Impactful Actions Award Finalists

Environmental activists, scientists, and government advocates – the finalists for the 2022 Impactful Actions Award are global leaders exemplifying collaboration while making a positive impact on the world around us. The Impactful Actions Award is presented annually and celebrates individuals who inspire collaborative solutions to difficult global problems.

We’d like to introduce this year’s finalists (in alphabetical order) and provide three short stories of impact. The winner will be announced on September 14th at the 3rd annual Profound Impact Day. 

L-R (In Alphabetic Order) Kekashan Basu, M.S.M., Dr. Mona Nemer, Dr. Neil Turok

Kehkashan Basu, M.S.M.

Kehkashan Basu, M.S.M., began her commitment to making the world a better place when she was a child. 

“When I was seven, I saw an image of a dead bird with its belly full of plastic. That was very disturbing to me,” Basu said. “I realized that I had to do something to stop that from happening again.” 

She planted her first tree at eight years old and founded her own humanitarian organization, the Green Hope Foundation, at the age of 12. The foundation is now celebrating its 10th anniversary.

“I wanted to be able to bridge that lack of inclusivity and really empower those who don’t have access to bringing about change in their own spheres of influence,” Basu said. 

The Green Hope Foundation is a global social enterprise working across 26 countries impacting more than 300,000 people. The group works closely with vulnerable communities, bringing them education for sustainable development, and turning that education into ground-level actions focused on water, sanitation, clean energy and food security. 

“Overall, we’re working to create an equal and peaceful society so that we are able to really leave no one behind and ensure a life of dignity for all,” Basu said. 

Mentorship and collaboration are at the heart of Green Hope Foundation’s work. “You can’t do this on your own,” Basu said. “You need to be able to work with others, share best practices, see where they’re succeeding, and learn from that as well. It’s really about joining hands to bring our effort together, because at the end of the day, it’s our common humanity, it’s our common planet.”

Basu hopes her work through Green Hope Foundation will continue to inspire people to give back to their community and protect the planet. “We want the Green Hope Foundation to be in every country, ensuring we’re able to change the mindsets of those all across society.”

The visualization below showcases Basu’s past accomplishments and awards:

Dr. Mona Nemer

A leader in providing scientific advice for policy development, Dr. Mona Nemer was named Chief Science Advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2017. In her role, Dr. Nemer helps to ensure that science is taken into consideration in government decision-making.

“Increasing the visibility and understanding of science is an important aspect of the work of my office, as it helps provide people with the tools they need to make good decisions for their lives,” Dr. Nemer said. 

As Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Nemer is responsible for offering expert advice on key scientific issues. She also assesses how the federal government supports quality scientific research and recommends ways to improve that support. “Science is our best tool for understanding and being able to make predictions about the world,” she said. 

Prior to taking on the role of Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Nemer was Vice President of Research and Director of the Molecular Genetics and Cardiac Regeneration Laboratory at the University of Ottawa. A leader in molecular cardiology, Dr. Nemer has discovered several genes associated with development and function of the heart. Her research has contributed to further development of diagnostic testing for heart failure and genetic birth defects. 

Dr. Nemer has served on multiple national and international advisory committees and boards, including as an Executive Committee Member of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force. Dr. Nemer put together the COVID-19 expert panel, bringing together researchers and practitioners to provide multidisciplinary advice on aspects of the covid pandemic from infectious disease research and disease modelling to behavioural sciences. The panel helped to bring emerging scientific information about COVID-19 to the Prime Minister and Cabinet in a timely manner to ensure Canada was handling the pandemic in the most effective way possible.

“We saw scientists step up and not only provide advice to governments, but communicate and explain science to the public on a variety of issues,” Dr. Nemer said. “That is because there was really no aspect to the health crisis that shouldn’t be informed by science.”

Dr. Nemer’s work has expanded and diversified scientific advice provided to the federal government by establishing a multidisciplinary network of federal scientific advisors. She worked to help create the Interdepartmental Indigenous STEM Cluster to inform and advance Indigenous innovation in natural science stewardship. Dr. Nemer has a strong commitment to educating the next generation of scientists, supervising more than 100 graduate and postgraduate students around the world during her time in academics. Now, as Chief Science Advisor, she continues to help develop young scientific minds through her pan-Canadian youth council, which provides evidence-based input on scientific issues affecting young people.

The visualization below showcases Dr. Nemer’s past accomplishments and awards:

Dr. Neil Turok 

After spending years as a theoretical physicist, Dr. Neil Turok wanted to do something to give back to his home continent and to the global scientific community. Nearly two decades ago, he was prompted by his father to write up a concept note describing his idea for a new kind of centre for advanced scientific training, in Africa. The note was shared with a range of interested parties and the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) was born. Dr. Turok, now the Higgs Chair of Theoretical Physics at the University of Edinburgh, was a Professor at the University of Cambridge when AIMS’ first centre was launched in Cape Town, South Africa.

