Canadian Lawyer

February 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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14 FEATURE CROSS EXAMINED Siemens has been providing solutions to the Canadian transportation industry for more than 40 years, including: light rail vehicles in Edmonton and Calgary trainsets that will be delivered to VIA Rail starting in 2021 rail electrification of the light rail systems in Kitchener- Waterloo and Ottawa SIEMENS' RAIL, TRANSIT AND MOBILITY government calls and asks you to act, just be thankful it's not to hand you a gun. You have to say yes. You can't start negotiating; it's your duty." Desjardins-Siciliano stayed in government until 1991, and he then joined an IBM subsid- iary to act as vice president, law and business development and then joined the legal depart- ment at Bell Mobility in 1993. It was at Bell that Desjardins-Siciliano felt he was ready to make the leap from the legal department to heading a corporation. While Desjardins-Siciliano patiently took on varying roles for five years, by 1997, he was ready to be promoted to CEO. Unfortunately, Bell did not have the same idea, and so Desjardins-Siciliano left. "I left [Bell] purely on a disagreement as to career planning and my impatience to take on the helm of the organization." Desjardins-Siciliano then worked as an independent consultant for more than 12 years. His ambition to be a CEO had been thwarted by circumstance, and Desjardins- Siciliano admits he questioned his decision to leave. But for Desjardins-Siciliano, his decisions to leave BCE and IBM years before were "key turning points." While lawyers are often trained to be risk averse and quitting your job can be a tremendous risk, making these deci- sions can also broaden one's experiences. In 2010, a contact of Desjardins-Siciliano's time in government mentioned an opportu- nity as chief corporate and legal officer, corpo- rate secretary at VIA Rail. So, Desjardins- Siciliano applied and got an interview with the chairman and CEO. In 2014, Desjardins-Siciliano finally reached the end point he had set for himself in law school when he was appointed to a five- year term as president and CEO of VIA Rail. Heading VIA Rail meant coming full circle for Desjardins-Siciliano in two ways. His initial inspiration to becoming an execu- tive had come from a talk by the head of the railway company Canadian Pacific. Also, in a less positive light, he had helped institute a round of cost cutting to the rail service while he was serving in Mulroney's government. By improving rail service in a challenging fiscal environment, Desjardins-Siciliano was given the chance to reach his career goal and help improve Canada's environmental impact. When Desjardins-Siciliano's five-year term ended in May 2019, he felt satisfied that he had made a real difference in improving Canada's rail system. So, he began what he thought would be his retirement. However, just as COVID-19 hit in early 2020, a new opportunity emerged. Desjardins-Siciliano received an offer to be CEO of Siemens Mobility Canada, which supplied technology and maintenance to the rail systems that VIA ran. This CEO position would allow him to continue the momentum he had achieved at VIA to improve rail trans- portation in Canada. "I really saw my job at VIA as a vocation. I could really see the need for greater, better, more efficient, simpler public transportation, because our cities are getting clogged. And we're losing more and more time in solo- driven cars." It was a vocation, it seems, that Desjardins- Siciliano knew he wanted for a very long time. "My father said to me [that] when your government calls and asks you to act, just be thankful it's not to hand you a gun. You have to say yes. You can't start negotiating; it's your duty."

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