2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Ian Picard, McGill-HEC Montréal

Ian Picard

McGill-HEC Montréal

Age: 35

Young First Nation leader devoted to improve the well-being of First Nations across Canada.”

Hometown: Wendake, Québec

Family Members:

Laurie (my spouse, best friend, and partner in all my projects), my parents Linda and Normand, my grandmother Inette, and our two pugs Gomez and Naima

Fun fact about yourself: I’m passionate about horticulture. I really love to grow tomatoes, but I don’t like to eat them!  

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Université Laval – Bachelor of Business Administration – Finance major

Université Laval – Certificate in financial services

Université Laval – Certificate in group insurance and annuities

Where are you currently working? RBA Financial Group – Deputy Manager of Development and Asset Management (a First Nations organization which has promoted and administered pension plans for First Nations since 1979).

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Before the pandemic, I was often away meeting our clients in remote communities or in Montreal for asset management, both of which limited my availability for extracurricular activities. However, I’m proud to work for RBA Financial Group, which itself has an important role in First Nations communities. It is probably the only not-for-profit financial services firm in Canada that distributes its own defined benefit and defined contribution pension plans as well as employee benefits programs. Moreover, the fruit of our labour is reinvested into services to our First Nation members or into the RBA foundation that supports various causes related to youth, women, seniors, families, suicide prevention, values and traditions, culture, and mutual aid with the First Nations.

I have recently started to act as a mentor for First Nations youth. This new involvement is a way for me to give back to our youth and to motivate them to continue their development in a field of activity where they can flourish.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Our organization operates in a very competitive environment. During the EMBA program, I had the opportunity to develop and test, in a controlled environment, a new development approach for our organizations which will ultimately ensure its sustainability and maximize the value it creates for our various stakeholders.

I’m proud of this project, and it is a great source of motivation for me. On one hand, it allows us to pursue the vision of the indigenous leaders who founded our organization 40 years ago, but also to ensure the sustainability and growth for future generations while remaining true to our values and culture.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? When I first began my career at RBA Financial Group, I was also an elected family chief at the Council of the Huron Wendat Nation. I saw first-hand the issues and complexity of the challenges faced by my Nation. Through my work, I have seen that these challenges are similar for other communities and Nations. Combined, these two experiences allowed me to develop a strong network based on respect and trust. This is a great achievement because I can count on a great network of Chiefs, managers, and professionals of various generations, backgrounds, and expertise.

My greatest pride, over the past fifteen years, is that my work has always focused on the development of organizations and communities, and the well-being of First Nation members. Throughout this journey, I was fortunate enough to continue my education and develop expertise that benefits our members both today and for future generations.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? That one is tough because we had many amazing professors. That said, two professors completely changed my mindset. These professors are Louis Gialloreto and Louis Hébert, respectively, Director of the Value Creation Module, and Director of the Analytic Mindset/Co-Director of the program. As I said earlier, I work in the field of Not-for-Profit organizations and pension plan administration. It was difficult for me to conceptualize why we should integrate the notion of profit and develop strategy to expand our business.

