Black History Month: Humans of Telfer Spotlight
Two Proud Telfer Representatives Share with Us What Makes Them Tick... and Offer Us Some Wise Advice!
In December 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized Black History Month in Canada following a motion by Honourable Jean Augustine. In February 2008, Senator Donald Oliver, introduced a motion to recognize the contributions of Black Canadians and to declare February Black History Month. This motion was unanimously approved and passed on March 4, 2008. The adoption of this motion completed Canada’s parliamentary position on Black History Month.
From first-year students to some of the highest university executives, student leaders, faculty, and support staff, not to mention the many donors and myriad alumni, the Black community occupies a central place at the Telfer School of Management and continues to have a lasting and positive impact on its evolution.
The Career Centre offers another brilliant example of how the Black community enriches the many facets of student life at Telfer. Whether they are ambassadors, volunteers, graduate panellists, employees, partnering employers, students, or mentors, members of the Black community are active on all fronts in our activities, therefore contributing to make our team an agile, responsive, and student-friendly player.
This year, the Career Centre team wanted to honour two proud Telfer representatives and employees who, each in their own way, enrich our workplace. For Black History Month 2023, they generously accepted to share their thoughts with us and offer us some valuable advice and a few words of wisdom.
Arthur Nsabimbona - What you chose to do, do it well!
Remembering these illustrious Black individuals who have fought and worked hard to succeed gives me the motivation to one day become a role model for others, especially in the Black community here at the University of Ottawa. Actions often speak louder than words, and when you can see someone in your community succeed, it’s inspiring.
Beyond his smile, probably the most beaming one can spot on the 5th floor here at Desmarais, what makes Arthur Nsabimbona leave a lasting impression is the complete and sustained attention he gives to his interlocutor. That, and his willingness to do things right. We got to know him as a colleague and a student when he consulted our team at the Career Centre.
For this Burundi native now based in Gatineau QC, change and time management has no secrets. “I arrived in Canada in the middle of winter, in January 2016. It was minus 30. That was something.” Initially an international student at Algonquin College, where he graduated with an accounting degree in June 2017, Arthur worked at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) until December 2019. In January 2020, he returned to school, this time at uOttawa Faculty of Social Sciences. In 2022, on Valentine’s Day (a sign?), Arthur joined the Telfer School of Management as a Senior Financial Officer. Since then, he has been promoted to Financial Analyst and has enrolled in the BCom program (with a specialization in accounting), from which he will graduate next December. “I am both a student and an employee at Telfer, and it is for me a privilege and an honour.”
Q: What aspect of the professional world struck you the most when you arrived in Canada?
A: “One of the things that struck me the most was the fact that everyone needs to know how to do everything themselves. In Africa, even middle-class people rely on people to perform certain tasks. So, for me, who had to work and study at the same time, it was quite a learning period. What I also learned was the importance of creating professional connections. And when you arrive in a new environment without any contact, you absolutely need to build relationships. My two brothers followed me: one arrived 8 months after me, and the other, two months ago. It’s interesting and it’s good.”
Q: This is a pattern I observe among the international students I meet. The eldest who leaves to study abroad acts as a kind of scout for his or her younger siblings. Does this translate into a feeling of having to succeed at all costs?
A: “Personally, I learned early on from my father that no matter what you do in life, you should excel at it. Whatever you do, make sure you do it well. He never told me, “You have to do this or that,” but rather, “If you choose to do something, do it well.” It comes with a little bit of pressure, for sure, but mostly with the responsibility of being a leader or a role model for others. Especially when you come to Canada, a country of opportunities. You want to show that everything that has been invested in you has been worthwhile. Doing well once you get here gives hope to your parents and motivation to your siblings who will follow.”
Q: What does Black History Month mean or represent to you?
A: “Black History Month is very special to me. It’s a real opportunity to celebrate the contributions of Black people, who have long been marginalized and underrepresented in mainstream culture. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about their history, whether it’s Nelson Mandela or Muhammad Ali, or Cynthia Marshall (the first woman of colour to be named CEO of the NBA) or Kamala Harris (the first woman ever and first women of colour to become Vice-president of the United States). Remembering these illustrious Black individuals who have fought and worked hard to succeed gives me the motivation to one day become a role model for others, especially in the Black community here at the University of Ottawa. Actions often speak louder than words, and when you can see someone in your community succeed, it’s inspiring. But these successes should be celebrated ALL year round, not just in February!”
Q: Do you have an example for us?
A: “One of my lecturers, Kevin Petit-Frère, CPA, CA, Director General, Finance and Corporate Planning, at the Privy Council Office, comes to mind. For a young Black man like me, he is truly an inspiration. People like him are fighting for a truly representative senior public service in Canada. When a Black immigrant gets to a high position, especially in government, it sends a powerful message to the whole community. What is visible becomes possible.”
Q: Do you have any tips or strategies for your fellow members of the Black community (and beyond!) who are coming to Telfer and may be looking for their bearings professionally?
- Network! In the business world, it’s all about the people you know and the people who know you. Find out who is in your field of interest and ask them questions. Attend networking events and sessions offered by employers, even if you already have a good situation. Because you never know!
- Make a unique contribution to your team/employer at every stage of your journey. If you ‘make a difference,’ whether in an entry-level position, a volunteer gig, or a more senior position, you will be noticed and you will always have strong references.
- Think about your unique strengths that make you stand out from the hundreds of graduates in your class.
- Seek to expand your comfort zone. Seek out discomfort, because without it, you will not grow.”
