In this episode of The Path we talk with Bruce McCuaig, Director of Solution Marketing for SAP GRC and an experienced risk management expert.
Ken Murphy: Hello and welcome to The Path, an SAPinsider online podcast exploring the career paths of people within the SAP ecosystem and beyond. My name is Ken Murphy, a writer with SAPinsider and joining me today is Bruce McCuaig, director of product marketing for SAP GRC solutions with a focus on risk management. Welcome, Bruce.
Bruce McCuaig: Good morning Ken, how are you?
Ken: Great, thank you. Bruce, you have a background in finance and accounting – how did your career path lead you to enterprise risk management at SAP?
Bruce: Well that’s an interesting question and one I spent some time thinking about even prior to our conversation today. Just briefly I began my career after university, after college, working for what is now Ernst & Young in Toronto and grew from there to become an internal auditor and worked my way up to general auditor of an oil and gas company. I left the company after it had acquisitioned and ended up in more of an entrepreneurial role doing consulting around the world and eventually the company I worked for then owned a piece and got acquired by two other companies and I ended up in kind of a circuitous career path to where I am today.
If there’s one common theme I think, looking back, that intrigued me, and one thing I think I could perhaps fairly use to describe the consistency of the pattern in my career, it’s innovation. I think what I’ve tried to do is look for innovation, innovative solutions. As a general auditor I think we led -- at that time this was back a number of years ago and in workshop-based approaches -- to control self-assessment, you know, organization heads, wrote some articles and did those sorts of things as an independent consultant with a small company we began to apply technology to some of our methodology tools and I think did that at the time was innovative because in the 90s and mid to late 90s it was not that usual to apply innovation to auditing risk assessment, control, and those sorts of things.
I think it’s the innovation that pretty much led me to where I am today with a focus on risk management in the application of technology and innovation to risk management in an enterprise – in a firm like SAP which offers enterprise solutions and using those resources to power risk management.
Ken: Ok, that’s interesting, you mentioned university in Toronto. Is that where you’re from?
Bruce: Well, I’m Canadian. Born in Canada, living in Canada now. I originally come from Toronto. I came from a very small town in northwestern Ontario, actually, quite a bit close to the Minnesotan border than Toronto. Ontario is an awfully big province and you can go a long way and still be there.
That said, basically it’s where I got my start.
Ken: Interesting. And, so, was there a career decision you can look back on, that you made along the way that, looking back now, stands out as a monumental or life-changing decision that you made?
Bruce: Well I think I can identify one – back in the 90s, the mid-to-late 90s, when I left the oil and gas business in a fairly senior executive-level position after an acquisition on good terms, I had opportunities to go into other large corporate organizations in financial roles and I guess my turning point was when I said “I don’t want to do that anymore, I want to downsize … get into a little more of an entrepreneurial role, take some chances, and be a little bit more independent than it would be possible to be in a large corporation. So, I went from a fairly senior executive position at a large corporation, with all the perks and benefits, and company cars and club memberships, and paid in the bank every two weeks to a three-person organization of which I was one and on the central faxes you typed your own faxes and probably designed the template you used to type them on, so it was quite a radical shift.
But I would attribute that decision to being pivotal in terms of where I ended up today which I’m quite happy with.
Ken: That does sound like quite a pivotal decision. So, you’re quite happy with the decision. So, this next question is sometimes kind of hard to answer, or maybe narrow down, but what is it you like most about what you do?
Bruce: So, what I like most about what I do, and it’s been a common theme I guess since I got into the GRC profession, is work with customers. What I like most is to work with sales people who deal with customers. There have been times in my career when people have said, “What courses did you take? You know, you seem to have a pretty good grasp of risk and you seem to know that subject area – how did you get that knowledge?”
I have to say pretty much everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned from a customer. And the thing I love most is focus on customers and – little less directly at SAP – focus on the people who do focus on customers. At SAP being a global organization I don’t get the chance to talk to 200,000 customers but I can talk to the people who do, and that’s what I like to do.
My favorite thing is talking to customers and talking to the very professional sales folks who do talk to customers on our behalf.
Ken: Somewhat like the career, I’m wondering, what do you recall as some of the best career advice that you’ve been given?
Bruce: Well, that’s an interesting question and I’ve had the chance to reflect on that as well. Here’s kind of the analogy I would use: I have two brothers and a sister and it just turns out we’ve been scattered across North America and every couple of years we get together with the family and that happened this weekend. In my case and my younger – I have an older brother and two younger siblings, a younger brother and a younger sister – and as it turned out my younger brother said “gee this is kind of odd, the two younger siblings, myself and my sister are retired and my two oldest siblings are not, they’re still working, at a point but perhaps other people have retired that could retire and what’s going on here, this is kind of odd.”
And, so I said to myself, “well, what’s going on and I’ve oft thought of this: I think the work I do is important, I enjoy doing it, and I work with great people when I’m doing it.” And so the best career advice I could offer to anybody, find work that’s important that can be almost anything but making sure you think it’s important that it serves a useful purpose, find great people to work with, and enjoy what you do. If you can achieve those three things, you’ll be successful no matter what you do.
Ken: What about specifically for people in the IT or GRC space? Any particular advice, perhaps, to break into that field?
Bruce: Well in this field I think there’s huge amounts of innovation going on that feels like – I’ve written some blogs, I’m about to write some additional blogs on what innovation is doing in the GRC space. I don’t think that in particular – I don’t think that the GRC professions, any of them for that matter, have really embraced and leveraged the technology that’s available, and that’s technology from an SAP perspective for real-time processing, predictive analytics, mobility, cloud; all those sorts of things should have a tremendous impact on the GRC space. So I think my advice would be to add to the other three points on it and from a GRC professional perspective there’s all kinds of ability and potential to innovate in this space. And if you like innovation, this is a good space to be in.
Ken: All right, well that sounds interesting. It circles back to your own career path that you laid out for us earlier, talking about innovation. So lastly, Bruce, I’m just wondering: outside of work, what are some of your interests, your hobbies? And I’m wondering if I’m stereotyping here but if you’re from Canada does that mean you’re a hockey fan?
Bruce: Well actually not a big hockey fan, kind of a radical thing to say as a Canadian, but I played hockey when I was younger and I enjoyed the game, I certainly enjoyed being physically fit and vigorous activity and I do a number of things: cycling and daily trips to the gym to keep me in good shape. Hockey’s a great sport – I just kind of grew away from it over time. For a variety of different reasons I prefer Olympic hockey, every few years we get an Olympics and I often look forward to the Olympics and the hockey we have there.
Generally speaking I work from home, I live out in a rural environment, so I can open my window and look at a flower garden and hear the bird singing and look out on the waves on the lake. I’m sitting here with three computer monitors and two computers and an iPad and it’s a combination of technology, I guess, and Mother Nature that keeps me interested right now.
Ken: Yeah that sounds interesting, you got a nice mix there of being connected and you open the windows and you’ve got Mother Nature right at your door. That sounds great. Well Bruce, thank you for joining us on the Path, which again is an SAPinsider online podcast which explores the career paths of people within the SAP ecosystem. Bruce, thanks for joining us.
Bruce: Thank you very much, Ken.