Introducing: Abhilasha Bhatia

Our August Networking + Workshop event is less than a week away and we here at YWiB Toronto are more than excited to share this great opportunity with you. In anticipation for all the wonderful advice that will be shared at this event, we asked Abhilasha Bhatia, one of our Speakers for this night, why self-awareness has helped her to overcome barriers and succeed in the Tech field, a predominantly male dominated space.


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You come from a diverse background, having been born in India, and working across both Canada and US in places like Silicon Valley. How have these life experiences helped shape the person you are today?

India is very diverse in itself. I spent a good 22 years of my life in India, mostly in my hometown, a primarily conservative city. Even then I was exposed to different languages, different religions, different ways of living and cultures. I think having a strong support system of people and resources around me who understood the importance of dreams and growth, helped me broaden my scope of thinking and develop an outward approach.

But yes, travelling from India to the US was definitely a culture shock. Who wouldn’t want to experience that though? I did my research on how’s and what’s of people, the education system, and the prevalent beliefs in the States before travelling. That said, experiencing the culture first hand was different. It definitely grew my breadth of perspectives about the world, and helped me value travelling and experiencing different cultures.

Having come from a patriarchal society and now working in a male dominated field, how do you think having so much male influence in your life helped or hindered your sense of self?

Being raised in a patriarchal society came with some benefits. Although I may have lost on opportunities such as playing tennis (there was only one sports club near my place and its management didn’t have a good reputation), or free reign over my free time because I was asked to come home on time and not stay out late with friends (on-time meant soon after college or before sunset), I did gain some things.

I built few but strong friendships. I developed an intuitive ability to sense threat and learned to find safe environments. I learned how to entertain myself with books (non-academic, of course), and even developed a sense of inner rebel which helped in building my resilience.

I also had access to computer and internet (not every one did), which allowed me to look at the world, not just around me but miles away. I think this access is perhaps one of the reasons you will find comparatively more percentage of women in STEM fields in India. In fact, when I joined university in North Dakota, I was definitely shocked to see that out of 35 students in my Computer Science graduate program, only 4 of them were women. None of those women were American. And this reality was also reflected in the job market.

Also, I have had the privilege of being mentored by wonderful human beings, mainly men. When I look back to particular times in my career though, male colleagues have been willing to include me in discussions or sporting activities only when I have explicitly shown curiosity and interest in it. I feel this has contributed to my consciousness levels both in positive and negative ways.

What are some of the ways in which you have observed harmful self-talk/self-belief in women (either yourself or women you know)?

I think that we tend to criticize ourselves a lot and also not own our successes enough. I think being self critical is good because it also means that you are holding yourself up to high standards (recently gained this awareness). But, it is also important to understand that you do what you do because of the experiences that you have had so far.

One thing I strongly believe in is that my journey and my experiences are unique. I do tend to fall into the trap of comparisons now and then, but I have built a way to address it and come out of it. I think there is value in seeing failures as lessons learned. But it is important to move on.

I am still learning how to own my successes enough. But as I said, it is a journey.

What are some of the ways you think we can overcome this harmful self-talk/self-belief?

Brené Brown says: “Talk to yourself as if you would talk to someone you love”. Try answering this question: if you care for someone, and they are in the same spot as you, what would you say to them at that particular moment? Say that to yourself.


What is the importance of self-awareness, particularly for women, in the professional space?

Ah, you see new opportunities and build the courage to go after them. Own your success, learn to make it vocal. Not suggesting to boast about it. But be aware enough about it to speak it. Ask for help and coaching in your workplace or outside of it.

What are some of the problematic norms you’ve observed in the tech space, and how have you gone about challenging them?

Specific to my field of work where you engineer a product, there are primarily two phases to the process: the critical thinking around solution building, and the implementation / coding phase. Since there are technical skills involved, it’s important for people to be skilled to a certain level. But as I have observed, there is also a culture that demands and supports very opinionated people, with no or little opportunity given to those who are not, or even to listening to all factors from other team members. This leads to uninformed or fast decisions around product building. This also drives low confidence levels of other team members who voiced their points or who ask for collective feedback.

