Skip to main content
Civil Service

I'm a civil servant and I... work for Canada Revenue Agency

Posted by: and , Posted on: - Categories: Our Civil Service
Nick Frate, Assistant Director Canada Revenue Agency
Nick Frate, Assistant Director, Canada Revenue Agency

Hello, I’m Nick Frate and I’m a Canadian public servant.

I started my career in management in the private sector, but I was always drawn to a career in the public service. Growing up in an immigrant household, my parents always stressed to me the importance of giving back – and what better way to give back than to provide excellent service for the benefit of all Canadians.

My public service career began in 2007 with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) where I’m now Assistant Director of the National Recognition Program and National Test Services.

As part of my duties, I’m also a member of the Deputy Ministers Committee on Policy Innovation (DMCPI). And I feel honoured to be a reverse mentor for Andrew Treusch, the Commissioner of Revenue and Chief Executive Officer of the Canada Revenue Agency on the DMCPI.

Social branding to build your profile

The latter role was created to provide advice on social media, which is obviously increasingly important, wherever you are. Social branding allows you to build your social media profile to showcase yourself as an expert in a particular area and promote your ideas as a thought leader. This is critical in today’s world in order to affect change. I believe that social media tools give you the power to do three things:

  • promote yourself
  • take ownership of your career and personal development
  • act as an ambassador for your organisation, by showcasing your expertise and preferred knowledge area to colleagues across government

My mentorship has also given me greater insight into a number of major issues affecting government today. What is unique about this committee is that anyone, from a junior analyst to a middle manager, can be invited to be a reverse mentor, with opportunities for collaboration and growth.

Understanding machinery of government

I have learned a lot from this experience. But, most importantly, I’ve gained a clear understanding of how the machinery of government functions. I understand the importance of the institutional structure and how it relates to the pillars of the public service. And I have a much better understanding of the principles the public service has been built on.

I’m stating this as a key lesson because, as much as I’m all about being a game-changer, I believe that being a guardian for all Canadians requires you to have a deep understanding of the pillars of the public service. Having this type of exposure to the complex challenges many deputy ministers are grappling with, has allowed me to connect the dots and better understand the functions of government. I often find it hard to believe that I’m getting this opportunity to sit at the DMCPI table.

Humanising our leaders

Being exposed to deputies in this way has also ‘humanised’ these leaders in my eyes. It has made them approachable and easier to follow. When leaders seem far away it’s hard to connect with them, but when you are able to interact with them at a table like this, where you are colleagues, it’s amazing! It makes your dedication to your job, and to the organisation, quite profound. I think it increases your engagement tremendously.

My drive and motivation comes from my passion for my work and this is what led to the creation of the pilot project, #LeadersGC – a series of Twitter chats that provide an informal forum where public servants can collaborate, network and share their ideas with senior leaders. We were fortunate to have, as a guest speaker, the Clerk of the Privy Council (the highest public service position in Canada) and other senior leaders. These chats have been well-received by public servants nationally and internationally. The success of this pilot has created the impetus to hold more in 2016, and we can’t wait! We’d love to have you follow us, via the hashtag #LeadersGC.

When people ask how I find the time to work on so many issues, I use the phrase “life- work integration”. You need to find personal balance when you are leading a team. I work all the time because I’m always thinking about challenges and solutions. I am one person and I come into work with my own views.

Five attributes of social leadership

Over the years, I have developed a leadership style that works for me, which I think of as social leadership. In my opinion, the five key attributes of social leadership are:

  • authentic leadership
  • meaningful communication
  • high-level emotional intelligence
  • ongoing recognition
  • real visibility

It’s imperative that today’s leaders help their team members to lead, by providing clear direction, demonstrating vulnerability, offering timely and meaningful recognition and feedback, and being ‘present’, both physically and virtually.

When I need to do something on the personal front, I do it. I don’t feel guilty about it. Life-work integration allows you to better manage your needs. I have learned that it's important for me to showcase both my professional and human sides as a leader, and social media allows me to amplify my reach. Showing who we are helps us to connect!

Thank you for allowing me to share!

Follow Nick on Twitter: @nickfrate

[Picture credit: 'Canada Revenue Agency Headquarters in Ottawa' copyright: Obert Madondo, from Flickr and used under Creative Commons]

For all those of you who have requested more information on the 'reverse mentoring' model that Nick refers to in his post, please see his comment below.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Nick Frate posted on

    In order to understand the reverse mentorship model, I’ll explain the origins of the Deputy Ministers Committee and the Deputy Ministers Committee on Policy Innovation (DMCPI).

    Our previous Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Wayne Wouters, created a new Deputy Ministers’ Committee to examine social media tools and develop government policy around usage given its rise in popularity. This was a closed Deputy Minister table where policy, programs and service delivery were discussed at the highest levels. The appointed Committee thought it would be interesting and would likely to lead to better input if they brought internal people to the table that had vast knowledge of social media tools. The Deputies were keen to learn about how these tools could be applied in the public service even though none of them were using the tools. Furthermore, they thought it would be valuable to seek out people who were non-executives to share their expertise and perspectives, as well as participate as reverse mentors.

    The reverse mentors were asked to coach Deputies on a new social media tool and demonstrate how it functioned. Then they were asked to highlight the benefits and explain where and how the tool could be used in a policy area. In the second year, the Deputies realized the many advantages of having these non-executives around the table to bring forward unique perspectives and ramped up participation. Now, in year three, it has officially become the Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Policy Innovation. Today, it’s known in government as the DMCPI – and the role of reverse mentorship has also increased to provide more than just coaching and teaching to Deputies on social media. The Committee invites ideas and input on other emerging policy initiatives and trends in government.

    A key factor driving success has been showcasing the value of the reverse mentorship model during the past three years. Promoting the benefits both the Deputies and the reverse mentors have experienced has led to the new Clerk, Janice Charette, supporting the model and showcasing it. Many exciting opportunities lie ahead as we begin to connect the DMCPI to the new Government of Canada’s innovation hub.

  2. Comment by John Mooney posted on

    At the risk of labouring the point, can we have a follow up article which actually provides the promised details on the benefits of reverse mentoring?

  3. Comment by Alison Shimmens posted on

    Confused - the link I received within Jeremy Heywood's seasonal message - was 'Who would you like to reverse mentor?' - but I can't find it? Have we all missed something obvious on this page?

  4. Comment by J.Doe posted on

    How feasible is it for someone to work in another country's Civil Service for a period of time after working in Britains?

  5. Comment by R Singh posted on

    Again - what exactly is "reverse mentoring"?!

  6. Comment by Janet McC posted on

  7. Comment by Kate Streatfield posted on

    Same as Mark - I was looking for the 'reverse mentoring' bit!

    • Replies to Kate Streatfield>

      Comment by Deborah Page posted on

      Very Interesting reading.

  8. Comment by Mark Chambers posted on

    As this article was flagged as highlighting 'reverse mentoring' it would be useful if more detail of what is actually involved in this was communicated and whether the Civil Service in this country supports or facilitates it - and if so, how. Thanks.

  9. Comment by Hazel Swain posted on

    really interesting to see the passion and how other parts of the world manage the same roles.....we often sit in our own bubble and its enlightening to look at lifes issues with a different perspective.