Philip Steenkamp, Vice President, External Relations

One-on-One with
Philip Steenkamp

Philip Steenkamp joined UBC as Vice President, External Relations in December 2015. Prior to joining UBC, he had a long career as a senior public servant and deputy minister in several BC and Ontario ministries.


What quality do you most admire in a leader?

PS: I look for creativity, good judgment and the ability to get things done, in a collaborative manner.


What makes you laugh?

PS: I love silly, offbeat humour. I adored Monty Python as a teenager. More recently, I’ve become a fan of Mrs. Brown’s Boys.


Who inspires you, and why?

PS: I am inspired by great leaders, such as Martha Piper. She took on the role of Interim President and has provided great leadership. Her drive comes from a place of pure service, which I find inspiring.


What are your early impressions of UBC?

PS: UBC is a vast network of communities. I have encountered some extraordinary talent and creativity, and there are pockets of strength where you see world-leading research. The challenge is finding ways to pull all this together and tell UBC’s story.


What is the song you sang out loud as a teenager?

PS: Steve Winwood’s Arc of a diver.


How do you like to recharge?

PS: I like to get into the forest and onto the ocean, either hiking or kayaking. I have also practiced yoga for a number of years.


What is the best advice you were ever given?

PS: I have been in jobs that were so multi-faceted, with competing demands, that it was easy to get blown off track. One piece of advice that I’ve never forgotten is to always be clear on priorities, don’t have too many, and align resources accordingly.

I also think it’s important to be present. Everyone can get so preoccupied with multi-tasking, but being present is really important.


What do you value in your colleagues?

PS: Collaboration. We all work in demanding roles, and issues can often cross boundaries. I value colleagues who are collaborative by nature. During my time at UBC, I have found people to be collaborative and willing to offer support and advice.


What attracted you to join UBC? What makes it different?

PS: I was already familiar with UBC due to previous roles. UBC is a university that is great, and on its way to being even greater.

I was also drawn to the opportunity that lies here — the chance to help UBC tell its story in a powerful way. We have such great substance but aren’t really telling our story. We now have an incredible opportunity to change that, through areas such as communications, community engagement and government relations.


If you could have a super power, what would it be?

PS: That’s easy‚Ķ.to be able to fly. I had lots of flying dreams when I was a child. I love that sense of complete freedom — and I wouldn’t need to get the ferry to Victoria!


What would you like to be remembered for?

PS: That, working with my whole portfolio, we were effective at telling the UBC story and really establishing UBC’s reputation and brand.