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Game Changers

Game Changer: Shaun McEwan, President, ADGA Group

Game Changer: Shaun McEwan

Shaun McEwan is a seasoned executive with a passion for numbers and a talent for growing successful businesses, particularly in the technology sector. He’s also one of our August/September Game Changers. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, he has held key roles including CFO, President, and CEO at various technology companies, demonstrating his commitment to fostering growth and innovation.

In his current role as President of ADGA Group, Shaun is at the helm of the company, guiding its overall leadership and strategy. He believes in the power of assembling the right team and providing them with the tools and support needed to excel in their roles.

How did you start out in this industry and how has it brought you to where you are today?

I’m a numbers guy and I love growing successful businesses. Both skillsets work well in any industry, but I am especially passionate about working in the technology sector.

I have over 30 years of experience as a CFO at several technology companies, where I also advanced to President and CEO roles. I’m very much a values-based leader. I love collaboration, seeing the short-term and long-term vision and getting there.

During the height of the pandemic, I was approached by ADGA to be their CFO and was promoted to President eight months later. So far it has been great. ADGA has amazing talent and leadership in every department. I’m proud to be part of it.

What is your role at your organization?

My role is President of ADGA Group. I’m responsible for the overall leadership of the company. That really boils down to putting the right team in place and ensuring they have the tools and support necessary to effectively carry out their role.

What was your most challenging moment?

My most recent challenge in my career has been more of a process than a “moment.” It has been challenging, but also exciting work, to advance ADGA Group into a new era of innovation and growth.

All members of my executive leadership team have been here three years or less. There has been a lot of planning, building, and refocusing to ensure our company has the capacity and capability to keep stride with the evolving and emerging technology needs of the world we live in today. 

What was your A-HA moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader

My favourite A-HA moment happened after we joined the Commissionaires Ottawa family and adopted their social mandate.

Today, we exist not only to hire veterans, but also to hire their family members and fellow citizens who share a passion to protect Canadians and our allies, and to give back to veteran causes in our community. ADGA was already hiring veterans for decades, but now it’s our purpose.

So, think about it: When you work with ADGA, even though we are a for-profit company, those profits are now going to veteran causes both internal to our company and in our community.

And our capacity to be generous corporate philanthropists just rocket-launched. I’m excited about how much more ADGA can give back to the brave women and men who currently serve or have served our country, and their families, for years to come.

What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?

We share the Canadian Armed Forces’ critical focus on reconstitution, modernization, and operational readiness. We share their concerns about procurement process challenges, which are at a crossroads. ADGA stands ready to support the CAF.

What is the best advice you received?

A close colleague of mine told me, many, many years ago now, to “put your head down and run your business and put your rear end up and take your kicks”… well, a little more descriptive than that but you get the point.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

This may sound like something out of a management book but in all seriousness, it involves leaving your team alone to do what they are there to do … need to make a habit out of trust.

What is your parting piece of advice?

Much has been said and written about work/life balance but in the post-COVID world, those lines are even more blurred than before. You really do have to focus on caring for yourself and your family and get your teams to do the same.

What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?

I’m going to be a bit biased here, but ADGA Group is all about innovation. At the heart of every business decision, we make is a passion to give back to veterans and their families—but the way forward to being able to achieve that is our innovation mindset. Our company is growing rapidly and it’s the best feeling to know that we are innovating and growing for a good cause.

How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?

ADGA Group has been around for more than 50 years, a fact few companies in Canada can match. We are proudly Canadian owned and operated and our pedigree speaks for itself.

We truly believe in meeting the defence, security, and public safety needs, not just for today, but for the future. That’s something we’re always aware of and something we’re always aiming for. This includes our services, such as Value-added Program Management—a  more holistic approach to overcoming current obstacles and delays in procurement and program management processes.

Agile Software Engineering Development and Integrated Security Solutions are simply core services we’ve been doing well for a long time.

We are dedicated industry partners. Add to that our social purpose to give back to veterans and their families, and I think that is a game changer in the defence industry. We owe it to our veterans and our active CAF members to do our part and help them—by supporting them with our expertise while they are serving and giving back to them once they transition to civilian life.

What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your industry sector?

I think probably the biggest impediment would be defence program delivery and procurement. Our Technical Director, Jack MacDonald, wrote a great article speaking to that: “Capacity is not the same as capability.”

At ADGA, we believe that the problem has been viewed from the wrong direction. Capacity is an input problem. Delivery is an output objective. Whether modernizing command and control systems, digitizing information management, or supporting a brigade in Latvia, the focus must be on the objective.

This isn’t to say that we can’t overcome it. We have worked with the Canadian Government and the CAF for decades and we’ve gained insights. That’s why we offer Value-Added Program Management because we saw a missing piece and knew we had the personnel and expertise, many of them former CAF themselves, to connect the dots.

Although I’m a numbers guy, we have to understand that defence procurement is not a simple numbers game. It is not about delivering people to government. It is first, primarily, and always will be about reliably and efficiently delivering defence outcomes to Canada.

Outcome driven; performance measured.

How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?

Innovation has always been in our DNA. Our Research and Development team includes some of the best and brightest. Just look at the social mandate we have now, which is engrained in every business decision. That right there is innovation.

Our services are our innovation. Our people putting our services into action is our innovation. As yet another example, to enhance relations with Indigenous Peoples, we’ve embarked on achieving the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) Committed Level, with the company-wide goal to follow through and achieve full PAR Bronze certification within the PAR program.

Our dedication to making ADGA a safe and inclusive workplace that truly does fantastic work is our innovation.

What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

People will be the change. Digital Transformation in all its forms will be the change. Everything in the end always comes back to people—from strategists and decision-makers to the experts who manage our programs and projects, engineers, architects, and specialists.

In my view, our industry is on the cusp of a major transformation, and it has been a long time coming. Do I think we’ll see a complete change in the defence business model in the next two years? Probably not, but I think we’ll start seeing the groundwork being laid down and think, “Yes, advancing in this direction is long overdue and needed.”

I think the momentum we’re seeing in people to ensure the safety of our nation’s borders, both domestically and internationally, will only continue to grow. With strong support from industry partners, our industry can be one of the best.

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