Meet Zabeen Hirji, Deloitte’s Global Advisor on the Future of Work

An advocate of inclusive prosperity through investing in people and ensuring everyone is able to realize their potential, Zabeen Hirji is a strategic advisor on the Future of Work, Leadership, Talent Management, and Diversity & Inclusion. With a ten year tenure as RBC’s Chief Human Resources Officer,  Zabeen covered 80,000 employees in 40 countries. Today, she is Global Advisor, Future of Work, at Deloitte, advising the firm and its clients on the changing nature of work, an issue key to the transformation agendas of business and government. Zabeen is also an advisor to governments and academia, on diversity,  inclusion, and preparing youth for the new world of work. She is Chair of CivicAction, co-chairs the External Advisory Board for diversity and inclusion for the Ontario Public Service, is on University of Toronto’s Governing Council, and is a Visiting Professor, Policy Institute, King’s College, London, UK.





My first job ever was… A part-time job at McDonald’s when I was 16. I developed some foundational skills like teamwork, communication, customer service and flexibility, which helped me get my first full-time job at RBC. And as this was shortly after my family immigrated to Canada, it helped me build a sense of belonging, and integrate into society.


I chose my career path because… It was where my passion met impact. When I first joined RBC, I didn’t intend to stay my entire career. One reason I stayed was because it is a great place to learn. After moving into Human Resources in 1997, I discovered my sweet spot. RBC’s success depended on its people, but what made it deeply meaningful was the impact I could have on fellow RBCers — inspiring people to set high ambitions and enabling them to realize their potential.


My proudest accomplishment is… My son and daughter. They are curious, independent thinkers, and socially conscious, and have the courage to pursue their passion with a commitment to excellence. But let me be clear: just like their mum, they aren’t perfect!


My boldest move to date was… Over 25 years ago, moving to Toronto from Vancouver — a city I loved and was very comfortable in — for more long-term career opportunities at RBC. I should point out though, I’m not big on “ests.” That move was a big life change, many more followed, both big and small, and shaped my path.


“Learning is the new currency in the future of work.”


My best advice to people starting their career is… Build a portfolio of skills and experiences. And remember, this doesn’t just happen through changing jobs. We can grow in our roles, for example by taking on new responsibilities or getting involved in projects in other areas. Go outside your comfort zone, not just once in a while, but every day and become known as someone who can learn quickly. Learning is the new currency in the future of work.


My best advice from a mentor was… Worry not about the level or title of the next job; instead, ask: what will l learn? That encouraged me to not only take on lateral roles, but even roles at a lower level for new experiences.


I would tell my 20-year old self… Judge your success by your own standards. Resist the temptation to get fixated on a singular definition of career success. Also, be active in the community; I’ve learnt that you get more than you give.


And advice to my 30–something, mother of two self… Be disciplined about making time for self-care and wellness. Whether it’s exercise, sleep, friendships, or simply reading a book — we all need “me time.”


“Resist the temptation to get fixated on a singular definition of career success.”


Work/life balance is… I think of it as work/life integration. For me it has changed over different stages of life. It even meant hitting pause on a career opportunity. For example, I declined the first executive role that RBC offered me in 1996. I had just returned from maternity leave, my children were both under the age of 3, and I hadn’t figured out how to be the kind of Mum I wanted to be and take on a more demanding role. I was prepared to take the career risk that went with this decision, but to be honest, it wasn’t that hard, because it was the right decision for me at that point in time.


I stay inspired by… My mum and the example she set. Shortly after my dad passed away, she brought her two teenagers to Canada from Tanzania, then devoted her life to raising us, giving us strong roots, but also wings to grow as individuals. She brought to life something my dad instilled in me – “do not constrain your ambitions just because you are female.” Mum is courageous, independent, curious and resilient.


The future excites me because… I was fortunate to have had a rewarding and meaningful career at RBC, sprinkled with opportunities to make a difference in our communities. I’m now building a portfolio career of roles across all sectors — business, government, academia and not-for-profit. I’m motivated by work that drives both economic and social impact, with a focus on investing in the development of people and building inclusive organizations and communities. I’m excited to be able to spend more time helping to building a stronger Toronto and a stronger Canada, one where everyone has the opportunities to realize their potential — a win/win that drives inclusive prosperity. My ambition is to have impact at a greater scale. It’s a bit of a roller coaster ride, but it is fun. I am definitely taking my own advice to push myself outside my comfort zone, every day!



