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For Allan, connecting the dots means spending a lot of time


out of the office, investigating new technologies and building bridges with other decision-makers who are equally focused on fostering Canadian competitiveness. “It’s about making sure you are collaborating across the divides,” she says, whether it’s with government, other busi- nesses, academics or environmentalists. Allan serves on the boards of many organizations, including


the C.D. Howe Institute, the Conference Board of Canada and MaRS Discovery District. She recently completed board terms for The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, where she served as chair, and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE). John Manley, head of the CCCE and former deputy prime


minister of Canada, said Allan was tapped for key roles in his organization not only because of her high-profile position at GE, but also because of her experience running the Toronto Board of Trade. “She’s comfortable navigating within a large, complex corpo-


rate organization and also talking the language of the public,” he says. “She’s very effective as a communicator.” Allan is currently a leader of a CCCE initiative that brings to-


gether various groups seeking to ensure that Canadians have the job skills necessary to compete in the 21st century. One of her roles is to share insights from GE, which is world-renowned for its commitment to employee development. Another is to help find ways to define and measure investments in education and training. “She’s very personally engaged in the topic,” Manley says,


adding that she is a particularly effective panel moderator. “She uses her skills to engage our members, to animate the conversation.” William Robson, president and CEO of the C.D. Howe In-


stitute, has also seen her in action. As the chair of the institute’s Energy Policy Council, Allan is particularly good, he says, at jug- gling diverse agendas and focusing the discussion. “The Energy Policy Council members have a variety of back- grounds and all sorts of different day jobs and one of the things that is very positive about having Elyse as the chair is that she’s a great conductor of meetings where you’ve got people coming at things from different points of view,” he says. She’s able to keep strong personalities on track, he adds, and to understand “where the lines are” when it comes to the institute’s role in influencing public policy. Allan is also said to be skilled at understanding how to apply resources so that they can be most effective. She calls it “cutting through the noise and getting down to what matters.” While all this activity makes for a very busy work schedule,


Allan makes sure to carve out recreational time with her hus- band, Don, and grown son, Stuart. She likes to hike and ski, and she also golfs, “though not very well,” she admits. Fiction with


historical or geopolitical themes is her reading choice. But she also says she very much enjoys her work. “I came from a family that worked,” she says of her family,


which built and ran vacation rentals in a resort town in New Jersey. “We worked a lot, but we had fun doing it because we were all doing it together.” When she wasn’t changing sheets or cleaning rooms for the family business, she worked as a waitress to help put herself through school. So working hard comes naturally, as does her penchant for teamwork and collaboration. A love of travel and a willingness to venture out of her safe


zone and look beyond the obvious also serve her well in her current role. “You have to reach out and build those networks because innovation happens on the fringe,” she says. “So you’ve got to be out there on the fringe to see what’s coming.” Throughout the world, for example, innovators who aren’t necessarily familiar with the oilsands are making technological breakthroughs that have the potential to help reduce green- house gas emissions in Alberta. To find them, GE is working with Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance to hold contests to award those with the best ideas. Being a leader in this effort has given Allan a chance to see cutting-edge technology being de- veloped around the globe. The contest is why the employees of Guha Industries of Tamil


Nadu, India, a maker of refrigeration and heating equipment, are working to collaborate with GE Canada on an ammonia/ water heat pump to allow low-grade heat to be used in steam production and power generation, reducing fossil-fuel use. These people had never been to Alberta, Allan says, and had


no experience with heavy oil, but they were working on some- thing that could be applied by GE Canada. “There are a lot of people out there working on stuff relevant


to us, but if you don’t reach out, how do you know?” she says, switching seamlessly between the technical and the vernacular: “It’s really cool.” This type of project — one that searches the world in the spirit


of collaboration to find solutions to pressing problems — is something that Allan relishes and that makes good use of her innate curiosity, desire to expand her boundaries and highly developed communication skills. She likes to take advantage of GE’s Leadership Explorations program, which sets up experiences that put people into places and situations they might not be used to. “I go and I learn,” Allan says. “I keep myself in uncomfortable


places.” This attitude has served her well and is precisely what GE


needs to keep moving beyond its venerable past into the ever- changing future.


SUSAN SMITH is a Toronto-based freelance writer DECEMBER 2015 | CPA MAGAZINE | 31


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