Alumni in the spotlight: Paul Kochan

Vice-President, Administration, University of Manitoba

Paul Kochan, former senior manager in Deloitte’s audit practice, is now Vice-President, Administration, at the University of Manitoba.

Tell us about yourself.

I hold two university degrees from the University of Manitoba and am a CA, a CBV and a CPA (Ill.). I have also been awarded the FCA designation. Before joining the university, I spent nearly 15 years as CFO of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, a large organization with $2.5 billion in revenue and over 28,000 employees. Being in health care was stressful enough, with its wide exposure and government accountabilities, but running some high-risk capital and IT projects made it even more so. I have also held positions in various industries including IT, media and trucking.

“My time at Deloitte was without doubt the most fun I have had in my working life and, reflecting back, the most rewarding time as well.”

When did you work for Deloitte? What was your title and role in the firm?

I worked for Touche Ross & Co. starting in 1981 as an articling student primarily in the Audit area serving large clients such as Great-West Life and Standard Aero until 1986. I left for a while and then returned in 1989 to work in the small business and valuations areas, a year prior to the merger with Deloitte and the local office of Dunwoody. I progressed to the senior manager level and then left in 1993.

What was the highlight of your career experience with Deloitte?

The broad-based experience I received was clearly the highlight. From audits of large publicly traded companies and private family-owned enterprises to box jobs of small clients through T1 and T2 preparation, the breadth of experience I gained was invaluable and has served me well throughout my career.

What I remember most fondly, however, was the group of people I worked with as I began my professional career. The partners and managers were trusted mentors, while the student group was a great group to work with. While we worked hard to serve our clients and to become chartered accountants, we played hard as well. We were all recent graduates at the same age working as professionals for the first time, while at the same completing coursework in a very rigorous program – I suppose that’s what made us so close. The joy of passing the UFE and celebrating with these people was indescribable. My time at Deloitte was without doubt the most fun I have had in my working life and, reflecting back, the most rewarding time as well.

What do you do now? What is the best part of your current role?

I am currently the Vice-President (Administration) at the University of Manitoba, which I just started in the fall of 2012. It’s early days, but the level of excitement and energy is palpable, as the university is embarking on some very substantial campus planning endeavours. The opportunity to do this at my alma mater is very gratifying.

How would you describe the secret of your success?

I would summarize my success in two ways: managing people and seeing the big picture. In the types of senior positions I have recently held, you’re really only as good as the people who work for you. My success is largely based on being able to readily identify and recruit talented people who are able to fit into the organization and then get out of their way and let them do their job. I dislike being micromanaged and therefore I don’t do this to my own reports. High-level monitoring of their activity through scorecards and benchmarking is a given, but for the right people, ownership of their jobs is a huge motivator, and has worked well for me.

Being able to quickly and accurately assess both short-term and long-term issues that arise from a multitude of stakeholders, and then developing solutions to these issues has helped me immensely. You need to be able see the forest for the trees and not waste time on things that others could easily handle. In other words, you need to do only what an executive can do.

Have you stayed connected with former Deloitte colleagues? If so, how?

Yes I have. In some cases I see them because we live in the same neighbourhood and our children have grown up together. In other cases, I see them at professional events or at Deloitte reunions. Winnipeg is a small enough community whereby professionals all seem to know each other, especially in CA circles.

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