Meet Erick Vandewedge, Challenging Unconscious Bias to Change the Face of Technology Consulting at Deloitte

Even with over 18 years’ experience providing technology advisory and implementation services, Erick Vandeweghe was surprised when he learned during an Unconscious Bias training that many male executives unknowingly favour men over women for analytical tasks. As the leader of Deloitte’s Canadian Technology Consulting practice, Erick has become more attuned to biases within the organization and encourages equality throughout his national team. Erick believes that we all need to take an active role to continue to recruit, engage and develop our most talented women so they are able to maximize their impact and bring their voices to the business. Meet him here.




My first job ever was… Working in the fields around Blenheim, Ontario, learning the hard way what a dollar is worth.


I chose my career path because… I had the benefit of experiencing different corporate cultures and environments through co-op experience while at the University of Waterloo. I realized that working in a hierarchical organization would not meet my personal needs or give me the sort of professional fulfillment and development I was looking for. I wanted a fast paced, rapidly changing, highly entrepreneurial environment. Consulting was the calling for me given the pace of change and the requirement to continue to be better and at the forefront of the latest trends and industry issues. Combining Deloitte, which has a great collaborative, competitive, and supportive culture, with the Consulting business model was the perfect set of ingredients for what I was looking for and I’m as energized and committed now as I was the day I started.


The best part of my job is… I often tell people that I have the best job in Canada. Technology is at the centre of so much in today’s economy. In my role, I have the privilege of seeing the many ways that Technology is having an impact to help our clients excel. Choosing where and how we focus as a business based on where the potential for impact is greatest.  


My proudest accomplishment is… Making Partner at Deloitte and doing it on my terms by focusing on the clients and issues that I thought were important, and developing my skills in order to become the type of leader that I wanted to be.


My boldest move to date was… Relocating to Melbourne, Australia for two years without a job lined up. It was unnerving getting off the plane with my wife, two suitcases and no return ticket. The next two years were some of the best experiences of our life.


I surprise people when I tell them… I am an avid cyclist.


My best advice to people starting their career is… Do something you love. Life is too short to be unhappy professionally. In the past, I have worked for an organization where I wasn’t having an impact, wasn’t valued, and wasn’t progressing. Work is such a big part of our adult lives that it can have a profoundly negative effect on so many aspects of your life if you don’t love what you do.


My best advice to people looking to advance their career is… Put people first. Apply the same principles when engaging with clients, peers and staff. Followership and teaming is critical in order to magnify your impact and meet the myriad of demands we face each and every day.


Sponsorship is important because… You never have all of the answers. You need guidance, inspiration, encouragement and endorsement at many points in your career. It propels us forward, opens new opportunities and keeps us challenged.


My best advice from a mentor was… Your clients are your currency. Always suspend self interest and find ways to go above and beyond to make your clients successful in all of your interactions, and good things will follow.


My biggest setback was… I’m a very shy person by nature, a personality trait that doesn’t fare particularly well in the notoriously Type A culture of consulting organizations, nor in the requirement for adept business development skills as a partner in a Professional Services firm. When I first started in the business, I tried to model my own personal style after those around me whom I thought to be successful. This was not being true to myself. Being confident in my own abilities and realizing that I needed to be true to myself allowed me to play to my own strengths. This was critical in centering myself and thriving professionally.


I overcame it by… The other half of overcoming that innate challenge was getting married. It may seem odd, but in many ways my wife Tara is the opposite of me. She challenges me in so many ways that she makes me a better person and professional by helping me soften the rough edges.


Work/life balance is… Different for everyone. What works for me may not work for the next person. You need to be confident in your impact at work, and learn how to pivot the focus between yourself, your family and your career.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… Very much about me. I deal with Technology every day professionally, so being disconnected in my personal life is my release. 


I stay inspired by… The talented people we add to our business each and every day. The new ideas, the new way of doing things, and the new approaches keep me motivated and inspired.


The future excites me because… We are working in a time of unprecedented change and extraordinary opportunity. The opportunities we are presented with now and the choices we make in responding to them will be defining moments for our organizations and our economy for decades to come.  



Want to hear more from Erick Vandeweghe? Get your ticket to The Sponsorship Summit today.