Alumni Profile: Paul Lévesque, President, Pfizer Canada Inc.

2011-2012 Issue 1

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 1.01.22 PMWHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND AT THE SCHOOL OF CONTINUING STUDIES?

After completing a BSc at Université Laval, I earned the Diploma of Management in 1992 to complement my scientific background with management and marketing skills. I chose McGill for its reputation and because I wanted to study in English.

WHERE WERE YOU WORKING AT THE TIME AND WHAT WERE YOUR ASPIRATIONS?

I started my career in the pharmaceutical industry working at Upjohn in sales, sales training and marketing. I aspired to climb the ladder with the hope of one day leading a Canadian affiliate.

WERE THERE ANY INSPIRING INSTRUCTORS?

James Archibald, my Organizational Behaviour teacher. At the time, I was more interested in economics, marketing, accounting and market research. Dr. Archibald made me realize that there is nothing more important than soft skills and organizational development.

DO YOU HAVE ANY AMUSING ANECDOTES ABOUT YOUR TIME HERE THAT YOU CAN SHARE?

One evening, in a Decision Process in Marketing Management class, we had to review a case study about a major Tylenol recall and try to explain business options that should be considered. At this point, we did not know the decision that the company would make in the real-life situation. I ended up presenting what the company did, while the entire class thought that approach was not feasible. My unique perspective got the grade (92%)!

WHAT INVALUABLE LESSONS OR SKILLS DID YOU LEARN THAT YOU USE IN YOUR CURRENT PROFESSIONAL LIFE?

I learned that soft skills are just as important, or even more important, than hard skills. By soft skills, I mean how you deal with people – the interpersonal skills. For example, how you engage people in times of uncertainty, how you provide constructive feedback, how you promote in a transparent way without demotivating those who were not promoted, how you coach or train your colleagues, etc. In essence, they are all those personal attributes that enhance a person’s interactions with others.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE CONTINUING STUDIES STUDENTS WHO ASPIRE TO REACH THE UPPER ECHELONS OF THE CORPORATE WORLD?

Set high aspirations for yourself. Canada and the world offer many opportunities – just be open to them all – expected and unexpected! Students should value general culture, language and professional skills as well.

N AN ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN THE GLOBE AND MAIL, YOU SAID, “WE MUST THINK ABOUT HOW TO MAKE OUR WORKFORCE SMARTER AND MORE EFFICIENT. EDUCATION IS THE FIRST KEY.” HOW WOULD YOU RELATE THIS TO PEOPLE CONSIDERING TAKING CONTINUING STUDIES COURSES AND PROGRAMS?

In an era characterized by speed, we are confronted with learning more all the time. The continuing education program at McGill fills this need by offering the opportunity to upgrade skills while working full time. This makes the program very rich, as students have real-life examples to assist in the learning process.

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