Moya. Career Milestones

posted October 27th, 2010 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

I asked Moya about the milestones which stand out when she looks back at her career and what she learned from them.


Moya says getting her law degree stands out because it was a very big transition for her. She says she was coming from St. John’s, Newfoundland, a very small town. She can remember walking out to the end of the campus during her first three weeks at law school and seeing five lanes of traffic in either direction and going back to her residence and thinking to herself, “how do people get across the street here?”  In this vein, Moya told me a story about her friend Elizabeth who has been her friend for 35 years. “When I began law school and met Elizabeth, she was far worldlier than me.  I was a 19 year old kid when I went to law school and Elizabeth was in her car one day and although she didn’t know who I was she observed me, walking out to the street and then turning around and walking back and finally she asked what I was trying to do and I said I’m trying to get across the street and she said, well, you can’t get across the street here.  And I said, well, where do people get across the street because I want to get a bus that will take me to the subway to get downtown and she said, well, you can’t do that from here. She said, get in, I’ll take you to the subway and that was the beginning of a 35-year friendship.” 


For Moya, she says getting her law degree and not quitting and going home was a major milestone. She says many times she felt like going home but getting her law degree was a big deal to her parents and they were so proud of her. She remembers once calling her mother before her final exams in first year and saying: “Mum, I don’t know if I can do this.  I’m so lonely and I can’t stand this anymore, it’s just too hard. I had a civil procedure exam the next day and studying for it was deadly.  My God, every time I would open the book within 10 pages I would be asleep.  It was a complete cure for anybody who suffered from insomnia. Reading a civil procedure text book will cure an insomniac for life.  I remember calling my mum and she said it’s only another few weeks.  It was final exams and in those days marks were based 100% on your final exam results and nothing else and she said to me because I thought I was going home, Moya if you’re on that plane I’ll cut the two legs out from under you.  So that’s how much they were invested in me. My mother said you stay there, you stay the course and you get in there and you write that test and if I know you, you’ll be fine’.”


Moya says: “Getting the law degree that was a big deal and going to work on that piece of legislation, the Canada Labour Code, that was a big deal because that was the first time that I got a sense of Canadian business and how it’s organized and how things that seem like good things to do for individuals may actually be very, very ineffectual things for those same individuals and totally bad for the economy and totally bad for business.  When you come out of law school you don’t understand any of that, right?  Your focus is on individuals who have been persecuted or oppressed and your job is to take their voice and make it stronger. What law school does not give you is an understanding of business because you study very few cases where there are large corporations fighting one another.  Most cases are individuals going up against some Goliath, whether it’s the state or some big corporation, the little guy figures very prominently, and so it should in legal training, but when you get into something like the Canada Labour Code, which I got into in Industrial Relations, you start to realize, wait a second, there’s a lot of inequality in the bargaining power of the parties in many cases.  That was a revelation for me and it was a very good experience and of course working for my mentor was a really great experience.  He was the one that sent me (and he definitely did pave the way for this non-economist to go to the Economic Cabinet Committee or the Privy Council Office , he definitely did pave the way), to be in Privy Council Office and in those years it was so interesting because Trudeau had just taken his walk in the park, the change of government was happening and the conservatives had not been in office for a very long time… I’m thinking 20 years, it was probably just shy of that… and it was just such a wonderful time to be there.  Also, to see how cabinet and cabinet committees function.  You’re in the room, only PCO officials are in the room, and there’s no text book for that.  You have to be there to see it, to see how decisions are made.”


Moya recalled a beloved public servant: “He was a fantastic public servant, God rest his soul, and we went through one particular, very difficult, all-day strategy session in the Economic Cabinet Committee and it was very, very fractious. I was taking the minutes and it was very hard to see how we were going to come to a consensus and he didn’t know me but he had seen my face in the cabinet room and the Privy Council Office. He asked me while we were waiting, because we were all asked to leave the room while they fought it out, how long I had been at Privy Council Office and I’d only been at Privy Council Office about six months and he said, well, actually that was pretty bad, nobody under 40 should have heard that discussion.” 


Moya says: “So that was a really crucial experience in terms of my learning.  How do political decisions on really, really important things get made or not or what makes them fall apart and what makes an effective politician and how many people are ineffectual at the craft.  It was a really important learning and has helped me all my life.  You know, policy making is really, really hard, especially in our country, trying to come up with something that is going to be good for the whole country, is going to recognize the many interests at play. It has to work for a period time. It doesn’t need to work forever but it’s got to work for a period of time and actually be implementable.  So much of what people say in the policy arena is totally not feasible, or at least not feasible in their life times.  So I have a really good smell test now for political speeches.  I know when there’s something behind it and I know when it’s just the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.” 


“Working in the PCO was a terrific education and going into the financial services industry that was just huge for me.  I learned that money does make the world go round and there are conventions for every conceivable tier of financing and there’s a level of technical expertise and knowledge required for every single conceivable type of financing and there’s an understanding of the various buyers for every tier of financing which you have to have in order to approach them successfully. It simply takes so much, so much has to happen and go right at the very moment you’re raising the money.  That’s the technical knowledge that for me has been, of all the things I’ve learned in my life, absolutely the most important thing… really, absolutely the most important thing.  So those ten years in the financial services industry with the partners that I had, because I was hot-housed really with the partners that I had, were golden years for me.  I will never have an in-depth understanding of the fixed income market or the knowledge of some of the people that worked in our real estate group.  We had a really powerful real estate group in those days run by an individual I just adored.  He was just so capable.  He was so on his game and he’s such a good person to work with.  I will never have his understanding of real estate, ever, in my lifetime but I know what it takes to do one of those deals because I had the privilege of working side by side with someone like that who was really very, very good at his game.”


“So my experience in the financial services sector was a milestone. You can’t snow me on that stuff anymore whereas you could if I hadn’t worked in the financial services industry. If you’ve never worked there, I don’t think you really understand how to raise money.  I don’t think you understand financing.  I don’t think you understand the dynamics of the market.  I believe you have to have worked there.  I think it’s a particular circus and if you’re not in it you don’t understand what goes on to make that which seems almost unimpressive, almost effortless happen and causes those that know how to work within it go home with the bags of money they do. Otherwise, you have no clue what goes on to raise that money.  You have to work there.”


Moya says these were the big milestones in her career, getting her law degree, going to work at the Privy Council Office and seeing Cabinet in action and how Cabinet decision-making works and going to work in the financial services sector.  “They were the big opportunities that have made my whole career.”


What Strikes Me?


It only takes the support of one person to have a significant impact on your career and your life


Being offered the opportunity and having the courage to accept it is crucial to the making of a career


Money does make the world go round


It takes very few big opportunities to make a career



What Strikes You?


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