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The real world: HBA students shadow industry leaders

  • Communications
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  • Dec 13, 2018
The real world: HBA students shadow industry leaders

From left to right: Jory Cohen, Justin LaBrash, Vicki Saunders, and Katherine Tang

Ivey’s Social Impact Club (SIC) is putting a literal spin on the phrase “follow the leader.”

This year marks the pilot year of SIC’s Day in the Life (DIAL) program: an opportunity for Ivey students to job shadow a leader in a social impact organization.

“This program is important as it addresses two areas,” HBA student Betty Wang, Vice President of Not-For-Profit at SIC, said. “First, it allows students interested in the social impact space to find leaders they can be inspired by and learn from. And second, this program lets students see how the skillset they acquire today at Ivey is extremely applicable to the non-profit sector.”

For its first semester, DIAL featured two leaders: Vicki Saunders, Founder of SheEO, and Jory Cohen, Director of Social Finance and Investment at Inspirit Foundation.

DIAL will run again next semester with leaders from World Vision, SickKids Foundation, and Public Consulting Group. Any Ivey student is eligible to apply by submitting an application and interviewing with a SIC executive.

“Ivey Social Impact Club strives to inspire students to use business as a tool to create positive social change,” Wang said. “Not only do we raise awareness, we provide opportunities for students in areas of community engagement, social finance, social entrepreneurship, and not-for-profit.”

A day in the life of Vicki Saunders, SheEO

For HBA student Katherine Tang, DIAL was an opportunity to combine three of her passions: social impact, entrepreneurship, and women empowerment. She shadowed Vicki Saunders, founder of SheEO, for the day.

Tang’s day with Saunders was jam-packed. She met the SheEO team, worked side-by-side on some of their key priorities, and helped Saunders prepare for a Board of Directors meeting. A day in the life at SheEO was a memorable experience, Tang said.

“I was blown away by how fast-paced and technologically-oriented this social enterprise was – it felt just like a tech start-up,” she said. “I was so intrigued by the people, passion, and operations.”

To cap it off, Tang and Saunders attended the Women in Machine Learning panel, held at the Toronto Machine Learning summit, where Saunders gave Tang the opportunity to speak to the audience about her day with SheEO.

The DIAL experience taught Tang valuable lessons on leadership. Shadowing Saunders proved that her leadership style was geared to raising up her whole team, not just herself.

“Vicki thinks at a quick pace, has a ton of experience running a company, and is a good listener. She is someone who is an enabler of her teammates – she knew everyone’s strengths, and guided each person to one another to share skills and knowledge.”

As for Tang’s key takeaway from the experience? Support women.

“The biggest way to move the needle on women empowerment is to have women support each other,” Tang said. “There is still so much in our way. For example, only four per cent of venture funding goes to women. When women learn to ask for help and are willing to give, we can really create an ecosystem that builds each other up.”

A day in the life of Jory Cohen, Inspirit Foundation

HBA student Justin LaBrash had always been interested in economics and finance, but what sparked his interest in impact investing was Western’s Engineers Without Borders. He attended the 2017 Social Finance Forum, where Jory Cohen, Director of Social Finance and Investment at Inspirit Foundation, spoke.

When Cohen was announced as one of leaders featured in the DIAL program, LaBrash jumped at the chance.

During his day with Cohen, LaBrash toured Inspirit Foundation and dove head-first into the organization’s portfolio construction. He had the opportunity to research some of Inspirit’s investments before joining Cohen on calls. He also met with the CEO, Sadia Zaman, and completed some financial analysis on a social impact bond that Inspirit was considering reinvesting in.

“The highlight was definitely getting Jory’s walkthrough of Inspirit’s Foundation portfolio,” LaBrash said. “Inspirit is the first foundation in Canada to commit to a 100-per-cent impact portfolio. It was really interesting to see how Jory balanced this commitment to impact with stable financial returns.”

Shadowing Cohen showed LaBrash there doesn’t have to be a trade-off between financial and social returns.

“Jory has an outstanding energy and was a pleasure to be around. I really appreciated how he let me into his thought process behind his investment strategy and the evaluation process for each investment,” LaBrash said. “I left his office optimistic about the future of social finance. As Jory would say, it’s only a matter of time before impact investing becomes the industry-wide standard.”