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Message from our Chair On behalf of the Canadian Tamil Professionals Association, I would like to welcome you to Toast to Success. From our humble beginnings in a late-night conversation at Tim Hortons to an organization that has taken a strong step into its 11th year, CTPA has grown to service the ever-changing needs of the Tamil professional. Our initiatives are based on our pillars of networking, professional development and mentorship. These pillars guide us as we facilitate conversation through our signature events, Paalam mentorship program and development workshops. By creating these spaces, we hope to provide a platform for all emerging and established professionals through the opportunity to connect, learn and grow, regardless of their experience and industry. As members interact with us, we hope they are inspired by the increasing presence and success of Tamil professionals in various capacities. As each of you continue your journey in your personal and professional lives, we hope that these conversations help you write your own narrative. Who better to tell your story than you? Let’s take this opportunity to toast to our success for the journey that got us here and the one that awaits us!


thank you ,

TO OUR ANNUAL SPONSORS Learn about the annual sponsors of Canadian Tamil Professionals Association at www.tamilprofessional.ca/sponsorships. It is with their generous contributions and support that we bring forward remarkable experiences and opportunities.


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ABOUT US The Canadian Tamil Professionals Association (CTPA) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization focused on developing career opportunities for emerging and established Tamil professionals. For as long as CTPA has existed, the mandate has been to provide Tamil professionals with tools, training, and resources that maximize their potential and accelerate their success. Today, we continue to shape the future of Tamil professionals with innovative, forward-thinking programs that advance and support their profession at every stage of their career.


To foster professional development by facilitating powerful conversations, creating opportunities and inspiring future leaders.


Enrich Canadian society through the advancement of our professionals.


Integrity | Progressive | Collaborative | Inclusive | Passionate | Empowering


2019 BOARD OF DIRECTORS We’re here to set the bar for excellence. Over the years, we’ve transformed the way our community fosters both traditional and unique careers.

Thanusha Tharmakulasingam Chair

Anita Sivabalan Director of Policies & Governance

Abhina Mahendramohan Director of Marketing & Communications

Geerthana Jegatheeswaran Director of Professional Development & Signature Events

Kobica Sivarajah Director of Program Development

Abirami Ananthan Director of External Relations

Hindusha Murugendran Director of Mentorship

Nirushyka Kanagarajah Director of Internal Relations

Kesavan Jeganathan Director of Fundraising

Tishain Selvarajah Director of Finance


Malency Wainwright CEO at MSC Analytics

Sangeetha Punniyamoorthy Intellectual Property Partner at DLA Piper


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CTPA OVER THE YEARS OUR JOURNEY Follow us on our journey from the beginning of our inception, to the launch of our core programs and events, and finally to the big milestones of today. We are very proud to have come this far and look forward to an even brighter future.


10 Steps to Building Your Personal Brand Online WRITTEN BY SITHARSANA SRITHAS What if I told you that I got a job offer because of my personal brand? An actual permanent, full-time, decently paid job. What if I told you that you can too? I am going to save you the time and trouble of reiterating the same old advice that you may have already come across: being consistent with your branding, taking quality pictures, posting frequently and being yourself. Like most things in life, personal branding needs to be planned, intentional and purposeful. If I did not do this, then all my posts will be of me in bed eating Jimmy the Greek and binge-watching Criminal Minds (may switch it up once in a while for a Chipotle bowl and SVU combo). There is no denying the negative effects that social media can have towards mental health because of how it reinforces unrealistic expectations; however, a strong personal brand can be an asset for career building. It can lead to interviews, promotions, networking, mentorship and other professional opportunities. Here are 10 easy-to-do tips on how you can improve your personal branding so that you too can reap the benefits and level up in your career. 1. Do interesting things! It’s that simple. I don’t mean you have to do something exciting or extraordinary every day, but you also can’t build your personal brand if you are staying in bed all day, no matter how badly we wish that was the case. It can be as simple as trying a new local restaurant, learning a new skill, signing up for a free class or attending a workshop. Whatever it is that gets you going. Afterwards, reflect and share your experience with your network. 2. Be authentic. As a general rule, if you have to Google what to say then don’t even bother. It’s easy to tell when the content is original and genuine. Being authentic also means being real with your emotions. You don’t have to always be proud, confident or happy in all of your posts. It’s okay to be upset, it’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be not okay. You can define what it means to overshare with your social media audience but typically, being real with your emotions makes you more relatable and displays your emotional intelligence. 3. Create value. It’s important to be meaningful about the content you put out there. Things to consider before posting: Why is this important to me? Why is this relevant to your career? How is this content helpful for others? How could others engage with the content? Is what you have to say insightful or inspiring? 4. Plan! Plan! Plan! I have this one friend who dedicates one day in a month for a photoshoot. He would go around the city, has several outfits, and takes pictures to have enough content for the rest of the month. You don’t have to be that intense; however, if you have a couple work events coming up, write your captions in advance. Search up the most used hashtags for higher reach and visibility. If you are going to a conference, have the social media tags of the panelists in your phone,


