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Fostering career development in city workplaces

4 min read

Fostering career development in city workplaces

How do you develop your leadership career in city workplace environments where, as Patrick Draper, City Manager at St. Albert, states “we have great breadth, but we don't have a lot of depth”? This Leadership Conversation explores how leaders can foster career development despite these challenges.

City or municipal workplaces comprise many specialized departments, each with just a few layers of management. So how does a leader develop his/her career where, as Patrick Draper, City Manager at St. Albert, states, “we have great breadth, but we don't have a lot of depth”? Simply waiting for your boss to retire is not going to get you anywhere fast in your career. In this Leadership Conversation we learn what Pat is doing to solve this problem.

Brad: Cities are an interesting customer sector for Jostle; it's the one sector where our customers don’t actually compete with each other. This seems to result in a very in-sector career development path. I've noticed in the municipal government world, career paths are very much city to city.

Pat: Part of it is a feature with our pension system. When you join the City of St. Albert you get to enroll in the provincial pension plan for municipal employees. It is portable to any other municipality in Alberta so you can move to Fort Saskatchewan and keep the pension, which you can't do in the private sector that doesn't have pension portability. This pension arrangement actually encourages mobility.

This is by design so that people can move around and helps solve the problem that within many individual functions there has historically been little opportunity for upwards mobility.

I'm trying to change some of that, but someone coming up through recreation can't work in public works. Somebody who's an engineer couldn't work in culture. Well, why not?

"Somebody who's an engineer couldn't work in culture. Well, why not?"

Brad: What is the barrier, and at what level should your managerial skills be portable across functions?

Pat: They do this at the Federal and Provincial governments when you're rising from a Director to an Assistant Deputy Minister to a Deputy Minister, and in Director to ADM movement, you need to lose being a functional expert, and you need to be a management and leadership expert, and be able to move around portfolios across different ministries.

I get that question a lot from some staff at engineering, they'll say, "Well, where's my career path? Because I can only look above me and until they leave, I've got no where to go on this." I say, "Well, there may actually be some other areas in the organization that you might be able to contribute very positively to with a slightly different perspective."

Brad: How do you foster that leadership development?

Pat: I make changes. I actually took our General Manager, he's an engineer -- he had planning engineering, public works, and transit experience -- and he became our General Manager of Economic Development. Long story short, there's a lot of planning and engineering knowledge that's required in economic development. That helped. But personality wise, he's a great salesman and he happens to have tremendous interpersonal skills; he builds really good relationships, which is a much, much needed skill set. He's been at it for two years and just absolutely phenomenal. I actually go and I move people and support them through that change.

"I actually go and I move people and support them through that change."

This is a nice example of the cooperative approach an employee needs to take in today’s world -- the company's doing this, you can do that, and your career will not stall.

Brad: Nice. That's really nice.

In other conversations with Patrick Draper we explore city vs. corporate leadership, building purpose, and culture and recognition in municipal environments.

About Leadership Conversations:

Our day job at Jostle is creating a platform that helps leaders engage employees, drive culture, and catalyze collaboration. Through this Leadership Conversations series we seek out top people-oriented leaders to explore these topics with us. If you know someone we should include in this series, please contact us at leaders@jostle.me.

Pat Draper

Patrick Draper is the City Manager at St. Albert. He is a persuasive leader with broad general management experience gained in corporate, public sector, and entrepreneurial organizations in Canada, the United States and internationally. Patrick joined the City of St. Albert in April 2012 after two years as the President & CEO of the Toronto Region Research Alliance, a regional economic innovation agency. His previous career span of twenty-five years included leadership roles in high-growth organizations including Deputy Minister of Economic Development for Ontario and President of an international consumer products company.

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Brad Palmer

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