Risk manager applies learned skills daily

For Stephen Caine, returning to school and deciding to take our Risk Management Certificate program was worth the risk. Now, as a risk manager for SFU, Stephen uses the skills he learned to assess and mitigate risks for everything from class field trips to employee contracts, research collaborations, campus construction and more.

What did you enjoy most about the Risk Management program?
The comradery with the other students and the faculty was great. The instructors we had were really well regarded. Afterward, you meet people who are from other fields related to risk management or OHS and once you know you both took Risk Management at SFU you start comparing notes. You build this automatic rapport with people and the link to that connection is continuing studies.

Also, the overall environment was very amenable to being open to asking questions and discussing risk. The classes were just the right size and the instructors created a really nice ambiance of collegiality within the class.

Do you use anything you learned in the program in your work?
I use a lot of the basics that we learned every day. The Risk Management courses introduced a wide variety of topics and allowed me to prosper in this position by building on the areas specific to my workplace. It allowed us to build on the basics and evolve our program more fully, but you always rely on the basics: identify, analyze, assess and mitigate.

For example, a part of what we do here involves using those background skills to create guidance documents for the rest of the university. Eventually, we’d like to have enough tools so people can make decisions and be informed about their own risks. You wouldn’t have to know anything about risk management; these tools would walk you through everything you need to know.

Who would benefit from taking the Risk Management Certificate or courses?
Anybody who has any aspect of their work that deals with trying to keep people safe or mitigate hazards or risks. These courses would be ideal. Or, anyone with an interest in business continuity, contracts, emergency planning, health and safety; there are a lot of people who would benefit.

What excites you about a career in risk management?
Helping people solve their problems and helping them move forward with their programs for the university. We get a lot of people that say, “We don’t know what to do, we can’t move forward,” and we come up with solutions to help them succeed. Ninety-eight per cent of the time we can find answers or ways of helping people do what they want to do, and that’s rewarding.

How is the risk management field changing and evolving?
One of the challenges that’s happening is the increase in the speed of risk. With the internet there is so much demand and expectation for people to have responses quickly. Risk management has generally taken on this role of looking at overall risks and is now evolving into looking at enterprise risks and the benefits of risk. That’s exciting.

Do you feel that lifelong learning is an important part of your life?
Yes. You should never feel like you know everything. You should always assume that there’s things you don’t know. It’s part of learning that opens you up to being more receptive to other people’s ideas and making you better in management and leading others, so they can do what they do best.

By Alison Brierley