so when it’s time to post, it’s a quick copy and paste. 5. Be in the moment. Timing is everything. If you attend an event and don’t post that picture until a month or even a week later, the excitement around the event would have died down. When you finally get around to making that post, you won’t get the same reaction and traction if instead you posted it on the same day. Make your content as current and instant as possible. I know that life can get in the way, so take advantage of content managing apps, like Hootsuite, to help you plan and automatically post for you. 6. It doesn’t always have to be about you. This might seem contrary to building a “personal” brand, but one of the top qualities that employers look for is the ability to work in a team. Show some love to your family, friends, co-workers and industry professionals. Highlight qualities or the work of people who inspire you and look up to. This also looks like engaging with other people’s content and contributing to the conversation. By doing so, they are more likely to reciprocate and engage with your content in the future. Continuously doing this will increase your visibility and reach in your network. 7. Diversify your content. We get it, you are hustling and making things happen. But if every post that you make is about your hustle, you have become predictable and people can no longer connect. The people with the best personal branding have diverse content that is relevant and personable. 8. Be human. People like people (unless you are like my friend Trina, she only likes dogs). Leveraging your lived experiences and sharing your story is crucial to building your brand. It’s good to talk about successes and accomplishments, but talking about overcoming barriers, especially when you are promoting a product or service, shows persistence and resiliency. Besides, people like a good underdog story. 9. Fake it ‘till you make it. It’s tough putting yourself out there. The first couple times I tried to get myself to post about my accomplishments, I felt cringey about self-promotion. In the words of my friend Laxana, “Just shut up and do it.” 10.  Post and forget about it. Once you create that post, forget about it and continue living your life. Don’t go back and keep checking for how many likes you got or if anyone commented. Creating a strong brand is great but not at the expense of your mental health. The goal is to build a brand, not to go viral. There you have it. Ten things you can do to build your personal brand. Now that you made it this far, you’ve got to follow me on my social media to see me walk the walk. FB/Linkedin: Sitharsana Srithas | Instagram: sanaasri


For ROY RATNAVEL, “started in the mailroom” is more than just a figure of speech. It’s the lead line on his résumé. It defines him—and is a daily reminder that hardwork, perseverance and discipline pays off. After he was imprisoned during the SriLankan civil war, he arrived by himself in Canada at the age of 18. His father was killed in Sri Lanka—just three days after he’d put Roy on a plane out of the country. All alone, Roy did many odd jobs to support himself in Canada at that young age. His first real job at a Bay Street investment firm was, literally, sorting mail. That was over a quarter-century—and a half-dozen promotions—ago. Now he is the Executive Vice President of CI Financial and the head of Sales and Marketing at CI Investments—the largest independent asset management firm in Canada. Roy’s ticket out of the mailroom came when he was moved to a sales-support position. He quickly elevated to Vice President of Sales. Then to the Vancouver office, where he became Senior Vice President to lead CI’s sales efforts in Western Canada. In 2016, he came back to Toronto, where he joined CI Financials’ executive team.

