Jan Lederman: 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient for Service to the University of Manitoba
The recipients of the 2018 University of Manitoba Distinguished Alumni Awards are graduates who are outstanding in their professional and personal lives. These honourees encompass a wide range of achievement, innovation and community service and inspire fellow alumni, current students and the community.
Renowned corporate lawyer Jan Lederman [BA/74, LLB/77] is a champion for innovation. She is at the helm of numerous non-profit organizations, programs and clinics, helping hundreds of startups founded by University of Manitoba students, researchers and alumni bring their products and services to the world.
In her own words…
My mom would characterize me as a tomboy. It’s not a term I ever really liked but I certainly loved to be outdoors, I loved to be playing sports. My two sisters and I, we were always outside, just kind of roaming around.
I always thought I wanted to write. In high school, if I had any real vision of what I wanted to do, it was to write magazine articles for Time.
I made the decision to go into Law school about one month before I was ready to leave to go to Ottawa to go into journalism. I didn’t know anything really about the Law.
Ferreting out facts, applying analysis to it, and writing. Those were all things I enjoyed and was good at.
What kept me here was the city. It’s not what most people say but it was the reality for me.
Going into Law school had nothing to do with the law for me, it was just the next step of something to do.
Coming to an institution as big as the U of M and seeing the diversity of people and disciplines – being exposed to all that – was a pretty formative experience. It prepares you for your interactions in the world. It certainly played a pretty big role in shaping my view of the world.
The U of M is an interesting place, a complex institution. There are lots of smart people, good people.
When I became Chair (of the Board of Governors), the new President had a vision for helping the University modernize its processes and systems and thinking. It was very rewarding to play a role in that and participate in growing and improving the University environment.
One of our objectives is to make the systems unnoticeable. People have the resources, the technology, and the tools they need to do their work with as little friction as possible. That’s hard to do.
I know things like instituting technology solutions can be very frustrating for academics. But modernizing our systems has been a really big deal.
I have a teaching kind of mindset. I always approach things from a systems perspective. How do you make the systems easier?
To do a startup you have to do what you know. You have to understand what the problems are and have a real passion for solving those problems.
It’s really enjoyable to watch entrepreneurs grow and blossom. When the lightbulb goes on for them.
I think one of Winnipeg’s greatest strengths is its sense of community. But I also think Winnipeg tends to be a little insular.
When our startups start creating their businesses they should immediately be thinking about exporting and going global. We shouldn’t fear our startups becoming global businesses and leaving Winnipeg.