” concept, (joint activities performed by diverse Ministries and agencies in order to provide a common solution to a situation), was put into practice on such a scale and on short notice on homeland. This was also the first time we decided to implement gender based analysis in practice (ensuring that diversity of culture, gender equity, visible minorities and the status of women are considered in the plan). Since the clients were mainly Muslim, the initiative was a real challenge as there was no template nor standard to follow. In the end, the mission was accomplished according to the political commitment, democratic values and budget planning. The military plan that my boss, team and I and the Whole of Government designed is now used as a case study and standard reference by other countries.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? They are all great, and represent the elite of two great universities, but I will state two who stand out from a highly skilled group of individuals. Professor Marie-Hélène Jobin was my favorite because she brought me to a higher level in my daily bread and butter challenge: operational excellence. Professor Alain Gosselin is the one that had the biggest impact on me as a leader and even as a human being. He pushed me, and all the students, to open our eyes to our strengths, weaknesses, ambitions and non-negotiables.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Together, the Value Creation course, taught by Professor Louis Gialloreto, and the Strategy course taught by Professor Louis Hébert, were real eye-openers for me. For the first time, I was able to understand my organization’s “value creation” by using tools such as CANVAS. Uniquely, I realized that my organization was creating one of the most important and fundamental values for our society: Security. It really helped me to make sense of my organization. I am now able to explain to all employees why and how they are making the world a better and a safer place in which to live.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose this program for three reasons. First, the program is an outstanding blend of the two best universities in Montreal. Second, this was taught in two languages and required us to be fluent in French and English. For me, this represented the diversity and the spirit of Canada. Finally, the recruiting director, Michel Filion, did a good job of convincing me that my background in Philosophy combined with my role as Combat Arms Officer was unique and should be fully exploited and shared.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The quality and commitment of my peers. All of them were amazing, full of ideas, and deeply knowledgeable. I felt like I was part of a worldly think-tank for 15 months. Even after graduation, we are still in contact. Hopefully, I will put in practice all the ideas we had during the program.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? In the middle of the EMBA program, devastating flooding emerged in Eastern Canada, creating a national crisis. The government decided to provide military resources to civilian authorities to manage the situation. At the time, I was the Director of Operations of the 2nd Division and Joint Task Force East, which was tasked to conduct this operation. I have never experienced such tempo. At night, while trying to write numerous papers in the EMBA, journalists were calling me for interviews, and the Minister required information. I did manage to maintain all deliverables, both for the EMBA and the operation, and see my kids once in a while. All this was possible because I had put together a team that had my trust and to whom I delegated responsibilities. Luckily for me, the operation was stood down two days before my scheduled departure to South America for the EMBA’s Worldly Mindset module.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? You don’t need to prepare yourself by going back to your theoretical academic manuals. You need to prepare yourself by opening your mind, listening to others, and sharing your expertise and experience. An EMBA program is not just a series of courses that will give you a diploma. This is a journey that will require your full attention, commitment and will need to be placed as your main effort for a while.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? For me, my family and my friends, the biggest myth was that this EMBA was perhaps not worth the money, time, and effort. For sure, it required a sizeable investment, a lot a time, and tremendous effort. But what I have experienced is a program that has changed me forever. I would do it again tomorrow. By seeing how I have changed and what the program was, my family and friends told me their perception was wrong and they are now even a little bit jealous.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret was that I could not participate in all the group projects or in all the extracurricular activities. Sometimes, I feel I have missed great opportunities, either to learn from my classmates or to provide some of my expertise and experience to others.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I now have a very deep respect and admiration for all entrepreneurs. Their capacity to transform a dream and an idea to real or tangible outcomes is amazing. Laurent, one of the entrepreneurs in the program, decided to start a group project with other classmates: a WEB-based platform and communications hub for non-profit organizations. Not only did he realize his vision, but the success of the platform is almost forcing him to consider starting a new business. Laurent showed me what a real, true entrepreneur is.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that I was missing the tools and the knowledge to realize many of my ideas at the level of responsibility I was aiming for.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…the guy that wanted to do many projects and lead business units but was relying on intuition and past experience to guide his work. If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would have stuck with my old biases and the same old network. Moreover, I would have never understood my true value creation expertise: security.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Achieving the rank of Brigadier-General is a long shot, but not impossible. However, one day or another, I will retire from the Army. When this happens, I would like to become a COO in the private sector.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As an authentic guy who is thinking outside the box, always there for my friends, who will always give you the true-North, and who is asking the questions that need to be asked, like a philosopher, to solve a problem or find a resolution to complex situations.

Favorite book: Just and Unjust Wars by Michael Walzer

Favorite movie or television show: Star Wars

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Without any hesitation, my top priority is to introduce the philosophy and tools of LEAN SixSigma and continuous improvement in my organization. I have the crazy dream this could be introduced in all of National Defense. The second is to put on the market a startup of a close friend. He developed an outstanding idea in the field of the Knowledge Economy.

What made Pascal Larose such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“What a treat to have Pascal Larose in the program. He’s a warm, engaging natural leader with amazing energy. Devoted to learning, devoted to the power of teams and collaboration, and devoted to fun. From day one, Pascal understood the importance and the value of his class network, and he made sure his classmates cherished their 15 month learning journey together.

For us, an ideal participant is one who is curious and wants to learn from others, but who also shares his or her own experience, know-how and thinking. Pascal certainly fit the bill. His unconventional background – undergraduate in philosophy followed by a military career – meant that the questions he asked, often triggered by his philosophical bent, cracked open fascinating class discussions and brought new perspectives. Pascal has an intense desire to learn, and the humility to do so. He’s willing to question everything. There’s no such thing as an uncomfortable truth or a sacred cow in Pascal’s orbit. That was a winning formula for him, and for his classmates.

Pascal’s dedication to his class mirrors the responsibility and dedication he feels towards his mission of improving the well-being of society as a whole. It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day challenges, but Pascal was always able to see the bigger picture. Not ‘what’s in it for me’?, not ‘what’s in it for my company?’, but what does it mean for the country, for society? It’s important for EMBAs to think about these questions, and Pascal made sure his classmates did so.

Finally, Pascal is a genuinely generous and inclusive person. He invited his class to tour Canada’s 202nd Depot, the largest logistics repository in the Canadian military, where mission materials are organized and deployed, and where the country has its war reserves. Next month, he’ll host the McGill-HEC Montreal Toastmasters Club for a special meeting at the Citadel of Québec, which includes Canada’s oldest military building (1693) and the official residence of Canada’s Governor General. He’s offered to arrange for the Commander in Chief of the armed forces to speak to a future class. He simply keeps on giving.”

Professor Alain Pinsonneault, CQ

Co-Academic Director, EMBA McGill-HEC Montreal Program

Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC)

Fellow of the AIS

Imasco Chair of IS

James McGill Professor

Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University