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Learning from leaders

Three Rotman Commerce students were selected to learn from top Canadian executives at the global initiative CEOx1Day.

Michael Williams, Gordana Terkalas, Niki da Silva, and Nicki Sabapathy
126 aspiring student leaders from across Canada met virtually with 124 CEOs and Presidents from companies including Hallmark, Right to Play and Shopify at this year’s CEOx1Day Future Leaders summit. The summit matched future student leaders in mentoring breakout sessions with business leaders, and left participants with insights into personal leadership skills, professional networking exposure and career management advice. A panel of three CHROs from prominent Canadian firms discussed the qualities they look for in future hires.


Three Rotman Commerce students, Hannah Tang, Joseph Nina and Yalda Lotfollahi Shabestari, were selected for the 2022 summit’s student participant roster. Each attendee left the event with a unique personal takeaway and learning experience applicable to their future career prospects and pursuit of leadership opportunities.   

The building blocks of leadership 

For Hannah, the summit opened her eyes to how professional development for corporate leaders have changed in recent times. “As job expectations have shifted during the pandemic, being an effective leader not only entails making the hard calls for the betterment of the company, but also investing in individuals,” she said. “It’s the individual employees that determine how far the team can go.”  

Joseph shares that “the main takeaway I had was that whether you are a CEO or an undergraduate student, the core values to drive success don’t really change,” he said. “Build strong relationships, embrace challenges, maintain a curiosity to learn, be a good teammate and always be genuine in your actions.” 

The mentoring breakout sessions helped Yalda recognize the importance of incorporating rest and relaxation into your schedule, no matter how busy you may be. “As people who want to achieve and grow, we constantly want to do something and jump from meeting to meeting,” she said. “However, you have to give yourself some time to unwind. Otherwise, you can quickly burn out.” 

Learning through engagement 

As part of the CEOx1Day application process, participants completed the Hogan Leadership Assessment to determine their unique combination of personality traits and leadership styles.  Hannah found the assessment debrief session particularly meaningful, “The session gave insight into how I could manage my career based on how I’d likely act in business circumstances,” she said.  

Joseph appreciated the emphasis on charting your own unique career path and knowing where you want to be in the big picture. “I think there is a preconceived notion of what success generally looks like,” he said. “In reality, success is different for each one of us. This lesson was a reminder to me to continue to chart my career path based on my own ambitions, and to continue to define success based on my personal values.” 

Yalda’s highlighted her experience learning alongside other participants in breakout sessions. “Spending time with other students in a small-group setting allowed me to see that although we come from different fields of study, we all have common concerns and talents to offer to the world,” she said. Yalda Shabestrai


Looking to the future 

Hannah valued the opportunity to meet and network with leaders from a diverse array of backgrounds, leadership styles and career goals. She plans to take forward President of Hallmark Carolyn Spriet’s session on situational leadership to apply to future professional opportunities. “Through this session, I learned about the ‘Dr. Seuss method of communication’, which stresses that any communication should be simple, easy to understand and repetitive like a Dr. Seuss book,” she shared. Hannah will make sure to apply this lesson to group work and always remember to present herself confidently.  Hannah Tang

Joseph’s big picture career ambition is to be a C-suite executive in one of the major professional North American sports leagues. “I will continue to challenge myself as a leader, work to empower others and remain humble throughout my journey,” he said. 

Learning from and networking with students and successful business leaders provided Yalda with important advice applicable to any future career direction. In particular, she highlights a conversation held with Judy Goldring, President and Head of Global Distribution at AGF, about scheduling and thinking about the many different components of work. “I will take Judy’s tips forward with me regarding how I structure my time to help me meet both my personal and career goals,” she said.  

March 3, 2022

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