I think it is important to be focused on the best solution to the problem. Being highly opinionated is good, but it’s only useful and effective when you back it up with reasoning and listening to the opinions and expertise of others. Diversity in opinions gives way to a resilient solution to the problem in hand.


As you continue through your journey of self-awareness, who are some of the women you look to for inspiration (and why)?

Indra Nooyi - A brilliant woman with high EQ, who climbed the corporate ladder for the top position at Pepsico. She inspires me because of the leadership insights she has given in her interviews: focus on what she could be the best at, focus on leadership quality of EQ over IQ, focus on closely working with direct reportees to make sure they are happy and successful in their work, focus on building workplaces with daycare facilities. In short, because she is a visionary changing the product’s brand to move beyond being being just a soda drink.


Abhilasha Bhatia, 'Abhi', is a Software Engineer at Finaeo, a growing Canadian startup in the insurance technology space. She has 5+ yrs experience working in the technology industry in Canada and US - Toronto, Silicon Valley, Tampa. Prior to that, she has 6 yrs of educational experience pursuing courses in Computer Science and Engineering. Abhi wants to use technology to engineer solutions for moonshot ideas that would take humanity to the next level, currently in the insurance industry with Finaeo.

Abhi grew up in India, in the city of Kanpur, in a family of 12 which included parents, grandparents, sibling, cousins, uncles and aunts. The perks of growing up in a big family were having a playful childhood with sibling and cousins and listening to anecdotes from grandparents. The family always encouraged and supported kids for higher education and picking up fields that would help in critical thinking and reasoning. Abhi feels this has been a crucial element in her upbringing that has helped her see different avenues that life can bring and explore awareness.

Abhi believes that it is important to educate young women about their rights, the importance of self-awareness, changing a mindset from feeling victimized to challenging norms and believing in themselves and always staying curious. She has been exploring leadership through people and books. She is very excited and looking forward to interacting with amazing women attending YWiB networking event!"

Introducing YWiB + SickKids Activators

Did you know that millennials are more generous than both Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers?

According to research, the total number of millennials giving to charity exceeds the previous two generations, despite having less resources to give, and millennials are going beyond just monetary donations. For example, a study by the Millennial Impact Project found that 72% of millennials are motivated to raise money for a cause with which they felt a personal connection. With 62% of millennials believing they have the power to make a difference in their community, and 40% believing their efforts have the potential to reach a global level, what’s stopping so many of them from getting involved?   

At YWiB Toronto, we have witnessed an eagerness to help within our own community, but at the same time have observed a lack of knowledge on how to approach volunteerism and philanthropy, that is why we are constantly working to find ways our members can contribute more to their local communities. With that in mind, we are pleased to announce that we are partnering with the SickKids Activators program to offer you the  opportunity to get involved and make the difference you’ve been looking for!

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The SickKids Activators program is an excellent way for young professionals to use their skills and experience to help those in need through fundraising and event planning. As an Activator, you’ll create and manage an event within your community or industry that raises a minimum of $10 000. Fundraising proceeds will go toward funding the work and equipment of top medical staff and researchers, while offering organizers access to social networking opportunities, mentorship, and support from the SickKids team. Here at YWiB we believe in giving you the tools you need to create your own success, and this is an awesome way to start!  Learn from the best, while also making a difference in the lives of the next generation of leaders! 

Are you interested, but not sure where to start? For details on the program and to see upcoming events hosted through the SickKids Activator program click here.

There will also be a special SickKids Activators announcement at our next YWiB networking event on August 22nd. Join us for the opportunity to chat one-on-one with a SickKids Activator team member! If you are unable to make it, feel free to reach out to one of the team members at: sickkidsactivators@sickkidsfoundation.com

November Networking Event Recap

Last night’s event was exactly what I had hoped it to be. Passionate young women connecting with each other and broadening their networks. I recently joined the volunteer team here at YWiB Toronto as an Events Coordinator. I had been looking for ways to network and find women who were equally as passionate as I was about helping young women navigate the business world.

Guests gathered around lindsay johnson, our keynote speaker for the evening.

Guests gathered around lindsay johnson, our keynote speaker for the evening.

Our November Networking Event hosted around 50 young, bright women. We gathered at The Citizen, a great casual space for working professionals to connect located right off King West. The venue had plenty of room to accommodate standing conversions and had bonus couch sections for more intimate one-on-one talks.

