Who are you?
My name is Peter Thompson. I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland during a time we call “the Troubles.” I immigrated to Canada and did my undergraduate studies at Western University, in London Ontario (though when I studied there it was still called The University of Western Ontario). After getting my B.A. (English and History) and B.Ed. from Western I started my teaching career in the Republic of Turkey, where I lived and worked for six years. After that, I returned to Ontario to complete my Graduate Studies. I’ve been living in London, Ontario since then, teaching and administering programs at Western and the Thames Valley District School Board.
Why an MBA? And why HEC Montréal?
I’ve been thinking of doing an MBA for years. Even when I was doing my undergraduate degree my father (he was an engineer) kept saying that I should be doing my HBA or MBA. I never really forgot what he said. Then, the longer I was in Public Service, the more value I saw in getting a degree in Management. Later, when my wife and I got married, she took a leave of absence from her job (she’s an elementary school teacher) to study her Master’s in Education, full-time. She loved being a student again, and working on something she felt passionate about. When she completed her studies, she said to me that I should do something similar in the future. That was ten years ago and I was not going to forget that she said that (ha!).
As for why HEC Monteal? That was easy. It just seemed like the best fit for me. In fact, it’s the only MBA I applied to. When the time came for me to decide to go forward with the application, my wife and I had a lot to consider. We decided that whatever happened we’d do it together. HEC Montreal was everything we were looking for: a great city with a great artistic scene, culture, wonderful neighbourhoods and one of the best MBA programmes in the country. For us, it wasn’t just about the MBA, it was everything associated with the MBA. Back in London I literally live about five minutes from The Ivey School of Business (another one of the best in the country) but I didn’t even apply. For me it was HEC Montreal or nothing.
Five Years from now?
(sounds like a Chairman Mao plan). So, I see one of three options
- Back in London, Ontario as either a Dean at one of the Four Universities in the city, or a Principal/Superintendent with the school district, or
- Living in Toronto, having partnered with my sister who has a design/build company, or
- Still in Montreal, working in a dynamic small to medium local business, having improved my French from “tres terrible” to “seulement terrible.”
What inspires you? What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about a couple of things. The first is: “Commitment to life-long learning.” I can’t stress this one enough. It’s been my mantra, my “ratio decedendi,” throughout my teaching career, both for my students and for me personally. If I didn’t live it I would never have left Ireland, worked all over the world and met all the great people I have met. In fact, I wouldn’t be at HEC Montreal without this notion. Basically, it frames everything I do. Without this idea, I wouldn’t be who I am. I believe it so much that I try to convince others to live it too. I believe if we all strive to learn and reflect everyday, our lives (and the lives of those around us) are exponentially richer.
My other passion: rugby (in particular my old club in Northern Ireland, Ulster). It’s just the greatest game ever invented. It’s not a game of thuggery (like the uninitiated may believe), but a subtle and intricate game of power and finesse. It’s a game where no one person can defeat the other team. Every position in rugby has a specific role, yet every player must have fine-tuned abilities in all the basic skills (passing, catching, tackling, and tactical positioning). It’s a total team game with no room for selfishness nor egos. There’s also nowhere to hide on the rugby field. If you don’t do your job then your team can never be as good as it should be. Along with that, there is a code of ethics that is instilled in the game, to which all players are held. I’ve played a lot of sports in my life, but nothing matches rugby for its physical demands nor its sense of camaraderie. I would add that future business leaders could learn a lot from studying the game.
I’m also inspired and passionate about my wife. I mean really…she puts up with me so she deserves a medal, if not a “shout out” in this blog!
Advice to your former boss? Any advice for your previous boss?
This advice isn’t just for my former boss but all the bosses I’ve had and to the future boss I (or we, will be): “not everything measurable is worth knowing; not everything worth knowing is measurable.”
What is your favorite place in your city or country of origin?
My favourite place in the world is “The Antrim Coast,” in Northern Ireland (it’s the coastline that runs from my home town of Belfast up to the very top of the Island). It’s probably about 200 km long but it is simply the most raw, beautiful, rugged and awe-inspiring landscape I’ve ever seen anywhere. I think everyone should put it on their bucket list. When you travel the “Coast Road,” you’ll not only see the beautiful land and seascapes, as well as countless beautiful villages, you’ll also pass, Dunluce Castle, The Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Reed Rope Bridge and the town of Bushmills (home to the world’s oldest licenced distillery). Each one of these places is amazing, but to visit them all in one day is truly remarkable. Do yourself a favour and google search all of the above places because there isn’t enough space on this blog for me to go into detail about how amazing the whole coastline is.
A book, a comic or a reading that marked you to advise?
It’s really hard to pick just one book or text that affected me, if for no other reason than I am/was an English Literature teacher/Professor. There’s just too many to choose from, but if I had to pick a single author, I would probably choose Ernest Hemingway. I know he’s a little old fashioned now but I’ve never come across an author who can say so much using so few words. All his works are the epitome of stripped down and bare. There are no wasted words in all of Hemingway’s work. It’s powerful, sometime brutal, but always crystal clear, direct and concise. Not only that but his main characters are always a study in the human condition. For Hemingway, it’s not about winning or losing (his protagonists are almost always guaranteed to fail) but rather about doing what is right and being true to one’s convictions. His characters never take the easy way out and the reward at the end is not the result but the journey. It really is impressive stuff.
If you were an animal, an object, a meal, a hashtag, what would it be?
My name Peter is an old biblical name meaning “the rock upon which I build my church.” So I guess if I were an object I’d be a rock (I mean really, it’s hard to argue with the son of God, right?). Besides, I think it’s an image to which I would want to aspire; solid, incorruptible, foundational. Not only that, but it’s a great nickname for a rugby player.
What is your favorite dish or cocktail?
My favourite drink isn’t actually a cocktail; it’s Bushmill’s, Black Bush Irish Whiskey (neat, no ice, no water). If you don’t think you’re a whiskey drinker, then you’ve never had Black Bush. There’s no better feeling, or taste, on a cold or rainy night than sipping that whiskey (and trust me, back in Ireland we have plenty of cold, rainy nights; even in the summer). It’s pretty hard to find a bottle of it around here, but if you can get you hands on one, then do so. When I have it at home I always share it with my company. I’m sort of an ambassador for it and I can say, in all honesty, that even people who say they don’t like whiskey always like it. It really is that good; smooth and sweet, with none of that raw, burn your lungs out, feeling that other whiskeys have. Back in Northern Ireland we joke that Black Bush is the reason why the Irish don’t rule the world (I think there’s some truth to that).
My favourite cocktail is simple: Extra Dry, Bombay Sapphire martini (three olives). It’s simply the most sophisticated, quickest way to get drunk, while still looking classy in the process (spoken from years of experience!)
I was going to write an anecdote about a student I taught a long time ago who, years later, told me that she felt I was the only person who ever showed faith in her or gave her the confidence to succeed in life (which is really funny considering that she hated me when I first taught her). I won’t bore you with the whole story, but it is a good one (and a funny one too), so if you want to hear the whole thing, then I’ll let you buy a beer at the next 5 a 7 and I’ll tell you the whole thing. But the story does highlight one of the cornerstones of my professional practice: “firm, friendly, fair.” I think that’s what we should strive for in our professional and private lives. For me it’s a pretty good guide in all I do and I hope to continue to be true to those notions in the future.