April 2016 | Issue 30

Riding the Rails with Steve Sammut, Head of Rocky Mountaineer

Steve SammutSteve Sammut, MBA ’95, knows all about the charming appeal of train travel, and he certainly should.

Since December, Sammut has been tasked with leading one of the world’s most luxurious and renowned rail companies, Rocky Mountaineer. Founded in 1990, the company operates four distinctive routes through British Columbia, Alberta and Washington, and is known for offering breathtaking views of the rugged backcountry through its rail cars’ custom-made domed glass ceilings. It’s the largest privately-owned luxury tourist train company in the world, and has welcomed more than 1.7 million guests from the furthest corners of the globe. To put things in perspective, more than 80 per cent of Rocky Mountaineer riders come from outside the country. It’s a Canadian tourism magnet.

Sammut, who lives in Vancouver with his wife Sheri and the couple’s two sons, earned a DeGroote MBA in 1995. He began his professional career at CIBC World Markets before being lured to the Pacific coast to join resort juggernaut Intrawest in the fall of 1999. He spent more than a decade with that organization [leaving as Chief Financial Officer, Real Estate, in 2010], followed by a two-year stint as Chief Financial Officer at Intracorp Projects Ltd. He’s been with Rocky Mountaineer since 2012, and has been sitting in the President’s chair for a little over three months.

Can you explain the enduring appeal of traveling by rail? How has it survived and thrived alongside other modes of transportation?

I think it just takes people back to a simpler time. There’s something magical about it. In Canada, there’s still a lot of romanticism surrounding the Last Spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway [1885] and the race to ensure British Columbia would become a part of our country, not the United States. The history is fascinating. It’s also a much more relaxed mode of travel – the sway of the trains going back and forth, the clickity-clack of the rails underneath. It allows us to sit back, relax, imagine the past and connect with travel companions and new friends on board. more…


In Practice

Navigating the digital battlefield with Massoud Abbasi

Andrew Baulcomb, Advancement Officer

Massoud AbbasiMassoud-Abbas-smi is gazing south from his Midtown Manhattan office, situated high above the bustling intersection of 3rd Avenue and 51st Street. New York is in the final throes of a relatively mild winter, but the city is dusted with fresh, light snow following a late-season clipper that rolled in from the Midwest.

“I’m looking at the Chrysler Building right now,” says Abbasi, 33, US-Canada Sales and Strategy Executive at Cohere Communications. “I have to pause sometimes to think about where I came from, and where I am now.”

It’s well after 4 p.m., but his cross-border IT and cyber security firm is still buzzing. Abbasi asks for the occasional reprieve to chat with a colleague or look over a document that has landed on his desk. His own workday often doesn’t end until late in the evening. But he doesn’t seem to mind. The non-stop hum of the city is invigorating.

Born in Tehran, Iran in 1982, Abbasi grew up in a world that was far removed from the glistening corridors of fine art, food, fashion and finance he now calls home. more…


Deconstructing the Apple v FBI showdown

Kenneth Owen, PhD Candidate, Information Systems

apple-and-fbiIn a surprise move this week, the FBI announced it was abandoning its efforts to use the courts to compel Apple to unlock the contents of an iPhone.

The iPhone in question previously belonged to Syed Farook, who killed 14 people and injured 22 others with the assistance of his wife, Tashfeen Malik, during a terror attack in San Bernadino, California last December.

The FBI now claims it has successfully accessed the contents of Farook’s iPhone with the help of an undisclosed external business. So, is the war over? Did somebody win? The FBI got what it wanted, but so did Apple. So is the world safe again? The simple answer is no. more…

Top 3 Tips for better balance, better business

Kevin Patterson, Senior Executive Vice-President, Technology and Operations, CIBC

There’s a large and growing body of research delivering undeniable proof that accelerating women’s advancement in the workforce and creating gender-balanced teams produce better results.

Simply put, gender diversity is not only the right thing to do, it is in every organization’s best economic interest to fully utilize and optimize the talents of women.

I’ve captured some key learning’s that have laid the foundation for my role as Executive Sponsor of the Gender Action Committee at CIBC. They are practical tips that I hope will help you move the dial forward on this important topic. more…


Exploring the art of online persuasion through design

Andrew Baulcomb, Advancement Officer

online-persuasionHow important is website design when it comes to influencing public opinion on the Internet?

Marshall McLuhan was right. The medium really is the message.

DeGroote Professor Milena Head and a team of international researchers have found that, in addition to argument quality, the look and feel of a website can have a profound impact on winning hearts and minds.

For online readers with little or no understanding of a given issue, factors such as image appeal, navigation design and connectedness can make a world of difference when it comes to delivering key messages to mass audiences. Even relatively subtle design elements have the power to affect great change.

“For those who don’t have prior knowledge on a topic, it’s not just what is being said that is important,” offers Head. “How it is being said is also very important in shifting attitudes.”

Getting Out

Hidden Profits

Burlington, Ontario

You’ve heard about using data to make better business decisions. But how?

Whether you’re a data “beginner” or expert, join us at the Ron Joyce Centre on April 5. Event details…

The End of Alchemy

Toronto, Ontario

A DeGroote Insight Lecture featuring Mervyn King, former Governor of The Bank of England: Crises are not new, but there is no reason to accept them as inevitable. We can reform our system of money and banking to make it safer and regulation much simpler.  Event details…



Are you good enough? How the mindset of ‘not enough’ holds us back

Women are becoming successful leaders and entrepreneurs. And now more than ever, the world needs us to be positive influences. Along the way we face many challenges, but the biggest is often our own inner critic.



Hidden Profits

Apr 5, 2016 | 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

This panel will focus on taking data analytics to make better business decisions. Ron Joyce Centre, 4350 South Service Road, Burlington | Free, parking included. details

Insight Lecture: The End of Alchemy

Apr 25, 2016 | 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

A DeGroote Insight Lecture featuring Mervyn King, former Governor of The Bank of England | 1 King Street West, Toronto details

An Evening of Accolades 2016

May 5, 2016 | 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Featuring the Wayne C. Fox Distinguished Alumni Award. This year honouring Michael Latimer, BCom ’76 | The Carlu, 444 Yonge Street, 7th Floor, Toronto, ON details

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