Feb 12, 2018 Lillian Grant 6 min read
When FigBytes executive and co-founder Ted Dhillon suggested one of his team members, Faryal Diwan, apply for the GreenBiz 18 Emerging Leaders Scholarship, she was swamped with work and didn’t give it much thought at first. As an Implementation Specialist her workload is demanding, so initially, she didn’t have time. Once she got around to the application, she shared with me that she thought she didn’t stand a chance. Remind me never to trust her intuition. The selection committee thought otherwise and Faryal was asked to pack her bag for Phoenix.
GreenBiz’s addition of the Emerging Leaders Scholarship program, which gives young adults who live in Canada or the US a chance at winning an all expense paid sojourn to the GreenBiz event venue du jour, adds a whole new dimension to a conference’s usual suspects. How many times have you attended a conference only to be surrounded by a narrow demographic of your peers? That is not a bad thing, but adding another generation that is at a completely different stage of their careers than a gaggle of veterans can only make things more interesting.
This sought-after experience gives aspiring leaders the chance to steep themselves in the belly of the sustainability beast, rubbing shoulders with CEOs, directors, VPs, academics – in short, the movers and shakers who are dedicated to making the world a better place in their own unique and brilliant ways. There’s plenty of time for play, so in addition to attending plenaries, there are hikes, social events and sunrise yoga if you’re so inclined.
Applicants were selected based on a combination of financial need, representation of a minority background, engagement in activities empowering people of color and/or furthering multiculturalism, demonstrated interest in GreenBiz topics and sustainable business career aspirations. They must also be enrolled in an accredited college or university as an undergraduate or grad student or be an early-stage professional between the ages of 21 and 29. They are expected to attend all three days of the conference and be prepared to submit a short, written testimonial about their experience.
GreenBiz 18 is the third event that has offered this program, preceded by GreenBiz 17 and VERGE 17. Last week’s event was sponsored by PwC and attracted approximately 100 applications. I could say a lucky 10 are hand-selected by the GreenBiz Group based on judging the applicants’ views ranging from community development to diversity, but luck has nothing to do with it.
So, how did Faryal win her spot? Simple. 4, 5, 10, 11, 13, and 16. Not to say that the other 11 UN Global Goals are not important to her, but these ones are near and dear to her heart and it shows. Notable is that the first thing she did when she won her spot was tally the number of female speakers at GreenBiz 18 and was delighted to report that there were more women than men.
In her late twenties, Faryal is Pakistani-Canadian Muslim born in Karachi, who came to Canada to pursue her undergraduate degree in Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo. She is still testing the waters, a wise thing to do when you have “too many passions”, as she admits. When asked when the seeds of interest in sustainability were planted, she said that she has childhood memories of her mother yelling out of the car window at litterbugs to pick up their trash. That simple, innocent influence has evolved into an academic and philosophical life’s pursuit that she is honing through work experience, contributing to her community, and an interest in furthering her education.
On the first day of the conference, in the 45 seconds that each Emerging Leader was given to speak on stage, despite being nervous and the first one to speak, Faryal managed to share her role at FigBytes, spoke to the importance of including people of colour, women & indigenous people in the sustainability conversation, her interest in climate change adaptation, sustainable community planning, and her aspirations to be in sustainable consulting and engagement in sustainability. Not sure how she did it but she also talked about implementation of sustainability in creating public spaces for communities.
Despite coming from a family of business people, she never leaned in that direction, a testament to the power of a mother’s yelling. Something resonated early with her and it endured. A few years ago, she spent some time with an uncle in California who encouraged her to explore a sustainability conference in Vancouver that she was considering. While there, she explored the tradeshow floor speaking to different people and businesses, further inspired by the seemingly endless possibilities where she might focus her “too many passions”. It was there she met FigBytes CEO, Colin Grant. Something about FigBytes resonated with her and she ended up working for the company in our Ontario office as an implementation specialist. She has worked with a variety of clients across the public and private sectors and has been exposed to strategy formation, implementation, reporting and communication from soup to nuts.
Among her interests are climate change adaptation, sustainable community planning, engagement in sustainability and aspiring to work in sustainable consulting. If that isn’t ambitious enough, there’s also the implementation of sustainability in creating public spaces for communities. Still not enough? She’s also interested in possibly running for office. So much so that she attended a full day information session on how to do it. If she doesn’t run herself, she’d like to support a woman of colour in her pursuit. She is quick to point out that no woman of colour has run for office in Waterloo.
GreenBiz Group Chairman and Executive Editor Joel Makower said, “Faryal represents the new generation of sustainability professionals, committed to ensuring that the fruits of a sustainable society inure to all of its citizens, and undaunted by the challenges ahead. We were impressed by her story, how her upbringing shaped her worldview, including the power of gender, economic and ethnic diversity in ensuring a just and sustainable world.”
You can tell Faryal she’s hard working, intelligent, and full of potential but that isn’t as meaningful to her as lauding her volunteer work. She gives her time to causes including the Coalition of Muslim Women, mentoring a high school student for YWCA, tutoring for the English Program for women refugees, PR coordinator for the upcoming Bring on the Sunshine Festival 2018, Neruda Arts, member of the Young Queens Collective, and organizing/teaching salsa workshops for seniors at the Kitchener downtown community centre.
When GreenBiz commented that this altruistic element of her application really stood out to them, she was genuinely touched. She came by her enthusiasm for making a difference honestly. Her family and culture are steeped in commitment to the community and she has their full support as she continues to navigate her ambitious career path that will in some form, result in her making a difference wherever she applies her efforts. She embodies the notion that if you follow your passions, it all falls into place.
Faryal has applied for her Masters in Community and Regional Planning, and Urban Planning, and is looking into pursuing further education in climate change, economic development & innovation, and sustainability management. She hopes to create healthy sustainable communities through better urban planning and policies.
For this young woman of colour “with too many passions”, my prediction is that she will not slow down. As long as she is with us, FigBytes is proud to consider her part of our team.