HARRY JEROME AWARDS: 1 On 1 With BBPA Scholarship Winner Heather Tay

hjalogo This coming Saturday, I'll be attending the Black Business and Professional Association's (BBPA) 31st Annual Harry Jerome Awards, and I'm SO excited! Never mind that it's my first time attending this event - it'll be even more special since I've been named the Harry Jerome Awards' official blogger!

If you aren't familiar, the Harry Jerome Awards is an event held here in Toronto to honour the achievements of Black Canadians in a variety of fields. The awards are named after Harry Jerome - one of Canada's famed Olympic athletes whose social consciousness and civic works matched the impact he made on the track. Every year since 1982, this illustrious awards ceremony has recognized excellence in the Black Canadian community. Amazing people like Tonya Lee Williams, Trey Anthony, and Ben Johnson all call themselves Harry Jerome Award alumni, and this Saturday, more names will be added to the list.

As the official blogger for the Harry Jerome Awards, I've had the pleasure of interviewing current winners, past winners, and even a past BBPA scholarship winner. Today,  I want to share one of my features so that you can get a feel of what the Harry Jerome Awards and scholarships are all about. So without further delay, meet Heather Tay - a past BBPA Scholarship winner!


Here's Heather's impressive bio:

Heather is technology executive with a passion for design.  In the midst of a career change, Heather consults with and is part of the Advisory Board for the Israeli based mobile start-up tawkon.  She is on the board of OCADU's (Ontario College of Art and Design University's) Imagination Catalyst creative industries incubator in Toronto where she now lives. She also serves on the Board of Directors for ODC/Dance in San Francisco, currently holding the position of board secretary.

Prior to that, Heather was Vice President, Client Services for The Nielsen Company's Telecom Practice Group (former tech start-up Telephia) in San Francisco.  There she led teams in providing market research and business insight to senior management clients at companies including AT&T, Sprint, Bell Canada, Telus, RIM and Rogers Wireless.  Her focus has been on strategic revenue growth for mobile service providers and handset manufacturers.

Before joining Nielsen, Heather was a management consultant at Adventis advising telecommunications companies on international expansion strategies, market growth and business plan creation.

Prior moving to San Francisco, Heather spent a year in London, England at a Nortel joint-venture start-up marketing their new Internet access technology solution to energy companies, which included time in Iceland helping to secure their first client.  She spent other brief stints living in Copenhagen and Paris consulting for companies such as Bang & Olufsen.  Prior to that, Heather was at Nortel Networks in Toronto where she led manufacturing operations teams whilst contributing part-time to the development of Nortel's diversity strategy and training programs.

Heather holds an MBA from McGill University and an honors degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Waterloo in Canada.  She is deeply grateful for her Barbadian and Ghanaian parents who provided structure, guidance and exposure to many amazing opportunities.

Tell us 3 interesting/little-known facts about yourself.

1. I speak a little Danish - just enough to entertain a three year old.

2. I ride motorcycles. My last bike was a 750cc Ducati Monster in matte black. Now in the summers I get around in a cute little Vespa scooter.

3. I am a big believer in personal development - education outside the standard classroom.  I've pursued development through Landmark Education, PAX Programs, and mindfulness training among others.  This, alongside formal education, has had a huge impact on who I am and where I am today.

What year did you win the Scholarship?

In 1986 I believe.  I graduated high school in 1987 so that should be right.  It was a long time ago.

What subjects did you pursue?

I studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Waterloo, graduating in 1992.  I later went on to complete my MBA in International Business at McGill University. heathertay2

What did winning the Scholarship mean to you?

It meant recognition for the work and focus I had put in in high school.  When studying long hours I sometimes questioned “Why? What's the point?” It was encouraging for me to have my efforts be seen (and rewarded) outside of my immediate circles.

What advice do you have for other scholarship winners in terms of pursuing their dreams?

Do it!  And learn as much as you can about your dreams through lots of different channels.  Go talk to people, try out internships, go to conferences (many offer student discounts), shadow a person in that field.  The more you learn, the better you'll be able to see if your dream aligns with you and what you really want.  As you find out more along the way, don't be afraid to update what you dream about doing.  Nothing is fixed in stone.

What do you think needs to be done for our youth?

Exposure, exposure, exposure - to different people, different cultures, different professions, different religions, different ways of living.  One of the quickest ways to expand one's world is to see how other people live, what's important to them, what choices they make and the impact of those choices. It will help youth to expand their knowledge and in-turn what they dream about doing with their own lives.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?

These days it is getting harder and harder to predict where one will be in future.  I hope to be combining my love for design with my background in business and technology, ultimately helping people to see beauty in their everyday lives.

Heather Tay is a shining example of what passion, dedication, and recognition can accomplish. Assisting youth to find their passion, motivating them to stay dedicated to their development, and recognizing their achievements are all crucial to their future. Thanks to the BBPA scholarships, more students have the chance to follow in Heather’s footsteps and become our communities’ next success story! Are YOU going to this year's Harry Jerome Awards? I hope to see you there!  

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