Meet Ariel Gardner! 

Ariel completed her Bachelors of Science degree majoring in Kinesiology at McMaster University and is now currently completing her MBA at McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business. While completing her undergraduate degree, she participated in various leadership roles, research initiatives, and extracurricular activities, where she developed a passion for relationship building, community engagement, and project management. This led her to pursue her MBA, to further strengthen her business acumen, strategic knowledge, and data analytic skills, and as well as explore her career potential. During her free time, Ariel loves to read, embark on very long walks, and listen to podcasts. She also loves to drink tea!

Ariel also happens to be an AHF Fellowship Circle alumnus from the Winter 2021 cohort. The AHF team has an opportunity to connect with Ariel and learn more about her journey as a young leader!

Tell us what motivated you to apply for the AHF Fellowship Circle and why do you believe a program like this is important for BIWOC students?
As I made the transition from science to business, I lacked the mentorship and representation within my network to help me navigate the corporate landscape and my career trajectory. After having a friend send me the link to the AHF website, the Fellowship Circle and the AHF community quickly resonated with me as I knew it would be an opportunity to build and engage with a supportive community of Black, Indigenous, and other self-identifying women of colour (BIWOC). I was excited to take part in an environment where I could have meaningful conversations with mentors and connect with peers through similar lived experiences and shared career aspirations.

“A program like this is important for BIWOC students as it provides the opportunity to build relationships and seek advice on how to navigate self-advocacy as a woman of colour. Moreover, the learning labs and mentorship circles highlight topics and skills necessary for personal and professional development.” 

The program fostered reciprocal mentorship and facilitated candid conversations that have helped me further understand my identity as a woman of colour, discuss relatable issues and further develop tools for resiliency.

How has mentorship helped you progress personally and professionally? 
Mentorship has been pivotal for my personal and professional progress. Having conversations with mentors has helped me explore different career paths, learn from their expertise and gain valuable insights tailored to both my professional and personal needs. 

Mentors are an invaluable source of wisdom, as they have detailed knowledge of their respective industry. I have been fortunate to have great mentors that have not only become trusted advisors, but also role models. These mentoring relationships and what I’ve gained have helped develop a strong foundation for my growth. Mentorship has led me to self-reflect and clarify my goals, establish a sense of direction and discover the tools and skills needed to reach those goals. Through candid conversations, I’ve not only learned more about myself, but I have gained the confidence and empowerment needed to successfully achieve my career aspirations. 

How can BIWOC make the most of their mentorship experiences?
To make the most of your mentorship experiences, I believe it is important to keep an open mind, practice active listening, be honest, commit to a working partnership and be purposeful. 

For me, the mentorship experience starts by building a relationship rooted in trust and respect, which can be a gradual process. This process requires being flexible, receptive to feedback, and communicating honestly about your challenges, goals, and your needs. Doing so not only helps the mentor develop a genuine picture of who you are, but it can also help you develop more self-awareness. 

The reason why I view mentorship as a working partnership is because it entails mutual knowledge sharing and commitment to the process. I encourage mentees to ask for feedback, but also share feedback, as this will help the relationship grow gradually over time. During a mentorship experience, you’ll receive invaluable advice and  insights, however it’s important to be purposeful and act on the information you’re receiving. 

How do you invest in your own potential as a woman of colour?
Investing in my own potential has always been an ongoing process deeply rooted in the practice of reflection, engaging in a growth mindset, and challenging myself. 

Taking the time to consistently self-reflect has helped me identify what I value, what I hope to learn, what I am interested in and what I am passionate about. This has led me to often search for opportunities to expand my perspective, skillset, and knowledge by listening to podcasts, completing online courses, and participating in community initiatives. As a lifelong learner, I enjoy exploring new topics by reading books and articles daily. I’m also always eager to connect with others through coffee chats to learn from their perspectives. 

“I also believe that investing in my potential means taking the time for self-care. This includes getting enough sleep, chatting with friends, and spending time outside as often as I can, whether that be a walk, run, or simply enjoying a cup of tea while sitting outside.”

Tell us about your journey in business and your co-op experiences in the financial sector. What steps do you recommend taking to get the most out of one’s internship experience? 
Being a co-op student at Scotiabank was an incredible learning experience. My peers, colleagues, and team provided such a welcoming environment. During the four months of my co-op, I was encouraged to step out of my comfort zone, share my ideas, apply my critical thinking skills and collaborate with diverse teams. I was also able to participate in weekly workshops, networking events, as well as social events to build relationships with other co-op students. Scotiabank provided an environment where I could apply the business acumen I developed in the first semester of my MBA program while exploring my interests and passions.  Overall, the experience has significantly contributed to both my professional and personal development.

To get the most out of one’s internship experience, I recommend asking for feedback, getting involved, and initiating coffee chats. A co-op experience is a great opportunity to ask for feedback from your team members and managers. Feedback can be both positive and intended to help you grow, but it’s important to not only reflect on the feedback we receive but also to put it in action to grow. In terms of getting involved, there are a variety of ways to participate beyond your role during an internship. This could include asking to lead a presentation, volunteering to organize social events, or raising your hand to contribute to a project within your team that you’re interested in. This is the time to try something new and step out of your comfort zone. Finally, throughout your internship, initiating coffee chats can help you to learn from industry leaders, gain knowledge about careers that interest you and further build relationships to grow your network.

How can leaders create an inclusive workplace for BIWOC new to their careers? 
I believe a large part of creating an inclusive workplace for BIWOC new to their careers is to practice inclusive leadership, as well as engage in accountability. Leaders need to cultivate safe spaces that encourage authenticity and foster psychological well-being. 

“Leaders should support BIWOC by embracing their inputs and empowering their voices. Moreover, leaders need to ensure that they are building diverse, equitable, and inclusive teams.” 

Accountability can start by shifting towards a growth mindset, engaging in self-reflection, and initiating open discussions. These are great opportunities for leaders to not only recognize challenges that BIWOC employees face but also potentially identify their own biases and behaviours that perpetuate these challenges.