‘Everyone has the ability to be a leader’: UTSC grad works to advance opportunities for equity-deserving communities

Vanshika Agarwal
Vanshika Agarwal, who won the 2021 Management Co-op Student of the Year award, is graduating from the management co-op program at U of T Scarborough (Photos by Don Campbell)

Tina Adamopoulos

Vanshika Agarwal is determined to use her voice to level the playing field in business. 

“Leadership for me means that everyone can be a leader in some capacity. I want to make an impact and help people realize the idea of ‘experience to lead,’” Agarwal says.

Agarwal graduates this June with a bachelor of business administration (BBA) from U of T Scarborough's management co-op program, amassing a rich portfolio of achievements for just four years in a competitive field. She leaves the program with a 2021 Management Co-op Student of the Year award for her extensive work-integrated learning (WIL) experience and impact in the FinTech space.

“It was quite humbling and motivating to have received that award,” Agarwal says. “It made me realize how I can start to give back to my peers at different stages of their academic career.”

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Agarwal landed an eight month-long internship as an equity research and product intern at Canalyst, a company that provides clean-data productivity tools for the finance sector.

Working remotely for its New York office, Agarwal successfully pitched an idea to the company’s CEO to establish a system of automated outreach tactics to offer Canalyst to finance students. She pitched and secured revenue-generating clients from American MBA programs, mainly from Ivy League schools, and increased membership to more than 300 participants from MBA programs across the U.S. within six months.

As a young person navigating her career, Agarwal says that the space to voice her opinion was pivotal in gaining the courage to share her idea in the first place.

“No one usually wants to hear what a 20-year-old has to say, but I held sessions with more than 50 people interested in the product. It was a fun and fascinating experience.”

Vanshika Agarwal
Agarwal's advice to incoming students: "Never second guess yourself and always be willing to take chances." 

She credits her parents for instilling the virtue of determination – and female empowerment – in her from a young age.

Shortly after arriving in Canada as an international student from Mumbai, Agarwal worked for Accelerate Her Future, a career accelerator which provides tailored programs to uplift the careers of Black, Indigenous and women of colour in business and STEM. There, she helped develop networking programs as an advisory board member and special initiatives intern through ICUBE UTM – U of T Mississauga’s entrepreneurship incubator.

“I became extremely passionate when I noticed people who didn’t look like me in the industry. Everyone has some power to bring change, and I saw this gap that needs to be filled, especially with women in finance,” Agarwal says.

Amongst several volunteer roles dedicated to advancing gender equality in the financial industry, at U of T Scarborough, Agarwal served as a teaching assistant for five management courses. As a management co-op career coach, she provided students with tips for job interviews, work-term success and networking.

With her sights currently on business school and working within equity research and capital markets, she hopes to eventually build a side-project to create a pipeline for women to find opportunities in STEM and business straight from high school.

As for her advice for incoming students, Agarwal’s key piece of wisdom includes to not doubt yourself and be open to taking chances.

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Never second guess yourself and always be willing to take chances.”