Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, the creative and multi-talented marketing specialist Deepa Pillay, who brings her deep passion for Storytelling to her work as an Account Manager at Beattie Tartan. Deepa was born and raised in India, got married in 2015, and in 2017, moved to Canada (on her own) to get her MBA. Deepa and her husband had a strategic plan to minimize financial risk, which in many ways went against conservative and traditional “Indian standards.” While she left her job in India and moved to Canada for higher education, her husband stayed in India to continue working. With a 12-hour time difference between India and Canada, there were many moments that truly tested their relationship. With the stress of the MBA experience (which is a completely different system of education compared to India), being away from family and having to make new friends, Deepa found it a lot like juggling multiple delicate glasses at the same while trying not to go insane. With her sanity intact, she not only survived, but flourished at School. From getting a Distinction, to being Valedictorian, to being elected Vice-President-Marketing & Communications of the MBA Association, Deepa’s academic accomplishments were beyond remarkable, especially given all that she had sacrificed to get to Canada. And to that we say YES and Congratulations! Deepa has a bright and successful future ahead, one that includes being re-united with her husband and dog Zoe this September when they move to Canada!
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
Tough question! I guess it’s the fact that that I always push myself to go beyond what I think I’m capable of. Like, moving to Canada on my own leaving my family behind. It was a very tough decision to make and definitely was a hard path. But I made it! And for that, I’m proud! Of course, I wouldn’t have made it without the help and support of other Girl Warriors around me!
You were born and raised in India. What were some of the most difficult challenges you faced moving to a new country and away from your family, especially your husband?
The time difference between Canada & India made it very hard for me to keep in touch with my family on a regular basis, with ease! There’s a 12-hour difference between the two countries. Which means, I’m basically ending my day when my family is starting theirs. This took a lot of getting used to!
Also, the cultural difference took a while to get used to. Things are so different here compared to my home country. The food, the culture, the way addresses are written out…everything is different and takes some getting used to. Initially, I felt really dumb asking people questions because they seem really silly. Thankfully, most people here were very understanding! I say “most people” because I did encounter people who said “Just Google it!” To them, I want to say “I have already Googled it and wasn’t satisfied with the answers I read online, which is why I’m asking you. If I already knew, I wouldn’t be asking!”
How do you make the long-distance relationship work with your husband?
A really strong cellular data pack and immense amount of patience and dedication. The 12-hour time difference means that we have to either wake up really early to Skype with each other or stay up really late to do so. So, dedicating the time and energy to doing this is what kept the long-distance relationship going. Also, constantly reminding ourselves that we’ll be together again soon is something that kept us motivated.
Canada and India have completely different education systems. How did you navigate your way through the MBA process without going insane?
Lots of caffeine, Red Bull, and no sleep! But jokes apart, I made it through because of the amazing support system I built at University. I made truly amazing friends. Friends who ensured that I eased up and had some fun between all of that studying! The best thing that the MBA has given me is the circle of friends I made during the program. I couldn’t have gotten through it without the family that I built away from home.
You not only did well, you thrived! You received your MBA, got a Distinction, were the Valedictorian and elected Vice-President-Marketing & Communications of the MBA Association. Congratulations! How did it feel being on stage delivering your Valedictorian speech?
Thank you! Again, I couldn’t have achieved all of this without the support of some amazing friends and my forever-cheering family back in India.
Regarding how it felt being on stage and delivering my Valedictorian speech – honestly, the feeling is quite unmatched. It was an honor to represent my class as Valedictorian! Particularly because my classmates helped in molding me into who I am today! The speech we (my co-Valedictorian and I…. two of us were Valedictorians together) delivered was on a topic that was particularly close to my heart. We talked about the importance of diversity and that everyone should give people of a different race, culture, etc., a chance. This is a paragraph from my speech that I’d like to say to everyone in the world, if given a chance:
Take a chance on those unlike you, and you will see your own personal world begin to grow and shine. Black, White, or Brown…Gay, Straight, or Un-Decided…each and every individual brings something truly unique to the table. Our differences make us stronger because it means having multiple perspectives working on the same problem. Freshness, Innovation, New Sight…this is what diversity brings. There is nothing but strength and beauty in variety and diversity.
Before coming to Canada you already had such great work experience in India. What has been the most challenging part of having to re-start your career in Canada, even with an MBA under your belt?
