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Paul Kerr, B.A.Sc. '93

(Computer Science) | Riding the Waves of Change

Maybe some people reach the age of 50 and look back on a linear career path that has led them exactly where they aspired to be in high school.

Paul Kerr is not one of those people.

He didn’t aspire to be an entrepreneur – and certainly didn’t dream that he’d one day co-found and lead a 350-employee IT Solutions firm. But looking back now, as President and Chief Executive Officer of Scalar, the company he helped launch in 2004, he recognizes his willingness to shift gears, veer around obstacles and accept change as crucial to his success.

Arriving at McMaster with dreams of medicine, he quickly recognized that he didn’t have the skills for success in that competitive field. He shifted into computer science because it was something he enjoyed doing – and admits he got lucky enough to pick “the best industry in the history of the world.”

He also had the good fortune to graduate in 1992 as an expert in Unix, a computer language that quickly became very relevant in the business world.

“To this day, even though I don’t touch a keyboard that often, I say I’m a Unix guy, and that defines me to a whole group of people.”

Starting his career with IBM, he supported the initial launch and rollout of Unix-based servers to the banking and insurance sectors, and then eventually moved into a role as Managing Partner/Principal at Enterprise Technology Group (ETG), a Sun Microsystems services provider.

But as technology shifted and Sun Microsystems waned, Kerr was forced again to reinvent himself and his dreams.

The result is Scalar, a company with $425 million in annual revenue and nine offices across Canada. While Kerr jokingly calls it “the moving company” as a reflection of its adaptation to the rapidly-changing IT landscape over the last 15 years, it was also recognized as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies in 2018.

“I think being open to change and building a company with a culture that is accepting of change is very important,” says Kerr. “Everything is going to change around you and you have no control over that.

“The more willing you are to accept those changes – you may not like them, but you grit your teeth and learn to work through them – those are the people who find the best opportunities. I think that willingness to change has been the key to my success in this industry.”