Meet Ely Rygier, the next USC alum we’re profiling this election! Ely, a past USC VP Finance 2010-11, is a Toronto-born, San Francisco-based business strategist, Google employee and ex-comedian. As Head of Cross-Media Planning, Reporting and Insights Tools at Google, he leads a team of global product strategists in the creation of tools that help marketers find the right audiences and drive their business more effectively. Prior to Google, Ely worked as both a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group and as an improv and sketch comedian.
In his spare time, Ely is an avid runner, film-lover, and die-hard Toronto Raptors Fan.
Why type of skills/knowledge did you gain from your role with the USC that has helped in your career journey?
The USC was truly an incredible training ground for me (and for anyone who hopes to be a leader of a large organization in their career). The USC is particularly helpful in training two skills:
Budgeting and Strategic Planning:
As the VP Finance, I had the chance to co-lead the annual budgeting process for a multi-million dollar organization. The budgeting process (for programming, operations, and capital improvements) is really a way of saying ‘What do we plan to do next year? What do we plan to do three years from now?’. The process of developing that budget and then selling it into council are skills I use to this day. Now I do it for projects that generate hundreds of millions of dollars, with partners all around the world, but the process and the concepts are basically the same.
Being a member of an executive team:
This is the one almost every executive will tell you. Being part of a team is a skill that only ever becomes more important in your life. While being part of a sports team, or a soph team, has both impact and stakes, nothing is quite as similar to being a member of a professional team or a board of directors like being on the USC. You’re dealing with people who you have personal and professional relationships with, who have their own visions and ambitions, and who represent the interests of entirely different stakeholders to you. I was so lucky because I had the chance to be an executive with some of my best friends (friends to this day), but everyone on the USC has had a moment where a meeting or decision went entirely different than you had expected, and where you’ve needed to adjust your expectations or strategy. That only becomes more and more true as you advance in your career.
Was that anything unique that you took away from your USC position that you haven’t gained from other jobs?
An appreciation for the weight and responsibility of being a politician; accountable to the people you represent. Following the USC, my work has primarily focused on helping to set business strategy for large companies. The work is impactful, affects people, and is interesting, but is only ever for the benefit and oversight of Google, my clients, or other stakeholders.
At the USC, I felt deeply accountable to the students and my fellow executives and council members. I remember agonizing over whether a decision was the right one or not. I remember waking up to an article on the front page of the Gazette (by an editor who now writes for the New York Times) questioning a good idea and strategy that I had horribly communicated. The level of visibility and accountability you have to the tens of thousands of undergrads at Western is something very few people will ever experience or experience again in their lives. To me, there has not been anything like it.
What advice would you give to a student who is on the fence about running in the USC election
First: Get a sense of the electorate and determine whether you have a chance of winning.
Second: Do it!
Getting involved in student council was the best decision I’ve made in my entire life. Not only is the work deeply meaningful, and the experiences you have as part of the USC almost impossible to recreate, but it sets the tone for the rest of your life. Of the 10 person team I work on at Google today, 9 were involved in Student Council in high school and college.
What’s the one thing you miss most about Western/the USC?
The buffalo chicken wrap. Ask them to do it as honey garlic wrap with an extra buffalo sauce to dip in. That’s the pro move.
But actually, I miss the people. I know that ‘missing the people’ is a cliché, but it is true. The Executive I worked with are still friends of mine to this day. Jeff Armour was even the officiant this past summer at the wedding of my close friends, the former USC and Social Science Presidents. The people you meet (students and staff) at the USC are incredible people. Once they come into your life, many of them stay friends with you forever. Some of them, you regretfully fall out of touch with (Cathy Clarke, I miss you dearly). There is, however, nothing like the unforgettable moments of having all of those people in one place at one time.