|From an Orphanage to Canada's Largest Company|
Can a young man or woman still work the long way to the top in a large corporation? It was fairly common years ago. What are the chances of an unknown taking a spot on the lowest rung and ending up running the whole show?
J. V. Raymond Cyr of Montreal did it. He was raised in a Montreal orphanage and is now president and chief executive officer of Bell Canada Enterprises Incorporated, parent company of Bell Canada, Canada's largest employer.
"I think the chances of starting with a large firm and working your way to the top are actually better today than ever before. I do think it does require a university degree. I think the old family connections which were a big part of the corporate scene years ago are much less important now.
"I think it is really up to whoever is the best to move up the ladder. It requires a lot of hard work and dedication. But I think it still can be done."
Raymond Cyr was born in 1934 in the midst of the Great Depression. His father, a Montreal truck driver, was doing as well as anyone under the circumstances. His wages barely covered the costs of feeding five young boys and keeping a home together. But tragedy struck when his wife died while giving birth to their sixth son. Raymond's father could not cope with the loss of his wife and the burden of looking after a family of that size. He was forced to put the children in an orphanage. Raymond, at eight, was the second oldest.
"Life in the orphanage wasn't so bad. It was three meals a day and religious instruction to go with school work there at one of the Jesuit Father's
Institutions in Montreal. As a matter of fact, they were instrumental in recommending that I go back to school and to continue on to university.
"I had left the orphanage at age thirteen and had taken odd jobs until I reached 18 and decided that the advice the fathers gave me was the best way to go.
"I went to university and that's where everything really started."
Raymond graduated from I'Universite de Montreal (Ecole Polytechnique) with a Bachelor of Applied Science in 1958. In that year he joined Bell Canada as an engineer. In 1962 he entered a two-year operating engineers training program at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey. In 1970 he was appointed Bell Canada's chief engineer in Quebec City and his climb to the top of the corporate tower was well underway.
"We have about 120,000 people in the company now. It varies when we buy or sell some small company. Total revenue is approximately $17 billion Canadian. "
I asked him if with such a responsible position, doesn't he wake up at night wondering, "what the heck am I doing here"?
"It may be my own personal characteristics and it may be something that has helped me to get where I am today but, no, I do not worry to that extent. I may be thinking about certain events in the evening, but basically I sleep very well. If you allow yourself to stay awake worrying about a thousand things you can't do anything about at that moment, the stress will overtake you."
Married to the girl he met while going to university, the father of two: a daughter who is a doctor and son who is a programmer, Raymond believes that in addition to the excellent advice given to him by the Jesuits, there was one driving force that kept him moving onward and upward:
"If you want to eat, you have to work!"
Raymond Cyr, from an orphanage to one of the top corporate jobs in the land. He's another Canadian Achiever.
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