Abdul-Aziz Garuba Jr. is a strong business leader who leaves an indelible mark on those who interact with him. He graduated from the Telfer School of Management in 2008, obtaining his BCom with two specializations in Accounting and Finance. He then went on to complete his MBA at Queen’s University in 2012 and earned his CPA designation in 2013. Aziz is currently the Director of Cost Transformation and Reporting Finance for RBC Capital Markets.
Standing out in the crowd
Aziz had been a very shy kid, but when he joined the Telfer School of Management, he quickly realized that he had to find ways to be heard and present if he was to succeed in a business career. Therefore, he immersed himself fully in the university experience. To challenge his comfort zone, Aziz signed up for the Telfer Entrepreneurs’ Club (TECDE) and became VP Finance and eventually President of the Telfer Student Council (CéTSC)
The added benefit of getting involved in these extra-curricular activities was that he was able to connect with people and enjoy his student experience. Upon reflection on his experiences as a Telfer student, Aziz shared: “I also felt that I needed to build something beyond grades to set myself apart; being involved gave me a lot of leadership exposure and other skill sets that you don’t necessarily learn in class.”
Making a difference for other students
His engagement outside of the class offered him opportunities to have an impact; Aziz also discovered that he wanted to leave a mark behind and uplift others. This became the guiding principle of his leadership journey. “The School gave me the foundation for my future, and all the things I was able to do there set the foundation for my character,” shared Aziz.
In the beginning, making a difference meant taking small but essential steps to enhance the student experience within the student council and for clubs at Telfer. Aziz helped to spruce up and paint the outdated student council office, which was situated in the basement of the Vanier building at the time. Later, he was able to influence the university student association to direct more funding to Telfer student clubs to help improve student activities.
Aziz also realized that there were very few Black students on campus. He met Omar Hashem at Telfer at the time. Both young students were originally from Africa, and they both wished to encourage a diverse group of bright students to apply to Telfer. Upon his graduation in 2008, they established the Garuba-Hashem Admission Scholarship, a funding opportunity for students of African descent interested in pursuing a BCom at the University of Ottawa.
After moving to Toronto, Aziz continued to support fellow alumni. “I joined the Dean’s Advisory Board and signed up for many events organized by the Toronto Telfer Alumni Association to help ensure that Bay Street companies considered recruiting Telfer graduates.”
A diversity and inclusion advocate on Bay Street
One of the engagement activities that mostly tapped into Aziz’s passion was his involvement with the Canadian Association of Urban Financial Professionals (CAUFP). He was the president of CAUFP for two years and, more recently, sat on its advisory board. He leveraged his Telfer education and helped the organization increase corporate sponsorship. Through some of his strategic and leadership insights, the organization added a lot of value to the community: “We elevated this not-for-profit organization and built on the importance of having a representation of Black professionals on Bay Street,” says Aziz.
Today, Aziz makes sure the voices and messages of Black professionals are being heard in Made to Lead, a podcast he produces and hosts. “I wanted to tell the stories of leaders of African descent from around the world who were under the radar and to highlight that these are some of the hidden gems that you may not even know,” he says. By connecting with each of these leaders on a personal level, he believes everyone can collaborate better, understand other life experiences, and appreciate diversity.
Aziz shared that these principles can also be applied to the workplace: “It is not that we need to recruit BIPOC people to fill this diversity situation, but it’s because they bring a whole different perspective that can help the bottom line.” Many Canadian corporations came to this sudden realization when the Black Lives Matter movement erupted in 2020, but Aziz agrees that a lot of progress is still needed.
Aziz’s suggestions to corporate organizations that seek to foster a more equitable and diverse workplace for Canadians: First, corporate leaders should acknowledge the gaps that still exist and recognize that a lot of great talent has been marginalized in the Black and Indigenous communities as a result of systemic issues. Second, he calls for more public transparency: “Companies should start collecting and reporting diversity and equity data instead of sharing information that suits their own needs.” Finally, he believes companies can collaborate with not-for-profit organizations that help bring in this diverse talent.
“Representation matters,” Aziz says, especially for our younger generations. “Young people may make a decision about the career choices just by the mere fact that they have seen someone that looks like them in that workspace,” he adds. Aziz continues to set an example through his passion for diversity in the corporate community and leads his inspiration podcast with conviction as he brings key stories of notable professionals to life.