q&a with Greg Drazenovic

A Q&A interview written for Langara College's website, with the inspiring Greg Drazenovic, VP of Enterprise Infrastructure at Cannaccord Genuinity Inc.

Greg Drazenovic, VP of Enterprise Infrastructure at Cannaccord Genuinity Inc.

Greg Drazenovic is the Vice President of Enterprise Infrastructure at Canaccord Genuity Inc, the largest independent investment dealer in Canada with approximately 2,500 employees and 1+ billion dollars in revenue.  It has global operations in two principal segments of the securities industry: wealth management and capital markets. The firm provides financial services for corporate, government, and private equity clients globally and supports a broad range of industries. During his 15 years at Canaccord, Greg has established himself as a leader within Canaccord and also within the Information Technology (IT) community. Greg attended Langara from 1991 to 1993 for general arts before going on to pursue a degree in computer systems at BCIT and a master of business administration (MBA) at SFU. Today, when he is not only busy overseeing technology for Canaccord, raising three children with his wife Cari but is currently pursuing an online master of science (MSc) in computer science through Georgia Tech.

Langara’s Alumni & Community Engagement department recently chatted with him about how being cut from Langara’s soccer team as a student was a positive experience that helped shape his career.

Thank you so much for talking with us! Tell us about your time at Langara.

When I started at Langara, I was struggling academically. Not knowing where my career would go, I thought I would probably end up in some sort of trade. I was trying to find my way.

I tried out for Langara’s soccer team in 1991, and coach Marc Rizzardo cut me. In an act of persistence, in the Spring I started calling Marc and showing up to practices so that he could get to know me a little bit more. I didn’t play any games with the team, but I was able to at least go to some practices.

The following year, I made the team, but just barely.  Marc explained to me that I would not likely play games and that I would wear some type of redshirt.  I took practices and the team seriously. One day, a couple of games into the season, Marc told me I’d be playing in a game five minutes before it began. ‘You’re going to start,’ Marc told me, ‘here’s your chance.’ He put me in center midfield—a position I had never played before in my life. Marc said, ‘Okay, here’s your role: you’re going to follow that guy and make sure he doesn’t touch the ball.’ I did everything he asked me to do; it was a very simple instruction. I played my heart out, and as a started every game after that. 

The team ended up winning the Canadian nationals, one of four Soccer championships for Langara.  That was big for me, I didn’t have a lot of mentorship and successes in my life until then, but that experience shaped the rest of my life.

How did that success shape your next endeavours?

I spent a couple of years at Langara. I was then able to transfer some of my credits to BCIT where I pursued a degree in computer systems. I’d never done a computer class in my life, and I was going into a field that I knew nothing about. But what stuck with me was the perseverance: being able to have accomplished what I did for Langara soccer, I thought, ‘Oh, I can accomplish anything in life if I just put my mind to it.’ And that’s what that team did for me. You fast forward to now, 25, 26 years later, I’ve got three children and a wife, I love my job, I recently earned an MBA from SFU, achieve a number of certifications in Cyber Security and currently pursuing a Master of Computer Science from one of the top Computer Science programs in North America (Georgia Tech).  Everything was earned.

The lessons I learned in the classroom and on the soccer field definitely gave me the confidence to tackle further education.

How does that experience impact your career now?

At one point, Marc said, “as a coach, I always appreciate mentoring kids or young adults who are at a crossroads in their lives.” I was one of those guys.  Marc is an old school coach, he says what is on his mind and doesn’t sugar coat anything. He was exactly the type of mentor I needed to build my personal confidence, he gave me an opportunity, let me know the success criteria was the rest was up to me.  Langara and my teammates gave me a sense of belonging and community.  I had my first real taste of success, but I had to earn it through blood, sweat, and tears.

I feel that a lot of people who go to Langara are really at a crossroads in their lives. What I appreciated about the sports program is that they create the environment, and it’s up to the kids to execute.  Before jumping into the real world, we can have a taste of success and failure.

The work the sports department does matters a lot. There’s a lot of staff supporting students like myself reflect on that and are very thankful for the work that is put into these programs.  In fact, one of my goals is to return to Langara as an instructor or coach one day.

Are you still involved in sports now?

I still play at 46 years old. Soccer continues to be a part of my life, occasionally I still attend the alumni game every August with the youngsters.

Last year, I was also the assistant coach for the Centennial High School basketball team and our team went to the BC’s. I’ve spent the last decade coaching kids in various capacities and sports, namely soccer and basketball. I’m a guy who truly genuinely wants to give back to his community by giving my time and giving back those experiences that I was able to achieve. While not a replica of Marc leadership style, the apple does not fall far from the tree, I usually tell my player’s such things as “Make a decision and be aggressive with it”, “Never miss an opportunity”, or “bet on your strengths and stay true to yourself”. I have a lot of heart-to-heart conversations with youth and my own kids, but also in the workplace mentoring my team.

I believe your leadership style comes from who you are and your experience in life.  For example, one can very much understand how I think once they know the following about me.  My parents were immigrants to Canada and held blue-collar jobs. I spent time in the Canadian Military, had the opportunity to coach kids, have been married for 17 years with three children, and had success on the soccer field.

 Do you find that impacts your leadership style as VP?

Definitely. When I think about coaching today, and when I look at my own staff, I ask myself: how am I going to get the best out of them? And do they know that I care? I believe that if your staff or kids don’t feel you are genuine and that you don’t care about them, they aren’t going to give you their best. The other thing I think about is, as a manager, as a coach, is: can I make my staff, my team, better? I also feel that as a leader if you can’t make your staff better, they won’t respect you.  When I reflect on 1992, did Marc care; my teammates care; did the program care? – yes to all. Was Marc able to make me better? Yes, he was. So as a coach and mentor today, that experience opened up my ability to manage my team confidently.

Do you have any advice for current students?

One of the things I live by is: make a decision and be aggressive with it. If you’re going to commit to something, you commit to it—you go all in. If Marc had cut me and I never had the will to fight back, where would I be today?

Also, be present and be in the moment. Expose yourself to a lot of different ideas. Have an open dialogue with your instructors and really listen to them. Join clubs and get to know people. When I joined the team at Langara, I felt like I belonged to a group. The soccer team showed me that being a part of something bigger than myself, belonging, is important as a human being. You feel like you’re not alone.

Thanks for sharing your inspiring story with us. We wish you success in the completion of your master of science at Georgia Tech and look forward to following your professional (and sports) goals!


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