Quite a journey for someone who arrived in this country thirty years ago with USD$50 in his pocket. He currently leads CI’s national sales team that oversees $165 billion of retail assets across Canada as well as the development of sales strategies and initiatives that make use of CI’s diverse lineup of investment solutions. He has over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry and holds an undergraduate degree from University of Toronto. Roy is also involved in many philanthropic causes—including the upcoming climb to Mount Kilimanjaro to bring awareness and shatter the stigma surrounding mental illness and to raise money for the fight against this debilitating health issue that Tamils have for far too long ignored as a community. Roy is a mentor to many and an avid writer. He is an accidental Sri Lankan by birth, an unapologetic Tamil by heritage and a proud Canadian by choice. He lives in Toronto with his wife and son. 9

THANK YOU, VOLUNTEERS! Volunteers are the roots of strong communities. Thanks to our volunteers, our professional community, Canadian Tamil Professionals Association has grown strong and resilient. Even the smallest volunteer effort leaves a profound and lasting trace in our organization. We are proud to have an amazing and talented group of volunteers at CTPA. A diverse group of community leaders, their dedication, insight, due diligence and passion for the community help us make an impact on the this organization. We sincerely appreciate all that they do and would like to extend our deepest thanks for their vision and leadership.


It was during Toast to Success 2017 that I was eager to join a well meticulous and inspiring organization. I wanted to be part of an organization operated by like-minded professionals sharing the drive and motivation to dream bigger and accomplish goals in alignment with the Tamil community. CTPA gave me a platform to showcase my leadership skills but also provided opportunities to facilitate workshops, organize events and network within the community in order to develop my professional skills. Starting as an attendee at Toast to Success 2017 to becoming a volunteer the following year and now to being the Head of Signature Events, I have learned a lot about myself. I continue to evolve and I am excited to see what the future holds with CTPA.


Volunteering these past three years has been a delight while giving back to the community in many ways. CTPA has provided an opportunity to expand my skills sets and branch out of my comfort to excel beyond my capability. I have gained the ability to build on my confidence and take on more than I was previously able to handle. This year I was able to expand my network of professionals and had a chance to work alongside my director and a team of warm-hearted individuals to plan events, bringing us closer. Can’t wait to see what the second half of the year has in store. – NISHAANI JEYARAJ

INTERESTED IN VOLUNTEERING WITH CTPA? Watch our social feeds and website for 2020 volunteer recruitment! 10


Life will give you what you deserve W R I T T E N B Y R O Y R AT N AV E L

Growing up in Sri Lanka — my memories of my childhood wasn’t either very happy or terribly painful. But my father has always been an inspiration to me. He used to say, “You can’t control what people say. You can only control how you react to it. Have a thick skin and be likeable.” Best advice I ever received. He passed away when I was a teenager. When he died, I realized I never took the time to truly appreciate him. It taught me, in the most difficult of ways, to be thankful to people who are kind to me. He also taught me the difference between zero and one. One is your family and loyal friends. Zero is everything else. But school taught me to answer a simple question, “will this be on the test?” If the answer is no, then I had no time for it. Work taught me to dread my sales results every day. That is my wiring — I’m competitively paranoid. Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survives. For me, words are words, meetings are meetings, committees are committees — but, only ‘result’ is reality. Fighting is all I have done all my life. It is the core of who I am. Sweat the small stuff — is my motto. If you take care of the small stuff, the larger pieces will fall into place. Over the top optimists hallucinate; pessimists get depressed. However, both will not get anywhere. But hopelessness, is an awful wretch. Right after the dotcom bubble, by the end of a — now distant 2001, I was far more bright-eyed than wise. Almost ludicrously so, noting in my ill-fated, Pollyanna predictions for 2002, that after a miserable 2001, I thought 2002 might give me the reason to believe in an optimistic and brighter year immediately after. Well it turned out— not to be so. It took many years of hard work to change the momentum in my favor. This made me realize that we must be willing to see everything the way it is. That is—ruthless pragmatism, and we need that to win in life. I believe if you read too much — then you think too little. But, l recently dusted off a copy of a timeless classic — The One Minute Manager, by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. After reading an interesting quote written by Malcolm Forbes, “Failure is success if we learn from it” — led me to think that in some respects the best person to manage is, our own selves. We can be our most valuable asset and worst liability. Invest in yourself, learn from your mistakes, shortcomings and failures of your past. Always remember that ideas don’t have rights — and, facts don’t care about feelings. You can respectfully criticize any idea. If someone says you shouldn’t question an idea, then they’re hiding something. Successful people aren’t necessarily more intelligent or more talented than anyone else. It’s their habits and pragmatism that make them more informed, knowledgeable, competent, better skilled and prepared. While reaching for success, don’t ignore what makes you human. Doing so is a form of blindness. Good leadership means tackling your own imperfections head on and