However, after discussions and reflections with these two professors, I realized that value creation and strategy could bring added value to our members by increasing our volumes and reducing our costs. The scale-economies generated by these two levers could increase our social impacts in a concrete way for the Indigenous peoples and other stakeholders.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I chose the McGill – HEC Montréal EMBA program due to the way the program is built with the Managerial Mindsets of Henry Mintzberg and the different themes related to current and future business challenges. Also, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone by choosing a bilingual program (English and French) that would give me an opportunity to gain in confidence in my second language (English) in a safe zone.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? My biggest lesson was to open my mind to think outside the box. I manage my personal and business affairs by calculating all risks and sometimes it limits my creativity. During my EMBA, I took a new pair of glasses and gained confidence facing the fear of failing. Failure is not the end but an opportunity to learn and build something more evolved without repeating the mistakes of the past. This lesson is not easy to apply at work because you must take into consideration the ability of your environment and organization to evolve along with you. That said, the EMBA program gave me the tools to be a change leader and I will use them to make things happen.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education. For the last several years, I’ve been working with the owners in my grandparent’s condominium to settle a hidden defect in the basement of the 6 unit building. Due to some unlucky timing, we settled with the insurance company during my EMBA. As the project leader, I had to coordinate the major construction project and the relocation of the occupants of the ground floor with a very tight deadline. Very short notice combined with a labor shortage meant my spouse, my father, and I were obliged to roll up our sleeves, take the tools, and do the preparation and finishing. Luckily and unfortunately at the same time, the COVID-19 rescheduled one of our program modules. That took some pressure off, so that I was able to refocus my reflection to the angle I would take in drafting my final paper while I was busy drilling the glued engineered wood…

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Just do it!!! An EMBA program is an amazing lifetime experience that will help you evolve and change your standpoints relative to so many things. It will take you outside your comfort zone and you will grow from this experience.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth is thinking you won’t have enough time to return to school. Even though there are only 24 hours in a day, humans are resilient and accomplish extraordinary things when there is will. You, your family, and your colleagues will have to make big sacrifices, but it worth it in the end.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I think my biggest regret is that I did not have enough time to spend with our amazing cohort. With the pandemic situation, I had to take some classes remotely and I didn’t have the opportunity to close the loop properly with everyone. Thankfully, the EMBA program is just a starting point and I look forward to pursuing the tradition of networking that characterizes the McGill – HEC Montréal EMBA program.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I could probably name many things for each of my colleagues that make me admire them! I felt lucky to be in such a rich and diverse class. I learnt many skills, competencies, and experiences that made me grow both personally and professionally. Each of my colleagues brought something valuable to the class and that’s why we complete each other.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? The EMBA program seemed to me an ideal solution, allowing me to combine an update of my management knowledge with the concrete application in my work environment. The business environment evolves rapidly with the new technologies and having the opportunity to discuss and learn about challenges and opportunities with nearly 50 other senior executives from different fields of expertise is really enriching. Moreover, an EMBA program is not only focused on theoretical knowledge but also on you, as a person, and will help you to find a good balance in life.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and I really like to help people and organizations to develop and implement strategies and new approaches to improve results. As a mission-inspired person, I would like to reach a chief executive role for an Indigenous organization where I can bring my expertise and my business acumen to have a concrete impact for our stakeholders.

What made Ian Picard such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“Ian comes across as a quiet, gentle, low key person. But there’s so much more to him than that. On the first day of class, we ask everyone to share one word that describes them, and Ian’s word was “engaged”. That’s a great descriptor, and Ian demonstrates that engagement in many spheres of his life: with his EMBA classmates, in his personal life, and especially with his community. Ian is the kind of participant that really enriches a class. Diversity of opinion and experience are key to our program and Ian broadened and deepened class understanding by sharing First Nations’ perspectives, especially in small group discussions.

His sense of mission led to him wanting to improve his management abilities in order to better serve and strengthen First Nations across the country. This shows a selflessness and a holistic perspective that exemplifies the kinds of leaders we hope our program will develop. This was demonstrated by his capstone applied research paper which explored how a First Nations organization can seek cutting-edge expertise through the composition of its board of directors while maintaining its cultural identity and ensuring the support of its members and its community.

Ian is clear-thinking, hard-working, bright, and dedicated. More than one of the teams with which he worked during the year commented on how he kept them on the straight and narrow. It was a pleasure to see his evolution over the course of the program – gaining in confidence, gaining in presence, without losing an ounce of his humility and authenticity.

Finally, Ian is a very nice guy. He’s got a ready smile, an open mind and a generous spirit, and the class was better for all of that.”

Marianne Vandenbosch
Program Director, EMBA McGill-HEC Montréal


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