It would be difficult for anyone to argue that Frank Laezza isn’t willing to go the distance for UBC. Fresh off a flight from Perth, Australia, he quite literally came from the opposite side of the planet to take up his post as the university’s new Vice-President, Finance & Operations .
Frank joins the VPFO from Perth’s Murdoch University, where he most recently served as Chief Financial Officer. Prior to that he held leadership positions within a suite of Australia’s post-secondaries, including Technical and Further Education State Vocational College (NSW), the University of Technology in Sydney, and the University of New South Wales. But what does he get up to in his spare time, when he’s not managing a university’s business and financial functions?
What qualities do you admire in a leader? What’s your leadership style?
“A connected leader collaborates with their team and encourages honest dialogue and input.”
Frank: The quality I most admire in a leader is the ability to communicate a clear vision and inspire others to work towards a common goal. For me, effective leaders are able to articulate their ideas in a way that motivates and engages their team, and they possess strong interpersonal skills that allow them to build trust and cooperation among team members.
Everyone’s on a leadership journey, and my leadership style has evolved over time into the concept of connected leadership. A connected leader is someone with high levels of self-awareness — someone who comes across as human and who is not afraid to be vulnerable. A connected leader collaborates with their team and encourages honest dialogue and input. Someone who will elevate people to be the best version of themselves. This is what I would like to discuss, develop and build at UBC.
What makes UBC different for you? And what makes the VPFO different?
Frank: It’s impossible not to recognize the uniqueness of UBC’s location, with the Vancouver campus situated on the cliffs of the Pacific and surrounded by lush rainforest. The Okanagan campus as well is so interesting, with the beautiful scenery and the access to outdoor activities. But on top of UBC’s physical context, the university is a leader in many exciting fields of study, and the diversity of the student, faculty, and staff community makes this a compelling place to join.
What makes the VPFO different for me is the scope and complexity of this portfolio, and how it serves the university. The VPFO plays a critical role in ensuring that UBC operates efficiently and sustainably, which is essential for long-term success. Stepping in as the vice-president will require developing a deep understanding of the challenges facing this large and complex organization, and the ability to develop and implement strategies that support the university’s mission and goals. This is an exciting challenge, and one I look forward to working on with this experienced cross-functional team.
What excites you most about working with us?
Frank: There are many reasons to be excited by working with the VPFO! This is an impactful role with responsibility for the financial and operational aspects of a world-class university. The decisions we make and the initiatives we undertake have a significant impact on the success and growth of the institution.
On top of that, I’m really excited by the opportunity to work in this collaborative environment with a wide range of people — including faculty, staff, students, and partners — to achieve common goals. The commitments to innovation and sustainability I see at UBC push the boundaries with regards to environmental responsibility and financial stewardship, and I look forward to working with the team to continue leading in these spaces.
What are your favourite qualities in a teammate?
Frank: Communication, collaboration, initiative, and a positive attitude. I love to work with people who are able to clearly and respectfully share their thoughts and ideas, and who can work together effectively towards common goals. I also value those who are proactive, identifying areas for improvement and new opportunities, and those who are supportive of others and contribute to a positive work environment.
Have you ever worked with someone who inspired you?
“The commitments to innovation and sustainability I see at UBC push the boundaries with regards to environmental responsibility and financial stewardship, and I look forward to working with the team to continue leading in these spaces.”
Frank: Jane Den Hollander is a well-known and respected leader in the field of higher education. She served as Vice-Chancellor and President of Deakin University in Australia from 2010 to 2019, and during her tenure, she oversaw significant growth and transformation at the university. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jane at Murdoch, and I find her inspirational for three main reasons:
Leadership — Den Hollander is known for her strong leadership skills, which helped her guide Deakin through a period of significant change and growth. She is widely regarded as a visionary leader who was able to bring people together to achieve great things.
Innovation — She was instrumental in promoting innovation at Deakin University, particularly in the areas of technology and digital learning. She recognized the potential for online learning to expand access to education, and under her leadership Deakin became a leader in this field.
Diversity and Inclusion — Den Hollander is a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion, and she worked tirelessly to create an inclusive and welcoming environment at Deakin. She has also been involved in a range of initiatives to promote gender equality and advance the role of women in leadership positions.
What is the best advice you were ever given?
Frank: I have several answers to this question, because I have been learning and developing professionally and personally over many decades now. There are four key things that have resonated with me over all this time:
Firstly, one of the best pieces of advice I ever received is to be true to yourself. I believe it’s important to be authentic and honest in all aspects of life — in your personal relationships as well as professional settings.
The second piece of advice that has always stuck with me is to focus on what you can control. So much of what we manage on a day-to-day basis is outside of our control, but we do have jurisdiction over our thoughts, actions, and reactions to events. Focusing on these things that we can control can help us stay focused, positive, and resilient in the face of challenges.
The third piece of advice I received and integrated into my personal philosophy is that lifelong learning is crucial for personal and professional growth. Life is so much richer when we stay curious, seek out new experiences, and constantly learn and improve.
Lastly, and I think this something many of us struggle with, is that self-care is essential. It’s so important to prioritize physical, mental, and emotional well-being — to exercise, eat healthily, rest, and maintain a healthy balance in life.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned, in your career to date?
Frank: I’d have to say the power of teamwork and collaboration. No one achieves success alone, and it’s so important to build strong relationships and work effectively with others if you want to achieve great things.
What are you excited about seeing and doing in Vancouver?
Frank: My partner Silvia and I like wine and food, and we’re excited to find out what Vancouver and the Okanagan have in terms of both. We have already booked tickets to the Vancouver International Wine show!
What does a typical weekend look like for you?
Frank: I like to relax, and this very well might mean baking some sourdough bread (and I started before it was cool) or cooking something new. I like to watch YouTube cooking videos and try to make something that looks, and often tastes, amazing.
A typical weekend for me means physical activity — I like going to the gym (although not of late) and taking fitness classes with my partner. After we get our activity in, we like to go on a search for a new café (and often undo all our good work).
What is something people don’t know about you?
Frank: I like this one — but if I tell you then everyone will know! Some personal facts though: I really like listening to music, and I have a collection of guitars that I play badly. Before departing for Vancouver, I also had a five-year-old sourdough starter (that I was very sad to have to leave behind!).
What makes you laugh?
Frank: I consider myself to be a relatively happy person, and funny situations in everyday life can get me going — my family and friends are a constant source of joy and amusement. I like comedies, and I especially like Seinfeld and Big Bang Theory.