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being self-aware. The important possessions you have are your credibility and brand. If you lose your credibility, you will lose your brand and the advocacy of leadership. I have watched Kawhi Leonard with great admiration of his strong and inspiring leadership throughout Raptors Cinderella run to NBA championship. By quiet, competent example, and great generosity of spirit, he has shown that a true leader is not divisive, mean-spirited, self-aggrandizing and other-blaming. Instead, a true leader brings out the best in others, speaks to the heart of the team, gives credit where is due, and accepts responsibility without discount, disparagement or deflection. I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things. A leader must always be willing to learn, listen and change. To improve is to change. You should never convince yourself of your own delusion and never should try to rationalize the obscene ideas into palatable ones. Guard against hubris, because it leads to delusions of grandeur. Always present a vision, but never convince yourself of your own ideas. Leadership is never about whether you added more to those who are selfmotivated and perform at a higher level — it is whether you provided enough for those who have too little of those qualities. It is no longer just about my personal achievements, but instead about enabling others to achieve. When my team members are promoted to bigger responsibilities in the organization or would show me the new car or home they bought, I feel I played a bigger role in their success as they played in mine. It’s a greatly rewarding and satisfying feeling. To that end, instead being motivated by money, be motivated by curiosity, generosity or kindness. Perhaps you will learn to see possibility — instead of risk. The choice of motivation is a fork in theroad. It not only determines what we do but how we do it. A different kind of motivation might lead to a different sort of outcome. The question is, what would you attempt to do if you knew you may fail? Would you stop? If this sounds like you, you are not the first to experience this sometimes-paralyzing crossroad that holds you from reaching your actual potential, and your ability to do great things. Fear has an ugly way of stopping many of us in our tracks. The fear of failure simply slows the pace, by forcing you to work less hard, preventing you from reaching a greater level of success. It is like driving with emergency brake on — it doesn’t let you achieve desirable speed. Learn to take that emergency brake off to gain momentum and to maximize your potential. American billionaire investor Ray Dalio said, “If you’re not failing, you’re not pushing your limits, and if you’re not pushing your limits, you’re not maximizing your potential. By and large, life will give you what you deserve.”

Paalam, CTPA’s mentorship program, provides individuals at any stage of their career with the resources, guidance and training required for a meaningful mentoring experience. Paalam is built on the foundational idea that through the sharing of knowledge, ideas and experiences, mentors and mentees can mutually impact each other’s lives.

ACCESS TO MENTEE DIRECTORY The mentee directory allows mentees to network laterally with other mentees in the program and in their industry. The directory features information on mentees such as educational background, career experience, and email information if you wish to connect and network with another mentee.

GROUP COFFEE CHATS We will organize group coffee sessions where we bring together multiple mentee and mentor pairs to discuss relevant career themes. This will serve as a great opportunity for mentors and mentees to interact across mentorship pairs.

FEEDBACK SURVEYS Frequent feedback surveys will be sent out to mentors and mentees so that we can understand how your mentorship relationship is going and how we can better support you.

