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“You are the future”: Ivey alum Dean Connor shares advice with HBA1s

  • Communications
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  • Oct 1, 2018
“You are the future”: Ivey alum Dean Connor shares advice with HBA1s

The annual Richard G. Ivey Speaker Series always impresses Ivey’s newest HBA students. From the creators of the Two-Bite Brownies Mike Tevlin and Dan Devlin, to Walmart Canada Bank’s President and CEO Trudy Fahie, alumni speakers have years of advice, stories, and cautionary tales to share with HBA1 students.

After all, they’ve been through the Ivey experience themselves.

This year, Dean Connor, HBA ’78, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sun Life Financial, gave students an inside look at his career path and day-to-day obstacles and successes.

Connor was appointed CEO of Sun Life in 2011 and was named Top New CEO for 2014 by Canadian Business. He was recently awarded Canada’s Outstanding CEO of the Year® for 2017. It’s this outstanding leadership that led to him winning this year’s Ivey Business Leader Award, which he’ll receive in November. 

There were countless lessons Connor learned in the early stages of his 40-year career, and even now as a CEO. The classroom prepares you, he told students, but the experience that comes from working in the industry is invaluable.

“You are the future of Canadian business,” he told the audience. “There’s something very special about the 600 of you.”

Here are five pieces of advice Connor gave students.

  1. Diversify your experience.
    “Open doors. You’ve gotten into Ivey. Now take courses that will take you in different directions. Change up your job experiences. Volunteer. Build a vast network of people. The more doors you open, the more good things will happen.”

  2. Adapt from and work with failure.
    “Three-quarters of the goals scored in the NHL are scored on rebounds. I hang around the net, because there’s often a rebound. So many things I’ve done in my career failed on the first attempt. Stick with it.”

  3. Surround yourself with good people.
    “Teams matter. Getting the right team matters. And surround yourself with a diverse team – people who come at problems differently.”

  4. Find balance.
    “My job is all consuming. But you have to make time for family, community, and yourself. You can spend every waking hour on work, but it won’t end well.”

  5. Set the bar high – but not too high.
    “Some leaders set goals that are ‘big, hairy, and audacious.’ I hate that expression. Your employees will think the goal is impossible to achieve. Make your goals ambitious, but achievable.”


The Richard G. Ivey Speaker Series is an annual tradition to honour Richard G. Ivey, the Canadian business leader who helped build the foundation for the Ivey Business School.