Azi Boloorchi, manager at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Techna Institute, is a fierce leader and an inspiration. My exclusive interview with her explores challenges, mentorship, and what it takes to be successful.
How old were you when you came to Canada?
I was 17. I moved here during a February snowstorm with my parents and younger sister. We did not have any family or friends here. I remember taking the subway, getting off at a random station, seeing the sign “apartments available for rent” and starting our life in Toronto.
What was it like to adapt to a new country and system?
Quite honestly it feels like a blur. I barely spoke English and certainly did not fit in at our high school. I became shy and introverted and lost my confidence. But I did not lose hope – I knew there was a bright future waiting for me.
What past challenges have shaped you the most?
The challenges that have shaped me the most have certainly been during periods of change. Change is difficult, but with it, usually comes an improvement, a reward, and happiness. For example, pursing an MBA with a background in life sciences and no real work experience was a period of change that was intellectually challenging, physically demanding, and at times emotionally taxing. The workload seemed impossible, but it helped to give me the discipline I need now to deliver on big projects.
Has mentorship impacted your life?
Absolutely! While I have never had a “formal” mentor, I have benefited immensely from one-off or regular informal conversations about my professional development and career goals with people who possess key characteristics that I admire. One person, one coffee chat, or sometimes even one sentence can make a huge impact.
What do you think are the main qualities of a successful person?
Curiosity: Not only can curiosity help us innovate and solve problems, but it also makes us interesting.
Creativity: Creativity is about connecting ideas, seeing the big picture, unconstrained with preconceived notions or existing paradigms or mental models.
Empathy: When you treat your colleague or stakeholder first and foremost as a human being with feelings that is when magic happens and opportunities arise that you never knew existed.
Commitment: Successful people are committed to their goals and do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Resilience: Successful people do not give up. They keep dreaming and just go for it.
What are some tips you could give to girls to raise their confidence?
First, know that nobody on this earth is 100% confident; even the most successful, the richest and the most beautiful people have insecurities, so you are not alone. Secondly, with confidence, I truly believe in the practice of “fake it till you make it” (thanks mom!). Third, try to get to know yourself. It’s really that simple… Or is it? To be perfectly honest I am still trying to figure it out.
What inspired you to become a mentor?
Rochelle, the Founder and Executive Director of GEM, was a silent mentor of mine. I admired her passion to go after what she loves and her ability to handle it all with grace. When she told me about GEM and asked me to be a mentor, I was honoured and excited. This is the type of program that I wish I could have accessed as a 17 year old girl coming to Canada.
Azi Boloorchi is a healthcare strategy and management professional with over eight years of experience leading strategic initiatives from design to delivery and advising innovators, policy makers and executives on their most challenging problems. She currently works as the Manager of Personalized Cancer Medicine Strategy at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Techna Institute. She was a teacher at Centennial College for 4 years and volunteered with the United Nations in a disaster relief mission. Azi has graduate degrees in science (MSc) and business (MBA) both from the University of Toronto.