Wayne Ingram, general manager of Slalom Canada, launched our first Canadian office in Toronto. We spoke with Ingram about embarking on a new journey that’s at once uniquely Canadian and uniquely Slalom.
Welcome to Slalom! You’re at the helm of Slalom’s first Canadian office and second international office. How have you gone about diving into your new role so far?
I’ve had the great fortune to start many different types of practices around the globe. But, Canada is my home, so I’m even more committed to this.
I’ve raised four rather fantastic and very different children, so I’m applying my learnings to this journey. I’m really trying to learn. I’m asking a ton of questions and gaining so much insight from clients, vendor partners, and Slalom folks new and old. My goal is to understand what resonates best in Canada, and make sure that we create something that’s uniquely Canadian and uniquely Slalom.
What does “uniquely Canadian” mean to you?
Canada is a unique country, and we love to be Canadian. Our clients want to see the industry and technical expertise and knowledge of functional domains, but they also want a local team. We have the opportunity to do that. We’re part of a global entity, but we’ll be a very Canadian face. The goal is to build something that’s unique to Canada and serves the market here—which is exactly what Slalom’s all about. We’ll bring the experiences and global perspective from these different industries, but put a Canadian lens on it.
If you could generalize based on the conversations you’ve had with clients—what types of solutions are they looking for?
There’s a thirst for a refreshing alternative. Clients realize that we’re truly there to help with their agendas and focus on their business and technology challenges.
The big trend we’re seeing is how to continue leveraging technology to drive business opportunity. It’s an area where we can bring a lot of value to the market. Slalom’s right at the sweet spot where business and technology converge. Almost every conversation we have, it may not start there directly, but it ends up there.
On the advisory services side, they’re asking: help me think through this problem, help me use your expertise to make the right decisions. That’s coupled with wanting something that’s executable. Oh, and everybody wants it yesterday.
You’re building a solid team. What strengths are emerging?
It’s about both breadth and depth. Canada has a strong workforce, and we’re attracting top talent.
There are a few areas that stand out. First, customer experience. We’ve brought people from very diverse backgrounds, from marketing and brand loyalty to consulting and technology, and that’s an area where we’ve seen a huge impact right away. Also, the information management and analytics space. We’ve got quite a strong team with decades of experience with consulting and the actual hardware and software vendors, so they bring a very holistic view. We also have very strong industry expertise in healthcare, financial services, retail, and telecommunications, to highlight a few.
For me, it’s about finding people that have the skills, but also have the passion and the desire to build this Canadian entity within Slalom. People who are really looking for the opportunity to set history because we are starting a company here, and that’s not something you do every day.
How do you foresee Slalom’s presence growing in Canada?
We are launching in Toronto to start. I look to see us grow across the major cities in Canada—as far west as Vancouver where we’re already gaining client interest and traction, the oil and gas centers of Calgary, and ultimately into Ottawa and Montreal.
When you look across Canada and the make-up of each city, each has a unique business community. And that’s the beauty of Slalom: We have the opportunity to be locally focused and still leverage broader aspects of the company’s expertise. That’s really important, because regardless of where you live, you’re competing in global economy.
In your short time with the company, what’s been the highlight?
In an odd way, it feels like home. The Slalom culture is very embracing and that DNA really resonates with me.
Secondly, what we’re doing and what we stand for is impressive. Slalom is still a relatively young company in the big picture, but we’re doing some really innovative work with a vast cross-section of clients. It’s exciting to see the work that’s going on and how leading edge it is. We are already leveraging that in Canada.
You have more than 25 years of experience: How did you get your start in consulting?
I feel I was somewhat wired for this job, though it was unbeknownst to me as a kid. I had a high-school teacher who strongly suggested that I get into computer science, and I had a father that strongly suggested I get into business. So, I did both: I have a business and a computer science degree. That’s augmented by my passion for working with great people to solve challenges that sometimes seem really daunting at first.
What are you driven by?
I love to solve problems. A good day for me is a day that I get to spend time with our clients figuring out their business problems and with our teams, working through that and seeing the value that everybody brings to the table. I’ve seen my teams do incredible things when minds with vastly different perspectives come together to solve complex problems.
What’s your leadership style?
I’m more of a player coach. I played a lot of team sports growing up, and I was a quarterback. I learned that you may be the star player, but it’s the ability to see the combined power of all positions that is so important.
I’ve always believed the best leaders are the ones who push the team to achieve results that they couldn’t achieve individually, and enable people to achieve beyond their perceived abilities. If we can build a great team, it always delivers.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?
My father’s advice was a question which is, “Why not?”
We often look at things negatively and remain too focused on the downside. I consciously try to invert my thinking to, “Why not try it?” This way of thinking seems to be very prevalent at Slalom.