WHY BECOME A MENTEE? Network with established professionals Develop and advance professional goals Gain guidance & support to face challenges Improve interpersonal skills WHY BECOME A MENTOR? Satisfaction of contributing to the community Exposure to fresh perspectives & ideas Enhance leadership skills Embark on new challenges

BECOME A MENTOR: bitly/2019PaalamMentor BECOME A MENTEE: bit.ly/2019Paalam2018Mentee 13

To Network or Not to Network WRITTEN BY DULA VIGNESWARAN Often times, attending networking events is not easy for many people. When you are invited to a networking event, the first feeling that may come to your mind is anxiety. You are not alone. This is a common feeling for many professionals. You are putting yourself in a place where you may not know anyone. You will be in situations where you will be outside of your comfort zone. The good news is that it is possible to get over the fear of networking. And once you do, you will be happy to attend such events because of the many benefits that come along with them. This article touches upon some of the perks of participating in networking events. You will increase your professional network Networking will allow you to expand your professional network. As a professional at any stage, you don’t know who you will meet at an event. Meeting people from various industries can be beneficial, as well as exciting! You could meet someone who will provide you with great insight and advice, or even someone that could offer you a great opportunity. Take advantage of this by learning as much as you can from the group of people you have a chance to talk to. You may even meet a potential mentor. Your confidence will increase significantly For those of you who feel uncomfortable with networking, attending more events will increase your confidence. You will soon become more comfortable with the idea of introducing yourself to others, and conversing with various professionals. The nerves will eventually go away. As you do this more often, you will become a pro. You may surprise yourself and be great at it! You will be surrounded by positivity “You are who you surround yourself with,” is an old, but true saying. You have the opportunity to meet the most hardworking and driven people at these networking events. This may give you the dose of motivation you are seeking. After


meeting such inspiring individuals, you may feel encouraged to chase your own dreams. By continuously surrounding yourself with like-minded professionals, you will eventually change your mindset towards being a continuous learner. You will be in the right environment to form meaningful relationships with people similar to yourself, setting yourself up for success. You have the opportunity to meet people you would normally never meet Networking provides a great opportunity to meet people who you would normally never have the opportunity to connect with during the normal course of your day. You will be surrounded by people who may not be the same age as you, or may have a different professional background. They may be able to offer you unique perspectives, advice and tips. Networking gives you the opportunity to learn from others and to grow as a professional. You will eventually get over the fear of networking For those of you who feel that networking is challenging, there is a solution. The more you attend these events, the more comfortable and at ease you will feel. Just be yourself! Start off by being bold and scheduling events that you would be interested in attending. If it makes you feel more supported, take a friend with you. Once you feel more comfortable, challenge yourself to attending an event alone. This will allow you to steer away from your safety net of staying with the people that you know. You will have a greater opportunity to mingle with more people and create more connections. At the end, you will be super proud of yourself and you will leave with the satisfaction of the great connections that you have made. Although it may seem tough, you will be happy you did it! The secret to networking is to go in with an open mind and a smile. Approach it with an attitude of learning versus gaining. And, don’t forget to have fun with it! Good luck and happy networking.



As busy professionals exposed to various stressors in the workplace and at home, meditation is an effective way to relieve and decrease our stress levels. There are also several other ways to help alleviate the amount of physical and mental overwhelm in our lives, that I will be touching upon. Ideally, uncovering the root causes of your issues and challenges is the first step to healing them. Life tends to flow with ease when you have a healthy diet, exercise and sleep routine. Here are some things to try that you may find helpful to improve your mindset and overall quality of life. Breathwork and meditation: Surely you have been hearing the buzz about inhaling deeply and meditating as methods to ground you and promote tranquility and calmness. It is not just a wellness trend, as meditation has been around since ancient times. You may wonder how to get started or may feel overwhelmed just by the idea of getting rid of your thoughts; but you can begin by sitting in stillness for just five minutes a day. There is no right or wrong way to do this, all you need to do is quieten your mind and be in a space where you will not be disturbed. If you can make it a daily ritual in your morning or evening routine, you will find that it becomes easier to gradually increase the time that you meditate. There are so many ways to start meditating, whether it is through in-person classes, online apps, listening


