1. Why do you think it is important for women in finance to have courage?
I want to preface this by defining what courage means to me – it means being comfortable with being uncomfortable, learning from failure and embracing diversity. Courage is a defining characteristic. For women in finance, it is important to adopt a risk-taking mindset vs being risk averse. High risk means high reward, right? – the classic trade-off. The traditional sense of courage is standing out in a male dominated field, but that’s changing. It is now a combination of courage, commitment to the field, and changing views about what finance really entails. Now more than ever, careers in finance are getting niche, and the options are increasing – whether that’s banking, trading or even venture capital. Having the courage to explore different avenues is necessary because it helps us visualize the “what’s next”, and create long-term plans that we work so hard towards, but will fulfill ourselves as well.
2. Please provide a brief introduction of who you are.
I am Qhalisa, and I’m a recent alumna of the Accounting and Financial Management program. I moved to Canada from Kenya for university about 5 years ago. This meant that I was unaware of the career landscape, not even knowing what the “big 4” was, or whether finance was for me. A huge learning lesson, through my own experiences and seeing others, is that it’s ok not to know what you want, in fact it is more exciting to not know. So, I decided to take advantage of my co-op terms to discover what I didn’t know. I began at EY, which was a great first corporate experience, although the work didn’t excite me. I moved on to the Manulife investments team which provided me with a valuable team experience. My interest in finance began to peak at this stage, where I pursued the Student Investment Fund (SIF) and took more finance courses. I did my third co-op at the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan in private market valuations which honed my technical skills, although I realized that technical valuations wasn’t my passion. My last co-op term was very serendipitous! I was lucky to get a position at a healthcare venture capital fund, iGan Partners, which is where my initial spark for VC was born – it was that “aha” moment of, “I think I know what I want for now” – stress on the “for now” since my goals are always changing. Since then, I took on opportunities that broadened that skillset such as BET courses, getting more involved in the robust Waterloo innovation ecosystem, doing some work with Front Row Ventures etc. I also worked part-time with a healthcare start-up, Adra Care, and had an opportunity to work with Information Venture Partners for a few months as I finished university. During this time, I gained interest in the impact investing landscape and began my recruitment process with Amplify Capital (formerly the MaRS Catalyst Fund). Then COVID hit, which pushed my start date out a little – but that brought on a new and amazing opportunity to work at Georgian Partners, Canada’s leading growth equity investor – so, I’ve had the privilege of seeing almost all stages of the VC landscape. This year has certainly taught me the importance of being versatile and adaptable to unexpected events. I started at Amplify Capital about 3 months ago and now I know what excites me, after a long journey. For now, my long-term goals involve going back home to Kenya to work in the entrepreneurial ecosystem there, and impact investing is one step in that direction, despite my constantly evolving goals.