Overnight, Rob Graham went from the top of the mountain to rock bottom.
“Five years ago, I was driving to work and heard on the radio that I didn’t have a job because Nipissing was going through a restructuring phase,” says Graham.
The former university professor says Nipissing University was a place he had a lot of emotional ties to.
“I gave my life and my heart to Nipissing University.”
Graham had been a long-time teacher at W.J. Fricker and was recruited by Nipissing University who wanted him to work for their Faculty of Education.
Graham says, “So I took a bold leap and left my teaching job that I was 11 years into and became a university professor. I got my PhD at a top-ranked university in England. I got a research PhD in technology and e-learning, I won a national award for my research and I had published a book.”
It was also the reason he ended up in North Bay in the first place.
Born in Sault Ste. Marie, Graham spent most of his childhood in Parry Sound and played junior hockey for the Shamrocks. He was recruited to play goalie for Royal Military College, but found he wasn’t enjoying the academic side of the equation.
Graham says, “The problem was that I didn’t have an engineering brain. I wanted to be a psychiatrist or a psychologist or a teacher and I asked if I could do something like that, but back then it was basically engineering or bust. However, I made some acquaintances through that process and I came to realize that I wanted to be Rambo!”
Graham says he drove up to Sudbury to the recruitment office and said, “Give me the meanest toughest thing that you’ve got, so I became a gunner in the military.”
Graham eventually got shipped off to Shilo, Manitoba and from there he was going to get stationed in Germany to also play hockey. However, there was a change in posting and they had Graham stationed in Shilo for another three years.
“I just thought, there is no way I can stay here for another three years,” says Graham.
“I took an academic leave and that is where my educational journey began.”
That journey took him around the world including working in Hawaii and Japan but he says he lives in North Bay because of a wedding he attended back in the early 1990s.
“I was invited to be a best man in a wedding, and I was coming back to Canada to go to school in Hamilton. It was at this wedding that my buddy suggested that I look at Nipissing University instead. So we took a drive up the hill and I just thought this was somewhere I wanted to be, and long story short I ended up doing three degrees at Nipissing,” says Graham.
With all of that history of the post-secondary institution woven into his life, Graham thought he could see himself retiring as a Nipissing professor, but five years ago that all changed.
“I went from the top of the mountain, at 50 years of age and completed a $50,000 PhD program, wrote another book, and I was let go because I wasn’t tenured,” says Graham.
“The reason I want to share that story is, because after five years of really battling the emotions and trying to get over that, last March when the pandemic hit, I had Jocelyn Duffy reach out to me and suggest that she really liked my work and not only that but it was completely relatable as to what was going on with the pandemic.”
Graham says Duffy saw his messaging about Techno-Resiliency and suggested that nobody else was teaching that message.
“So I teamed up with her as my representative and we put together the Mandate to be Great: The 5 Traits of Techno Resilient People and Organizations,” says Graham.
The book became a number one seller on Amazon.
“I was super excited because I think that the whole notion of Techno-Resiliency is really unique and I was really excited to bring this to the faculty of education. But within a month of bringing all of this together was when I lost my job, and I just kind of shut all of that down,” says Graham.
“I knew the uniqueness of it, I knew the power of it, but it was as if I just hit a brick wall. However, I revved the engine back up when the pandemic hit.”
Graham says it was time to really understand what it meant to be Techno-Resilient which meant showing the world the different ways people and organizations could reduce complexities and find efficiencies in the workplace through technology.
“It is a timely message, regardless of the times we’re in, but the pandemic has certainly heightened the need for leadership development with technology and organizations,” says Graham.
“One of my wife’s favourite sayings is ‘Everything is on the other side of Fear’ a quote from Abraham Hicks and that really was how I approached writing and publishing a book during a pandemic. Jocelyn believed in me and my wife believed in me, she has never stopped believing in me. But even with that support, it takes a lot to take a stand and say, ‘I’m going to reinvest and rebrand and start a new website.’”
Just as any business that starts from the ground up, Graham says there are ebbs and flows, but aside from the book being a top seller, Graham has lined up talks with high-ranking officials, including a member of the United States Government who is in charge of municipal leadership.
“They have hired me to do some talks with their leadership team,” says Graham.
“I’ve been on a number of leadership podcasts and my message is to sell inspiration as innovation. And it feels good to feel good.”
Graham says he always asks people one question, “Do you desire to inspire, but more importantly, do you desire to be inspired. Organizations and people who are willing to inspire others but are also willing to be inspired are those who are embracing that Techno-Resiliency. Self-motivation is not enough, you have to help motivate others that are feeling overcome during these crazy times.”
Graham says more businesses need to recognize that people are coming to work emotionally and psychologically drained by what has happened over the last year and a half. He says his book looks at how to inspire that employee base whether the employees are in the building or if they are displaced.
He says with the recent trend of people from southern Ontario moving to the north while maintaining their jobs, the notion of Techno-Resiliency holds a lot of weight for the workforce in North Bay.
Graham says, “I looked at what kind of skills somebody has to have if they are working from home. One of the things I’ve come up with is that it is not how much you know, but you have to know where to find the information. Knowing where to look and having employers understand that they have to provide those avenues for their employees to access that information.”
He adds this is a big point when he talks to top people at different organizations. He says, “You don’t just want your employees to spend hours on Google looking for stuff, you need to have those pathways available to them. I don’t think a lot of organizations have thought about that. Organizations are at a point where they need more from their employees than ever before and I would argue that right now, they may have been giving less because they just don’t have the tools to make that happen.”
Graham says he doesn’t want to be judged or measured by the number of books he sells; he just tries to stay focused and chase the experience.
“All through my life, I was chasing experiences I wasn’t chasing the money. I tell everyone I talk to that they should chase the experience and not the dream. It’s good to have a dream, but from that, set your goals and find those experiences which will, in turn, lead you to a dream,” says Graham.
“It might not be the original dream you had, but it will still be a dream worth talking about.”
Graham says his biggest piece of inspiration is his personal story.
He says, “I have always been somebody who has been motivated by the experience. When people are worried about not knowing where their life is going to go and how it is going to turn out, well look at age 50, I was at the top of the mountain to the bottom of the mountain overnight.”
To get his book please click HERE