May 18, 2018 – Vancouver, British Columbia-based PFM Executive Search has placed the new vice president of human resources for the University of British Columbia (UBC). Barbara Meens Thistle comes to the job from the Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC), where she was VP of central services. PFM partners George Madden, Shelina Esmail and Allison Rzen led the search.
UBC was looking for an individual with 10 to 15 years of experience as a strategic and progressive senior human resources executive, with an extensive background in leading large teams in a complex and multi-faceted environment. Ideally, that person was to have been one with a keen understanding of diverse institutional needs and who was comfortable with taking a proactive approach in creating consultative partnerships with client groups. The university also wanted someone with outstanding consensus and team-building skills, who had a history of success in achieving buy-in from stakeholders and moving initiatives forward.
Ms. Meens Thistle fit those requirements, and more. She brings a quarter century of senior leadership experience to UBC, including at some of British Columbia’s largest public sector organizations. The UBC Board of Governors approved her appointment for a five-year term.
“Barbara will be a valuable addition to our executive team and I have full confidence she will be able to build on the excellent progress made by Lisa Castle, former vice-president of human resources, to make UBC a rewarding and fulfilling place to work,” said UBC President Santa J. Ono.
At ICBC, Ms. Meens Thistle was responsible for a diverse portfolio including all aspects of human resources. She also has extensive experience as a senior leader in the energy sector, at Emera Inc., Nova Scotia Power and Westcoast Energy. Together with past roles at B.C. public sector organizations such as ICBC, the Provincial Health Services Authority, Powerex and BC Hydro, Ms. Meens Thistle has considerable experience in strategic planning, change management, operational excellence, procurement, health and wellness, and safety.
“I’m thrilled to accept this new challenge to lead human resources programs and services at UBC, one of the province’s top employers,” said Ms. Meens Thistle. “UBC has one of the largest workforces in British Columbia and I look forward to continuing efforts to making the university an inspiring place to work that also supports faculty and staff wellbeing, resilience and commitment.”
Ms. Meens Thistle is a longtime champion of equity, diversity and inclusion, said PFM Executive Search. Throughout her career, she has worked collaboratively with senior leaders and employees to create and implement relevant, aspirational and comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategies.
In 2016, Ms. Meens Thistle was voted HR Professional of the Year by the BC and Yukon chapter of the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources and is a certified professional in human resources and a fellow in the Canadian Board Diversity Council. She is also an active volunteer in her community as a board director with OceanWise (Vancouver Aquarium) and with Big Sisters of BC, Lower Mainland.
UBC is a global center for research and teaching, consistently ranked among the 40 best universities in the world. As the second largest university in Canada, UBC attracts more than 62,000 students from 160 countries on two major campuses. With over 15,000 faculty and staff, and 300,000 alumni, UBC has an annual operating budget of $2.5 billion with more than $580 million in annual research income.
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PFM serves a wide range of industries, working with private, public and not-for-profit organizations to fill senior level executive roles. Recent roles that the firm has filled include: director of technology services, infrastructure & enterprise applications, for Vancouver Airport Authority; chief executive officer for the BC Trucking Association; and chief financial officer for InTransit BC.
A longtime veteran of the executive search industry, Mr. Madden’s professional accomplishments in communications, public affairs and management have made him a well-known figure in the Canadian business landscape. He turns an incisive understanding of business affairs and a natural affinity for distilling complex client objectives into measurable goals and results, according to clients.
Ms. Esmail joined PFM 20 years ago as research director and became an associate partner in 2008. Before joining PFM, she was a senior research and marketing analyst for Colliers International in Vancouver and California.
Ms. Rzen joined PFM in 1999. Initially one of the firm’s research associates, she has a reputation for her sensitivity to the range of specific skills and intangible qualities required by client organizations. Her strong interpersonal abilities and business skills help her quickly match qualified candidates with the right positions, said PFM. Her previous experience coordinating convention services for the Greater Vancouver Convention and Visitors Bureau provided her with firsthand knowledge about working with diverse stakeholders and clients.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media