Arts & Science students and recent graduates looking for career guidance met with leading alumni in business and finance at a Backpack to Briefcase (b2B) industry night in early March.
They mingled and networked at Hart House with alumni mentors that included presidents of consulting firms, entrepreneurs and veteran leaders in the fintech space.
A&S students like Laura Gravelsins, a PhD candidate in psychology, jumped at the chance to learn what awaits her in the job market after graduation.
“My graduate research is on an area that's very focused, but I hope I’ve built a repertoire of transferable skills,” Gravelsins says. “So I'm just wondering, based on the skills I have, where the mentors can see me fitting into the company where they currently work.”
Students and recent graduates come from a diverse background of programs across A&S. The b2B night was an opportunity to learn about the different paths the alumni mentors took to get where they are today.
I'm super excited to chat about those twists and turns and help students understand you don't have to have it all figured out right now.
“I figured I would come here and see how to transition my skills from something that's not necessarily career focused to something more career focused,” says Brandon Fawkes, who earned his honours bachelor of arts in philosophy and cinema studies in 2020 while at Victoria College.
The alumni mentors were quick to reassure, saying there are many roads that can lead to success.
“I've had so many twists and turns in my career,” says Kimia Karbasi, who earned her bachelor of commerce in 2018 while at Victoria College and is now a talent sourcing specialist at Vena Solutions.
“I'm super excited to chat about those twists and turns and help students understand you don't have to have it all figured out right now,” Karbasi says.
For the alumni mentors, the b2B event is an opportunity to connect with students and give back. Long-time mentor Deepak Ramachandran says that the energy of the students is infectious.
“Young people keep me young,” says Ramachandran, who earned his bachelor of arts in 1991 while at Victoria College. “I find this age between 16 and 30, people are doing a lot of self-inventing. I love being with people who are at this stage of life and helping them think about what they want.”
If I can do it, they can do it. Sometimes if they don't see someone that looks like them or is like them, they don't think it's possible. And I'm saying — It's possible. I did it.
Ramachandran is the CTO and co-founder at fintech company FundThrough. Returning to Hart House gave Ramachandran the opportunity to reflect on his time at U of T. The philosophy grad’s favourite memories were of hanging out at cafes like Diabolos, at University College, after class and arguing with “other philosophy geeks.”
Another long-time mentor, Evelyn Foo, who earned her bachelor of commerce in 1987 while at New College, advised students to take advantage of their time at the University and told them the right attitude can be as important as their credentials.
“If I can do it, they can do it,” Foo says. “Sometimes if they don't see someone that looks like them or is like them, they don't think it's possible. And I'm saying, ‘It is. It's possible. I did it.’”
Foo is president of her own consulting company, EFoo Consulting Inc. She counsels not to worry about failure, saying it’s a part of the process.
“Be curious, be adventurous,” she says. “Don't be afraid. There's no downside to trying everything and anything. And don't take it personally if something doesn't work out. Experience is great. It just shows what’s not for you. And that's okay.”