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June 01, 2021

Q&A with CPP Investment’s Inventor Mentors

Allison Pasique, Senior Manager, Campus Recruitment, CPP Investments
 

What’s your top tip for identifying a creative solution to a real-life problem?

Give yourself time and space to problem solve. Do not multitask, focus just on solutioning. 

What advice would you give your middle-school self? Consider how the skills you learned when you were younger influenced your career path.

Be brave and take more risks! I was risk-averse as a teenager and although I always had a lot on the go, I should have diversified my activities more. I was always an A+ student and little did I know that all subjects, even those that I thought added zero value to me or my future profession, would shape my problem-solving ability. Be a sponge! Learn as much as you can and don’t forget to enjoy the ride!
Ashley Vogeli, Director, Strategic Communications, CPP Investments
 

What’s your top tip for identifying a creative solution to a real-life problem? What’s one example of a time you came up with a creative solution to a real-life problem?

Focus on your own experience – you know it the best! You are much more likely to solve a problem that will have lasting benefit and have the greatest impact on others if it is an authentic problem you're trying to solve. So often, we get caught up and forget that many of us have similar challenges. Don't forget that other people may be facing similar obstacles that they want to see solved.

What’s an invention or innovative idea that you have helped to develop and what steps did you take to develop it?

I've been able to think outside the box for fundraising in the past to drive results. We were able to donate over 50,000 books from a book sale in Calgary to kids in the Philippines. We looked beyond our local community for a location that wanted these resources that would otherwise be recycled here in Canada. 

What advice would you give your middle-school self? Consider how the skills you learned when you were younger influenced your career path.

Be proud of yourself. You are doing a great job! Any insecurity you feel today is a natural part of growing up and it will fade over time. I spent a lot of time doing speech and debate as well as model United Nations and playing on sports teams. When you work with others and learn what it means to be a good teammate, that helps you be a good employee and colleague too.
Bash Balogun, Senior Manager, CPP Investments

What advice would you give your middle-school self? Consider how the skills you learned when you were younger influenced your career path.

Don't let discomfort or fear of failure get in the way of trying new things. The more things you try, the more knowledge and experience you get. You’ll get over that hump of discomfort and fear of failing and you’ll become more confident in your ability to overcome obstacles and make the most of new situations. You will realize that some of our worst fears are really all in our heads.

Growing up, I had the opportunity to explore both my analytical and artistic sides. Even though I consider myself to be more analytical than artistic, my appreciation of both sides comes through in the way I design solutions and my significant interest in the human side of things, along with the systems and technologies used to solve a variety of problems – from where to invest to how to optimize resources.
 
Also, my family moved a lot when I was younger, which meant I got some good experience being the “new kid.” I am now comfortable with showing up in a new space, finding my groove, forming relationships, managing conflict, and influencing others positively – skills I use every day in my job and throughout my career.

Tell us about a time when you did something awesome and innovative.

I influenced a business school to establish an entirely new master’s program. I had signed up for an 18-month master’s in management program with a single specialization: operations research. Three finance classes and nine months into the program, I recognized my interest in exploring the world of finance further and decided I would take more finance courses than were required – all of them, in fact!
 
There was no way I could fit all those credits into the remaining nine months and there was no finance specialization that would recognize my efforts after taking on the extra course load. So, I did some research and approached the business school’s faculty with a proposal:
  1. they allow me stay on for an extra semester to take all the finance classes I was interested in,
  2. I demonstrated how the number of finance credits I would take would be equivalent to those taken by students in the MBA program’s finance specialization, and
  3. I assured them that my academic performance would not be impacted.
Twenty-one months after starting my master’s program, I graduated with a perfect GPA and a diploma that said “Master’s in Management, specializations in Operations Research AND Finance” – the first student ever to receive that double specialization. A few years later, the business school established the Master’s in Management with Finance specialization program.
Bill Ramsammy, Director, Brand and Marketing Communications, CPP Investments

What advice would you give your middle-school self? Consider how the skills you learned when you were younger influenced your career path.

“Meet, greet and beat the problem!” Something my dad taught me when I was younger. I used this slogan in my high school valedictorian speech and to this day, I reference it when identifying an obstacle, analyzing the situation and finding an insightful solution.

Tell us about a time when you did something awesome and innovative.

Financial literacy is very low in Canada, especially among youth. When I worked for a leading life insurance company, we developed an innovative program with the Toronto Raptors that helped educate young people about finances. The “Money for Life Basketball Clinics” combined the fundamentals of basketball and financial planning. Kids ranging from 6 to 16 years old participated in hands-on basketball skills while listening to stories about saving and budgeting from coaches, players and even the Raptors mascot.
Caleigh Meehan, Director, Organizational Development, CPP Investments

What’s your top tip for identifying a creative solution to a real-life problem? What’s one example of a time you came up with a creative solution to a real-life problem?

Speak with many different people and ask tons of questions to get a wide array of perspectives and ideas. When COVID hit and all our employees had to work from home, I led an initiative to redesign a training program for new graduate employees. It has previously been a one-week, interactive in-person program and we had a relatively short window (and limited technology capabilities) to make it entirely virtual. It wasn't without its glitches and great lessons learned, but we did it!

What advice would you give your middle-school self? Consider how the skills you learned when you were younger influenced your career path.

