When SaskPower welcomed Rupen Pandya BA'91, MA'99 last June as their new president and CEO, they knew they were getting a community-minded, team player with deep local roots. Degrees magazine posed five questions to the U of R alumnus about what excites him about his new job, the importance of having a local perspective, and the value of community
It’s an interesting time to be involved with the energy sector. What drew you to the job?
First of all, let me say how honoured I am to serve as president and CEO of SaskPower. This is a really exciting time to be in the energy sector. There’s a dramatic energy transition underway that is going to have profound implications – not only for the corporation, but for how power is produced in the province. At the same time, we’re seeing increasing demand for more energy options from our residential as well as industrial customers.
It’s such a critical and challenging public policy change in the province right now, and that was one of my considerations when I was thinking about my career. I came from a more than 25-year career in provincial public service. I was a former provincial Deputy Minister of Finance and Secretary of the Treasury Board. In that role, you get to see all of the work of government going through your office because of the nature of the position. There are tremendous opportunities to make sure the “planes land” if you will – to make sure we are creating good public policy. What’s taking place on the power front right now will have significant implications for economic growth in Saskatchewan going forward.
SaskPower has built its existing generation transmission over a period spanning nearly a century. The energy transition underway will require substantial changes to our system in a very short order of time, compared to the history of the corporation. Whether it’s 2030 or 2035 or 2050, those dates are just around the corner and there’s a significant amount of work to do.
It’s a really exciting time to be involved in the sector, with lots of innovation and opportunity for rethinking the organization as we continue to serve the people of the province with reliable, sustainable, cost-effective power.
What do you think are the characteristics that make a good leader, and what do you feel you bring to your leadership role, personally?
I think great communication skills, great values, being empathetic, having integrity, transparency, trust, and being creative – those are all cornerstone qualities of leadership. I like to think of myself as a values-based leader. I fundamentally believe that the “what” of our work is important – in this case, in an energy transition to net-zero electricity. But what is equally important is how we do our work. That has to be with integrity, transparency, and empathy.
I’ve been lucky throughout my career. I’ve been drawn to really challenging opportunities where I feel I can make a difference. Empowering teams so they can be creative and collaborative and outcomes-oriented is foundational to success in any organization.
How do you feel your time at the University of Regina prepared you for your professional life?
I would say it was foundational to my professional accomplishments. The university experience and quality of education were outstanding. In terms of the skills I learned and the mentorship, the close relationships I built with professors across multiple faculties – skills like leadership, teamwork, critical thinking, the coaching and mentoring that I received from not only professors, but my colleagues who were studying alongside me were really profound in shaping who I am.
My brothers and sisters were all first generation to the university system, and something that my mother and father impressed upon us was that we made sure we were maximizing all the opportunities that were available to us. My dad used to say “it’s really important in life that you’re opening as many doors as possible. You never know what opportunities lay on the other side of it.” This was something that we all took to heart, and for me, university was the key to opening many of those doors.
You come from a family with several people involved in cultivating community in the city. How has that influenced you?
I love my family. It’s quite large family – five brothers and sisters, including myself. When we first came to Regina, my father opened the city’s first Indian restaurant, called the India Inn. All of us worked together at the restaurant. We then opened a bigger restaurant on 11th called Café Ashani, and my brother also got into the restaurant business and opened a place on Broad St – it was a bakery, actually.
In the evenings my sisters would convert the place into Café A Gogo. At the time it was one of very few live music venues in the city. Singer-songwriters would come in, and my sisters put candles and tie-dyed tablecloths on the tables.
Being surrounded by such creative people has been inspiring. I remember some professors from the university would hang out at the Café A Gogo. It was an intersection of people who’d come to experience a cultural event – whether it was an out-of-town or local artist. It was a really unique community that developed in the city.
What does having that local perspective bring to your work?
My father was really committed to public service through acts that supported people in our community. I remember from a young age, helping newcomers to the province. We didn’t have our own car, but we would load into the station wagon of a family friend to go to the airport to pick up new people who had come to Saskatchewan, to help them. That really imprinted on me and was why I decided to dedicate my life to public service – it was around some of the values that my father instilled in me.
In all of the jobs I’ve done, I’ve always been very mindful of that, in terms of making sure that the policies that we’re developing are communicated clearly with the public, and that they understand the whys and hows of what we’re doing. This province means everything to me. My family is here – all my brothers and sisters except for one are still in Saskatchewan. I want to make sure that everything we do, everything I do in this role – with all my colleagues in the corporation are going to contribute to making Saskatchewan the best place to live and work – this is my home.
* This interview has been condensed for length