Monday, November 13, 2017

Keynote speech for York University Finance Club

It isn't that I've stopped writing. I've just been writing different things. However, I have neglected my blog so I wanted to submit this.

I was recently asked to speak at an event for the York University Finance Club. A co-worker recommended me and HR called me and we set this up. I was very honoured to be able to give back to my school in a meaningful way.

I've attached the body of the speech below. I hope you find it useful, particularly the last part because it speaks to my lessons learned over the past few decades! Always open to listening to your thoughts.

Good evening everyone. Thank you for having me here. I am very honoured to be speaking here tonight  as both the Schulich School of Business and Scotiabank have a very special place in my life.  They have both synonymously been a significant part of my career journey.  So to be able to give back on one night to both is a privilege and well…efficient!

I graduated with a double major in finance and marketing but really my interest was in finance. I applied through the Schulich Career Centre and landed a couple of offers. The one I took was with Scotiabank in their Commercial Banking Development Program. I gave it a solid year before I started to think this wasn’t for me. Then another 6months went by and I was sure it wasn’t. About 2 years in I decided I wanted to move into another part of the Finance Field. I just wasn’t sure what. So I did my GMAT and went back to Schulich for the Accelerated M.B.A. Program. 

I took my M.B.A. year to learn about as many fields in finance as I possibly could. I spoke with different people in different professions and read and researched as much as I could. Then I targeted the avenues I wanted to focus on. Knowing which fields I wanted to enter was a function of the content and a function of my values.

I knew I wanted 2 things:

1) To surround myself with really smart people with whom I could learn from.  I was thirsty for knowledge and wanted an environment where that was celebrated; a place where curiosity and questions are wanted, needed even. 

2) I wanted to be working somewhere I couldn’t get bored. I wanted the work to be dynamic, the people to be dynamic, the opportunities to be dynamic.

Everything else I figured would fall into place. 

Enter Capital Markets. Enter Sales and Trading with Scotiabank.

I was in the 2005-2006 Capital Ideas Class at Scotia and haven’t looked back since.  My career has been predominantly on the Trading side.  I started trading Euro and Sterling Swaps as a market maker and was successful at it. That led me to be seconded to a team where I represented Capital Markets in starting up the Emerging Markets platform at BNS. After that, I was asked to join the Canada Swap Trading Desk as one of two market makers.  I traded Interest Rate Derivatives for Canada and the U.S. all through the financial crisis. In fact, my first day as Canada Swap Trader was the Monday after Bear Stearns blew up. It was intense and exhilarating.

As an eternal optimist always looking for the silver lining, I can tell you that as the financial markets collapsed my personal life flourished.  In that same length of time (2007-2013) I got married and had both of my children. My daughter, Ellil who just turned 8 and my son Rohit who will be 5 in December.  

Towards the end of 2013 as the markets calmed down somewhat and the worst of it was over, I was given the opportunity to resurrect the Fixed Income Options Business for Canada. There was a bit of trepidation and uncertainty given I would have to start a business from scratch but going back to my 2 things I wanted (thirst for knowledge and not get bored), there was no way I was going to not give it my best.  Within 6 months I took the business from nothing into positive PL territory and was offered the chance to take over the US Options business as well.  We’ve built out the business over the past almost 4 years and the profitability in the business has grown quite significantly in this time. 

Scotiabank has 89,000 employees worldwide.  There is plenty of opportunity to spread your wings. I have been fortunate to have been lined up with people who have provided me with that opportunity.  And if there was a skill set or something specific I wanted to learn that my current role didn’t provide, I seek it out elsewhere.
That’s how I got involved with Women in Capital Markets, which is a non-profit organization that provides support for women in our industry.  I ran their professional development program and currently sit on the steering committee for the Gender Diversity and Inclusion bringing men and women into the conversation at an effort to increase the talent pool within Capital Markets.

I also sit on a couple of different boards and am involved in aspects of board governance that only sitting on boards can teach.  Again, a room with smart, talented people (who do outrageously different things) but come together to make things better for the community and its people. 

With all this being said, there is plenty of room for my writing, for date nights with my husband, shuttling the kids to soccer and skating and piano, family nights in with pizza and a movie, bigger family celebrations for Diwali and Christmas, hosting dinner parties, girls weekends away in NYC, and afternoon tea and spa time with Mom.

I will leave you with 5 lessons that I’ve learned over the years.  If there is anything you take from my talk today I hope it is at least one of these 5 takeaways. I’ve already started drilling it into my kids, fingers crossed that over time some of it will stick. 

1)      Fall down 7 times, get up 8 (only diff b/w success and failure is the willingness to get back up    just one more time)
2)      Your only competition is yourself (everything else is noise)
3)      Think 6 steps ahead (especially in a world of social media)
4)      Make decisions that are consistent with your values à Know your values.
5)      Forgive yourself. We are not meant to be perfect. We are meant to evolve. Evolve with purpose.
You are all at the start of a very exciting adventure.  The opportunities afforded to you are endless. Living in this country.  Attending a prestigious University, and having access to unbounded information and knowledge at the tip of your fingers.  

