Ritika Saraswat, 21, is not interested in “typical” Asian careers as a doctor, engineer or lawyer. Instead, you’ll find the Indian native handing out hundreds of menstrual care packages in Vancouver, teaming up with Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen, and mentoring more than 50 international students — all while working two part-time jobs.
Saraswat is also not your “typical” international student. During the summer, she doesn’t intern at big companies or live as a summer associate at a fancy company. She works two part-time jobs (one of which serves pizza), studies two summer courses and runs a non-profit organization.
For Saraswat, impact matters more than prestige. Although she majored in kinesiology (the study of movement and its impact on our health and well-being) at the University of British Columbia, she participated in case competition and discovered a talent for marketing and consulting.
Last year, she founded “Re-Defined”, a non-profit organization that empowers international students and marginalized communities in Canada. When she graduates in September, she is set to join Deloitte as a Human Capital Business Analyst – a job as an analyst with a very different scope of work than what will be stated on her degree.
Saraswat may not have taken a traditional route to get to where she is today – even being scolded for working in a pizzeria – but she is proud and confident about how far she can go. We caught up with her to find out more about her extraordinary journey:
Why did you move to Canada?
I am from Pune and grew up in a conventional Indian family where we were conditioned to pursue three careers: medicine, engineering and law. Of these three, I turned to medicine since I liked biology.
When I finished 12th grade, I wanted to pursue something related to biology, and that’s when I discovered kinesiology. Soon I learned that the University of British Columbia (UBC) was one of the best universities for kinesiology and decided to come to Canada.
Where did you study in India?
I studied in an India Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) school in India. ICSE’s state board is one of the best and most rigorous in the country. It’s one of the classic systems that emphasizes memorization, which was instrumental in my upbringing. In grades 11 and 12, I went to an International Baccalaureate school, which doubled as a boarding school.
What sparked your passion for marketing and consulting?
As a kinesiology student, I have always been keen to seek out new experiences and keep an open mind. Gradually, I discovered my talent for marketing because I was excited about the problem-solving aspect of marketing. Eventually, I moved into consulting and became more involved in consulting-related opportunities such as pro bono cases and case competitions.
I am also a person driven by the impact I can create, which has been a big factor in fueling my passion for marketing and consulting. Through my experience with pro bono cases and case competitions, I realized that I could have an impact on the organization. On the other hand, I can only impact one person at a time as a doctor.
Congratulations on landing an analyst job in Canada! Tell us about the opportunities that led to this.
Working at a nonprofit was a great opportunity for me to learn while working because they didn’t have very high expectations. For example, I worked with Medical Herstory, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing gender inequalities in health, as a social media marketing intern before landing my role as a media manager. social at My Restful Mind.
Once I gained enough experience, I ventured into social startups, such as Health Conscious and Elemeno, and became a freelance consultant. I also started to network with more people in the consulting scene to learn about the different opportunities within the space. Eventually, I became interested in one of the Big Four – Deloitte – and reached out to my network to assess what they were looking for in their potential candidates.
Case preparation, case competitions and pro bono cases were also a great way to get used to the counseling line since consultants speak a certain way. Fortunately, it paved the way for me to enter the industry. I’m also lucky enough to get an analyst position at Deloitte.
What were the challenges you had to overcome while transitioning to a new career path?
It takes courage to redefine yourself. One of the reasons I still vividly remember the comments people gave me when I went from kinesiology to counseling was how vulnerable I felt realizing what I hadn’t done. to achieve my goals and dreams. Looking back, I’m grateful for this conversation because I wouldn’t feel bad if someone made a similar comment to me since I’ve gone my own way to further my goals, passions, and interests.
Over the past year, I’ve seen a trend where many people from different backgrounds are turning to consulting. In fact, consulting firms love this because they want people from diverse backgrounds. Seeing this shift happen in the counseling scene made my journey interesting because it was something I wanted to see happen as a kinesiology student moving into counseling.
How was Re-Defined born?
I love answering this question. Redefined is my “baby project” because I resonate with many values that the project represents. It is a non-profit organization that works to empower people from marginalized communities, especially Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).
As a woman of color, I felt there were many obstacles and struggles that I had to face in different ways. Obviously, I speak from a privileged position since I know people who have encountered more difficult situations. However, I believe that it is through shared experiences – whether it is the traditional view of women’s capabilities or gender inequality – that a group of people connects.
People also have certain stereotypes about international students. When I arrived in Canada, many were surprised to find that I was fluent in English. This experience opened my eyes to the many misconceptions people have about international students living in a foreign country.
As a business-oriented kinesiology student, I found it difficult to network with people in the marketing and consulting scene. My studies have caused many to assume or doubt my abilities to thrive in the industry. I remember someone telling me that I was never going to see a consultant within three minutes of starting a networking call since I was a kinesiology student.
Through these experiences I grew to redefine myself and wanted to show people that they can define their passion, their interest and their career. Since I was able to embark on my journey to redefine myself, I realized how important and empowering it was. I felt that many students couldn’t redefine their identity.
How did Re-Defined develop in its first year?
As Re-Defined has grown, it has spread more to marginalized communities, such as the Downtown Eastside homeless community, who face more marginalization and discrimination than an international student or a BIPOC student who has the privilege of going to college with a chance of getting regular employment. work.
This change allowed us to showcase our core values to make an impact. I believe that if you start off on the right foot, there is an excellent chance that the effect will spread quickly.
What was one of the most memorable projects you worked on at Re-Defined?
That would be the Chats over Lemonade event, where we focused on the idea of going out into the homeless community. We would set the table with plenty of free food to strike up conversations with them.
People in these communities usually pick up food and leave for most food drives, so I noticed no one spoke with them. Nobody asked “How’s your day?” or “what excites you?”. Therefore, it was instructive to see how we broke many stereotypes and judgments about homelessness at the event through in-depth conversations with this community.
As a group of people who have been through so much in life, it’s amazing that they are still generous in sharing their views and stories with the younger generation. I believe that was memorable for many of us at Re-Defined.
Do you have any advice for international students who want to start freelancing or setting up a non-profit?
Stay open to trying new things, get your hands dirty, and don’t limit yourself to just one type of experience. I like to think that being a student is a time for us to make mistakes so that we can learn from them before we start our careers because it would be hard to change once you have a full time job.
Cherish the value of networking as it keeps you open to diverse experiences and musters the courage to take calculated risks. Instead of comparing yourself to others, take inspiration from their journey and see how they worked to succeed.