As someone who is always on time (or usually too early, let’s be honest!,) I appreciated that many YWiB members were ready to meet and mingle with the first few guests who arrived. There is nothing worse than showing up at a networking event to find that there is no one to talk to for the first 15 minutes! As everyone started arriving, guests were encouraged to mix and mingle with others. The conversations I had with some of the attendees were amazing and really broadened my understanding of business. I work in the music industry but enjoyed that I was able to get to know passionate women from different industries across the city.

After 45 minutes, Sandra Riano, President of the Toronto Chapter introduced our keynote speaker, Lindsay Johnson. Lindsay teaches first-time entrepreneurs everything they need to know about building their business from the ground up. Thanks to a technical difficulty, what was supposed to be a speech about how to become a client magnet, turned into two intimate sessions catered towards two groups of women: first-time entrepreneurs, and young professionals. Lindsay was able to interact with us and answer our questions about how best to go about networking, starting a business, etc. This intimate setting ended up being one of my favourite parts of the evening. The opportunity to be in a small group with a leader like Lindsay was so insightful.

As the final part of the evening started, guests were asked to split into three groups to network further. Everyone around me seemed to be having compelling and eye-opening conversations with one another. During this time, Sandra did three giveaways from a couple of YWiB’s loyal supporters. A big thank you goes out to Tangerine Bank and Shoppers Drug Mart!

Ywib toronto team at the november networking event

Ywib toronto team at the november networking event

Reflecting on my first YWiB event, I am impressed by the group of women I was surrounded with. If you are looking to find women who will help lift you up, or who are facing similar challenges as you are, or who simply want to widen their network and make connections, then you’ve found the perfect organization to help you do so.

Hope to see you at our next event!

August Networking Event Recap

As an incoming second year Special Event Management Student, it’s extremely important for me to grow my network as it will play a pivotal role in the process of achieving my dream job. I took the liberty of attending a few of networking events during my first year of post-secondary school; however, none of them were as amazing as the August Networking Night located at The Bottom Line in the downtown core of Toronto. With a turn out of 55 people, I have had the blessing of meeting and connecting with several incredible women from various industries, without feeling nervous or intimidated whatsoever. This is a huge improvement for myself as I am notorious for being wildly nervous or intimidated at networking events.

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I believe the reason behind my nervousness and intimidation disappearing was the relaxed, yet professional setting that was organized by the YWiB team. Tonight’s choice of venue was a beautiful sports bar that was the perfect of blend of classy and casual. The bar tops consisted of black granite that gave the venue a stylish look, meanwhile the wooden tables and comfy red seating created a laid-back ambience. To top it all off, there was simple decor present that consisted of chalk signs reading “#YWiBTO,” giving the event a warm and welcoming touch.

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Aside from networking, the event also included activities to break the ice among all the attendees. The agenda consisted of the following: 30 minutes of mingling, 30 minutes of an icebreaker, 1 hour of networking, 30 minutes of a second icebreaker, and 30 minutes of last minute networking. The three hours flew by in a matter of seconds; but I did end up with two memories that are my personal favourites from the night.

My first memory includes talking to professionals that already work in the industry that I want to work in as an Event Specialist, the corporate sector. Despite the fact that they are working in positions that are not related to events, it was eye-opening to learn about a number of companies, their company cultures and their company philanthropic activities. Likewise, I believe this information will come in very useful when searching for companies to apply for in the near future.

My second memory is listening to the attendees’ pitches during the second icebreaker called “What’s Your Pitch?” The objective of the icebreaker is to share something about yourself and what you want to achieve from the networking event within 20 seconds. This is an important skill to master because there are certain situations in life where you’ll only be given 1 minute to explain a topic or answer a question. For instance, you’re in an elevator with the HR of the company that you’re applying for, and you only have 1 minute to answer their question of who you are and why you’re there. Nonetheless, it was absolutely amazing to the attendees present their pitches with such enthusiasm and energy!

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All in all, it was incredibly beautiful to see women from different walks of life empowering and uplifting each other by sharing ideas and industry knowledge. I am so proud to be a part of YWiB Toronto because it is such a positive and inspiring community. Also, as a person who is new to Toronto, I am happy to call this community my home away from home. I am beyond excited for the September’s STEM Q&A Panel that’s taking place on September 13, 2018! I have no doubt that it will be just as amazing as this month’s event.

