Learning with impact: Leading by example

Mabel Jackson sharpened her own managerial skills, but also learned to identify management potential in others.


After more than two decades of working in human resources, Mabel Jackson, Manager of Human Resources for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA), is aware that life is not always black and white, and many of the workplace issues that she deals with fall in the gray areas.   

This kind of management requires strategy, high-level decision-making and exceptional communication.

“I wanted to enhance my skills, but mainly I wanted to lead by example for other managers,” explains Jackson.

Mabel Jackson

Part of her job is to work with their senior leadership team to identify employees that show management potential and offer them support to take on leadership roles. 

“We found that the Essential Management Skills course offered by UBC Sauder’s Executive Education is perfect for managers who want to update their skillset as well as providing a great starting point for new managers," says Jackson.

Jackson believed the course would not only help her augment her own skills, but also enable her to identify the need for these skills in others and position her well to advise co-workers about this professional development opportunity.

She wanted to go through the certificate process herself in order to know its benefits for her company’s staff, so she enrolled in the Essential Management Skills course. “It’s easier to recommend a learning opportunity when you’ve done it yourself.”


Jackson has always worked closely with people. “You could say I grew up in human resources,” she jokes. She has been with the VFPA—formerly known as Port Metro Vancouver—for 25 years.

“I’m responsible for providing effective and proactive advice on human resources capacity building activities,” says Jackson.That would include labour relations, employee relations, talent management, employee programs and HR processes.”

In 2012, as part of its professional development offerings, VFPA teamed up with the UBC Sauder School of Business to develop a business certificate for the company’s emerging leaders.

“It’s what we call a UBC Sauder VFPA co-branded Certificate in Strategic Management and Leadership, and it’s designed to be completed over a four-to-six year period,” details Jackson.

The certificate is comprised of three core courses, including Essential Management Skills, and two electives to help give a well-rounded approach to leadership.

“It’s tailored to an employee’s individual development needs, and we feel this certificate will help them develop the key competencies needed for managerial success,” she says. 


For Jackson, the classroom dynamic of shared learning was what impressed her as it promoted the honest and open communicating of experiences—ones that several others in the room could relate to and learn from.

“Because the instructors were very open to giving individuals in the class the opportunity to talk, people were very comfortable sharing their own experiences,” she says. “They would discuss situations that happened at work and how they handled it and others would offer up their own stories or suggestions and you’d see a lot of people nodding.”

“It was on-going, collective learning,” she adds.

The case studies and roleplaying used throughout the course also evoked this shared learning as many of the participants could relate to their own situations in the examples used. This prompted deeper discussion when they were placed in small groups.

“We could all relate to each other,” says Jackson. “The course material was extremely well organized, relevant, and it covered topics including motivational communication and listening, team building and leadership.”


The first day back at the Port, she was able to apply what she had learned at Sauder.

“I was now speaking the same language as my co-workers that had previously taken the course,” she recalls. “I knew I could go to them with any questions or issues and we could discuss them using the same communications or people managing skills we’d learned in the course and I found this very valuable.”

Having a common professional development background was one of the main objectives of the certificate, so Jackson knew firsthand that this would be something future participants would benefit from.

The skills and techniques that she had gained enhanced her confidence, which was also appreciated by her direct supervisors.

“It’s noticeable who has taken the courses - you see improved interactions and use of skills,” agrees Sandi Case, Vice-President of Human Resources and Labour Relations at VFPA.

She adds, “I think it’s very valuable for an organization to partner with a training institution like UBC Sauder as it ensures a consistent approach to management.”

Sandi Case

Executive Education at the Sauder School of Business

Our professional development programs aim to transform your career and accelerate your organization’s business objectives. With more than one hundred open enrolment programs taught by top Sauder faculty and leading industry experts, we zero in on your goals and ensure you get results.

We have a broad range of programs, from short skill-building courses for managers who want to make their mark to intensive week-long programs in residence for senior leaders. Each is comprehensive and convenient, minimizing your time away from the office and family. All our programs can be customized to meet your organization’s business objectives and professional development needs.