Susan Roberston

When did you start your career at Dal?

I began at Dalhousie in 1992. I’ve always worked in the Finance department but over the years have been lucky to move to different roles with increasing levels of responsibility. Before moving to the position of Controller in March I was the Director of Budgets and Financial Analysis. After a number of years working with the University budget I am looking forward to having a new area of focus.

What did you study in school?

I have my Bachelor of Commerce degree from Dalhousie. I then went on to work at a public accounting firm (Grant Thornton) where I obtained my CA in 1988. I was a Senior Manager at Grant Thornton before coming to Dal in 1992.

What do you think makes an effective leader?

I think the most important attribute of a good leader is the ability to listen. Sometimes that means opening your mind to points of view other than your own and contemplating or considering them when making your decisions.

How do you see your role impacting others at the university and within your own department?

In my role as Controller for the University, I am responsible for University accounting including ensuring adequate systems of internal control properly secure University assets, and for financial reporting. In terms of impacting others at the University I will help guide or support others in terms of these areas, particularly when that is not their area of expertise.

I hope to impact others in my department by making decisions that are in the best interest of the department and good business sense for the University even though they may not always be popular.

Who inspires you in terms of leadership?

Over my years at the University there have been many who have also served as examples of good leadership. Choosing one is difficult and I’m not just saying this because he is my boss, but I believe Ian Nason is an example of a good leader. He has the ability to see the big picture and ultimately has the best interests of the University at heart.

What are some of the challenges you face in your new role?

The challenges in my role are really the same as the general financial challenges facing the University. External factors such as government pressure on funding, and the potential for demographic trends to result in shrinking enrolment all mean careful consideration in terms of allocating scarce resources.

On a more micro level as I am fairly new to my position I definitely need to bone up in the areas of financial accounting, banking and taxation that weren’t my focus in my previous role as director of Budgets and Financial Analysis.

What is one word that would describe your leadership style?

I guess that would be the word ‘open’. I think that others would describe me as someone that listens to them, is approachable and will take what I hear from them and find an effective solution that works for everyone.

If you didn’t pursue a career in Finance, what would you be doing?

I don’t know if I would have been comfortable to take the risk, but I always dreamed of owning my own bakery.