Linda Dalgetty’s path to finance has been anything but traditional. A self-described “math and science nerd,” her ultimate goal during high school was to be a crop geneticist. But she soon discovered she wasn’t any good at organic chemistry, an area central to the field. Thankfully, a college academic advisor suggested a business class. She fell in love instantly. Dalgetty is now vice president of finance and services at the University of Calgary, the very school where her love of business took shape.
While attending the university, Dalgetty was most concerned with getting everything she could out of her education, so campus life was low on her priority list. Returning, she says, has been a great privilege and an opportunity to get to know the university in a different way while giving back. The opportunity to come after almost a decade in different finance roles, including a three-year stint in a role that was one of the most important personal and professional periods of growth in her life.
Dalgetty had received a job offer as manager of the finance department of a full-service agricultural firm, which required her to pack up her husband and four children and move to Argentina for three years. She was the only non-Argentine on her team.
“It was an amazing experience that gave my family the opportunity to be citizens of the world,” she says. “From a leadership perspective, it gave me the opportunity to grow and develop skills I wouldn’t have otherwise. I wasn’t there because I was completely prepared to do the job perfectly. I was limited in my skill set, and it’s because of that opportunity I was able to transition into a leader, if for no other reason than I didn’t have another choice.”
HOW ARE YOU GROWING?
“Building partnerships is key. You can’t be innovative if you’re working in a silo. I’m interested in dialoging with others to truly get a sense of what the university’s needs are at every level. We’re working at this every day.”
“I’ve had many humbling moments, but everyone has been so kind—even translating academic jargon for me and helping me avoid land mines,” Dalgetty says. “There are days when I feel like I’m in my first job all over again, but that’s also part of the excitement.” According to Dalgetty, she is still learning how all of the institution’s moving parts come together and how each department—each with its own unique culture—impacts the other. Though Dalgetty says nothing will ever feel as daunting as being in a foreign country with a totally different language and culture, transitioning into university life from a more traditional finance role has had a steep learning curve, requiring her to come to work with an open mind.
Dalgetty’s goal is to do something that adds value to the university while also putting her personal stamp on something. She has rediscovered that she is still a strong accountant, but along with overseeing all of the usual functions, she also oversees HR, IT, insurance, risk management, and campus safety and security.
These relationships weren’t the type Dalgetty was accustomed to developing in previous roles. Learning how these various departments operate while developing a rapport with the folks who run them is her ultimate goal. “It’s an evolution,” she says. “I’m still finding my footing while trying to engage everything new I’m learning.”
The University of Calgary describes itself as Canada’s leading next-generation university—one that embraces change and opportunity with the goal of becoming one of Canada’s top-five research universities by 2016. Dalgetty asserts that the finance-and-services department is a part of that larger vision, helping the university establish its reputation as modern, diverse, and innovative.