Six Ismailis were recently named to prestigious “Top 40 Under 40” lists in Canada. These accolades recognize individuals who are influential and making a difference in their fields of pursuit. Winners are chosen based on a variety of criteria, including their achievements, vision, leadership and community involvement. Despite the diversity of their backgrounds and activities, they each attribute their success to the values instilled in them as Ismailis, as well as the opportunity to thrive in the fields they love.
As Director of Philanthropic Engagement for Imagine Canada, Tasneem Rahim worked to ensure Calgary companies, charities, and non-profit organizations received national recognition for their genuine good work. She put together a national fundraising programme. “It had a lot to do with building relationships, maintaining them, and working with people across the country,” she says. Rahim was named among Calgary's Top 40 Under 40 by CalgaryInc magazine.
Rahim recently left Imagine Canada to start working with the Aga Khan Foundation Canada. She also finds time to volunteer, managing external communications for the Ismaili Council for the Prairies and organising the community's annual Calgary Stampede Parade float entry and breakfast. The event profiles different local charities, such as Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity.
As an Ismaili Muslim, the values of generosity, volunteerism, and giving back to the community were instilled in Rahim from an early age. “It's an honour to be in this place,” says Rahim. “It's even greater to be able to profile our ethics and values, what we've learned as Ismailis, and bring those to the work place.”
Alim Somani, President of Infusion Development, was honoured to be named to Canada's Top 40 Under 40. However, it took a while for the recognition to sink in: “When it hit me about a month afterwards, I experienced a bit of ‘imposter syndrome'!”
Somani caught the entrepreneurial bug during his final year at the University of Waterloo, when he began a company called S2 Solutions. Infusion Development Canada was established shortly afterwards and Somani became President within five years. In that time, the company has grown to employ about 200 people, with offices in Canada, the US, the UK, and the UAE. He is also a founding partner of Infusion Angels which provides seed capital and management expertise to young entrepreneurs and start-up companies.
Somani reflects on the importance of finding balance in his life, “I love my job and I love the business, but I have a young daughter, and maintaining the balance between family and work becomes difficult. As Canadian Ismailis, we are predisposed to success, but we also have a huge responsibility as well. I take that responsibility seriously and it motivates me every day.”
Dr. Aleem Bharwani
Aleem Bharwani completed three years of undergraduate studies at the University of Calgary in molecular biology and business management before receiving admission at the University of Alberta's Medical School. After completing his medical studies in Edmonton, he moved back to Calgary for training in internal medicine where he is currently a General Internal Medicine Fellow. He was named to Calgary's Top 40 Under 40 list for his contributions to the health community.
Dr. Bharwani's philosophy is to leave every organisation better than when he entered it. As the advisor to the Executive Director and CFO of the Faculty of Medicine, he participated in the strategic planning and business development of non-profit academic medicine. Simultaneously, he negotiated a new socially and financially progressive contract for resident physicians in Alberta. Through his hospital work, he has also developed a clinical care model which has enhanced efficiency in teaching and patient care.
“Any complaint or observation of how things can improve must be followed by a creative dedication to innovate a way to address the concern,” says Dr. Bharwani. “Ignoring problems in the system will leave you responsible for problems that may occur down the road.”
In the future, Dr. Bharwani hopes to bridge the gap between clinical care and research, and promote and sustain health care by not only the clinical care of the doctor, but by larger determinants such as education, infrastructure, fiscal and public policy, and through environmental sustainability.
Dr. Bharwani advises other young professionals to do what they love. “Don't chase after titles or accomplishments. Do things for the right reasons and the rest will fall into place. If your foundation is flawed, it is harder to be happy, and harder to be successful.”
Amyn Rajan, a recipient of the Business in Vancouver Forty Under 40 Award is the President and CEO of Orbital Technologies. “It's a unique company we're building across the country,” he explains. “Not only are the employees workers, but they are also shareholders and have equity in the company. That leads to a lot of great team effort.”
His company was founded 11 years ago, and survived the dot-com crash. Considering the number of technology firms that disapeared in 2001 – 2002, Rajan is relieved that Orbital Technologies survived. “The struggle lies in really being able to stand out, and being better than the competition at a global scale.”
Rajan believes that to be successful, you have to have a good mentor. “It's important to get one or two people who are really willing to be there and help you out. You don't have all the answers, but you find people to help you out along the way.”
Salim Kassam's resume boasts a wide range of experience in the hotel industry. He began his career as a carrot peeler when he was 12 years old and at the age of 19 proceeded to manage a hotel, with jobs at all levels in operations and management. Last year, Kassam was named to the Business in Vancouver Forty Under 40 list.
Today, Kassam is the Vice President of Marketing for Sandman Hotels, Inns & Suites. Based in Vancouver, the company boasts over 30 properties across Canada and employs more than 7,000 people. It also has interests in Moxie's restaurants. In 2007, Hotelier magazine awarded Sandman the Pinnacle Award for Company of the Year for “epitomizing the best characteristics of the foodservice and hospitality industry.”
“It's a unique company, in that we are able to build our own companies and really seize opportunities,” Kassam says. But that brings with it its own challenges. “It's very easy to be at work 16 hours non-stop, but it's not about how hard you work, it's about how smart you work.” While he works long days, Kassam makes time to spend with his family and maintains a strong balance between his professional and personal life.
As CEO of Amica Lifestyles, Samir Manji is clear about the company's goal: to offer a lifestyle focused on independent living, where seniors feel a continuation of life, not an end. More than 2 000 seniors live in Amica's 16 communities across BC and Ontario. “Our communities offer luxury retirement living to seniors looking for a lifestyle change, similar to a high-end hotel,” Manji says. Wellness programs are also offered at these retirement homes, allowing residents to maintain or even improve their overall health and wellbeing.
Manji faced a number of challenges in getting this business venture off the ground. “Markets weren't very friendly, and times were very difficult. But by staying focused, we were able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.” Manji has a tremendous sense of appreciation for challenges. He remarks, that they bring the best experiences in terms of learning.
Similar to the other Top 40 Under 40 recipients, Manji is committed to finding a balance in life in which he can fulfill all his commitments and responsibilities. “Time is a precious commodity, especially when you have an obligation to a company and a young family,” Manji reflects. “There were times when I worked six and a half days a week, but that's not what defines an individual. It is family, because they are after all your legacy.”