BCom alumnus named Top 40 Under 40

December 23, 2011
Amy Dove

Aaron Miller knows the value of taking a calculated risk.

Earlier this year he quit his job as a financial analyst for the oil and gas industry and committed his time to volunteering. It was a bold move, and one that has not gone unnoticed by his community. The Royal Roads University Bachelor of Commerce alumnus was recently named one of Calgary's Top 40 Under 40 by Avenue magazine.

For the last 12 years, Miller had his nose to the grind stone working. His resume includes some of the flagship companies, and the opportunities to learn from and work for them was why he moved to Calgary in the first place. He started to realize, however, that the things he was most passionate about were outside of the office.

After leaving his job, Miller has been focusing his attention on two main activities. "My passion has always been helping people and that takes many forms," he says. He spent the summer on the campaign trail during the PC leadership run over the summer, and he currently chairs two non-profit organizations.

 "Like any risk you have got to do a little due diligence, absolutely. But at the end of the day you have to trust and embrace who you are. You can't be afraid to unleash your natural talents and trust your instincts," he says. "We all have special talents and I think the hardest part in life is learning to trust them, unleash them and let them take you places."

Miller is the chairman of the Canadian Paraplegic Association of Alberta board of governors. He originally joined the group as the finance chair after a personal experience left him looking for a way to make a difference.

In 2006, he ran into a friend and asked him how the job search was going. Calgary was desperate for skilled workers at that time and this man literally couldn't get in the door, Miller says. He used a wheelchair and many of the places he applied to work were not accessible.

"It got me really foul. It was preposterous," he says. Soon after that experience Miller was invited to join the board of governors for CPA Alberta as its finance chair, and eventually as its chairman.

"The most rewarding aspect of my time with the CPA has been our ability to expand and increase our budget and at the end of the day just help more people."

Since 2004, he has also been involved in the Youth Speech and Debate Committee for the Calgary Stampede. The stampede has a mandate to promote agricultural heritage and western values, Miller says. The speech and debate committee does that by providing youth opportunities to practise their public speaking skills through competitions based on agricultural issues.

"Public speaking was a great confidence builder in me as a youngster," Miller says. "It is such a spring board into so many things."

Miller credits Royal Roads, in part, for giving him the skills to properly analyze his decision to leave his work. His choice was obvious, he says, but it was not made without a rational analysis of what he was doing. His confidence to see what you want and make it happen was also strengthened by his time at the university.

"I will never forget, in the middle of Prof. Steve Long's class he said, 'When you are out in the real world there is always going to be one constant. You are never going to have enough time and you are never going to have enough information. And you are just going to have to go with the skills you have.' He was so right," Miller says. "You live that every day."

Thirteen years after Miller graduated, Long still remembers him as student. Miler brought a positive intensity to the classroom, Long says. "He would challenge me because he wanted to learn. That intensity and that focus was something I recall."

Two months ago, he was also hired as the programming co-ordinator for the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. And while Miller acknowledges he may need to go back to work full time in the new year, he doesn't regret a thing.

"I thank the oil and gas industry because it gave me the flexibility to kiss the industry goodbye for a few months," Miller says. "There were days when I woke up and I said to myself, 'Aaron, you were crazy to do that.' Sometimes you have to be crazy. What you forego in your comfortable nice salary you more than gain in chasing the things you love."