Q&A with Debra Jonasson-Young
On August 4, 2015 Debra Jonasson-Young [MBA/99, CCP] was officially welcomed as director of the Executive Education program at the University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business. UM Today took a few moments from Jonasson-Young’s busy schedule to discuss her background and her vision for the Executive Education program.
UM Today: What attracted you to the position?
Debra Jonasson-Young: At this particular stage of my career, there were three things that excited me about the position. First of all, I’m a huge believer in continuing education and the power and value of education within the community. Secondly I believe that educated businesses are better businesses, are better places to work and often are more profitable. And thirdly, I believe that better businesses equate to stronger communities.
Why do you feel so strongly about business, community and education?
I came from a family who valued education, intelligence and continuous learning.
I also spent 27 years with Eaton’s and I worked my way up from a part time student to the General Manager of the Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario region, and ultimately had responsibility for Manitoba-Saskatchewan-Alberta for all of Eaton’s. Eaton’s was heavily into soft-skills development and education, and believed in continuing education. I probably developed my love for the concept of continuous education there, and I’ve carried that with me wherever I’ve gone because I could see that when you educate people there is a direct impact on employee engagement, on developing innovative, creative and strong cultures and ultimately on the success of organizations. I believe very strongly that employees love working for organizations that are successful, where they feel their talents and abilities can add to that success, and where they believe they can make a difference and feel fulfilled by their contributions.
Tell me a bit about your vision for the Executive Education program. What do you hope to achieve?
Because I come from the business community I have a fairly good perspective of what the educational needs for the business community are. Step 1 in the process will be researching through the eyes of business what their most urgent, most critical and most important needs are as it relates to executive education. Coupled with that we will also look at what other executive education facilities are doing around the world.
At that point in time we will start to build the program to align with the needs of the community and the businesses. Ultimately I would envision very strong programming that would serve the needs of the businesses by providing the educational solutions that will serve to strengthen them.
What unique perspective do you bring to the position? In what ways do you think you might make the most impact to the Executive Education program?
In addition to my time at Eaton’s I also held the positions of Vice-President of Videon Cable, Vice-President of Shoppers Optical, Vice-President of Dufresne and President of People First Consulting. I have also been heavily involved within the community, both in the public and private sectors. I have a strong business background and because of that I have a solid understanding of the challenges that businesses are facing today as well as the challenges that are coming at us in the future.
I have had the opportunity during the course of my career to develop organizational strategy and build companies. I also know what its like to be challenged with driving businesses in the face of challenging times, not having enough resources, having difficulties in finding, building and developing talent and managing through recessionary times and economic hardships.
I understand the challenges through the eyes of those who run and manage businesses, whether in the public or private sector, profit or not-for-profit. Because of this the Executive Education Program can be instrumental in helping to find solutions to solve some of their most pressing challenges.
Tell me a bit about yourself (beyond the standard profile). What things do you enjoy outside of work?
I am an avid reader, spend time at the gym and am blessed with an incredible and varied group of friends. I am married to Scott and together we have one daughter Lindsey, who together with her husband Sinisa, live in Winnipeg. Scott and I have lived in Waverley Heights for the past 30+ years, and have a wonderful Golden Retriever named Molly!