“As a theoretical physicist and a cosmologist, I don’t exactly work on useful things. I work on what happened at the Big Bang and where the universe is going,” Dr. Turok said. “Just about the only useful thing I could do was teach people math, computing and related skills.”

Students travel from across Africa to take part in the program, where they learn from the best lecturers from around the world. Now, more than 19 years since its inception, AIMS graduates over 350 students at Master’s level each year, at centres in Cameroon, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa.

“As soon as we started, we were overwhelmed with the enthusiasm of the students,” Dr. Turok said. “They said, ‘this is a totally life-changing experience.’ And then all of the international lecturers who came to teach them said, ‘this is the best teaching experience I’ve ever had, because suddenly I’m with these super enthusiastic students from many different cultures and backgrounds.’”

Spots at AIMS are fully funded, including travel, medical insurance, accommodation and tuition. Students make meaningful connections with like-minded scientists around the world. Most go on to lecturing positions at African universities or into industry.

“These students come, in general, from very disadvantaged backgrounds. They come to us because they can’t afford to pay for a scholarship to go overseas to Europe or the U.S. for further study,” Dr. Turok said. “AIMS provides an environment where they can really thrive.”

Dr. Turok said AIMS plans to create five more centres in the next 10 years, scaling up its postgraduate training and research as well as teacher training and STEM high school programs. Dr. Turok predicts a wave of highly motivated young African scientists entering and positively impacting global science. 

The visualization below showcases Dr. Turok’s past accomplishments and awards:

Do you have an impact story to share? Let us know at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter!

Jay Krishnan

Jay Krishnan

CEO, Accelerator Centre

An innovative thinker with a global mindset, Jay Krishnan believes that the time to invest in Waterloo Region’s ambitious tech entrepreneurs is now. Krishnan, who has more than 20 years of global experience working with businesses in the startup space, took over the role of CEO at the Accelerator Centre in March of 2021 and he’s determined to uncover entrepreneurs who have what it takes to be successful on the world’s stage. Before coming to Waterloo, Krishnan was a General Partner at Mantra Capital and the first CEO at T-Hub, India’s largest startup incubator. He was drawn to Waterloo Region because of the high potential tech talent that is relatively undiscovered on a global scale. 

“Any ecosystem needs to have momentum, density, and diversity, and I think Waterloo has all these three,” Krishnan said. “It still remains untapped, as seen through the lens of the global perspective.”

Krishnan is at the centre of many moving pieces in Waterloo’s tech ecosystem. He believes the region has high-pedigree institutions, producing talented individuals who may not have the tools they need to commercialize their ideas. That’s where the Accelerator Centre comes in to help. “The Accelerator Centre, as an organization, is truly positioned to be in the centre of the track for these companies,” Krishnan said. The organization works closely with founders who may not have the business experience or support to find success on their own, offering support through various programs. 

“Our goal is to take the region and the Accelerator Centre global to generate demand and discoverability of tech developed in Waterloo to the world,” Krishnan said. “We don’t need to confine ourselves to Canada. If anything, I think COVID demonstrated that we can go global by hanging out on the internet.”

Businesses coming to the Accelerator Centre can access a variety of programs, including incubation, story acceleration, and the recently announced AC:Studio program, which focuses on the entrepreneur first before the tech to build-up strong founders and teams. The Accelerator Centre offers in-person and virtual events, funding opportunities, product launch support and mentorship. Companies looking to enter Canada can also do so with support from the team of experts at the Accelerator Centre and by accessing Canada’s Start-Up Visa program. “It really depends on where you are as a company in your lifecycle,” Krishnan said. “We have structured programming that helps you along your journey,” Krishnan said. This structured programming includes high-touch mentorship to help companies with their business ideas and commercialization. The Accelerator Centre also helps generate demand and discoverability for science and tech clients in Waterloo Region.

The Accelerator Centre is working on a key initiative that will make it the most inclusive startup ecosystem in the world. The centre’s EDI plan, a two-year initiative, is fully available to the public and includes internal teams, board members, mentorship models, and entrepreneur programs. “You have to make yourself accountable and transparent,” Krishnan said. 

Heading into the future, Krishnan believes Waterloo Region’s tech talent is poised to lead in the new post-pandemic reality. “If we have the capability, and we do, there should be no reason why we are not appealing to the world.” Jay’s unique entrepreneur-first approach and the raw talent within Waterloo Region make a perfect pairing for global impact.

The visualizations below show Krishnan’s career highlights, along with some of the businesses he’s worked with since joining the Accelerator Centre in 2021.

