It’s Always a Good Time to Learn

2015-2016 Issue 1

JeffSidelJeff Sidel spent his retirement in a way you might not expect: he went back to school. After a 26-year career at Merck Frosst Canada, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, he retired and realized he had “a burning desire to go back to school. I wanted to be stimulated, and explore areas that I found interesting. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life, but I was eager to learn.”

He attended an information session at the School, and met with an academic advisor, who was “wonderful. She was very encouraging, and explained each program in detail.” He began by taking a Graduate Certificate in Taxation, followed by a Graduate Certificate in International Business, and then a Diploma in Treasury & Finance. “Yes, I took them one after another,” says Sidel. “They complemented each other, and I thought, this is fun – I want to continue.”

After 26 years in business, Sidel could tell the School was doing a “really good job in terms of presenting real world scenarios. In business you’re constantly working in team settings and doing work with other departments.” He found his instructors “very easy to talk to,” applied himself to his studies, and upon graduation, he ranked first in his class and was awarded the American Express Prize in Management – Treasury & Finance.

Meanwhile, issues in his personal life were unfolding. His mother-in-law became ill, and as one of the family caregivers, he very suddenly found himself “taking on the tremendous responsibility of managing her affairs,” including finances, medical care, property management, and legal aspects. “It’s time-consuming, and in many cases it can be overwhelming – emotionally, physically, and mentally.”

But Sidel saw an opportunity among the challenges. “Although there were a lot of resources for the family caregiver, there was no one group to guide you. I came to the conclusion that there was business potential there and started to explore the idea of helping others. A number of courses in my programs were about starting a business, and without even realizing it, all the blocks started to fall into place.” Sidel spoke with financiers, lawyers, and social workers; their advice was invaluable. He then reached out to accounting firm Crowe BGK and submitted a business plan. In January 2011, Crowe BGK Seniors Advisory Group was launched as a division of the company. “It’s been very successful, and we’re helping a lot of families.”

Sidel hopes his success can in turn inspire other potential student entrepreneurs. “An opportunity presented itself, and it was because of my program that I was able to create a successful business enterprise,” he states. “I want others to see me as an alumnus who really made it a success, and I hope they’re motivated as a result.”

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