Virtual Executive Education program participants share their experiences

Male Student in Winter
Posted 2020-12-18
The workplace is a constantly changing environment, but external forces such as COVID-19 have amplified the need for professionals to be agile and open to change. Achieving success in a chosen field requires more than just hard work and a positive attitude, it also requires the right job skills.

The participants featured in this article took the fall 2020 offering of UBC Sauder’s popular Essential Management Skills program delivered virtually. It was a sell-out success with over 40 professionals from different sectors.

Navigating change and strengthening teams

Position: Helena Edmonds, Manager for Advanced Education at the Ts’zil Learning Centre in her community of Lil’wat Nation in Mount Currie, B.C.

Responsibilities: Helena supports 50 Indigenous students enrolled in various universities, colleges and institutes and manages a team of 11 educational professionals

Program: Essential Management Skills Program delivered virtually


After 25 years working as an Indigenous Support Worker in the public school system, I was hired as a manager,” explains Edmonds. “I had been at my desk for six days before we went into lockdown because of COVID-19. I was working from home and I said to my director, I’m out of my element here.”

Her director asked her if she wanted to take UBC Sauder Executive Education’s Essential Management Skills (EMS) program.

“The mindset of continuous improvement has always been important in the workplace, but now more so than ever,” notes Bruce Wiesner, Associate Dean of Executive Education at UBC Sauder.

“Adaptability will be key to the future of work. Leaders will have to be nimble to make changes and assess impacts quickly.”

Graduates of the EMS program return to work with core competencies for management success. The two-week program, delivered online in nine “live” modules, incorporates skill-building activities. Participants also reflect on readings, videos and self-assessments to develop a better understanding of their management capabilities.

“For me, one of the biggest things I learned was how to manage conflict,” says Edmonds. “What words to use and what words to avoid using when addressing an issue with a colleague, so it’s done in a way that’s safe for both parties.”

Now 10 months into her role as Manager for Advanced Education, Edmonds is putting her practical skills and knowledge to use, supporting her team’s success as well as the academic journeys of young people in the Lil’wat Nation and surrounding community.

“The biggest advice I give to both my students and my team is to focus on what’s in front of you, and just that. If you don’t understand something, don’t panic, ask questions, ask for help, and be patient with yourselves. It’s worked for me in the past and that’s what I’m doing now in my new role as a manager.”


Creating the circumstances for career advancement

Position: Milly Vega, CPA-CGA, Controller at Miracon Development, a residential development firm in Surrey.

Responsibilities: Milly has a senior role in the finance department at Miracon Development managing their financial operations and planning for the future.

Program: Essential Management Skills Program delivered virtually


Milly Vega recently completed the EMS program as the final unit in the Advanced Management certificate program. Vega began working toward earning her certificate when classes were running in person at Robson Square.

When programs moved online as a result of COVID-19, Vega was unsure whether Zoom classes could replace in-person learning. “I didn’t know if I would like it, but it exceeded my expectations. The instructors kept us engaged with many opportunities for social interaction and discussion. The program content was also very strong with so many case studies, articles, videos and interviews. You need all these components when you are delivering an online experience and the instructors really nailed it.”

In addition to the EMS program, Vega particularly enjoyed a program called Leading High Performance Teams.

“That program really opened my mind. I learned how to identify what motivates your team members, and how to empower everyone based on their capabilities. So the way a 23-year-old is motivated is very different from the way I am motivated and the way my parents were motivated.”


A program for every kind of management professional

Both Edmonds and Vega enjoyed learning from their classmates who came from a wide variety of industries and backgrounds. In addition to sharing different experiences and management approaches, they also expanded their professional networks.

“Virtual learning offers a new world of possibilities, including amazing flexibility and customization,” says Wiesner. “Our participants are embracing new ways of learning and connecting, which ultimately deepens their leadership capacities.”