Janis Simpkins

Jenna Marynowski, BAA Communications Committee Volunteer - 18 January 2022

Janis Simpkins,' ’18 MBA, experience at the Alberta School of Business was all about connections, confidence and conversations. Now as the general manager of Corporate and Government Relations for West Fraser, she reflects on her time at the Alberta School of Business and offers her advice on possibility and seizing opportunities.


BAA: Tell us a bit about your experience at the Alberta School of Business. What were your favourite parts of the Executive MBA program?

My experience with the University of Alberta School of Business was one that has left a long-lasting and meaningful impact on my life. As I move through my career, I consistently find new ways to apply the different academic elements I learned throughout the program. I definitely take pause as I sit through various meetings and discussions and have lightbulb moments where I draw parallels to conversations with classmates and the professors. While these are all meaningful moments that were impacted by my time in the program, perhaps my favourite and most impactful part was the new relationships I developed with my classmates, professors and U of A leadership. To this day I draw on these relationships as a safe space to have conversations, to bounce ideas around and to share my own experiences. The relationships I developed supported me greatly during my time in the program and are still impactful to my life.

BAA: Can you tell us about your journey since graduation?

Since graduation, I have seen my career change dramatically. I moved through several high-profile, high-priority roles within government across multiple disciplines before making the decision to take an external role as a senior vice president with the Alberta Forest Products Association (AFPA). After one year with the AFPA I made another change, this time into corporate leadership with West Fraser, the largest lumber producer in the world, as their general manager of Corporate and Government Relations.

BAA: How has your Alberta School of Business education influenced your life and career?

The MBA was a pivotal moment for me. It enabled me to see myself for more than what I had been and what I had done in both my life and career. The process allowed me to better understand what I had to offer, both to myself and others, and enabled me to lean into my strengths and trust my instinct in new ways. It was a learning and validating experience as you better understand that while we may come from different backgrounds and professions, we are all working through systematic challenges. The perspective we all bring to conversations is valuable and shapes outcomes in meaningful ways.

BAA: You now serve as the general manager of Corporate and Government Relations for West Fraser. What drew you to this role?

The general manager of Corporate and Government Relations is a role that I was very drawn to. It is an interesting role that pulls together my experience in both the public and private sector and really allows me to lean into thinking about how we look at collaborating on policy in a way to achieve meaningful objectives for communities, government and industry.

BAA: Are there any popular myths about Alberta's forest product industry that you'd like to debunk?

I wouldn’t say there are any popular myths so to speak but what I would say is that managed forests will play a material role in addressing climate risk and we need to ensure a robust forest sector exists to seize the opportunity to contribute to global change.

BAA: What advice do you have for recent Alberta School of Business graduates as they embark on their career journeys?

I remember hearing a quote once: "so many things are possible as long as you don’t think they are impossible.” This is something that I have continually reflected on during my career journey. When I look back over the many roles I have had – from working on the ground in emergency services to serving as a politician, to working in government and now in private industry – I could never have predicted that I would have been here. Opportunities will come in ways you never expected if you remain open to possibilities.

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