This year marked a special anniversary for the Out on Bay Street Organization which helps to facilitate the professional development of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Ally (LGBTQA+) students as they transition from school to career in order to build a national network within the LGBTQA+ community.* This year’s theme was #StartingOut and for RBC we were PROUD to be part of the entire event where it all started 10 years ago at the Rotman School of Management/ University of Toronto.
I want to give a “shout-out” to the team of from the Out on Bay Street for organizing a fabulous event and for connecting so many employers, like RBC, to the LGBTQA+ students across Canada. A special thank you to Albert Lam, Marshall Peacock, and Stefan Palios as an event like this takes so much planning and time and the execution was flawless!
Outside the Oval Office is a small rectangular room with two side-by-side, nondescript wooden desks. In one sits President Obama’s personal secretary. In the other is Brian Mosteller, the man who sweats the small stuff so that the president doesn’t have to.
Few have even heard of Mosteller, but if you look closely at photographs taken inside the White House, you can often glimpse him at the edge of the frame, omnipresent. From his chair, he is the only person in the White House with a direct view of the president at his desk. No one gets in the Oval Office without going past him.
Mosteller’s official title is director of Oval Office operations, although a more apt name might be anticipator in chief. When Obama is in Washington, every move the president makes, every person he meets and every meeting he attends has been carefully orchestrated by Mosteller.
Obama’s legacy will be much greater than it now appears
He knows where Obama likes his water glass placed on the table at meetings and whom he’d want to sit beside. He knows how he prefers the height of a lectern. He researches a head of state’s favorite drink so that the president can offer it. He readies Obama’s remarks and sets them, open to the first page, wherever the president will be speaking. He tells Obama when a sock is bunched at his ankle or his shirt is wrinkled, before an interview.
The president returned to Illinois last week to commemorate nine years since he announced his long-shot bid for the White House, a history-making moment of proportions few could have known then. There remain just a few people who were there in those early days.
Unlike some staffers close to the president who have enjoyed their own moments in the limelight, Mosteller, who first met Obama in Chicago after his famous speech in Springfield, Ill., to start his campaign, has intentionally stayed in the background.
Admiring colleagues refer to him as an unsung hero of the administration — the man behind the man, without whom Obama arguably would not have such a universal reputation for cool.
The low profile suits Mosteller — he needs to stay focused. The entire West Wing relies on him, and no one more than the president.
Mosteller “knows the president very well. He pays attention to everything,” said Valerie Jarrett, the president’s longtime senior adviser. “The president knows how much Brian cares about him and that it isn’t ‘I care about you from afar,’ it’s ‘I’m going to ensure the nitty-gritty details of your life from large to small are attended to.’ The president trusts him completely.”
A fascination with logistics
Mosteller brings out the president’s speech before the start of a news conference in the East Room of the White House in 2010. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Disarmingly humble, Mosteller, 40, never had much interest in politics as a blood sport. Instead, as a little boy, he would watch, captivated, as President Ronald Reagan would stride up the red carpet to the podium in the East Hall to address the nation. Who is cuing the president as he speaks, he recalls wondering. What work happened behind the scenes to prepare for such an important event?
“It was something that transcended Akron, Ohio, or my small neighborhood,” he said of his fascination with protocol. The possibility of playing a behind-the-scenes role like that “was bigger than me and had the ability to affect something bigger than me.”
In college, Mosteller applied for a summer internship in the Clinton White House. He got a slot working with the advance team and ended up staying for the final two years of the administration.
He completed his last college credits remotely as he staffed the president and the first lady for domestic and international trips. He loved the exposure to the world, but he didn’t want a career in politics. He turned down a job working on Al Gore’s campaign and moved west to help prepare Salt Lake City for the 2002 Olympics.
After several years of doing logistical planning around the world for the Olympics, Mosteller settled down in Chicago in 2007. He bought a home. He was ready to put down roots.
Leaders To Be Proud Of Awards
Recognizing exemplary achievement and community service within our community helps to provide LGBTQA+ students and young professionals with examples to emulate and aspire to. Sharing the experiences of these individuals helps our community to celebrate Canada’s progress in recognizing LGBTQ+ value to the professional community and society.
By: Nina Rakic
Ken Aber, the founder of Blueprint Business Architecture and marketer extraordinaire, is widely praised for his ingenuity, out-of-the-box thinking and seeming ability to be one step ahead of you, your boss and your boss’s boss. I had the pleasure of working with Ken when he consulted with my company on a couple of large-scale projects. He brought interesting perspectives to the table, and beyond that, saw our ideas in a different light that opened up possibilities we had not yet begun to identify. Considering the variety of projects he’s led, it’s really no wonder that he has such a unique perspective.
He’s spent his entire career creating innovative marketing campaigns, programs and media partnerships. When working with Omnicom he led the marketing and communications at Labatt, he dabbled with Cara – the makers of Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s, and American Express to name a few. Ken loves to create and build. In fact, Blueprint Business Architecture isn’t the first company he brought to life. He can be credited with developing the Hero Certified Burger chain, which he sold to John Lettieri the current president.
Q: Word on the street is that you got accepted into Harvard at 14. What a feat. How did you accomplish that and were you nervous?
A: I was 16 when I was accepted into Harvard. Nervous? No. I completed grades 2, 4 and 6 in public school and home schooled for grades 7 – 12 which I finished by the time I was 16. I was too young to know what nervous was way too young to really grasp the magnitude of what I had achieved. It was my normal.
Q: Did accomplishing so much at such an early age change your perception of success?
A: Yes. Until the age of 35 I was hungry to succeed and be a leader. I achieved my goal at 35 and was a CEO until I was 40. At that time, I realized that my definition of success, the way I had imagined it, was really lonely. I realized at that time that that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to be in the trenches and work on a multitude of different and exciting projects, not managing people. Doing work instead of sitting at the top and doing lunch.
Q: What advice do you wish had when you were an undergraduate student?
A: The advice I wish I had is this: You don’t have to take unversity so seriously. Truly learn something and get your money’s worth, but once you’re done no one is going to know if you got a A or C.
Q: What was your worst job and did it ever cloud your vision of achieving your dreams?
A: I once worked in a fish factory making sure that all the fish were Kosher. It was smelly and rotten. After that, I only had cool jobs, like a dickie dee ice cream boy. I worked at Ontario place for many years. These jobs only fueled my drive to succeed because it made me realize I didn’t want to be at the fish plant for my entire life.
Q: Was is difficult to come out at work the first time you did it? Has it gotten any easier?
A: It was tough to come out the first time I did. The people who I thought were my friends no longer showed up after that. I was 37 and my world was divided. People hated me and people respected me. I had people calling me a liar because “how could you lie about that for so many years?” I didn’t want to be gay and I wanted to be like everyone else. Has it got easier? I think society as a whole has been more accepting and corporate brand world has definitely got on board, however, there are still many people in smaller communities with no support system who may fear for their life if there were to come out. So the answer to that question is yes and no.
Q: How have you seen the LGBT community change and develop within the professional space?
A: In my 35 year career, I’ve seen sponsors go from not wanting to touch the LGBT community to companies literally pouring millions and millions into getting their brands associated and in front of the the LGBT community. The Mental Health conversation has gone through a similar adoption and transition, just as I think Cannabis is going through now.
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This has been an Out On Bay Street Sneak Peek into the Speaker Series for the 2017 conference. If you’d like to learn more about Ken, his robust work experience within marketing and the challenges he’s overcome as an out LGBTQ+ professional click here and buy your ticket now. Ken will be speaking at the Gala Dinner on September 16th.