‘Ask yourself where you want to be three jobs from now’: five minutes with… Ontario’s deputy minister of finance, Greg Orencsak

By on 10/04/2022 | Updated on 10/04/2022
Greg Orencsak, deputy minister of finance and chair of the Ontario Financing Authority, Province of Ontario, Canada, speaking at the 2019 Global Government Finance Summit

Orencsak, who also chairs the Ontario Financing Authority, tells Global Government Forum about solving wicked problems through collaboration, giving yourself permission to take a sideways career move, and the instant gratification he gets from cooking Ottolenghi

What drew you to a career in the civil service?

When I graduated from university with a graduate degree in economics, it’s the only job I was offered after several interviews with various employers. After I took the job, it opened my eyes to the many possibilities and different career paths inside the civil service, which is when it became my chosen career.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your working life? 

In order to figure out what you want your next job to be in the civil service, ask yourself where you want to be two or three jobs from now. It’s a great way to think about how you can round out your skills and give yourself permission to move sideways before moving up. At the end of the day, when you get to your destination you will be more ready and do better.   

What advice would you give someone starting out in the civil service?

Always learn, and learn all ways.

What do you like most about working in the civil service?

The everyday reality that we serve the public at large and we don’t have a target market. It makes it all the more important that we maintain a relentless service orientation and stay humble.

How might the civil service be different in 25 years’ time? 

It will be more connected than ever, tech-savvy, and even more consequential given the challenges we are likely to face then. But it will still come down to having smart and motivated people willing to collaborate to solve wicked problems.

Which country’s civil service are you most inspired by and why?

It’s hard to pick favourites, but I admire countries where civil service institutions have been able to change with the times to stay resilient, effective, efficient and accountable. Singapore and the UK always come to mind as ones to benchmark against.           

Are there any projects or innovations in your country that might be valuable to your peers overseas? 

For some of the province of Ontario’s larger, complex infrastructure projects, we use a public-private partnerships (P3) delivery model. Ontario’s P3 model is a home-grown success story and has continued to evolve, incorporating, adapting and refining fundamental principles of public infrastructure project delivery to serve the best interest of the people of Ontario. 

What attributes do you most value in people?

Integrity. Candour. Humility. Perseverance. And a sense of humour – life is too short to be all too serious all the time.

If you weren’t a civil servant, what would you be? 

An architect or interior designer. I like to plan or fix things, so if it wasn’t policies, government budgets and high-performing teams that deliver them, I guess I’d be doing plans for helping people live life well.

What’s your favourite thing to do at the weekend? 

To cook, and occasionally bake. My go-to cookbooks are by Ottolenghi. I find it so satisfying to create something that can be shared with my partner and friends, and that I can start and finish in one afternoon. My job is too complex to afford the luxury of such instant gratification.

What was the first piece of music you bought?  

This dates me, but my first CD was Michael Jackson’s Bad. I’m definitely a child of the MTV generation. Our house was broken into a few years later and this CD was one of the many things taken. I was devastated.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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