to guided visualization videos, using methods you’ve read in books or going to breathwork or yoga classes. Creating a comfortable and safe environment in your home or office while letting yourself float into meditation is a sure fire way to access the benefits of being deeply calm and even feeling blissful. You can light a candle, play soft music and use essential oils to enhance your experience of being in the zen zone. Learning to breathe deeply with intention, signals to the brain that you are no longer in sympathetic fight or flight mode. Your body will recognize that it is able to repair and regenerate areas that need attention and healing. Other ways to help you decrease stress are to seek help from a coach or counsellor, take good care of your body, mind, and spirit with acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care and reiki. And don’t forget, one of the most important ways is by being outside in nature. Forest bathing is now a thing, and is a walking meditation! As always, follow the advice of your doctor, but know that implementing simple methods of breathwork, meditation and complementary therapies can elevate your health and wellbeing. For more information, feel free to get in touch with me! Facebook: Dr. Anita Rajan, DC Instagram: @rajanwellness


Our Munnetram blog series last year featured the inaugural winners of our Toast to Success awards. These awards were created in 2018 to recognize leaders who have demonstrated professional growth and strong commitment to the Tamil community.


Toast to Success Established Professional award winner, 2018 From becoming the first woman of colour to be elected as the president of the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus’ Students Union 20 years ago, to working as the Executive Director of International Engagement at York University, she has accomplished many feats throughout her professional career. Her interest in education stems from her belief that it is one of the greatest equalizers, and she has found a way to make a career out of her joint commitment to education and international affairs.


Toast to Success Emerging Professional award winner, 2018 From Toronto, to Jaffna, to London... Dharsha has made exceptional contributions to the Tamil community by using both her legal background and her knowledge of the Sri Lankan political climate. She made a remarkable decision to move to Jaffna for two years and help co-found the non-for-profit think-tank, Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research (ACPR). The ACPR critically looks at policy issues affecting the Tamil polity in the North-East of Sri Lanka and actively includes community voices in advocacy and social justice efforts. She is focusing on learning more about public international law, as this is an area that will help her with activism.




Geetha Moorthy

An accountant by training, Geetha immigrated to Canada from Sri Lanka in 1983. Like many immigrants, she struggled to settle in Canada before eventually finding her footing in business. In addition to her promising career, Geetha founded the Narthanalaya Centre for South Asian Dances in 1985. It was at Narthanalaya that Geetha came across some students who were diagnosed with autism and became aware of the impact of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the South Asian community.In 2008, Geetha founded the SAAAC Autism Centre in direct response to the growing need for awareness and support for South Asian families impacted by ASD and related developmental disorders. The centre has since expanded its scope and services to support other newcomer communities because these families lacked access to vital ASD services and information due to language barriers, low incomes and lack of networks. SAAAC currently offers a diverse range of services that support 350 families annually. READ MORE



Shanojan Thiyagalingam

Born and raised in Toronto, Shanojan began his academic life in medicine at the  University of Waterloo where he was involved in neural stem cell research at Toronto’s top medical research institutes. During this time, he was also involved in social justice activism for Eelam Tamils. He later pursued medical school and earned a degree in Doctor of Medicine with high honours, despite significant financial hardship.He helped raise funds to assist Grenada’s cardiology aid society and completed internal medicine residency training in New Jersey. He was involved in medical research and presented in the U.S., Canada and Europe at the internal medicine, geriatrics and critical care societies. He is currently completing his geriatric medicine subspecialty training at the Mayo Clinic, ranked as the #1 hospital in the U.S. READ MORE


Profile for Canadian Tamil Professionals Association

Toast to Success 2019  

CTPA's annual signature networking event, Toast to Success, is back again! Join us on August 9 in downtown Toronto, for a night of celebrati...

Toast to Success 2019  

CTPA's annual signature networking event, Toast to Success, is back again! Join us on August 9 in downtown Toronto, for a night of celebrati...