Suganya saves the day
Suganya Tharmalingam (BCom, 2001) knows how to set goals. When Tharmalingam, the youngest in her family, was in first year at U of T Scarborough, her mother asked her to join the family in a move to Ottawa.
“I told her, ‘I can’t do that because I’m working on my brand. This is U of T and it’s what I wanted. I’m going to get my degree here.’” And that’s exactly what she did.
Next, Tharmalingam moved to Chicago for a job at Deerfield Capital Management. She studied to earn a CPA designation — and worked her way up to vice president. “l learned a lot about hedge funds, CDOs and unique investment strategies, mergers and acquisitions.”
Tharmalingam got married, moved back to Toronto and took a maternity leave job as senior analyst at Kensington Capital Partners. The company was growing, just getting into private equity and venture funds, and so she stayed. The partners put her on a team working on mergers and acquisitions.
Then a crazy thing happened. Tharmalingam was on maternity leave with her second child. A week after the birth, she got a call asking if she could resume work. There was a “situation”: the vice president of finance and the controller had both quit, and team members were jumping ship. And it was April, in the middle of tax and audit.
“What could I say?” She said yes. She worked from home and pulled it off — hiring people, restructuring the team and working through the tax and audit. And now? With Tharmalingam as managing director and CFO, the company manages more than a billion dollars in assets.
“Things are going well,” she says. “I took a risk, challenging myself and coming way out of my comfort zone.”
Christa Studzinski (BSc, 2002) is a go-getter. After her undergraduate degree, she earned a PhD in pharmacology, worked at a start-up company and completed two post-doctoral fellowships. “I’m a bit of a jack of all trades,” she jokes.
Returning to Toronto, Studzinski interned at the newly opened Ontario Brain Institute, which brings together researchers, clinicians, industry partners and patients. Five years later, she’s their manager of research programs.
“The neuroscience research that’s happening in Ontario is phenomenal,” she says. In one initiative, clinicians and a start-up company are collaborating to develop a robot that helps children in rehab learn to walk again. Studzinski describes an email she received: “For the first time ever, a teenager was able to give her mother a hug standing up.”
Says Studzinski: “Whatever I end up doing, I want to foster meaningful partnerships to enable research and innovation in Canada.”
When Alex Adamo (BA, 2013) was at U of T Scarborough, he was all set to become a teacher. He volunteered in a classroom, marking and helping to prep lessons — and didn’t like it one bit. At the same time, he started working with the athletics director at the university. “I thought, ‘Yep, this is what I want to do.’”
Says Adamo, “I’m a sports guy. I was either playing sports, watching sports or talking sports.” Today, Adamo is an account executive with Toronto FC II, the minor league soccer affiliate of Toronto FC. He says UTSC helped him get set up for what he’s doing. How? “From getting involved with the athletic association, to having friends in the athletic department, to playing intramural soccer every season.
“UTSC is a small community. It’s so easy to access everyone,” says Adamo. And he’s found the same attitude at Toronto FC II. “They’re open to helping me plan for my future, and they mean it; it’s not just something they say.”
The Honourable Bryon Wilfert (BA, 1976) was always interested in politics. In a political career that spanned 26 years, he was best known as an MP for Richmond Hill. “I always understood the importance of public service,” he says. “I’d run again in a heartbeat, but now there are other avenues to explore. I enjoy the diplomatic world and speaking engagements — and Asia has always been my first love affair.”
Wilfert is now Honorary Consul for the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. “I’m not the kind of person that’s going to retire. I don’t know how to spell the word,” he says. “I have to be busy.”
The recipient of an Arbor Award from U of T Scarborough for his volunteer activities, Wilfert has supported the university by mentoring students, serving as an advisor for Asian partnerships and, now, as a member of the Alumni College of Electors.
What is he most proud of? “I was elected to the highest office and held a seat in the House of Commons — what an honour and a privilege,” he says simply.
With years of experience in accounting, finance and investment management, Andy Wai Kwan Li (BCom, 1995), is well known in his field. Li, who is CFO of Zhuhai Da Heng Qin holding company, credits his experiential learning at U of T Scarborough. “I was enrolled in the Co-op program in my first year,” he says, “and it provided an excellent bridge between school life and the real commercial world. This better prepared me for my career selection.”
What’s more, he met his wife at UTSC. “She’s an alumna,” he says. And his brother, niece and nephew also graduated from the university. “So my whole family benefited from an education there.”
Now living in Hong Kong, Li frequently travels to China, and back to Canada to visit his parents. They live a 10-minute drive from the UTSC campus, he notes. “So I visit the university every time I return.”