The BSS Connection
There’s no doubt that having options is a wonderful thing. But at times it can be overwhelming and confusing when you’re young – especially when trying to determine which direction to go in your life. One of the great benefits that comes with experience is it can help you see through confusion to the big picture. With the BSS Connect Mentorship Program, alumnae who are more advanced in their careers can share the wisdom of that experience with recent graduates – to the benefit of everyone involved.
Hailey VASYLIW ’10 was in her second year of a commerce degree at the University of Toronto when she won a scholarship from HSBC, as well as two internship opportunities with the bank – one in commercial banking and the other on the trading floor. “I really was interested in finance but I didn’t know how to get into investment banking,” says Ms. Vasyliw. She reached out to the Advancement team at BSS and asked if she could be connected with any alumnae who’d worked in capital markets for some career advice. “That’s when I was connected with Heather.”
For Heather CLYDE Stewart ’81, the BSS experience was more about friendships than about networks. “Some of my closest friends are from my days at BSS,” says Ms. Stewart, former capital markets senior executive and founder of Eden Park Group, which provides career and leadership coaching and consulting services. “Graduates of my generation, and following, who are in the capital markets or business in general, are now able to create intentional business networking opportunities for younger women.”
When Ms. Stewart and Ms. Vasyliw met, Ms. Vasyliw was embarking on job interviews and the two spoke about her goals. “It was helpful for me to figure out how to present my story as I went through the interview process. Heather also helped with identifying which job was the best overall fit for me, in terms of culture, opportunities, supports and further education,” adds Ms. Vasyliw. “As a student you’re so focused on getting your first full-time job. Her perspective helped guide me to the right decision, making sure I was asking myself all of the right questions”.
When Ms. Vasyliw was in the process of recruiting for a full-time job, she turned to Ms. Stewart again. By the time Ms. Vasyliw had made it through interviewing, she’d received offers from Walmart and BMO. “I had a week to respond and I was still waiting to hear from HSBC,” she recalls. “This is where Heather was super helpful. What she was able to provide was that long-term-thinking lens.”
Other people Ms. Vasyliw consulted focused on two or three years out. “Heather looked at the whole package. There was lots of analysis in terms of top priorities, non-negotiables, pros and cons lists. We did a lot of brainstorming. She was my sounding board through the whole process.” Ms. Vasyliw also appreciated the fact that Ms. Stewart could guide her through the lifestyle implications of her choices. “It was nice to have that insight of what does this mean in terms of other goals in your life – being well-rounded, happy, motivated, set up for success.”
Ms. Stewart, who has taken a leadership role in the BSS Connect Mentorship Program, has been involved in various volunteer activities at the school since her graduation, among other things as a Year Rep, as lead on a fundraising campaign and as part of the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees. Mentoring, she says, allowed her to give back by sharing her career experience, providing Ms. Vasyliw with encouragement “as she stepped into her self-confidence more fully” and being part of the excitement as Ms. Vasyliw celebrated the success of starting her first full-time job. “The lifelong learner in me enjoyed understanding first-hand some of the challenges and opportunities facing young people starting out in their career today,” Ms. Stewart adds.
With Ms. Stewart’s help, Ms. Vasyliw saw that Walmart was going to be a good fit for her. Starting out in a finance rotational program, now four years later Ms. Vasyliw has transitioned into being a happy part of the company’s buying team. “It was a really meaningful connection for me, and something that has continued to help me throughout the years,” says Ms. Vasyliw. It also got her involved as a volunteer with the BSS Alumnae Association, providing her the opportunity to give back and, one day, to share her experience and wisdom with someone who’s just starting out.
Nora Underwood is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Her daughter, Izzy Powis, graduated from BSS in 2014.