Q: Are there people in the Black community whose teachings particularly guide you in your journey?
A: “Absolutely. First, there is my father, Ildephonse. I know he’s not very well known (!), but for my father, taking care of his family, checking on his friends and loving his loved ones is fundamental, despite the ups and downs of life. Another person, more famous this one (!), whose thoughts guide me, is Nelson Mandela, who said: “What counts in life is not merely to have lived. It is the difference made in the lives of others that defines the meaning of the life we have led.” And who can forget the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can.”
Although Arthur says he simply “aspires” to be a role model for others, it must be said that with such determination he is already setting an inspiring example for all future accountants here and elsewhere who hope to make it in the Canadian job market.
Gasline Deslouches - The Art of Getting Involved while Putting Oneself First
"You don’t have to continue down a path if you don’t like it. In other words, don’t be afraid to walk away from a project that doesn’t fit your personality or your goals. Try something else, and you’ll eventually find what makes you tick. Most importantly, if you embrace the hustle culture, choose activities that bring you joy, comfort and endorphins, not negative stress! Finally, detach yourself from the judgment of others and the fear of disappointment. You have to think about yourself!"
A young, multifaceted professional, Gasline Deslouches captivates as much by her formidable marketing strategies and her fine knowledge of social media as by her entrepreneurial spirit and her talents as a choreographer and performer. A Telfer alumna herself (she graduated in 2019 with a BCom in finance), Gasline has honed her event planning and marketing skills notably through her CO-OP placements and her many community and extracurricular activities. As of August 2022, the Telfer Career Centre is honoured to have her on staff as the Career Engagement Coordinator. If you were wondering who’s the architect behind our Instagram feed, it’s her!
Q: Does Black History Month have any special meaning for you?
A: “Because I was born in Haiti, a country where the population is mostly Black, I was not exposed to these celebrations until after I moved to Canada in 2014. Regardless of location, whether looking to the past, the present, or the future, we find it important to celebrate our roots and culture year-round. Black History Month is a reminder of sorts, an annual peak, a flagship moment that fully highlights our community.”
Q: It seems that the Deslouches family has a few more representatives in the large uOttawa family. Can you tell us about them?
A: “Of course. My younger brother graduated from the Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS) last year. He is currently pursuing his masters’ degree in Communications here at Desmarais and will soon begin an internship at uOttawa. And my younger sister is studying social work at FSS. I guided them through the whole process: registration, programs, etc. It’s a family affair, and I’m growing the community!”
Q: When did you first become involved in the community?
A: “I have always enjoyed being involved in social and cultural life and playing a role in various projects and organizations, even in high school. I was class president until my senior year. When I began my studies here in a new country, my aunt strongly advised me to get involved on campus.”
Q: And you took her advice?
A: “Indeed! I have participated in many events as a volunteer, including uOttawa’s Open House. I also served as the president of the Club des étudiants haïtiens de l’Université d’Ottawa (CEHUO), where I was a member from 2016 to 2019. I also participated in the Work-Study Program (WSP), which allowed me to work as the coordinator of the International House, under the umbrella of the University of Ottawa Students’ Union. My role was to organize all the events for international students, as well as to mentor students from all over the world. I also joined a Haitian dance troupe, Esans Kreyòl, and later became their choreographer. In addition, I joined a theatre group, T-Yat Lakay, and served on the committee that led to its establishment as a full company. I love being included!”
Q: You love being included, so you get involved! Now that you’re officially a Telfer alumna and a full-time employee of the Career Centre, what are some of the ways in which you are quenching your thirst for cultural projects?
A: “I’ve just reached a milestone in my journey: on February 10, 2023, right here at Desmarais (!!!), my own company, AnbyansA, held its very first multidisciplinary cultural event, Black Bullet Train. After having worked in many events organized by others, I finally created and set up my own event.”
Q: The choice to officially launch your event company during Black History Month is probably not a coincidence?
A: “Indeed. As a young entrepreneur and member of the Haitian community in Ottawa, I wanted to find a way to showcase our emerging talent, promote our culture and give visibility to Haitian businesses here and from our own country. To that end, I developed a new formula that combines dialogue, dance, music, and networking. The idea is to support and encourage each other.”
Q: As a professional, creator and business owner, would you have any advice for students in the Black community (and beyond!) who are hesitant to take their place on campus?
A: “The first step is to get involved. You don’t have to start your own initiative directly: just join an initiative that’s already in place and try out different things. That’s how I discovered my niche. Secondly, remember that you don’t have to continue down a path if you don’t like it. In other words, don’t be afraid to walk away from a project that doesn’t fit your personality or your goals. Try something else, and you’ll eventually find what makes you tick. Most importantly, if you embrace the hustle culture, choose activities that bring you joy, comfort and endorphins, not negative stress! Finally, detach yourself from the judgment of others and the fear of disappointment. You have to think about yourself!”
Q: Does this wisdom come naturally to you? Or does it come from experience? Who are your role models?
A: “I would say that my main role models are my parents, both professionally and socially. I think I inherited my mother’s perseverance and determination and my father’s very organized, professional, and social nature. In fact, my parents both work in the health sector in Haiti, and we are currently working together to create a sociocultural and health services centre in Port-au-Prince.”
On behalf of the Telfer Career Centre, thank you so much to Arthur Nsabimbona and Gasline Deslouches for taking time out of their busy schedules to talk to us about their journey during Black History Month and, more importantly, for helping to make the Telfer School of Management such a great place to grow.