In February, Cameron Naqvi was named MacEwan University’s 35th Allard Chair in Business. His work building and developing communities as president of Cameron Corporation has long-lasting impacts in creating jobs and amenities that improve the lives of Edmonton residents.

Here we asked Naqvi about the impact of his early work experiences, the one business rule he lives by and his best advice for students.

What lesson from your first job do you continue to live by?

I started working weekends and summers on my uncles’ farm when I was l seven years old. There were so many times I came back just exhausted, thinking how hard it was. I realized later that my uncles intentionally worked me hard so that I would be focused on getting an education. But I certainly learned to appreciate hard work. 

What is Cameron Corporation?

It’s a family owned real estate development company focused on retail, residential and multi-family real estate. Our dad started the company in 1980. So now we're second-generation owners and operators. My two sisters and I run the company. We're pretty fortunate for what he started and all of the groundwork that he did to lay things out for us.

What does it mean to you to be selected as the Allard Chair in Business at MacEwan?

Funny story, my dad actually got his start working for Dr. Allard. He was my dad's mentor, and he taught him business and real estate. So he credits a lot of his success to Dr. Allard. Honestly, it's really special to be in this role because after the opportunity that Dr. Allard gave my dad, it's a way to give back a little bit to MacEwan and the School of Business

Education is important to our family, and my dad credits education with getting him to Canada. He came here on a university scholarship, so he always said that he would never have come to this country, or got his first job with Dr. Allard without education. He taught us that education is the key to success.

What are you most proud of? 

On the personal side, it’s being able to work with family. I work with and see my dad and my sisters almost every day. We've been pretty fortunate and blessed that we really enjoy each other's company and we actually hang out together quite a bit outside of work.

On the business side, I think there's a lot of pride in developing communities that we live in. Most of our projects are in and around Edmonton, so we're proud that we’re able to make them esthetically pleasing and more walkable and get the right tenants in to serve the area. Creating something that's new and unique to try to draw people in, or to support people and the community. We want good-quality, good-looking projects that we’re proud of and that we want to shop in and live in. That’s a big part of the culture in our organization.

What is your best advice for students?

It takes a lifetime to build up your reputation, but it takes no time at all to ruin it. It's really important to maintain your integrity. Beyond that, it’s just hard work. I think if anybody is honest and works hard, they'll be successful in anything that they do – in business or in life. 

I also think that building relationships is really important. Get involved in the community. The more relationships and communication that we have with different groups and people, the more we learn from each other.

What's the biggest lesson or experience that you carry with you from your own education? 

I'm an engineer by education, but I've never really worked in the field other than at the very beginning of my career. But it doesn't matter what your education is; you can be a successful business person. Dr. Allard, a surgeon who became an entrepreneur, is a perfect example. Education is critical because it gives you a foundation, but at the end of the day you’re the one who decides what you will do with it.

Do you have any stories to share from the time you’ve spent so far in the Allard Chair in Business position?

I think I’m getting more out of being the chair than the students are getting from me. I’m blown away by how entrepreneurial they are, and how curious they are. A lot of them are so far ahead of where I was at their age, and I think that’s a real testament to MacEwan and the quality of the education they’re receiving. Some of them have their own startup companies and are looking for advice and guidance. These students are going to be successful if they’re already thinking the way they’re thinking and doing the things they’re doing. They have real ambition, and they’re looking to make their businesses or ideas better, and I think that’s incredible.

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