One-on-One with Michael Shakespeare


As Executive Director, Finance and Operations, Michael Shakespeare offers strategic, financial and organizational leadership and support to the Faculty. With functional responsibilities for Finance, Information Technology, Space Management and Administration, Michael is helping to advance priorities set out in the Faculty’s new strategic plan, Building the Future, by fostering strategic relationships throughout the Faculty, UBC, and with partner universities, provincial health authorities and other Faculty stakeholders. 

What quality do you most admire in a leader? 

MS: For me, leadership is about explaining the ‘why’. A great leader doesn’t tell others how to do things. Instead, they explain the ‘why,’ offering the larger context to help individuals make the best possible decision. 

What makes you laugh?

MS: A lot of things make me laugh. Work can be hectic and we’re often dealing with serious matters, but it’s important to have fun. That’s why I can have a playful nature and tell jokes.

Who inspires you and why?

MS: I have been extremely impressed by UBC President Santa Ono. He’s doing a great job of telling the story of the university in a way that’s approachable and innovative. He’s connecting with people on a deeper level and I find it inspiring to have a leader at the highest level of the university who is taking that approach — it’s an approach we can all learn from.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

MS: Humility. Everyone has good days and bad days, good ideas and not so good ideas. You have to try things and learn from them. They don’t always work out and that’s okay. Celebrate the victories and learn from the challenges.

As Executive Director, Finance and Operations, what is your vision for the Faculty of Medicine?  

MS: My role is to provide strategic oversight and leadership when it comes to how we organize the business affairs of the Faculty — essentially, that means looking at how to do things more effectively and efficiently. I have functional responsibility for Finance, MedIT, and for Facilities, and we have incredible leadership in all three of those domains.

My vision for the Faculty of Medicine is to help inform decisions and make smart investments that will enable us to advance our strategic plan. Our world has changed, and our needs have changed. That’s why it’s important for us to come together and start thinking differently to explore new processes and initiatives that will enable us to respond to the new and evolving challenges we face. We also need to continue to strengthen the great work already taking place within the Faculty — the world-class teaching, the innovative research, and the engagement with our partners and with communities across the province.

For you, what makes UBC different?

MS: The people. Whatever their connection is to the university, all UBC faculty and staff have a clear passion and desire to make the academic mission a reality. 

What is your favourite song?

MS: I don’t have a favourite song —I have a list of favourite songs. You can tell I have a three-year-old son because “Baby Beluga” is high on that list. I have been known to sing Christmas carols all year as well. I also have a bit of a soft spot for 90s music given that’s the era I grew up in. And I can’t forget the old crooners, like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. Ultimately, I like music that tells stories and makes connections — it’s not about genres for me.  

How do you like to recharge?

MS: I am actually an introvert by nature so I usually recharge with a little bit of time to myself. 

What would you like to be remembered for?

MS: I’d like to be remembered as a person who contributed to the great work our faculty and staff do to make a difference not just at UBC or our province, but around the world. It’s very fulfilling to be part of a team that does such important work and makes such an incredible impact. 

First job

MS: When I was 15, I worked for a metal finishing company. My job was to put little plugs into all the areas of their products that didn’t need painting. Then I would take the plugs out when the painting was finished. It was a short-lived job, and it made me realize I needed to stay in school and pursue a career that would use my mind, rather than my hands. 

Greatest mentor

MS: Neil Tracey, who was my first real boss when I started working at Future Shop. He taught me a lot about the need to not only solve a problem, but ensure that the solution continues to succeed and that other people know about it. I never feel like he was teaching me — he was just being a good leader. I credit him for setting me on the career track that I have taken. 

Best piece of advice

MS: I’m a big advocate of Henry Ford’s advice: If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you can’t. Either way, you’re right.

Favourite app

MS: Candy Crush.

Currently reading

MS: My seven-year-old son is honing his reading skills and we spend a lot of time reading together. So if you want nursery rhymes and children’s books, I’ve got an endless supply. We just bought the complete works of William Shakespeare for Kids. My son has a keen interest in Shakespeare and learning more about his works.

Favourite restaurant

MS: I love to eat. My favourite restaurant is Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab in Las Vegas. It has the best food and atmosphere, and it’s always a great time.

Last vacation destination

MS: Palm Springs and Disneyland with my two boys. My last adult getaway was in June with my wife and we went to Napa for a week. I love to travel, especially to places where there’s wine. 

What are you known for?

MS: If there’s one thing I’m known for around the office it’s my socks. I find men’s accessories are limited and socks are one of the few ways we can actually have some expression so I take advantage of that. My socks are always fun. I have so many socks that I could go at least two months without wearing the same pair. My favourite socks have the Hawaiian Islands on them — on cold winter days I wear them and dream of Hawaii.