Leverage your privilege.  

Work hard. Play hard. Laugh out Loud.

Don’t Instagram your life. Live it.

Monday, August 7, 2017

A modified Renaissance - ITALY – Part 2

Holidays to different locales provide sustenance in different ways. Some vacations de-clutter and relax the mind, while others fill a sense of adventure or accomplishment. Some holidays provide time for families to enjoy each others company and play together uninhibited whilst others are more solitary and feed the inner-self. Italy did it all.
In all honesty, I wasn’t sure what kind of holiday this was going to turn out to become.  11 people. 3 generations.  7 adults and 4 kids all with verbose opinions.  I’m sure we provide a lot of fodder for the likes of Russell Peters and similar artists.
All kidding aside however, the most unexpected and ergo marvelous part of this trip was my serendipitous love-affair with all things Michelangelo. I knew very little of this artist. Probably no more than my what I remembered from Mrs. Lloyd’s Modern Western Civilization class back in High School.  But let’s be honest, Grade 12 was over 20 years ago and details on these types of stuff were at best, fuzzy. 
So let me fill you in on my own transformation or ‘re-birth’ if you will thanks to Michelangelo.  Reason 1. DAVID.  Yes, I know we’ve seen pictures of this on postcards and advertisements and I’m not sure about you but I (and this is really opening up about how ignorant I was prior to this trip) had NO idea that the DAVID that Michelangelo sculpted more than 500 years ago, was the David from David and Goliath. His stance with the slingshot over his left shoulder and stones cradled in his right hand looking into the distance with his pensive glance is supposed to represent the moment just prior to him confronting Goliath.  If you know the story of David and Goliath, you know the meaning. It is the triumph of the Underdog over the Bully.  I’ve taken out the religious context here and really oversimplified things but to me, this is the gist. 
When I walked into the Academia and faced DAVID, I literally stopped in mid-stride in awe of this sculpture.  The only other time this has happened to me was when I was a teenager and went to see the Taj Mahal in Agra.  DAVID is a sight to see.  He is 17 feet in height and is physiologically about as descriptive as one can get with a marble medium.  Forget hair, eyes, contours of his body and facial structure, the man has veins and ripples in his chest that are so humanly accurate you have to wonder about how in the 1500’s a person was able to learn, understand and apply the anatomical elements with such scrutiny onto a marble structure.
Second. The Pieta. Again, one piece of marble to make an astonishing Mary and Christ. He was 24 by the way when he sculpted this. Not sure about you, but I was barely able to walk and chew gum at the same time when I was that age.  We pat ourselves on the back for getting a University education or landing a job.  This guy was sculpting a piece of art that together with his other works forged the course of humanity’s history.  How’s that for jaw-dropping.
Third. The Sistine Chapel and the Last Judgment.  To quote Goethe, “Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving.” His work is raw, powerful and controversial for reasons that are still argued about today. But through it all he stood by his work from start to finish and did not waver from his point of view. How can you not admire, respect and be in awe of such a person.

What Michelangelo has done for me is that he has given me hope.  He is a sign of what we can do if we choose to apply ourselves to our craft with utter conviction, hard work and love. If I can learn that lesson at this stage in my life and teach it to my kids at the tender ages of 7 and 4, I think this holiday has paid for itself multiple times over.  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Breathe In. ITALY Part 1

It’s 7 p.m. on a weeknight, not sure which one since I’m on holiday and I prefer to keep it that way. I’m sitting outside in the backyard on the patio with a glass of Chianti (entire bottle under 5euro by the way. One of the benefits of vacationing in the Chianti region; not by accident I assure you) and my almost 8 year old daughter beside me with her journal and a pencil recounting her day including whether or not she has ‘pooed’ (yes that is correct. Her bodily functions have become a hot topic under the hot Tuscan sun as the time difference and changes in water and food consumption have flipped her up internally.) I’m no stranger to that so there’s been a lot of re-assuring, coaching and feeding of prunes and fibre along the way. 
Holidays are different with a caravan of 11. Spontaneous trips to cafes to sip cappuccino and people watch are akin to hell freezing over as are 5 a.m. hikes up to some hilltop to watch the sunrise.  Both things for some uncanny reason I thought I’d be able to do. I say uncanny; you say ignorant. Fine. I admit it. Mea Culpa. Mea Culpa.  It might not be exactly as I imagined it but there have been a lot of pleasant surprises on the way.
Who thought I’d be on a gelato mission with 4 kids to rank Venetian gelato over Tuscan gelato? Or do a walking tour of Siena through the eyes of a babe? Siena was fascinating. I would go back. Would I say the same thing if it were a 3 hour walking tour with just a bunch of boring adults all pretending to know cute tidbits of the Paleo horse race or the 17 competing contrade’s? Probably not.
There have been some magical moments so far. Driving around in Tuscany is a sight for sore eyes.  Rolling mountains in varied shades of green. Vineyards carefully drawn out on some plots overlooking olive groves that go on for miles.  In the distance, umbrella pine trees sway gently. Strong, sturdy, Cyprus trees flag the landscape reminding you of what Van Gogh may have been inspired by while painting Starry Night. 
It is night now. Kids are all asleep. Another thing about writing nowadays…I have to do it in snippets. The sky is a blue-black freckled by tiny white sparkling specks.  They surround me and glitter as far as the eyes can see.  Above me. in front of me. Behind me. The beauty is endless.  I hear crickets and other little insects in the darkness and the silhouette of the beautiful green Cyprus trees are now a black façade jutting into the night sky.
I let out a sigh and my eyes start to water. I wonder why we spend so many years of our lives shielding ourselves from nature through brick homes and city streets and metallic cars. Then we barricade ourselves in concrete buildings with windows that don’t open and eat food in boxes and drink chemicals with artificial sweeteners.  Then when we realize we are suffocating or drowning, we buy a ticket and fly away.  We seek out remote, old places with trees, and water and stars.  We visit farms and make food with the crops that are grown. 

