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43rd Desautels Management Achievement Awards celebrate “The Disruptors”

On Friday, February 3, students at the Desautels Faculty of Management hosted the 43rd edition of the Desautels Management Achievement Awards, honouring industry leaders who have demonstrated a career of great achievement and commitment to responsible business. The first in-person edition since 2019, this year’s committee put a unique spin on the event by hosting it in the Bronfman building, bringing it back to the Faculty after a number of years hosting at outside venues.

This year’s event centered around the theme of “The Disruptors” with a focus on challenging the "status quo" or "norms" in various industries, recognizing and honouring those with the courage and conviction to dare to lead and do things differently, and who are changing their industries for the better while inspiring others to do the same.

“The theme ‘The Disruptors’ is quite appropriate for this day and age, however we’re here to recognize, and celebrate positive disruptors,” said Nathaniel Saad, VP Academic Affairs of the Management Undergraduate Society. “The leaders, the innovators and the daring—those who have withstood the pull of the norm, who braved the unknown and took steps never travelled before in their respective industries.”

This year’s honourees include Anna Dewar Gully (BA’03), Co-CEO and Founder of Tidal Equality and Yalmaz Siddiqui (BCom’92), Vice President of Environmental Sustainability, The Walt Disney Company, who each received a Management Achievement Award.

The Achievement Award is presented to individuals who serve as role models for students in their education, career, and philanthropic contributions.

Anna Dewar Gully is a dedicated leader who has committed her career to addressing inequality in all its manifestations. Prior to founding Tidal Equality, she accumulated over 15 years of experience spearheading enterprise change, organizational equality and public policy initiatives in the non-profit, government and regulatory sectors. She has most notably developed the Equity Sequence, a simple and effective method to reduce bias and promote equity in decision-making and design, which has been adopted by many organizations around the world, including Virgin Media UK, Royal Bank of Canada and Glassdoor.

“A very surreal moment for me,” said Dewar Gully upon accepting her award. “I just want to say thank you—I tried to pen a speech on the plane here yesterday and found myself not having the right words. I’ve never been awarded with anything like this in my career or in my life. It means an enormous amount to me. Just looking around and talking to students today is a reminder of how full the world is of opportunities to make a difference and to make change and I’m excited to know what you’re going to do with that opportunity.”

Yalmaz Siddiqui is Vice President, Environmental Sustainability at The Walt Disney Company, where he helps drive progress towards the Company’s ambitious 2030 environmental goals. Previously, he was Vice President, Corporate Sustainability at MGM Resorts International, where he led ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) reporting and multiple environmental initiatives, including one of the hospitality industry’s largest and most well-regarded food donation programs.

Siddiqui is also a thought leader on environmental sustainability and frequently speaks at industry events. He is a global expert on sustainable purchasing and served as founding chair of the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council.

“Thank you to the students at the Management Undergraduate Society for this wonderful recognition,” said Siddiqui. “I have so many incredible memories from this building and I’m very glad you changed from a nice but generic hotel to this building, because this building has incredible, powerful and happy memories for me.

“My father is here today, and one of my father’s key philosophies is that things will always work out in the end,” he continued.

The 2023 Young Inspiration Award, which rewards young leaders that have emerged and proved to be successful despite their young age, was awarded to Philip Cutler (BEd’13), the CEO of Paper, an ed-tech service used by schools in North America to provide accessible virtual tutoring to more than 3 million students. The award is also meant to bridge the gap between the usual recipients’ experience and our students, so they can see an evolution in terms of what their career might look like.

While Cutler himself could not be present to accept the award, Melinda Heaney, Paper’s Head of Office, was in attendance to accept on his behalf.

“I can’t tell you how honoured I am to receive this Desautels Management Achievement Award,” Cutler expressed in a video message to attendees. “To think that ten years ago I was a student at McGill studying to be a teacher and today we’re supporting over 3 million students, it really has been an incredible journey and none of it would be possible without the incredible team around me.

“I’m so thankful for the support that I had as a student, graduating and then starting my career as a teacher and now, building Paper into what it’s become,” he continued. “I didn’t study in management, as you all probably know, but I did receive the occasional invitation to the Bronfman basement for a Thursday 4 à 7, and so I do feel a connection to the Faculty as well and I’m very grateful.”

Closing out the awards for this year’s edition was the Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of exceptional philanthropic and economic impact on the Canadian economy. In addition to the honouree’s achievements, their personal narrative of displaying perseverance and resilience serves as a source of inspiration for the students in attendance.

As we draw closer to three years living with the COVID-19 virus, who could be better suited for this award than this year’s honouree, Dr. Joanne Liu (MD’91, IMHL’14, DSc’16), who for nearly three decades has been a passionate leader and humanitarian serving on the frontlines of some of the world’s most pressing health crises. The former International President of Médecins sans frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Liu now teaches at McGill’s School of Population and Global Health in addition to serving as Director of the Pandemics and Health Emergencies Readiness Lab (PERL) and as a member of the independent panel (IPPR) examining how the World Health Organization and countries handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Liu began working with MSF in 1996 and has responded to humanitarian and health emergencies in Central Africa, Middle East and Central Asia mostly. She helped create the telemedicine project, which connects MSF physicians in 150 remote sites with a pool of more than 300 medical specialists across the globe and helped develop one of the first programs offering comprehensive medical care for survivors of sexual violence in Republic of Congo.

“I am completely honoured and privileged to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from Desautels, and I am, because it’s the Disruptors edition,” said Liu. “You couldn’t have pleased me as much as this. When I was in the International Masters for Health Leadership, it has been fostering for disruptive minds--I found a home, and during my tenure as the International President at Médecins sans frontières, it really helped me.”

Following the presentation of the awards, attendees had the opportunity to hear from the honourees in attendance during a panel discussion moderated by members of the DMAA planning committee. It was an excellent opportunity for students to gain insight from real world industry leaders and hear how their journeys have led them to where they are today.

Pictured: Anna Dewar Gully, Yalmaz Siddiqui, Joanne Liu and Melinda Heaney. Photo by Owen Egan/Joni Dufour.

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