In case you missed August’s Networking Night, here are the icebreaker questions:

  1. What do you have in common with the person on your left?

  2. Tell us about yourself and what do you hope to gain from tonight’s event?

Written by; Eilleen Faraon 

July Networking Event Recap

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Networking events can often be intimidating, especially for me, an introverted Data Analyst who is more used to dealing with numbers than with people. One of the main reasons I joined YWiB was to get out of my shell, and to be more social with people outside of my friend circle. Throughout my time volunteering for YWiB, I’ve met plenty of amazing women, and have enjoyed the small, tight-knit environment of our previous networking events. However, this month we switched things up a bit, holding the event at Mum’s the Word , a beautiful bar located in the heart of downtown Toronto. The bigger space allowed for a much larger crowd than at previous networking nights, with approximately 40 women in attendance. Even with the larger sized group, the event still had the intimate feeling I had enjoyed at previous YWiB networking events.

The night opened with an hour of general networking, which allowed attendees to converse with women of different career levels from a variety of industries. I often found myself in discussions with women in fields completely unrelated to mine, from tech entrepreneurs to business consults to graphic designers. One of my favourite things about working with YWiB is the diversity of women that attend the events, and their willingness to mingle with those outside of their realm. I never had the feeling that I was selling myself, something I find myself doing at other networking events in the city. Instead I was having authentic conversations, often about topics completely unrelated to my actual career. One conversation in particular was regarding racism in the workplace, and how I often find myself being the only black person in a meeting, or even the office. It was nice to hear from others who share my experience and learning how they have managed to deal with their circumstances, which is not something I have had the opportunity to discuss at other networking events.

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This month the focus of the night was centred around meeting goals. Prior to the event, attendees were asked to identify their career goals and with this information, we were able to match women with those who were either in the same industry or met their goals in some other way. It was our goal to have every attendee leave with at least two connections, but I found that most were leaving with more than that.   

For me, the best part of the night was during the second ice breaker: What is your pitch? For this ice breaker, attendees were given 30 seconds to share something with the crowd. They were welcomed to talk about a business venture, upcoming event, employability, or simply introduce themselves as a new Torontonian. It’s great practice since throughout your career you will find yourself in situations when you’ll only have a few minutes or less to tell someone your story. When those moments come about it’s good to have a 30 second pitch, or what some refer to as an “elevator speech” on hand to impress a future connection.  I loved this challenge because I saw woman after woman head to the mic and be met with roaring applause. It was a great way to get us out of our shells and really help us with identifying what we offer, while at the same time providing a supportive environment that offered encouragement.

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Overall it was a great event to be a part of and I can’t wait to see what the next networking night will bring.

In case you missed the event, here are the ice breaker questions:

#1: Who are some of the women that inspire you?

#2: What is your 30 second pitch?  

How to Rock a Networking Event

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Coming to one of our networking nights this summer? Don’t know how to even start to make connections? Fear not, here are some tips to make the most of your networking opportunities.

Make a good impression

When you’re in a networking event, you need to be the best version of yourself. Doing so helps those who meet you to remember you and makes it easier for them to be your advocate or champion. Here are a couple of ways to bring out your best self.

  • Be helpful. Ask what they’re looking to achieve with the networking event and if applicable, offer to make an introduction or share knowledge you have about the topic.

  • Be yourself and be honest. People can often tell when you’re trying to fib so don’t invite distrust by pretending to be someone you are not.

  • Be warm and open. This doesn’t mean to hug everybody; it means listening intentionally (to understand, not to practice what you’ll say next), smiling, and approaching every interaction with goodwill.

  • Say what you mean and mean what you say. Ask questions when you don’t know or understand something, don't just nod along while standing on the sidelines. If you appreciate what someone said, say so! If you tell someone you’ll email them, do so!

  • Be clear, specific and straightforward. When you ask open questions with details, you can help keep the conversation going and avoid awkward short answers. For example, don’t ask, ‘how’s it going?’ (answer: it’s going); ask, ‘what was the best thing you read this week?’

