by Gloria Welton
Recently UPEI held a Career Day with the Faculty of Business. A variety of speakers talked about their career choices and the steps they took along the way and offered advice to others.
One speaker was Christopher Gillis, Deputy Minister, Priorities & Intergovernmental Affairs with the province of PEI.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from UPEI and a Master of Public Administration from Queen’s University. He is a Certified Professional in Human Resources through CPHR PEI and a Project Management Professional as well as a PMI certified leader in organizational transformation.
Gaining professional work experience while you are a student is important. Christopher says the moment you graduate you are launched into a labour pool of people with similar education levels, so having some work experience helps you stand out and will give you a competitive edge.
“Co-op programs are an incredible opportunity to get professional work experience and to build your network. All throughout my career my motto was: you have to network to get work.”
Christopher has worked in various roles from policy and communications advisor to executive director in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors. He has held positions with the Government of Canada and with a multinational private sector corporation, among others.
Prior to his current role, he was the Executive Director of the Canadian Alliance for Skills & Training in Life Sciences (CASTL). This first-of-its-kind partnership between academia and industry provides a talent pipeline of highly skilled people for the bioscience sector in Atlantic Canada and across the country.
He was a sessional professor at UPEI, where he taught in the Department of Political Science for five years and in the Faculty of Business for the last two years. He has also taught at Holland College.
“Fresh out of high school I went to university in Toronto and did a Fine Arts undergrad,” says Christopher. “After struggling to get ahead in Toronto for about 10 years I wanted to go back to school and continue my education.
“In my late twenties I chose to come back home to go to UPEI. I fell in love with the university and decided to finish my undergrad here. My journey to my current role started when I was a student at UPEI.”
After graduating with a Master of Public Administration he started his career with the Department of Veterans Affairs. “By then I was gravitating towards an interest in leadership and management. HR seemed to be a natural fit so I became a certified HR professional, which allowed me to move into the private sector to work in HR for several years.
“Over time, I started to think about going back to work with the government, but only had an interest in a very senior, strategic roles. That dream came true almost two years ago when I was appointed Deputy Minister.
“The ability to cope and manage through change is incredibly important. Change is constant and inevitable, and you need to work with it because resistance will create a great deal of grief. General interpersonal skills around being cooperative and collaborative are also important.
“In government, the ability to work in teams is very important. Effective communication skills, trust and being responsive are skills that need to be built on continuously.
“I am very goal oriented, so when measurable goals are accomplished within government, it is very satisfying. Government is complex, so it is extra rewarding when milestones are reached. I am leading some work in healthcare and recently we launched the Pharmacy Plus program.
“This program led to measurable changes in the healthcare system. This program has generated positive feedback, and we were able to breathe a little easier and feel more confident about change in healthcare after this accomplishment.
“I really enjoy working with my team of colleagues around the deputy’s table. I also have a great network of regional and national colleagues and I really enjoy working with them as well. I get to learn from others and gain different perspectives and experiences in the field.”
Christopher says resilience in the face of change and the ability to get along with other people is incredibly important.
“There are emerging talent needs and opportunities on PEI because we are dealing with issues that we never had to face before. With all the issues and challenges we are facing, it is a fascinating time to be with the provincial government, and it is rewarding to see our collective accomplishments.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
about Christopher Gillis, visit www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/employee/gillis-christopher