Alex Benay’s eclectic résumé already includes stints as Canada’s chief information officer, a senior executive at a leading software firm and the head of the Crown corporation that oversees the country’s science and tech museums.
Those diverse roles have a common thread: they helped feed Benay’s passion for helping prepare Canadians for a digital future. Most recently, the 39-year-old Ottawa native served as chief client officer at MindBridge Ai, one of the city’s leading developers of artificial intelligence software.
Once again, Benay’s career path is taking a new turn.
In early November, the 2016 Forty Under 40 recipient announced he was leaving MindBridge after just three months on the job for a newly created role as the head of global consulting giant KPMG’s Canadian digital and government services practice.
Benay was a big-time get for MindBridge, itself a rising star in the Ottawa tech scene. But he says his quick departure was anything but a matter of fleeing from a bad situation.
While at MindBridge, Benay explains, he was continually confronted with a wide range of “digital issues” that affected more than just his employer. The company’s growing list of customers includes KPMG, and after a few weeks of discussions with Big Four accounting firm, he was presented with what he calls the perfect opportunity to help address those issues on a country-wide basis.
“Digital identity is actually a national issue that requires attention on a lot of different levels,” he says, adding he remains on good terms with his former employer and will continue to act as an adviser to the company.
“There’s a lot of other issues that need tackling in the digital space, and everybody just felt like, ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’”
As a partner in KPMG’s Ottawa office, Benay will work with clients in all three levels of government and the private sector on their digital strategies. He says he plans to “wear a few hats” in the new role, one that will see him advise governments on areas such as how to deliver services in the cloud and implement technology such as AI and blockchain.
“Obviously, digital government is a place that is near and dear to my heart,” Benay says, referring to his two-and-a-half-year tenure as Canada’s CIO. “A lot of the various levels of government are starting to play with these technologies increasingly rapidly. So being able to help them on their journey and … being able to help all levels of government across the country is something I’m looking forward to.”
He also expects to spend a fair bit of time guiding executives in the private sector – including those in his own office – as they adjust to the new digital reality. Benay says corporations such as banks need to ensure that sensitive customer data isn’t compromised as work that used to be done by humans is transferred entirely to machines.
“Having a black box artificial intelligence algorithm to deliver a service to a citizen or a customer and you don’t know how it works is a problem,” he explains, adding AI programmers and developers often don’t know the ins and outs of privacy and public accountability.
“These things are all clashing. It’s an amazing time, it’s a stressful time in the digital transition of any institution. It’s an area that’s ripe for collaboration. There’s a lot in common, let’s say, between banks, hospitals and government.”
The father of two teenaged children concedes the digital revolution poses an immense challenge for industries in all sectors, but it’s one he’s looking forward to tackling.
“There is no one company that has all the digital answers in the world. It’ll be a really fun journey.”
People on the move
Mark Savenkoff has been appointed vice-president of advancement at Algonquin College. Savenkoff spent the past 14 years at Carleton University, serving for the past decade as the school’s director of alumni and donor relations, where he helped spearhead a $308-million fundraising campaign. In his new role, he will oversee Algonquin’s fundraising efforts.
Demand Spring has hired Matt Roberts as vice-president of strategy consulting and Julie Zadow as senior vice-president and chief marketing officer in residence. Roberts was previously vice-president of marketing at Forrester and has held senior marketing roles at Staples and Schneider Electric. Zadow has held leadership roles with such organizations as Globoforce (WorkHuman), Alyce, iCoachFirst, Aberdeen and Harte Hanks. She is also the founder of PinchHitCMO.
Soshal has promoted Lisa Kupfer to director of brand and product strategy and Sébastien Chiappa-Ménard to director of experience design. Kupfer joined Soshal more than two years ago and last spring was promoted to senior brand and marketing strategist. Chiappa-Ménard has worked at Soshal for the past seven years, most recently serving as senior user experience designer.
Calian Group CEO Kevin Ford has received the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Ontario award in the professional services category. Ford, who was named OBJ’s CEO of the Year in 2017, joined Calian in 2010 and was promoted to chief executive in 2015. He previously worked as a senior sales executive at IBM in Ottawa and is the past chair of the Kanata North Business Association’s board of directors.
Kinaxis has been named a leader in the Nucleus Research 2019 Control Tower Technology Value Matrix for the third consecutive year. The matrix is an assessment of the state of the control tower market and ranked 12 vendors based on the functionality and usability of their solutions and the value that customers realize from these capabilities.
InitLive has received the Event Technology Live award for Best Workforce Management Technology. Event Technology Live hosts an annual event where it awards companies that have made the most contributions to event technology.
Baker Tilly Ottawa managing partner Kenneth Tammadge was inducted into the Order of Ottawa in recognition of his significant professional and community contributions to the city throughout his illustrious career. With more than 40 years of experience providing taxation and business advisory solutions, Tammadge has achieved many professional and community accomplishments. In 2013, the Institute of Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario elected him to Fellow, its highest designation. Tammadge is also a longtime supporter and contributor to many local organizations, including serving as co-chair of the Boys and Girls Club and past chair and honorary director of St. Patrick’s Home of Ottawa.