Alumni Interviews: Rani Pooran a champion of diversity and inclusion
Rani Pooran set her sights on political science and international work and hasn’t looked back
When she first arrived at U of T as an Arts & Science undergraduate, Rani Pooran (HBA 2001, Victoria College; Masters of Information Studies, 2004) envisioned herself planning for a career in law or academia by studying English literature. After about a year, Rani set her sights on political science and international work instead and hasn’t looked back since.
Arts & Science spoke with Rani in the lead up to the Next Steps Conference, a two-day professional and personal development conference for transitioning students and recent graduates. Rani will speak at the event, sharing insights from her experience of working as a Senior Advisor with BMO, and previously with PwC and KPMG including roles based in the UK and US.
Did you have a sense of your career direction when you were a student?
During my first year, I was contemplating law school or academia (neither of which I ended up in) and wanted a specialized degree that would give me that flexibility and suit my interests. My original idea was to major in English and political science because my strengths were always in social sciences and humanities, so that part was easy. I ultimately thought English Literature was not the best choice for me career-wise. I decided instead to focus on Political Science, Western European History and Spanish. These subjects gave me foundational knowledge and skills for my Master’s Degree in International Relations and Information Science, in addition to my various roles in industry since graduation.
How did your undergraduate studies prepare you for the things that came next?
Core foundational skills like planning, time management, prioritization, critical thinking, analysis and research have been central to every role and in planning career moves since undergrad. I first learnt these skills at university.
Tell us about your current role as Senior Advisor, Diversity & Inclusion, Wealth & Global Asset Management with BMO.
It is my best role so far in 13 years of working. I help the Wealth and Global Asset Management businesses assess their diversity and inclusion needs, goals and priorities. Then I design strategies and plans to meet those needs. These groups are a big part of BMO’s international portfolio, so it’s a good fit for me in terms of my education and work experience. Diversity and inclusion is topical right now across the globe; almost daily there is a story or report in a newspaper related to these issues. In fact, BMO just won the Catalyst Award for its efforts to advance women in the workplace for the second time this year. It’s a pioneering company for diversity and inclusion and it’s a great area to be in.
You’ve had international work experience, notably in the UK. Did you find the experience of working abroad beneficial?
Working abroad was an invaluable experience. I did it early on in my career and I will do it again. Exposure to differences in this way teaches you about alternative ways of thinking and problem-solving. It challenges your way of understanding the world and others; it forces you to ask questions. While working in London, I got a better understanding of what it means for a city to be a global financial centre. I also understood what makes Canada unique and what we need to do differently to be more globally competitive.
What advice do you have for students, especially for those just about to graduate?
Set a direction for yourself and develop resilience and flexibility. There will be unexpected turns and you may not get exactly what you are seeking when you want it. It’s important to be prepared by having a back-up plan that still keeps you moving in the direction you desire. I would also suggest continuous learning; it doesn’t stop just because you’re graduating. There are so many ways to learn through courses, special assignments, mentoring and peer relationships, as well as community engagement activities.
What can transitioning students and recent graduates expect from attending the Next Steps Conference?
I hope that they will leave the conference with knowledge and some resources to help them identify career possibilities of which they weren’t already aware. If they have an idea, or sense of direction, I would like them to leave knowing what it takes to make their first career step happen. I’m taking part in the conference as I feel it’s important to help students understand the possibilities an arts background offers in terms of career paths, provide insight into how to find jobs after graduation and emphasize the importance of career planning.
Don’t miss out on two days of discussions, workshops and inspiration to help you kick-start the rest of your life. Register now to attend the Next Steps Conference, which takes place April 28-29, 2017.