As the Senior Vice President of Business Development at AscendantFX, Shemina Jiwani brings over ten years of international payments experience in her role. Before joining AscendantFX, she enjoyed a memorable stint in Alberta where she owned and operated a resort. Given her own career journey, her best advice when it comes to planning your career isn’t surprising. She says don’t — and see where it takes you.
My first job ever was… As a cleaner for my dad’s office with my brother and sister. Now that I think about it, I am not sure we ever really got paid for that…I was also a receptionist for my dad for two weeks a year when his regular receptionist would go on vacation, and thought it was the coolest thing to use a typewriter.
I chose my career path because… Well, I didn’t. I knew I liked marketing but I also knew I really liked numbers and analysis. After I finished university, I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I started working with my brother-in-law at Thomas Cook Financial while I decided. I put my head down, met some great people, worked hard and took on different roles when they were available. When colleagues left Thomas Cook to join Custom House, I was recruited and quickly jumped into management. I haven’t looked back since.
My proudest accomplishment is… Having my kids, a 2 year old daughter and a 4 month old son. I started my family late in life and having my daughter was no easy feat. It was the toughest and the most gratifying experience of my life. Now we are in the midst of adopting our son from Morocco, which is challenging for different reasons but something I am so grateful we have taken on.
My boldest move to date was… Deciding to leave my job at Custom House to build, run, and operate a development resort in Canmore, Alberta. It was a hard five years but I learned so much about managing people, budgets, and external stakeholders. Owning a business exposes you to so much and gives perspective that you don’t get otherwise.
I surprise people when I tell them… My age. My Indian genes make me look a lot younger than I am.
My best advice to people starting their career is… Be open to different paths. I either thought I would work for an investment bank or an advertising agency. I would have never dreamt that my career path would look like this.
My best advice from a mentor was… Don’t be passive. It’s ok to actively pursue opportunities and to make people understand your goals and your accomplishments. That is an area I still struggle with.
I would tell my 20-year old self… Be patient and learn to enjoy the small stuff. I am a planner, so I tried to plan everything about my life including my career path, my education and my family life. The more I tried to control things, the further they would go from my plan. Now I can see that my path had some pretty great moments. And of equal importance travel…A LOT!
My biggest setback was… The biggest disappointments have come from decisions made by ownership groups not choosing to move forward on initiatives that I truly believe in.
I overcame it by… Pushing issues when I felt it was necessary. My experience in owning my own business made me realize that I may not be privy to all of the information affecting a decision. I have learned to accept decisions, not take them personally and move on.
Work/life balance is… Impossible in the true sense of the word. There are trade-offs you have to make and my current work environment makes my trade-offs more manageable by giving me a lot of flexibility. I once read that you can do 3 out of the 5 things really well at any one time – family, sleep, career, fitness, and friends. I think that is unbelievably true.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I am a crazy hockey fan. Sports are ingrained in my blood. I grew up in Edmonton, so the Edmonton Oilers are my team.
I stay inspired by… Reading about or meeting other people. I find you can be inspired by everything around you if you are looking. When I really need it, I throw in a shot of Tony Robbins.
The future excites me because… So many traditional boundaries don’t exist anymore and we are opening our minds to so much possibility. I am excited about the team I currently work with and having so many innovative thinkers around me is inspiring. The level of collaboration in our space has also increased and working with competitors like the big banks is becoming commonplace. There is so much out there it’s becoming increasingly hard to keep focused.
My next step is… To come home from Morocco and figure out what my ‘balance’ looks like.