How I Got to be CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation for a Day

Guest post by Riley Hunt, 3rd year BCom student

The Odgers Berndtson CEOx1Day competition, which I recently participated in, was a great opportunity to gain tangible leadership experience in a CEO position.

The competition consisted of four rounds, with the final round involving eight semi-finalists invited to the Odgers Berndtson offices in Vancouver for a six-hour evaluation including speed-round interviews, workshops, and a case study with McKinsey. I met some incredible student leaders and I was humbled to be selected as one of 18 students across Canada to shadow a leading CEO.

Spending the day shadowing Stephen Cornish, CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation, was invaluable to my development as a young business leader. Stephen is relatively new to his role (five months) so it was interesting to see him absorbing information from his executive team during the morning meetings. I was a sponge to every word and I think I took more notes during the day than I have in three years of university! Stephen and his team are very passionate, and they love what they do.

Prior to the morning meetings I was greeted by David Suzuki, which was a nice surprise as I had no idea he would be in the office! During the morning executive meetings, I experienced first-hand many of the global issues discussed in Heather Ranson’s sustainability class. The executive team loved that Gustavson incorporates the sustainable business environment into the core curriculum. I was most interested in the topics of sustainable urbanization and the elimination of one-use plastics.

I had lunch with Stephen and asked him questions about his personal background, career advice, global issues, and his experience as CEO. Stephen emphasized the importance of pursuing a career I love and building a network of professionals in different areas of business. In addition, we discussed many of the challenges faced by the foundation. What surprised me was Stephen’s interest in my own opinion with regards to sustainability issues and how young people view the sustainability movement in the business environment. It was fulfilling to see that Stephen could learn from my perspective.

Throughout the afternoon I had one-on-one meetings with various senior executive members. Similar to my meeting with Stephen, the executives were curious to know my thoughts on attracting millennials to the sustainability movement and how our younger generation views many of the global issues we are faced with today.

Concluding CEOx1Day, I met up with Stephen downtown at the Sitka 10-Year Celebration of Nature event, where I was introduced to numerous not-for-profit business leaders in the Vancouver community. It was truly amazing to see how many young leaders are making a profound difference in our world. In closing, Stephen offered to be a formal mentor as I move forward in my business career, an offer I certainly couldn’t pass on.

I had an incredible experience participating in this competition, and recommend it to anyone interested in unfiltered access to some of the top minds in the Canadian business community. Learn more about CEOx1Day.

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