The most challenging bit has been that my non-Canadian work experience was entirely disregarded here. In India, I managed teams and served as the Assistant Marketing Manager at the company where I worked. Additionally, I also came with a Master’s in Public Relations from the UK and an MBA from Canada. Restarting my career hit my self-esteem quite a bit at first. But I look at it as an opportunity to prove my worth to a whole new bunch of people in a whole new country. That keeps me motivated and helps me stay strong.
However, I would like to advise employers in Canada to not disregard an international person’s work experience. Sure, the market might be different. But more often than not, skills are transferable. And the fact that a person has worked internationally will only be beneficial to you because of the new and fresh perspective that all internationals bring. Just because someone hasn’t worked in Canada, doesn’t mean that have not worked AT ALL!
What do we need to know “for sure” about making sacrifices to achieve our goals?
Make sure you have thought it through a thousand times and make sure it’s worth it! Because sometimes, what you give up to achieve the goal might be greater than the actual goal itself.
Once you have evaluated and decided that this is what you want to do, do not give up at any cost! Grit and determination go a long way! And you owe it to yourself to see it through!
What’s the most important life lesson your Mom taught you?
I can’t pick just one…so here are the 3 things she’s taught me that I swear by:
- Do NOT be a people pleaser. Be straightforward and state the truth always, but do it gently so that it doesn’t hurt the other person
- It takes all types of people to make the world. So, don’t be surprised by how some people may be
- Take everyone at face value. Do not hand out your trust easily. Make sure people earn it
What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior?
You are much stronger than you think you. So, just believe in yourself.
What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?
Same as above! This quote rings true: A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. You really are stronger than you think!
Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why?
As clichéd as this sounds, my Girl Warrior hero is my Mom. She’s not my role model because she’s my mom. She’s my role model because of everything she has achieved during her time and because of the type of person she is. She moved to Dubai after her wedding and started off as a clerk in an ad agency. From that position, she steadily climbed up the ladder and eventually became one of the members on the top management team. She worked for the Dubai Chamber of Commerce at a top position and when she resigned, her manager refused to accept her resignation. The reason she decided to resign is what made me respect her even more. Even though she was a high-flying advertising professional with a job everybody wanted, she decided to resign because the job didn’t leave her enough time to spend with her children (my brother and myself). She decided to, instead, take up a job that offered her less money but flexibility in working hours. I admire this to a great extent. Her priorities were clear, and she wasn’t going to let anything come in the way of that.
She’s the most resilient, determined, and strong person I have ever come across. India is a country where divorce is a HUGE taboo and is frowned upon. Women who are divorced are treated differently in society. Yet, my mom decided to divorce my biological dad when she realized that the safety of her children was in danger. She decided to go against the entire society and she stood up for what she believed was right. She faced stigma from our society for the longest time but she didn’t let it affect her in any way. She’s extremely principled and ethical as a person, something she has passed on to my brother and to me as well. She never gives up no matter how difficult a task is. She never goes back on her word. And most importantly, she’s kind to everyone. Her subordinates, her superiors, everyone.
I learned a great deal from her. And I learned a great deal about myself from her. She influenced the way I think, the way I act, and the way I handle every situation. She constantly tells me “It takes all kinds of people to make the world” and this is what helps me get along with every single person I meet, irrespective of my differences with them. In the corporate world, you meet all kinds of people…people you won’t necessarily like or agree with. But I know for a fact that I’ll be okay in any situation involving conflict because of the influence my mom has had on the way I think and behave.
A lot of people look at the phrase “I’m becoming my mom” in a negative way. For me, I’ll consider myself lucky if I become even half the woman she is.
Blue Sky it. No boundaries here, only limitless possibilities. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In terms of work, I’m hoping to be in a position where I’m managing a team. Hopefully at a job that involves a level of traveling! And in terms of my personal life, honestly, I just see myself being happy with my husband and our dog… maybe kids? But not sure about that yet. Of late, we’ve been toying with the idea of starting a South Indian restaurant in Victoria! So, maybe that’s what I’ll be doing in 5 years. 🙂
What makes you laugh uncontrollably? Cry out all the tears?
My husband makes me laugh! He’s just so silly and I always have such a great time with him. He’s my favorite company ever!
As silly as this sounds, emotional dog movies make me cry. I cry at Marley & Me every single time I watch it!
What has been your biggest disappointment/triumph?
Biggest triumph: Definitely graduating from the MBA program with a distinction and being the Valedictorian.
If a novel were written about your life, what would it be called?
Follow Deepa on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/deepa.pillay/
And connect with her on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deepapillay/