Testimonial written by Jia Li, 4th year BCom in Accounting student

My name is Jia Li, and my dream is to become one of tomorrow’s leaders.

The Futures Fund recognizes the accomplishments of 10 university students, each from a different school of management across the country. I am honoured to have been selected by Telfer to receive this prestigious scholarship. It gave me the opportunity to represent Telfer at an exclusive gala in Toronto, and I received a $7,500 bursary to support me in my studies. When I learned that I was selected last November, I was ecstatic. I felt an overwhelming sense of joy that the efforts I had made throughout my four years at Telfer had been recognized this way. I knew the gala in Toronto was a high-profile event, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would be an experience that would change my life forever.

The Toronto event was held over two days, February 9 and 10, 2016. The first day, the recipients were invited to a reception at the Bennett Jones office, where we were each interviewed by BNN. In addition to us students, some 50 business leaders also attended the reception. It was not until I was shaking the hand of a man who was six and a half feet tall that I began to realize the significance of the event. The man was George Cope, the President and CEO of Bell Canada, and next to him was Jim Balsillie, the co-founder of BlackBerry. We had some fascinating discussions and shared a few anecdotes. 

The second day, we attended the “Canada’s Outstanding CEO of the Year” gala celebrating the success of Mr. Cope and of Bell Canada over the past few years. Over 400 of our country’s most prominent leaders attended this event at the Royal Ontario Museum. To name just a few, I met the Honourable Bill Morneau (Minister of Finance), Frank Vettesse (Managing Parner of Deloitte Canada), Hugh MacKinnon (Chairman and CEO of Bennett Jones), William Downe (CEO of BMO) and Kevin O’Leary (Chairman of O’Leary Financial Group). I had the opportunity to speak with some of the most distinguished executives in Canada about their journey to the top, and here is a summary of what I learned:

  • Regardless of the hand you are dealt, follow your passion; the money will follow.
  • Be genuine and kind; the most powerful people are also the most considerate.
  • Be humble; the most fortunate, most successful people are also the most modest.
  • Networking is crucial to your success. The most powerful people all seem to know each other.

In short, this event was an incredible life lesson that truly opened my eyes. Meeting these individuals helped me to understand that the magic formula to success is often universal; with perseverance, strength and long-term relationships, we are all capable of reaching the top. 

In the photo, from left to right: George Cope, Bell Canada; Jia Li; Hugh MacKinnon, Bennett Jones Toronto