Snapshots from Grade 11 Career Day 2022
"The heart of my journey is curiosity," shared an entrepreneur in the hospitality and foodservice industry.
He recounted his first foray into entrepreneurship — more than 25 years ago — at the age of 14.
"Intelligently naive," is how Alex Rechichi, CEO of Crave It Restaurant Group described his mindset even at that young age.
"If I would have gone in with pre-conceived notions, I would probably never have started," Rechichi told Grade 11 students during Career Day 2022 at St. Michael's College School (SMCS).
"The biggest asset each of you have is youth," Rechichi continued. "Probably the most important thing was I did things at a very young age. I learned so much from that and my confidence continued to grow."
A serial food entrepreneur, Rechichi was among nine speakers to share their story in the 18th Career Day event at SMCS, the second to be held entirely virtually.
More than 150 students heard from professionals in industries ranging from computer science and medicine to retail and engineering. Each guest speaker addressed students in individual break-out groups culminating in a question-and-answer portion.
"I learned that for some, their career path from formal education to where they are today wasn’t a direct one," says Grade 11 student Delko Blazanin. "That they needed to adapt, be resilient, and take on different opportunities in their career. To excel, they needed to be truly passionate in their work."
For Dr. Bahar Sateli, that passion began in elementary school, when she watched her brother tap away at a computer. It blossomed into her writing code for the first time at age 12.
Today, Dr. Sateli is a Senior Manager and Data Scientist at PwC, with a specific focus on analytics and artificial intelligence.
"My ambition [is] to help people to solve real-world problems and have some big impact," she told students.
"Inspiring" is how Grade 11 student Rocky Johnson described the talks.
"They were all very honest about their experiences and how their jobs came about. They truly were so knowledgeable about their jobs, but aside from that, they had so much passion," he says.
Alison Coville described working her way up the ranks from a part-time salesperson at one department store chain to president of the Hudson's Bay Company before assuming her current role as Chief People Officer at The North West Company.
"I hope the students left with a wider appreciation for the kinds of opportunities available to them," says Coville. "From the questions, I could hear, almost feel, the eagerness to know more. I also hope they left knowing that you don’t have to know! I would tell my Grade 11 self — you’re doing just fine — be yourself and trust your instincts. You know yourself, so trust your intuition. That intuition ended up being my super-power.”
Two-time Canadian Olympian Anson Henry would concur.
"Your gut is very important," the former track athlete told students. "The feeling you have inside when something intrigues you or interests you. Your gut has to be your guide," shared Henry, who is currently a content creator. "The only way to make your gut smarter is to just try things."
He also suggested students reflect on this question: "What's the dream? Even if it's not clear."
Students got an up-close view of the health care frontlines courtesy of alumnus, Dr. Phil Shin '93, an Internal Medicine and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) physician at North York General Hospital.
"In some ways looking after the patients has at times been the easier part for me," said Shin, who underwent a total of 18 years of medical training after high school. "The more difficult part of my job has been to try to find answers to really challenging questions like how do you make a plan to look after 50 ICU patients when you only have 24 beds? Or how do you devise or implement a protocol that has to choose between two people who may need to be put on a ventilator if we only have one ventilator left to use, or what's the better policy to ban family members from visiting, because they may have COVID-19, even if that means the patient has to die alone in hospital?"
Despite the deep challenges of COVID-19 over the past two years, Dr. Shin told students, "I think that really I hit the jackpot by becoming a doctor and by working at the hospital that I work in and to have the roles that I have. And I still think that medicine is one of the best and most rewarding professions that are out there."
"I hope that the students were able to see a common thread of passion that all the speakers had for their work, even though the roles we have are so disparate," Shin shared following the event. "I would also like them to know that finding that passion may evolve over time, and that it is okay not to know what you want as a career when you are in Grade 11."
The event's keynote speaker, Enrico Colantoni, a professional actor who has worked under noted directors including Steven Spielberg and Steven Soderbergh touched on several key themes including self-reflection, imagination, and possibilities.
"What I hope these young adults take is an awareness of who they really are," he says. "We are more powerful and alive than we're being taught."
Colantoni says he pursued acting against his parents' wishes.
"I would tell my Grade 11 self that everything I've learned up until this point is not wasted. I'd give myself the permission to incorporate who I was as a child into my future self. Nothing is wasted."
For student Blazanin, who is contemplating a career in medicine, listening to the lived experiences of such a range of professionals provided greater clarity.
"The experience reinforced how important your network is, even the smallest of interactions, and how much you can learn from others through informal and formal discussion, coaching, and mentoring," he says. "Taking the time to meet and discuss potential future career paths as well as making opportunities to see firsthand what a day-in-the-life really looks like."
The takeaways for his classmate Johnson were equally impactful. "The importance of perseverance and curiosity," he says. "Many of the speakers did not even know what they wanted to do into university or for a while after. As someone who does not quite know what they want to do yet, this is very refreshing and great to see. With a good degree, you can truly start to specialize in what interests you and I cannot wait!"