  • Leave Debbie Downer at the door. Stay away from complaining, negativity, gossip, judgment, exaggeration, and blaming. It's not about being fake-happy, but rather about being relaxed and easy to talk to.

How do you know who and how to approach?

In our networking events we often sit at a table, and our team takes care of the ice breakers and awkward introductions. If you find yourself in another networking event unaided, and have no idea how to ‘enter’ a conversation, use the 1-2-3 principle. That is, approach those by themselves first, then groups of two and finally groups of three. Here’s how:

  • Look first for people standing by themselves. Often, these ‘groups of one’ are the most welcoming since they’re often shy, so go ahead and approach them. Use an ice breaker, and introduce yourself.

  • When approaching groups of two people, approach first groups who are standing in a V formation. Their bodies are slightly open towards opposite sides, which usually means that they’re open to someone else joining their conversation. Just slide in the middle of the V, make eye contact with both parties, smile, and introduce yourself.

  • If you find a group of two people and their bodies are facing each other straight on, that usually means they’re engaged in a semi-private conversation. Fear not, you can also approach them. Use the ‘may I cut in’ trick seen in movies: approach one of them from the side, gently tap them in the arm and ask for permission to join in. A simple ‘do you mind if I join your conversation?’ will suffice. Nine times out of ten, they’ll say yes and introduce you to the other party or parties. If they say no, it’s very likely that they’re discussing a private issue and in that case, just move on to the next group.

  • When approaching groups of three or more, find an open space and use the same ‘may I cut in approach,’ slide in, make eye contact with everyone in the group and join the conversation.

So now that you’re in the group, what do you do next?

You want people to remember who you are. Standing next to someone or only nodding won’t get you noticed. Although listening in is okay, but do your best to participate.

  • If you’re joining a group of one, use an icebreaker to start the conversation. You can compliment a piece of their outfit (or their glasses, phone, etc.), and ask about more about it. Other icebreakers are easy questions such as ‘What attracted you to this event?’ or ‘Have you ever been to an event like this?.’ If you’re really shy, you can admit to that since the other person may be shy also. For example, saying ‘Events like these are so intimidating to me. Are they easy for you?’

  • If you’re joining a conversation of two people or more,  just ask ‘What are we talking about?’ and someone will fill you in. Ask simple follow up questions such as ‘That’s interesting, why is that?’ or ‘I’ve never heard about that’ or ‘Can you elaborate?’ to help the conversation going.

Introducing yourself

The key to introducing yourself is to be brief and give them just enough bits of information to get them to ask more. Also, people like to interact with humans, not robots, so make sure your intro reflects your fun, sassy and clever personality. Here’s a simple fill-in-the-blank script and some samples.

  • My name’s Rihanna. I’m a veteran singer in the entertainment industry. I excel at making my listeners feel like I’m the only girl in the world. In my free time, I enjoy making umbrellas and asking for my money back. My best friends would describe me as obsessed with diamonds. I’m here to get more fans and weed out any rude boys.

  • My name’s Sarah. I’m a digital marketer in the insurance industry. I excel at helping companies convert passive audiences into customers. In my free time, I enjoy live music and spending time with my dog. My friends describe me as the best board game partner ever. Now I am looking for a digital coordinator role with a company that wants to supercharge their promotional efforts.

  • My name’s Lane. I’m a sales rep in the tech industry. I recently helped my division exceed their sales forecast by 25%. In my free time, I enjoy watching documentaries and biking. My clients describe me as dependable and hardworking. My friends describe me as the best wing-woman in downtown Toronto. I’m here to meet new people and make friends.

Now that you have given enough information to pique their curiosity, pause, look them in the eye and wait. They will ask you questions or tell you something about themselves.

You have listened, talked, and bonded. Now what?

Your goal in a networking event is to make and receive at least one introduction or follow-up meeting from one of your fellow attendees. Yes, it’s about giving, before taking. To do that, you need to make meaningful connections.

Stay tuned for more tips in upcoming blog posts and newsletters. We’ll be covering topics such as how to ask for an informational interview, how to follow up and how to follow through. Also, follow us in Twitter https://twitter.com/ywibto and LinkedIn https://ca.linkedin.com/company/ywibto for more info and resources about rocking the networking game.  

Written by Sandra Riano