Intense Experiential Learning at ELI

Emily Jelich, a 2014 graduate of ACC's Executive Leadership Institute (ELI), describes an environment of collegial information sharing and incredible access. Then at the Royal Bank of Canada, Jelich was nominated to attend ELI by her boss, then General Counsel David Allgood. "I had always been very impressed with ACC programs, so I was delighted to be nominated," she says.

Now Vice President, Compliance, Global TD Securities in Toronto, Jelich says that the information she gathered and the lessons she learned at ELI have stayed with her. Most memorable were the sessions on cybersecurity and crisis management. "It was a relatively intense three-and-a-half days," she says. "We witnessed these discussions with various C-suite executives and board members about how they interact with their general counsels. It was very helpful to have real-life examples about how these people worked together."

With attendance capped at 30 participants, ELI provides an intimate experiential learning experience. Jelich says she learned valuable lessons not only from the presenters but also from her fellow attendees. "It was a very collegial group, and an opportunity to really get to know one another. Now we seek each other out at ACC annual meetings and other gatherings."

Jelich notes that she had been with RBC for a long time when she attended ELI, and that what she heard caused her to question some things when she got back to the office. "You get to the point where you think you know what's needed, but there's great value in seeing how other companies do things," she says. "For example, I went back and asked a lot of questions about cybersecurity."

The accessibility of the presenters both during and after the meeting also impressed Jelich. She said many expressed a willingness to answer follow-up questions via email. One presenter, a general counsel and chief legal officer at a payment processing company, invited the assembled participants to call him with concerns about cybersecurity.

"We made so many contacts who were willing to share their experiences. There are not a lot of opportunities like that," Jelich says.

As a Canadian, Jelich found the different perception of the role of general counsel here in the United States to be fascinating. "In Canada, your sector is your specialty role, rather than your skills as a general counsel being your specialty. As a result, people tend to stay in one sector," she says. This new view inspired a realization, and a career change: "I realized that I didn't have to stay in finance. It was a reminder that we are more than that certificate on the wall, and that we can break out. It made me braver in thinking about new opportunities," she says.

Since her attendance at ELI, Jelich has changed companies and roles. Now, as head of compliance for TD Securities, she is responsible for surveillance, monitoring, rule interpretation, and so forth—but she is no longer practicing law.

Jelich strongly recommends ELI to anyone considering attending. "A program where we get into the details of how to do what we do better, in a room full of collegial colleagues and a faculty dedicated to helping, is a valuable experience," she says.


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