Oct. 31, 2023
Lazaridis School of Business and Economics Master of Business Administration (MBA) graduates chose to continue their education for many reasons. The MBA program offers the opportunity to develop the in-demand skills in finance, accounting, data- and people-management that global employers have come to expect from Lazaridis grads.
For others, returning to school for an MBA is the first stepping-stone in a career shift. The skills and experience from industry, paired with a Lazaridis MBA,can open new doors and opportunities.
During the winter term, Albert Tam (MBA ‘15) shared his story at a virtual fireside chat with Lazaridis School MBA and Master of Finance students. The event was part of the Laurier Career Centre’s Leadership Speaker Series providing Lazaridis graduate students with the opportunity to hear from leaders who share their expertise on leadership, industry insights, and their career paths.
Tam has spent the last seven years of his career in enterprise risk management, gaining experience in both public and private organizations. His risk management experience includes the Ontario Treasury Board Secretariat, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and Capital One. He is currently the Director of Enterprise Risk Management at MCAN Financial Group, where he influences risk-based decision-making.Th
Tam’s path to the Lazaridis School is not what you might expect. In 2011, Tam graduated from York University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts specializing in theatre production. After graduation, he went on to roles at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Canada's National Ballet School, and the Pan/Parapan American Games Secretariat. Tam said that his path to a career in the arts started when he was considering post-secondary paths after graduating high school.
“I pursued a path that felt important to me at the time. As I was working in theatre production, I realized that I didn't know if working directly within the production space was really for me. So I opted to pursue a business degree—and Laurier was at the top of the list,” Tam said.
Tam’s interest in risk management came from an MBA program co-op term with the Ontario Pan/Parapan American Games. The international sporting event is one of the world’s largest for athletes living with a disability. He said he had no prior experience with risk management, and it seemed like an excellent opportunity to get in-depth experience in the field.
“I decided to take the role because the whole opportunity of the co-op program is to gain experience,” Tam said.
The Government of Ontario funded the games, and they were financed by the Ontario Treasury Board (OTB). Tam said that after the games ended, the OTB sought people with risk management experience to join the board.
“That was a great opportunity since I had some risk experience and knew how the government worked. So I put myself forward for that opportunity and was very lucky to receive that chance to work as a Senior Analyst for the Treasury Board,” he said.
As Director of Enterprise Risk Management at MCAN Financial Group, Tam said he can put his Lazaridis MBA to work on all types of risks - from strategic and credit risks to operational and reputational risks. MCAN Financial Group provides finance for residential mortgages and construction loans—two areas of intense interest due to the growing need for housing across Canada.
“We are a big part of creating affordable housing and creating more inventory of housing. As we all know, housing is very expensive and there's low supply. We're a key part of driving growth in that sector,” Tam said.
Tam’s experience as a leader has grown as his career has progressed. When it comes to leadership style, he said that it often comes down to understanding the team you’re leading.
“You have to figure out what your niche is as a leader to be a great leader. Whether that’s being the cheerleader, being the lead-by-example person, a driver, or the critic—wearing all those hats simultaneously is a pretty impossible job. The leadership style I take for myself is to be a facilitative leader,” he said. “My job is to take complicated problems and break them down to work on parts. I need to make the job easy for the people that work with me.”
Regarding Laurier students and future MBA grads developing their leadership skills, Tam said it’s crucial to demonstrate the ability to work in different types of teams in different environments.
He added that his time at the Lazaridis School in the MBA program provided him with foundational experiences that have set him up for success as a teammate and leader.
“When I was at Laurier, there were a couple of teams that I worked in—my integrated core team in my MBA program, project teams for subsequent terms, and I was involved with the Graduate Students Association. Those are very different perspectives that I would not receive sitting in a classroom of business students. I also signed up and did a lot of case competitions just to work with other people in the program that I may not have had the opportunity to work with,” Tam said.
He said beyond meeting some great people, working within these groups and teams allowed him to shape the view of where he fits within a leadership structure. In his professional life, Tam volunteers his time on boards to add new experiences and perspectives to his leadership style.
“I'm a board member with Dance Arts Institute Canada (formerly The School of Toronto Dance Theatre). Leadership in that context as a volunteer is very different than a work context. I sit on the board of my condo—which is super interesting because you can't choose your neighbours. All those things have helped me learn how to better communicate with people and continue to push me in new directions,” he said.
Returning to Laurier to share his journey is another example of how Tam builds his leadership style through experiences. It’s also a fantastic example of how Lazaridis School alums continue to give back to the university.
“I had a great time at Laurier. It was a very influential part of my career and my life, so it's great to get back and share my time with all of you.”
Learn more about the Lazaridis MBA.
Hear from our other Leadership Speaker Series Alumni:
Danielle Brewin Graham, MBA '14 - MBA alumna lights the way for other women entrepreneurs
Albert Tam, MBA '15 - Lazaridis MBA alum takes the path less travelled to a career in risk management
Nicoletta Stefou, MBA '08 - MBA alumna's climb up the corporate (fast) food chain