Greetings and Welcome From Our New Vice-President, Peter Smailes

I am just over a month into my new role as the vice-president finance & operations, and I must say I have been overwhelmed by well wishes, especially from people across our portfolio. I want to return the favour, say thank you, and share some of my thoughts as I start this new chapter of my life at UBC.

Though the past months, I’ve been asked many questions about the vice-presidential role. There are two that stand out and have helped me gain insight into my view of the role: “why do I want to be vice-president?” and, if I do get to be vice-president, “what would I like to change?”

Why do I want to be vice-president?

On reflection, there are three reasons I wanted to be vice-president.

The first is probably one we all share: UBC is a great university — in the top 40 globally. Think about that for a second. That means there are 23,000 universities and colleges who rank behind us. We are special, both as an institution and as a place to work.

Secondly, UBC has great potential to do even more. I want to be part of bringing that potential to reality.

But, the most important reason is you, the people of the VPFO. Being an internal candidate is hard. But I did have one advantage; I already know the team and how fantastic you are. If this team was not as diligent, hardworking, dedicated, talented, and smart as you are, this job could be incredibly difficult. So thank you.

What would I like to change?

I know from being here beside you for the past few years that most people agree we don’t need to add a whole lot more change right now. Between the IRP, Procurement Modernization, and our other major projects, we’ve got a lot on our plate. However, there are a couple of things I want to move forward for the benefit of our team and the university.

First, I see that we are all stretched and we seem to keep adding to our responsibilities each year. I would like to look at what we are doing that is not adding the value it once did. What we can take off of our desks? What work can we eliminate, simplify, standardize or even automate? (By the way, that doesn’t mean you can just stop doing the things you just don’t like).

The second thing I have noticed over the years is that we prefer to make decisions once we know we are absolutely right. I think we have a culture where if we take a risk and get it right, nobody says anything. But, when we get it wrong, we can get dumped on. I am not saying this happens all of the time; but more often than it should.

I would like to see us start to take intelligent risks. If we get it right we get recognized and if we get it wrong, we admit we got it wrong and we work together as a team to fix it and recognize and capture the value of the learning experience. Making mistakes (based on smart risk taking) and learning from them is one of the major keys to success for both an individual and an organization.

I know this change will have to start with me, and I will work on that change. But, I want everyone to join me. This is especially important for those working on the IRP. We know we will make mistakes there because it is all new.

The third area I want to address is you, the people of the VPFO. This is the most important area for me. I really want to look at career path progression and other opportunities such as serving on committees, working in cross-functional groups, etc. I think we have a real opportunity with the IRP to mix it up and give a lot more opportunities to people to grow and change than we might have been able to provide in the past.

What’s next?

Given those questions, the other thing you may be wondering is “What are our operational priorities?” I recently went back and had a closer look at “Strategy 2020,” the VP Finance & Operations Strategic Plan. We will need to add a section on people, but please take a look. Let’s reflect on where we fit in and what smart, innovative ways we can help advance these goals.

Then, I want to hear from you. Our next steps will need to be a team effort and with your support I truly believe we will do great things.