Welcome to Six Questions with an Ethics & Compliance Officer, a new interview series created in conjunction with National Compliance Officer Day. Each post will shine the spotlight on a different member of the E&C community, from established CCOs and CECOs with years of experience to rising stars with a passion for ethical behavior. 

Q: How long have you been working in ethics and compliance?

13 years.

Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Stock broker!

Q: What are some of the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is to avoid destroying the playground. Employees perform best when they do their work for the pure enjoyment of it. When compliance must restrict this enjoyment by imposing policies, training, controls, and audits, it must do so by minimizing the impact on performance. The best way to minimize this impact is to ensure that employees understand why we restrict specific activities.

When we succeed and truly partner with our business leaders, that work is its own reward.

Q: What are three important traits an Ethics and Compliance Officer should possess?

  1. Understand the business and how it goes to market.
  2. Add value to the other functional leaders of the organization.
  3. Keep your sights on the long-term.

Q: If someone wanted to get more involved in promoting ethical behavior in their organization today, what could they do?

For those of us in managerial or leadership positions, I suggest these three things:

  1. Put their employees first (yes, ahead of customers).
  2. Reduce emotional and economic pressures.
  3. Read the book “Primed to Perform.”

Promoting ethical behavior without managerial or executive powers is obviously more difficult. When you have no control over policies, training, controls, audits or investigations, your best weapon is to speak up by asking – and remind everyone else to ask – “should we?” after we’ve answered “yes” to “can we?”

Speaking up, raising questions, and increasing transparency are things that we can all do. Those without power have different levels of influence, which must be exercised in the context of the existing culture. A certain level of emotional intelligence (EQ) is required to avoid career-limiting moves. It takes a certain level of courage.

Q: What advice would you give to recent college graduates and other professionals who may want to pursue a career in ethics and compliance?

Select an employer who is committed to creating and maintaining an ethical culture. Without commitment, you will be busy but not fulfilled.


Yan Tougas oversees UTC’s global ethics programs, supporting a network of nearly 500 Ethics & Compliance Officers, coordinating the deployment of major communication campaigns and training initiatives, and ensuring that best practices are adopted across UTC’s business units. Ethical leadership is the focus of all activities under his responsibility. Yan joined UTC in 2000 and held positions of increasing responsibility in the Legal Departments of UTC Power, UTC Fire & Security, and Otis Elevator Company. He took his current position at the Corporate Office in 2012. Yan holds an LL.B from the University of Sherbrooke School of Law (Quebec) and an LL.M. from University of Connecticut School of Law. He is a Fellow at the Ethics & Compliance Initiative and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Business. Yan currently lives in Connecticut with his wife and their three children.

You can read more of Yan’s thoughts on ethics and compliance on his blog, The Ethical Leader, and stay up to date with Yan by following him on Twitter and LinkedIn