What is your name, title and how long have you been working in your current role here?
My name is Kyle Maclean, Director of Operations at Calgary Alternative Support Services. I have been in this role for approximately 3.5 years.
What other roles have you had with the agency?
Previous to my current position I was the sole IT guy at CASS for approximately 15 years which provided me with a unique opportunity to build the IT infrastructure at CASS from the ground up including everything from servers, networks and websites to policy, road maps, and IT strategy. This role also allowed me to support staff of all types at CASS across every program area, affording me a broad understanding all CASS operations (and pain points).
What ‘frontline’ experience do you have in this sector (doesn’t necessarily need to be exclusively ‘work experience’ ex: family, friends etc.)?
I was a Support Home Provider to a PDD funded individual with complex needs for 6 years which was an incredibly rewarding experience. I was able to see first-hand the challenges experienced by some of the individuals that CASS supports, and to do my part to help empower the individual I supported to overcome those challenges and help him to participate in his community in meaningful ways. Beyond supporting that individual, I also found that the role of Support Home Provider actually provided me with the opportunity to make my community a more inclusive place.
What do you want the community to know about the people we serve?
Everyone has unique gifts to offer and by creating diverse and inclusive spaces for people to participate fully, we all get to benefit from those gifts. What’s more, we are all potentially just a heartbeat away from becoming disabled ourselves (if we aren’t already in some way). Making community more accessible and inclusive is to everyone’s advantage.
What sets CASS apart from other similar organizations in your estimation?
After working with other organizations, both in IT support and also as a Support Home Provider, I can say with confidence that CASS has been the most supportive, creative, caring and thoughtful organization I have worked with. Particularly in IT, in most organizations, when things are going well, you are invisible or people will even question “why do we spend so much on IT”, conversely when things are going poorly, everything is your fault and people will even question “why do we spend so much on IT”.
At CASS, as a general rule, everyone is extremely appreciative and understanding and there is a genuine culture of care.
Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?
My mother continues to inspire me to this day. She did an incredible job of raising two exceptionally challenging boys while also maintaining her status as a world leader in her field of reproductive genetics. Even in retirement she remains actively engaged in her community in leadership capacities by sitting on multiple boards, spearheading conservation initiatives, and leading hiking groups.
How do you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
Learning from failure. I believe that failure can be our greatest teacher and while it’s not always comfortable, examining failure and looking for lessons can be extremely valuable.
I don’t have a lot of time to read but I try to read the occasional book about leadership (see my answer to the second to last question below for some picks).
Taking relevant courses about conflict resolution, diversity and inclusion, trauma, and leadership.
How does your cultural background contribute to your work here?
I am a bit of a northern European mutt with Scottish, English and Estonian heritage. My mother was actually born in Sweden while her parents fled Estonia as the Russian army invaded. While I wasn’t around to experience this hardship I certainly saw how hard my grandparents and mother had to work to build a life for themselves in Canada following their displacement from their homeland.
As a white, able-bodied, straight, cis-gendered male with affluent parents I have many types of privilege layered one on top of the other which I can’t help but be very aware of. More and more as time goes on, I become increasingly aware of my own privilege and the inequity that is baked into our society and communities. I have family that are visible minorities, live with mental health concerns, and cognitive disabilities and I have seen up close the challenges that they have faced. My brother ultimately ended his own life following a lifetime of mental health concerns that he felt he could no longer live with. These experiences have been part of my motivation to shift the landscape and work towards a more inclusive society.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from the people we serve?
That we are in charge of our outlook on the world. No matter how unfair the world is, or how challenging a given barrier might be, the perspective that we apply to the world frames our experience. There is precious little that can’t be accomplished with perseverance, teamwork and a positive outlook.
What is one decision you wish you hadn’t made?
Selling all 7 of my bitcoins to buy a mountain bike in 2015! Today they would have paid off my mortgage…
Looking back, what have you achieved at CASS that you are most proud of?
In my previous role as Systems Analyst, I co-led the CASS 2016 Needs Assessment project which proved to be an extremely valuable exercise which identified the need to pursue an enterprise level software solution to integrate our Finance, HR, and Payroll operations. I then went on to co-lead the implementation of the first step in that software solution, our Finance project with Sparkrock.
In my current role as Director of Operations, I am most proud of my work to become a trusted and valued leader of the CASS Administration Team (at least that’s what they tell me). I consider it an honour to support our excellent Administration Team and I am grateful for the trust that they and the rest of the agency put in me. Leadership is hard, and it’s not a trait that I saw in myself before I was afforded this opportunity. Joining that CASS Senior Leadership Team and taking on the role of Director of Operations has been incredibly challenging and has pushed me to pursue growth in aspects of myself that I had never given much thought to.
What three books can you recommend on leadership?
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
- Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (not about leadership per se but a great read none-the-less)
What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
I can’t seem to narrow it down enough to give each interest the time it deserves!
First and foremost I am a father to (nearly) 5 year old twins which has been the single most rewarding (and challenging) experience of my life.
I am an avid hunter of big game, and salmon angler.
I make wine and mead from scratch, some of which have even won some awards.
I also enjoy gardening, cooking, preservation, and charcuterie.
When I can find time for it (which is to say, not so much these days), I love to mountain bike, hike, snowboard, cross country ski, and scuba dive.