Alumni Profiles

Our alumni community is over 14,000 members strong. From Toronto to New York City to Hong Kong and beyond, our graduates are making their marks in businesses and communities around the globe. We are exceptionally proud of all of our grads and are excited to share their stories. 

Featured Alumni Profile

Ivana Strajin (BCom ’13) on balancing business with creativity

Photo of Ivana Strajin, BCom '13

Like many Rotman Commerce graduates, Ivana Strajin, BCom ’13, is a woman of diverse talents and interests. Since getting her degree, she has built a strong foundation in business while working for CIBC, Loyalty One, and MediSys Health Group, and honing her skills in data analytics, corporate development and strategy, and mergers and acquisitions. But alongside this career success, Ivana has also been fostering her personal passion for filmmaking.

As a child, Strajin’s creativity was a constant.

“I was always the kid who was writing, coming up with stories, producing home videos, and putting on plays,” she recalls. “I wanted to share my voice with the world but I was also a bit shy – and risk averse.”

With practical parents who encouraged her to pursue a career where employment prospects were reliable, Ivana chose to study commerce, figuring that the skills she would acquire in business would serve her well in any industry.

While a student at Rotman Commerce, Strajin made the time to develop her abiding interest in film and storytelling. In the summer following her first year, she attended to the New York Film Academy, where she received formal training in directing, editing, and producing short films. Back at Rotman Commerce, she put those skills to use as a videographer who shot footage for several Rotman Commerce student groups. Even with these skills, however, Ivana was aware that she lacked the confidence to speak publicly about her work and her passions.

Facing fears

To combat her fear of public speaking, she joined Rotman Commerce Toastmasters – as a member in her first year, then as Vice-President of PR, and finally as President in her fourth year. Toastmasters offered her the support, practice, and motivation she needed to overcome her fear.

“It was a very comfortable environment,” she says. “Everyone wanted you to succeed, and I was challenged to present every single week on any number of topics. I learned so much, not just about public speaking, but also about leadership.”

Strajin credits her Rotman Commerce Toastmasters experience for setting her up for both success and failure.

“I wasn’t necessarily the best leader all the time,” she explains. “But I learned from my failures to take an empathetic approach to leadership. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes and if you treat people with empathy, you can help them succeed despite the mistakes.”

Toastmasters also helped Ivana develop her impressive networking skills. The many professional development opportunities, the leadership training, and the teamwork development she had access to as a student leader, coupled with the multitude of events and conferences offered at Rotman Commerce, gave her valuable experience in meeting new people and making connections.

Taking the plunge

Despite landing successful jobs in large corporations after she graduated, Strajin’s enthusiasm for film persisted and she established her own production company, Integrity Pictures, while working full time in the business world. Recognizing that her passion lies in creativity, she recently decided to devote 100% of her focus to her creative projects. And while for some, the prospect of a full-scale industry change might be daunting, for Strajin, it’s less scary with a BCom under her belt.

“My degree definitely gave me an understanding of all the different areas of business, and that understanding – along with the skills that go with it – is transferable,” she observes. “I think my business degree has given me the ability to look at things and understand what is emotional and what makes sense from a financial perspective.”

In the fall, Strajin will begin a Master’s in Media Ventures program at Boston University. She is currently developing a food documentary web series that explores the diversity of Canadian culture through family recipes.