Jennifer Sloan is vice-president of public policy for MasterCard Canada, formerly the director of government affairs at Target Canada. Ms. Sloan, 51, has also had several roles in government.
I really don't have an average day. That's the beauty of this role. I am responsible for public policy, which means I am the point person for all three levels of government – so, any company issues that impact government. Another big chunk of my responsibility is stakeholder management, so I'm the liaison with industry and trade associations, community influencers, and people interested in the payment sector.
Before joining the company five months ago, when I thought of MasterCard, I thought of plastic in our wallets; however, that is not who we are. MasterCard calls itself a technology company, not a credit-card company. We are an innovative company on the cutting edge of some real interesting technology in the financial payment space. The technology to process a payment happens in the blink of an eye. We do 43 billion instructions per second and it only takes 130 milliseconds to process a transaction.
We area heading toward a cashless society one day and I think that's pretty exciting. You'll just have your mobile wallet – everything can be done with your phone. Canadians are savvy but we can do a lot more. Our president couldn't get on the TTC [Toronto Transit Commission public transit system] because he only carries his phone and a MasterCard. We should be able to do better.
Working at Target was by far the most collaborative, positive work environment that I worked at to date. It was mandated, but it worked and made sense. It was like being at a startup and nothing could be done in isolation. The news [of Target Canada's demise] was shared with me the day before. I wasn't naive. I knew that tough decisions were going to have to be made but I didn't anticipate or dream that we would close up the entire business in Canada. It was a really sad day.
The most ridiculous question that can ever be asked is "Where do you see yourself in five years?" It's never been a path I've subscribed to so I've always been open to new experiences. I've been agile and flexible to take turns, and that's really rewarded me. The reality is that I've never been focused on the destination.
My best job before MasterCard was working for [former federal cabinet minister] John Manley. We used to joke that Mr. Manley couldn't keep a job because he kept moving roles. I stayed with him through all these incarnations. The pace, the speed and the fact that you could never be comfortable in the job was a good thing. I was speaking day to day on Mr. Manley's behalf and anything I said could have impacted his career or been harmful to the government. It was a real pressure cooker.
My worst day at work was when I was with Mr. Manley and the government had to announce [in January of 2000] that it was reversing the decision to support the six [National Hockey League] teams. We sent Mr. Manley alone to make the announcement . Kudos for the government and Manley for admitting it [the proposal of a $3-million subsidy per team] was a mistake, but as director of communications, that was a tough day at the office.
The best advice I heard lately came from my reverse mentor. She isn't even 30 years old but I needed help understanding how millennials work. I had her explain to me why a group of millennials can have a conversation around my desk that to me is deemed very private and she explained that "We don't believe in privacy." That's not how I was raised but it's been extremely helpful in managing teams. Often, people don't work in the same manner you do, especially in a technology company like this one.
One of the lessons I learned in my career is don't get too comfortable. The minute you are comfortable, it is time to move on.
As told to Leah Eichler. This interview has been edited and condensed.