“Owning your future”, a short and simple phrase. Yet a year ago, when I often associated “uncertainty”, “challenge”, and “uneasiness” with the word “future”, I had no idea what it would take to “own it”. 

Reflecting back on my GEM journey, it was truly filled with eye-opening moments, growth and self-discovery. I had the chance to meet and learn from amazing mentors, build meaningful skills for both academic and professional settings, and further understand my own strengths and interests.

By listening to speakers at GEMinars and communicating with my mentor, I was inspired to ponder some of the questions that I had never asked myself when it came to my future. For example, what drives me to pursue the activities I am doing right now and what do they reveal about what I’m hoping to do in the future? What are some different paths that will potentially lead me to the same destination? What are some ways I can contribute to the community while pursuing something I enjoy? All of these questions will continue to help me in both goal-setting and decision-making. 

One of my favourite things about GEM is the opportunity to hear from panels and keynote speakers at GEMinars, whom all have inspiring stories and insights to share. I took away many important messages that will continue to guide me as I advance in my learning and professional careers. At the first GEMinar, when speaker Karen Ly from LinkedIn said “Where you come from does not determine where you are going”, her words immediately resonated with me not only because of our shared experience as immigrants, but also the motivation I felt when hearing about how she defined her life despite tremendous adversities. The mentor panel at GEMinar three shared their secrets to success, some of the most memorable to me include “Seize opportunities” and “Behave in the way you want to be”, which I later turned into action. At the last GEMinar, after hearing from former Olympic swimmer Brittany MacLean that “We fail every single day. But we also excel and grow every single day”, I was further enlightened by GEM alumna Jennifer Ma’s unique perception of rejection as simply a “redirection”. 

Not only did I learn life lessons that changed my attitude, but I was also able to develop skills that will help me to put my passions and goals into action. Some of these include networking, resume-building, interview preparation and workplace etiquette.  GEM’s friendly and learning-centric environment encouraged me to pursue opportunities outside of my comfort zone by using the skills I acquired. I set up appointments with industry professionals to find out more about the fields I am interested in, and while participating in the ‘Careers in Finance and How to Pursue Them’ workshop at Burgundy Asset Management, I reached out to the Recruitment Manager and secured an internship at the prestigious firm. At school, I started my own club and was elected as the Student Council President. As a grade 11 student, I would have never thought of achieving any of these things without the support from GEM. They gave me a first taste of what “owning my future” feels like – set goals, make plans, seek opportunities and take action. 

Throughout GEM, I developed a clearer understanding of my future aspirations in terms of education, career and community involvement. But even more importantly, I gained the right mindset and skills to achieve these aspirations. I am confident that the other 59 talented GEMGirls also have similar things to say. GEM empowered me to become a more courageous, independent and passionate version of myself, and now I am ready to own my future and empower other girls in my community.