ILead Hosts Panel Talk with Four Engineering Business Leaders


From Left: Prof. Doug Reeve, Elizabeth Mills, Dr. David Colcleugh, Dr. Dan Rosen, Nigel Guilford, Daryl Wilson

In the stately Governing Council Chamber in Simcoe Hall—where the University’s highest decision-making body deliberates—four business leaders shared their leadership experiences to 100 engineering students on October 28. They shared remarkable personal stories that reveal a deeply human side of engineering in industry.

Professor Doug Reeve, Director of the Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead), moderated the esteemed panel: Daryl Wilson, CEO of Hydrogenics Corporation; Dan Rosen, Former CEO of R2 Financial Technologies; Elizabeth Mills, President and CEO of Workplace Safety & Prevention Services; and Nigel Guilford, Former COO of Laidlaw Waste Systems. When Prof. Reeve asked the panel to describe a crucible moment that changed the way they behave or think, Mr. Wilson set the tone for candid discussion, of sometimes difficult learning experiences.

“I got fired. I had a career that was very successful in a lot of ways, promotions and raises for about 23 years. I had worked in large machine bureaucracies and knew how to keep the rules, make the rules, make sure everybody else kept the rules. Then I went to an entrepreneur-led company. They said they didn’t want me anymore. I was 42 and had no job. I realized in the next 8 months with no job who I really was. It’s easy for your identity to start to merge into the name on your business card and the title under your name. Except that’s a lie. When that’s all stripped away, you start to realize who you really are.” Said Wilson.

These leaders shared several common themes: paths of self-discovery, navigating the world using your heart along with your brain, learning how to appreciate what other people can bring to the table, and a sense of humility through the journey of life. While students would not be surprised to discover the panelists possessed exceptional business acumen, the true takeaways that evening were the stories of overcoming personal and interpersonal challenges as well as finding courage to make difficult decisions in problems with no “right” answer.

Nearing the end of the panel discussion, one student asked a deceptively simple question: “What’s your definition of leadership?” While each panelist gave a reflective, thoughtful response, Ms. Mills’ was perhaps the most pithy: “Service to others.”

At the end of the panel discussion, the four business leaders engaged in informal conversations with engineering students in small groups, demonstrating generosity with their time and belief that their stories and experiences can help shape University of Toronto Engineering’s future leaders.

This event was open to undergraduate and graduate students in two of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering’s leadership courses: APS443 and APS1501, both titled Leadership and Leading in Groups and Organizations, taught by Prof. Reeve and Dr. David Colcleugh respectively. Events like these reinforce the Faculty’s commitment to enriching student experience and delivering transformative learning opportunities.