Strengthening Governance: My Directors Education Program Journey

June 19, 2024

I recently completed the renowned Directors Education Program (DEP) offered by the Rotman School of Business, culminating in earning my ICD.D designation. This program, delivered in collaboration with the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD), has been a energizing experience, blending the rigour of academia with practical insights from seasoned professionals.

Diverse Cohort Experiences

Unlike most participants who follow a single cohort through all four modules, my journey was unique. Due to my schedule, I had the opportunity to engage with different cohorts across the country. I completed Module 1 at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management (DEP22), Modules 2 and 3 at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business (DEP106), and Module 4 at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business (DEP38). This diverse exposure allowed me to benefit from the distinct strengths and perspectives of each institution and cohort.

Returning to an academic setting was a welcome refresher of my business degree. More importantly, it was a chance to up my governance game. The DEP’s comprehensive curriculum is designed to enhance directors’ effectiveness on boards, equipping them with contemporary tools and approaches to address modern challenges.

Building a Network of High-Performing Professionals

The cohorts I joined was comprised of high-performing professionals, many of whom I’ve stayed in touch with and continue to collaborate with in various capacities. These connections have extended beyond the program, fostering a network of support and shared expertise that is active on platforms like WhatsApp. The camaraderie and mutual support within these groups have been invaluable, creating new professional and personal networks.

Each cohort had distinguishing aspects that, without over-generalizing, reflected the business cultures in their respective cities. The Montreal group seemed to have a comfortable familiarity, reflecting the close-knit nature of their business community where no one is more than a phone call away. This cohort had strong representation from the arts and culture sector and crown corporations, and Module 1 was completed almost entirely in French, which was a great way for me to reconnect with my language skills.

In contrast, the Toronto cohort had the palpable energy of high-performing type-A personalities, with many senior and well-respected personalities from the financial and energy sectors. Toronto’s ambitious, competitive nature was always in good spirits, with the group often claiming to be the best cohort of all time, adding to the group’s lively dynamic.

Calgary’s cohort, meanwhile, had a laid-back manner that shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of ambition. Their friendliness was notable, and an entrepreneurial spirit pervaded the group, with strong representation from the oil and gas and mining sectors. All cohorts featured a diverse mix of business leaders, senior government officials, and non-profit sector professionals, making the conversations rich and meaningful. Without question, everyone was dedicated to learning as much as they could from both the course content and each other.

The Race Car Dilemma Case Study

Among these enriching experiences, the “Race Car Dilemma” case study will always stand out to me. As part of the Montreal cohort, we were broken into teams of five and asked to read a case study involving a professional car racing team whose car was breaking down during races at what appeared to be unpredictable times. The pressure was on the team to race to fulfill sponsorship agreements and set themselves up for future success. The case study groups were presented with data and feedback from those closest to the car, including mechanics and the team director, most of whom believed that the car should be allowed to compete in an upcoming race.

Based on the information presented, all groups in the cohort believed that the car should race, except for one participant who was adamant that the car should be sidelined until the issue was diagnosed further. Despite his opposing view, the will of the majority proceeded. It was only after everyone in the class reconvened and indicated their positions that it was revealed to us that this case study paralleled the tragic incident of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986.

Several key lessons emerged from this experience, particularly about groupthink—a mode of thinking where a premature desire to make a decision takes over, often driven by group cohesiveness, external pressure, or a history of recent setbacks. Groupthink can manifest through an illusion of invulnerability or unanimity, inherent morality, rationalization, self-censorship or direct pressure. To combat this, leaders can foster an open climate of conversation, avoid insulation, and not be overly directive. Leadership isn’t always the role of the Chair; everyone has a responsibility to lead. Ultimately, it’s about individual courage and seeking a conflict of ideas, not personality.


The Directors Education Program has been transformative. It has solidified my commitment to excellence in governance and has better prepared me to navigate the complexities of board leadership. The knowledge and connections gained from this program will undoubtedly enhance my contributions to any board and ultimately benefit the clients and communities I serve.

I am proud to hold the ICD.D designation and to be part of a community dedicated to the highest standards of corporate governance. This journey has been one of growth and renewal, reinforcing my passion for governance and my dedication to making a positive impact in the boardroom.