Don't sell yourself short – your only limitations are the ones you put upon yourself. Being curious about people and the world around you, asking lots of questions, being kind to others, having the courage of your convictions, trying things and failing, taking chances, being open to feedback and trusting your inner voice will open many doors and will lead you to where you are supposed to be.
Erica Chan, Senior Advisor, Campus Recruitment, CPP Investments

What’s your top tip for identifying a creative solution to a real-life problem? What’s one example of a time you came up with a creative solution to a real-life problem?

The biggest obstacle to creativity is ourselves. Get out of your own way. Don't take the problem at surface level. We want to look at it in great depth! Try to focus on discovering other solutions versus the instant one.

What advice would you give your middle-school self? Consider how the skills you learned when you were younger influenced your career path.

Always ask questions and actively listen. Develop a list of topics you want to learn about and seek more information from others. People don't know what you want to learn, so you should lead the conversation by asking. There is never a silly question!
 
Always raise your hand for new opportunities. You don't know what you like until you try it! Whether it's joining a school club or a sports team, you could learn a new skill or make new friends.

Tell us about a time when you did something awesome and innovative.

I figured out a new way to undo tight knots from plastic bags so you don't have ruin your nails or cut the bag. Take one end of the loop, twist it tightly and push it into the knot. This will loosen the bag so you can open it seamlessly! 
Joan Tripp, Senior Advisor, Legal, CPP Investments
 

What advice would you give your middle-school self?

I would tell my middle-school self to be kinder to myself and not worry so much about what other people thought or were saying about me. My best friend once asked me when I was upset about something someone mean had said about me: "do you like that person?" I replied "no, I did not and I thought they were mean most of the time." He responded ... "then why would you care what they say ... if they don't mean anything to you then their opinion should not mean anything either."
 
I've kept that in mind. There are always bullies, doubters and people who just want to pull other people down because they are unhappy. Remember to listen to your own voice and stay true to yourself. Be kind to yourself and those around you.  I've done that through my career. When people said I couldn't do something or wouldn't succeed, I've listened to my own voice and gone ahead ... most times I've succeeded. Sometimes you don't but if you don't try something you'll never know. and, sometimes you just need to try a few times to get it right so that you do succeed.
 
Always remember to be kind to those around you as well. Sometimes, success requires a helping hand so be willing to receive and assist when you can.

Tell us about a time when you did something awesome and innovative.

In Grade 7, I managed to get a bullying teacher removed from our class and kept us safe. We had gone to our parents and other teachers but no one was doing anything. The view at the time was that we were more than likely a trouble-making class and deserved strict handling.
 
I organized a walk-out by the students and as a group we told the teachers and principal that we were not going back into the classroom until that teacher was removed. We also pointed out that it was just a matter of time until the teacher seriously hurt one of us. The walk-out made the teachers, principals and school board take the situation seriously. The teacher was removed from teaching by the school board and became an administrator.
 

What’s your top tip for identifying a creative solution to a real-life problem? What’s one example of a time you came up with a creative solution to a real-life problem?

Speak to as many members of the population that is most impacted by the problem as possible to ensure you really comprehend the nuances of their experience. Once you have an idea or a prototype, gather feedback and iterate, continuously considering the opinions and thoughts of the target market.
 
One example of a time I came up with a creative solution to a real-life problem was when I was pro-bono consulting for a start-up through the Ivey Community Consulting Project at the Ivey Business School. My team and I designed a tailored go-to-market strategy based on extensive primary research for an app-based mental health product enabling the start-up to ensure a successful launch.
Lexy Weinberg, Rotational Analyst, Fundamental Investments, CPP Investments
 

What advice would you give your middle-school self? Consider how the skills you learned when you were younger influenced your career path.

The three core key pieces of advice I would give my middle-school self are:
  1. When doing something, whether it is working on a new idea or project, participating in a club or extracurricular activity, or spending time with friends, commit wholeheartedly to that activity. If you block out the noise from distractions, you will get the most out of each experience.
  2. Surround yourself with people, friends, family and mentors who challenge you to be your best self. Prioritize relationships that motivate you to learn and be intellectually curious and nurture those relationships over time.
  3. Try many different roles in your areas of interest (such as through clubs, extracurricular activities or summer internships) so that you can make the most effective decision about what to pursue long term. Create a scorecard for yourself based on your values and interests and score each role to help determine what most aligns to what is important to you. Iterate and refine the scorecard over time.
Shahzana Ahmed, Advisor, Campus Recruitment, CPP Investments
 

What advice would you give your middle-school self? Consider how the skills you learned when you were younger influenced your career path. 

Get curious about as many topics as possible. A good way to get exposure is to join your student council. No role is too big or too small and student council positions help develop leadership and communication skills!

Tell us about a time when you did something awesome and innovative.

When I graduated from university, I applied to the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) and was accepted! I embarked on an exciting journey to Japan to teach English in a small town in the south of Japan, and lived there for two years. Even though I didn’t know the language and was across the world from my family, this opportunity helped shape the person I am today. My advice to you is to take risks, travel to different countries, learn different languages and open yourself up to immersive cultural experiences.
Top tips for solving real-life problems
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Our inventor mentors tell students their top tips to find a creative solution to a real-life problem.
Q&A with BMO’s Inventor Mentors
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Great ideas from BMO’s Inventor Mentors inspire student inventors and entrepreneurs.
Advice for your middle-school self
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Our inventor mentors tell students what advice they would give their middle-school self