We seek out nature don’t we? We yearn to go back to the source from where we came.  Because that is where we can breathe again.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

February: I Heart Maui

I Heart Maui

Every year we go somewhere warm for a family vacation. This includes the 4 of us, plus my brother and his family, my younger brother and my parents. On this holiday, my Dad and younger brother weren’t able to make it so it was just the 9 of us.

This year we ended up in Maui. Long story as to how it was chosen, but suffice it to say that we were all on board! It was definitely more expensive than any other one- week tropical holiday we’ve been on, so I had higher expectations going in.

Boy have I been pleasantly surprised!

This island is beautiful in every sense of the word. Picture a vast ocean with a dozen shades of blue flanked by majestic mountains on one side and a velvety blanket of golden sand surrounded by coconut trees and banyan trees on the opposite coast. It is a place where sunrises and sunsets are equally picturesque and the sound of the waves slapping the sandy shores or volcanic black rocks beat to a rhythm of it’s own, depending on the mood of the ocean of course.

There is a wonderful trinity of a laissez-faire hippie sub-culture, the classic American attention to expedient customer service, and the warmth and affection of the native Hawaiian people.  I love that irrespective of where you are driving you will see random stretches of cars parked along the coast as people jump out to walk, swim or surf on the water.  There are more beaches than shopping malls, although the shopping malls that are around are exquisite. Every designer you can think of, side by side with art galleries from National Geographic to local artisans who make their living off their craft.

There is a custard apple tree in our front yard and wild bougainvillea vines of every colour line the homes of most neighbourhoods.  We can catch the sunsets from sitting in the living room and go for a run to the nearby farmers market for fruit, vegetables and fresh ground coffee. Did I mention there’s a bakery that bakes fresh malasadas (Portuguese donuts) every morning from 6 – 9, baked to order?

We’ve been on hikes that have ended up with us swimming under a waterfall to strolls along the beach with spontaneous viewings of whale breaches.  Natural wonders surround this island like traffic surrounds the city of Toronto.

Yes, this has been my life for the past week and I am not ready to go back to -20 degrees with wind-chill that feels like -30! Ugh.

If you haven’t been to Maui, go. If you have, I’m sure you will go back.

Mahalo Maui and Aloha.

Monday, January 2, 2017

My ONE conscious change 2017 and onwards

 I’ve been giving the entire New Year's resolution idea, a lot of thought. I’ve been reading articles and blogs, talking to several people and thinking through my recap of 2016 to see if I can add any value.

The one common thread in all the literature I’ve read distills down to one simple thing.

Choose Love.

Whether it’s love for your self (which is very different than love for your ego), love for a specific person, people, community, humanity. Choose Love.

If you are at a crossroads and not sure which way to go, pick the route where the source of it is love. Non-love can be masked in several different ways to confuse us, be it ‘security’ or ‘comort-zone’ or ‘pity’, but if you look at decision making from a source of love, trust that you will make it through ok.

Every year, resolutions begin with love. We want to improve ourselves, better our lives, increase quality time, learn more, give more. And yet as the year goes on, and we are asked to make decisions from small ones like ‘should I hit the snooze button and sleep the extra 45 minutes or just go to the gym?’ we choose non-love (or instant gratification in this case), because it’s easier. And that’s just it with non-love decisions…they are the easier choice to make. Doesn’t that suck even more?

Yes, it does! So when you choose love, be prepared to make the tougher choice. The one that forces you to run faster, laugh harder, sleep deeper, plan earlier, and manage time better. It is the spray of cold water on your face that wakes you up and forces you to stop feeling sorry for yourself and the same echo that tells you to not surrender your soul. It is the big decisions, the small decisions and the everything in-between decisions.

It is the seed that delivers forgiveness, empathy, maturity and the ability to get up and move on.

I am not a poster child by any means. My life up until today has been a cosmic display of discombobulated decision making. Even I surprise myself sometimes with the decisions I've made! But I have tried my best to choose love every time. And I will continue to do so, more consciously now. 

And, I am hopeful. No, I am certain. I am certain that it will work.

If I value love and if I make decisions based on love, can I go astray?