Do you have an impact story to share? Let us know at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter!

Charmaine Dean

Dr. Charmaine Dean

Vice President, Research & International, University of Waterloo

A leading researcher in disease mapping innovation, Dr. Charmaine Dean uses spatial analysis to solve large, capacity-related problems. 

“My research has all been in big files, big questions – firefighting, fire science, forest ecology,” Dr. Dean said. “I led a national network related to understanding fire on the landscape and how we should deal with it, given that it was such an important question for Canada and it still is.” Prior to researching fire science, Dean worked with the Ministry of Health in British Columbia to analyze a flareup in suicides in one region. “I wondered, ‘how bad is it compared to the rest of the province? Can you do some analysis to understand where we should pull resources from in order to put more resources into child suicide?’” she said. Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, Dean is using analytics to predict hospital capacity concerns and monitor COVID-19 case counts and wastewater signals.

Dean, who is Vice President, Research and International at the University of Waterloo,  is no stranger to the Waterloo Region. After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Saskatchewan in 1980, she moved to the University of Waterloo for her graduate work, earning a masters degree in 1984 and a doctorate degree in 1988. “It was sort of a circle coming back here,” Dean said. She was drawn to the role at the University of Waterloo because the institution is working to develop an innovation ecosystem. “The whole region has grown tremendously in terms of entrepreneurship and innovation, especially the student ventures coming forward,” Dean said. “There’s a pulse of excitement related to that.”

Dean began her academic career at the University of Calgary before moving further west to join Simon Fraser University. In her time at Simon Fraser University, Dean had an integral role in establishing the Faculty of Health Sciences. “A lot of intentional and deliberate work was shaping this faculty,” she said. “We created three new programs that were completely oversubscribed.” Dean said the school expected to have 10 or 15 students in that first year, but ended up receiving 300 applications. “You can’t turn them away, because if you turn them away, you’re now telling them, don’t bother coming here.” Dean also helped dismantle a faculty at the school, which brought with it a different set of challenges. Dean said she focused on listening to peoples’ concerns throughout the dismantling process.

Dean returned to Ontario in 2011, serving as Dean of Science at Western University from 2011 to 2017. “That was such a privilege,” she said. “I was so honoured to be chosen for that role.” 

Now, at the University of Waterloo, Dean meets with faculty and interest groups, along with focusing on strategic alliances and partnerships with other academic institutions and collaborating with government, business and industry. Dean will also add a new portfolio in the fall – commercialization and entrepreneurship. “That’s one of the exciting things about being a leader, being able to see what an organization like the University of Waterloo needs and, through processes of discussion and consultation, making it happen.”

A female leader in an often male-dominated field, Dean said it’s important for organizations to have diversity at their leadership tables. “Diverse leadership brings diverse perspectives,” she said. “It’s really important to have women in leadership positions so that others can see that they have somebody to turn to for advice or for career support.” She encouraged people at the beginning of their careers to speak up and express themselves whenever possible. “Have the confidence to be bold and take small steps and recognize yourself as a leader,” she said. However, she also acknowledged that work spaces are not always inclusive and women often face barriers and biases that may prevent them from being authentic, voicing their opinions, and fully expressing themselves. “It is crucial that we continue to identify and eliminate these barriers for women and members of other historically excluded groups, ” she said.

Dean said she wants to impact the lives of her colleagues on an individual level, whether that’s helping them win an award, setting up a centre, or attracting new students to a school. She also wants to leave a legacy of improving things at an institutional level, making sure students feel safe and supported. Dean led an anti-racism taskforce at the University of Waterloo, working to create an anti-racism framework for the institution. She will continue to focus on sustainability, encouraging people to come together to solve big problems.

The visualizations below depict Dean’s accomplishments both in her career and in building research communities.

Do you have an impact story to share? Let us know at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter!

Deborah MacLatchy

Dr. Deborah MacLatchy

President and Vice-Chancellor, Wilfrid Laurier University 

An academic leader committed to inspiring women in STEM and promoting diversity and inclusion, Dr. Deborah MacLatchy has been at the helm of Wilfrid Laurier University (Laurier) since 2017.

MacLatchy made the journey to Waterloo Region in 2007 after spending the early years of her academic career at the University of Winnipeg and University of New Brunswick. MacLatchy, who grew up in Nova Scotia, is no stranger to Southwestern Ontario. Her father is from Preston, now part of Cambridge, and she did her postdoctoral research at the University of Guelph. “It’s motivating to have returned to my dad’s roots,” MacLatchy said. 

