Reunite 2018: grads on how they got their start, career-defining questions
September 20, 2018
How do you get the career you want? Be strategic, say three notable Rotman alumni: follow smart people, know what you care about and don’t be afraid to dive into a new industry.
During an evening of fireside chats — which will kick off this year’s Reunite at Rotman weekend, the School’s annual alumni event — entrepreneurs Farhan Thawar (MBA ’07) and Chia Chia Sun (MBA ’00) and mining executive Jason LeBlanc (MFin ’11) will elaborate on these points and more. Through these informal group chats, current students and grads will get the inside scoop, and have the opportunity to ask questions, on how these and other alumni launched their careers in tech, women’s health, mining and various other industries.
Now, with Reunite 2018 just a few weeks away, these fireside chat speakers hint at what attendees can expect to hear.
Follow extremely smart people
In planning his career, Farhan Thawar (MBA ’07) has constantly asked himself one question.
“With every opportunity, I always think ‘will I get to spend lots of high-quality time with really smart people?’” he explains. “Because the best learning and most meaningful experiences come from working with the most intelligent, creative minds.”
Reflecting on this question paid off for Thawar. Following smart people led him to Rotman, where he completed his MBA, and to various tech companies, where he’s served in CTO and VP Engineering roles. In 2015, he and fellow Rotman grads Daniel Debow (JD/MBA ’00) and David Pardy (JD/MBA ’16) made one of their smartest moves by cofounding Helpful.com, a leading business technology company.
For his upcoming talk, he’ll discuss exactly how he got started and the importance of challenging what we think we know.
He hopes there might be a few aspiring entrepreneurs at his fireside chat.
“Entrepreneurship is a way of thinking. It’s about being wired to get things done and trying new things,” he explains. “I hope that everyone I meet, regardless of their job title or industry, will think about how they can try out new crazy ideas and experiment.”
What do you really care about?
Meanwhile, Chia Chia Sun (MBA ’00) encourages professionals to consider another question when it comes to their work.
“What do you really care about? When you figure out the answer, you’ll know what you need to work on for the rest of your professional life,” Sun says.
Sun knows that she cares deeply about creating a dialogue about women’s health. Today, as CEO and founder of Damiva, which manufactures feminine care and beauty products using natural ingredients, she’s getting women to talk openly about their bodies and the aging process.
For her talk at Rotman, she’ll reflect on her path from geneticist to MBA student to biotech professional to CEO. And she hopes to chat with young women about supporting other women at work, why knowing how to read invoices and balance sheets is critical, and how everyone can uncover their professional purpose.
“Generally, if you maintain a very extreme but open-minded focus on an area of unmet need, you will get the financing and attention you need to get going,” Sun explains.
Consider all the opportunities
Meanwhile, when Jason LeBlanc (MFin ’11), CFO and senior vice president at Yamana Gold, returns to the School he’ll be urging attendees to consider the range of industries and opportunities open to them.
He’s planning on sharing his perspective on the mining industry.
“People tend to overlook opportunities in mining, but it’s a significant part of the Canadian business identity,” he explains. “I’ve worked with some very bright people, developed interesting programs and worked on some fascinating deals.”
As well, LeBlanc will explain how he got his start — including how he established a knowledge base for in an industry he was new to, pitched to senior leaders and developed a plan for his career.
“It’s important to have a plan. Make a list of interesting places you want to work and utilize your network,” he says.
Beyond this, he wants to share some thoughts on what he wished he’d known as a Rotman student.
“It’s surprising how much you’ll learn on the job — and how much you’ll need to learn as you advance in your career,” says LeBlanc. “My advice to students is to get a handle on leadership skills, ethics and governance in a corporate environments now, while they have access to professors and classmates with so much experience. In the long run, it will serve them.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories » | Join us for Reunite @ Rotman »