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HBA students shadow Canada’s top executives

Mar 10, 2023

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L-R: Ross Wainwright, CEO of Alida, with Jared Richstone, HBA ’24 candidate; and Ningsong Shen, HBA ’24 candidate, with Ashley Kirwan, CEO of Orix Geoscience

Two HBA students recently made the transition from classroom to boardroom when they spent a day receiving one-on-one mentorship from two of Canada’s top CEOs.

Jared Richstone and Ningsong Shen, HBA ’24 candidates, were among the 32 winners across Canada who underwent a rigorous application process and were selected as participants in this year’s Odgers Berndtson CEOx1Day program.

Richstone was paired with Ross Wainwright, CEO of software development company Alida, while Shen spent the day with Ashley Kirwan, CEO of Orix Geoscience.

Memorable Moments

Richstone had an engaging day with Ross Wainwright at Alida’s Toronto office, where he attended various business meetings, was involved in Alida's company town hall event, and learned about the decisions a CEO makes to effectively lead an organization.

“I am extremely grateful to have been selected for this opportunity,” said Richstone. “I was exposed to insights about leadership, business strategy, and company culture that were truly invaluable.”

The chance to participate in Alida's forecast and strategy meetings with employees from across North America and Europe stood out as a highlight for Richstone.

“These meetings provided a unique opportunity to learn about the company's vision and strategy, and I feel fortunate to have had the chance to participate in such engaging and productive discussions."

When asked to share some memorable moments from his day at Orix Geoscience, Shen replied, “the entire day was a highlight reel!” Shen’s morning kicked off by meeting Kirwan for coffee close to the downtown Toronto office to get an overview of the day, followed by team updates, opportunities for one-on-one discussions, and a delicious catered team lunch. “The team has a fantastic, friendly culture and I really like the office — too bad there wasn’t enough time for some friendly table tennis competitions!” Shen joked.

The day was completed with the Fired-Up Gala at the Ritz-Carlton in support of the SickKids Burn Unit. “It was a wonderful evening with a reception, dinner, and dancing – all for a good cause,” he said. 

Lessons from Leaders

Both Richstone and Shen left the experience feeling inspired by their respective leaders.

“Ross demonstrated a remarkable level of transparency when discussing the company's culture and values,” said Richstone. “His deep conviction that he works for the benefit of the employees, not the other way around, was evident and sincere. This experience has reinforced my belief that a people-first approach can lead to a more productive and fulfilling team, which I hope to continue applying in my own leadership journey.”

“I learned a lot about how Ashley spends her time as CEO,” said Shen. “It really is a fine balance between short-term, day-to-day issues and operations, and thinking about the medium- and long-term business strategy and direction. Learning about how Ashley and her business partner built Orix Geoscience from 0 to ~60 employees was inspiring. We discussed many of the challenges she faced growing the company, and some of the opportunities that lie ahead."

Shen said there were many lasting lessons he can apply in his future career. 

"Ashley noted the importance of being bold when you have a vision and pushing through the tough times, and this is something I think applies broadly in life. Navigating the many challenges brought on by COVID-19 was also discussed, and a key lesson from there was to hold true to your personal values and your company’s values.”

Fun Fact: Orix Geoscience has an Ivey Publishing case written about them: Find the case here.