Garrett Lambert is currently President of GLI Associates Inc., Executive Director of Global Energy Horizons, and Associate of Global Bridge Consulting Corporation in Beijing. He was a Professor in the MBA program at the University of Victoria and Advisor to the President of the University on Government Relations, and Associate of the Pacific Rim Group in Hong Kong. He served as a member of the Prime Minister’s Expert Panel on Canada’s Role in International Science and Technology, and on the “Directions III Panel, Innovative Thinking on the Future of the Canadian Health Care System.”
From 1968 to 1997, Mr. Lambert was one of Canada’s highest ranking diplomats. He served as Commercial Counselor in Iran, West Germany, Poland and East Germany, and with the rank of Ambassador to Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.
Mr. Lambert also held several senior positions during assignments in Canada. As Assistant Deputy Minister for Corporate Management and Chief Financial Officer, he presided over a major restructuring of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. As Director General for Trade and Investment with the USA, he wrote the Cabinet paper for, and oversaw implementation of the provisions of the Canada-USA Free Trade Agreement. Seconded to the Canadian International Development Agency as Director General, he established and developed the Industrial Co-operation Program. Mr. Lambert originally moved to Ottawa as Special Assistant to the Minister of National Defense after working in the private sector in Toronto.
Mr. Lambert was a member of New College’s first graduating class, and the first President of the New College Student Council.
Why did you choose New College (be honest) and what were your expectations?
When I learned of the creation of New College, the concept of an admixture of the arts and professions in a relatively small community was appealing, so I called on Dr. Wetmore, the new Principal. We had a very positive conversation, during which he invited me to transfer.
What was New College like when you came?
It was located in a small house on St. George St., a far cry from the new building that followed some years later. Facilities were rudimentary, but every member of the College was self-selected – I think we were about 250 in all – and so brought an enthusiasm and willingness to participate that overcame all challenges.
Since it was a new creation, there were no foundations on which to build, i.e. no traditions, no structures, no alumni. A concept without energized direction. A few days before classes began, a few of us met by chance and set up a modest welcoming committee to offer general information to new registrants, and then turned to developing plans for the short and long-term future. We sub-divided into committees to move things along as quickly as possible. One group developed a constitution for a student council and organized nominations and elections; another planned social gatherings to bring people together and to develop College spirit; yet another started to plan for a New College float for Homecoming weekend; still another raised several teams to participate in intramural athletics, etc., etc.
Once the Student Council was elected, we were able to formalize much of what we had been doing, elect a representative to the University Student Council, secure some funds for sponsored activities, choose the College motto, crest, and colours, purchase team uniforms and decorations for tea dances, and generally build a sense of belonging among what was a rather disparate group of people. Dr. Wetmore and the small staff were as helpful as they could be, and it was all very cooperative.
Was there anyone in particular at New College (staff, student or faculty) who had a strong influence on your life or made a lasting impression on you?
Dr. Wetmore above all. He was interested in us as individuals, always encouraging us to stretch a little farther, try a little harder, take some chances – lessons that later guided my professional life.
Tell us about some of the lessons you learned and how valuable they are today?
My experience in student government taught me the arts of persuasion and compromise, the need to respect and consider all points of view without becoming incapable of decision, and the rewards of effective team-building.
What was important to you then – what is important now?
In 1963 I was focused on developing a career with no sense of how many twists and turns it would take before I settled on the Foreign Service. I opted to re-make myself professionally in 1997 and again in 2003. And while I am still professionally engaged, it is at a lower level of activity. My focus now is family.
What are your major accomplishments and who had the most influence on your career?
Professionally, attaining two different goals: the highest competitive rank of the federal public service and serving in several countries as an ambassador; and establishing a successful company that has now been in business for 15 years.
Personally, a marriage that is now in its 48th year with adult children who are successful in their own careers and families. All along the way, I had a spouse who was a consummate professional in her own right and a caring mother. Of course, there were several mentors who made a big difference with their generous guidance.
In your personal or professional life, what are you most looking forward to?
Anything you’d like to add?
Life is short. Understand as soon as you can what you truly want to make of it and take the necessary risks to achieve your goals. Don’t let your degree define you unless it’s what you really want. Alternatives are everywhere if you look for them. Commit to making the most out of skills, talents, and life’s lessons; have the courage of conviction; recognize, assess, and seize opportunities when they arise. Remember, too, that balance is important. At life’s end few people wish they had spent more time at work.