Ismat Aziz’s experiences as a University of Toronto undergraduate formed the basis of her interest in human resources, a field in which she continues to excel.
“There was a lot of diversity of thought, diversity of opinions, and debate at U of T,” said Aziz, who graduated from University College in 1991 with an Honours BA in sociology and criminology. “I learned not only how to navigate through different cultures and with different languages, but also to immerse myself in opportunities that challenged me intellectually.
“Those experiences were the most profound and helped shape my early interest in human resources. Human resources really is about developing a human capital strategy that embodies culture and values and drives employee engagement.”
Aziz currently serves as the chief human resources officer at Sprint, a major American telecommunications corporation. (September 2018 update: Aziz now serves as the chief human resources officer at U.S. Bank.) She has worked for a number of large corporations across North America, learning and growing with each position.
“As I progressed through my career, I joined multiple companies and navigated through numerous industries,” she said. “Most companies had defined cultures and subcultures – no different than University of Toronto. For me, going to a large university prepared me for real life and encouraged a passion to learn and embrace diversity.”
She had no qualms about moving from jobs with Canadian corporations to those based in the United States, especially given her global experience.
“The transition from the Canadian market to the U.S. market was seamless for me,” said Aziz, who is now a dual citizen. “The educational systems are complementary and we speak the same language!”
A single parent of four children, Aziz sees firsthand how quickly the world is changing. To ensure she was prepared for future challenges, she earned an MBA, and certifications in human resources and board governance. She encourages others to join her in welcoming change and pursuing lifelong learning.
“When you experience trepidation – be bold and courageous,” she urged. “Focus on gaining the skills that allow you to be fluid, fast and resilient. Try to reduce your fear of failure, embrace change and, most of all, love yourself, and honour those around you. Kindness, compassion, and gratitude will always serve you well in any profession or country or within any culture.”
It is a credo that continues to serve Aziz well.
Posted October 31, 2017