Global executive search firm Odgers Berndtson recently identified the student winners of its CEO x 1 Day program in Canada. York University students Charu Jaiswal and Brandon Sun were among the 11 students selected after a rigorous and lengthy selection process to shadow a Canadian executive for a day. In February, Sun was matched with Cineplex Entertainment CEO Ellis Jacob, while Jaiswal was matched with Elyse Allan, president and CEO of GE Canada.
In an interview with CTV News, fourth-year biology student Jaiswal said, “I learned so much. So I was just observing [Ms. Allan] throughout the day, but I also got some wonderful one-on-one time in the car as well as in her office. I was observing, for example, how she was interacting with customers, how she was going through her meetings. I also got her insights on how to become a more effective leader, because she’s obviously very successful.”
“We had a very busy day,” says Brandon Sun, a third-year Schulich iBBA student, of his CEO shadowing experience. “I had a chance to really talk to Mr. Jacob one-to-one for a good 15 minutes, and then I had the chance to go around the office, meet some of the other people, and eventually they had a conference call – where I basically sat in while they answered questions for all the different analysts. I also got to meet the CFO, the COO; it was a great experience. I couldn’t have had a better day.”
The CEO x 1 Day program was created to match top student talent with high-ranking corporate leaders, giving each finalist the chance to interact with and shadow a CEO as they went about their work day. A number of third- and fourth-year university students underwent a multi-phase application process which included a review of each student’s academic record, resumé and short essay on the topic of leadership; the completion of an online leadership assessment test called the Hogan Assessment System; telephone interviews; and finally group exercises and in-person interviews. Each step narrowed down the candidate list, with the final results seeing Sun and Jaiswal come out ahead with nine other peers representing universities in Ontario and Quebec.
Sun says of his success in the program, “I think it’s all really about dedication in terms of hard work. If you really have a goal in mind, you want to achieve something and you’re willing to put in the effort, you can really make it happen.”
“I’m definitely going to take the lessons I’ve learned from Elyse [Allan] and apply them to my career and my goals as I move forward,” says Jaiswal. “I want to be in an environment where I’m allowed to grow and I’m allowed to challenge and I’m allowed to learn as well.”
According to Julie Rahmer, director of York’s Career Centre, the centre worked to promote the program to students, though not taking part in the selection process itself. Via email, she says, “Programs like this are an excellent opportunity for students to build skills and gain experience. Students who progressed through the [selection] process had the opportunity to receive a “leadership assessment” which provided them with feedback on skills such as strategic thinking, communication and setting goals – all important skills sought by top employers.”
She adds, “Making connections in your field of interest is invaluable, particularly in today’s competitive job market. The Career Centre also facilitates these kinds of connections on a smaller scale through its popular bite-sized alumni mentoring program – TASTE [Take a Student to Eat].” Students are encouraged to take advantage of the program as well as the many other services and resources available at the Career Centre.
When asked about her advice for students wishing to emulate her success, Jaiswal recommends getting involved in extracurricular activities. “Participate in meaningful extracurriculars where you have the opportunity to get training and develop useful skills (e.g. leadership, communication, management). Moreover, it’s about quality over quantity, so do what you love and get really good at it. Also, figure out what differentiates you and how you can use your unique skills to position yourself for success.”
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