She was first hired at Laurier as Dean of the Faculty of Science. In 2009, MacLatchy was appointed to the role of Vice President, Academic and Provost. She also served as Acting Vice President of Research from December 2014 to November 2015. “I’ve just fallen in love with Laurier and being a part of what happens in Southwestern Ontario,” MacLatchy said. “We’ve seen changes in cities rethinking themselves, going from an industrial age to being leaders in a new tech economy.”

MacLatchy has a research lab at Laurier, where she studies the effects of industrial contaminants on fish health. “I look at how fish reproduce and how they grow,” she said. Her research examines how fish are affected by operations like sewage treatment plants or pulp and paper mills, along with working with industries and municipalities on water quality to find solutions for any concerns at the source.

As a female leader of a major post-secondary institution, MacLatchy says it’s important for women to have role models. “They can see themselves being able to see those opportunities are real and if they have an interest or a passion for particular areas, that there will be opportunities for them,” she said. MacLatchy said there were very few female role models when she started university back in the 1980s. “There weren’t many women university professors in the sciences, maybe one per department,” she said. “For women of that era, we made our own role models.”

MacLatchy says women, and white women in particular, have greatly benefited over the past few decades. Now, she says she wants to see more diversity across all disciplines. That’s one goal of Laurier’s strategic plan for the future, focusing on thriving communities and future readiness. “What do the scientists of the future need to have, or the business people or the social workers of the future, the educators of the future?” MacLatchy said. “There’s an understanding that it’s not just what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it.”

As women break into STEM, MacLatchy encourages them to find their passions and connect with others in their chosen field. “I hope that you find the support that you need,” she said. “But, if you aren’t finding the support, know that you’re probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time and that there are other supports out there, there are other people who are able to support you. Maybe reach out a little bit wider than the circle that you’re in.”

MacLatchy hopes to inspire the next generation of women in STEM, leaving behind a legacy of increased diversity and inclusion across all academics.

You can view some of MacLatchy’s accomplishments in the images below.

Do you have an impact story to share? Let us know at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter!

William T. Tutte

Professor William “Bill” Tutte

English Canadian codebreaker and mathematician 

Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Waterloo

May 14, 1917 – May 2, 2002

A world-renowned codebreaker and mathematician, William “Bill” Tutte left an indelible mark on Waterloo’s mathematical community. Twenty years after his death, he still has a profound impact on students studying combinatorics at the University of Waterloo.

Born in 1917 in Newmarket, England, Tutte came from a modest background but would go on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was an active member of the Trinity Mathematical Society. “For him to make that rise is the stuff of storybooks,” said Dan Younger, Retired Professor Emeritus, Department of Combinatorics and Optimization, University of Waterloo, who was a Faculty colleague of Tutte.

Before Tutte made his way to Canada and helped shape the University of Waterloo into the institution it is today, he accepted an invitation to join a team of codebreakers working to decipher German codes in the Second World War. At Bletchley Park in 1941, Tutte was tasked with using samples of messages to uncover the structure of the machine generating German ciphers named “Fish”. Tutte successfully determined that structure without ever seeing the machine. Tutte then focused on developing an algorithm to decipher Fish codes, an algorithm that necessitated the creation of COLOSSUS, the world’s first programmable, electronic, digital computer, which was built in 1943. COLOSSUS played an essential role in the cryptanalysis of the Lorenz cipher. Tutte’s codebreaking work was used to decipher Fish codes until the end of the war. It is believed that breaking those codes meant the war ended two years earlier, saving countless lives.

Tutte moved to Canada in 1948 and spent 14 years at the University of Toronto. He joined the University of Waterloo in 1962, just five years after the institution first opened its doors. He was part of a group who went on to found the Faculty of Mathematics in 1967 and was a founding member of the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization. 

Tutte played an integral role in building the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Mathematics. He helped establish the reputation of the school and attracted combinatorialists from around the world.

“He came when it wasn’t a fully developed university and it became a primary place for scholars in mathematics to come,” Younger said.

Throughout his time at the University of Waterloo, Tutte stayed quiet on his role as a codebreaker during World War II, as he was bound under the Official Secrets Act of Britain. Younger, who first met Tutte at a conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1963, said Tutte didn’t share much of his experience at Bletchley Park.

“He never did talk about what he did in the war,” Younger said. 

Younger joined the Faculty of Mathematics in its inaugural year and was promoted to Professor in 1975. He became good friends with Tutte outside of work, often on weekends hiking on trails in and around Waterloo Region. “It was just a nice relationship in which we really didn’t have to talk unless we had something to say,” Younger said. 

Tutte retired in 1985, but stayed on with the Faculty as Professor Emeritus. He acted as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Combinatorial Theory until he retired. Tutte died on May 2, 2002 at the age of 84. 

The University of Waterloo awards the William Tutte Centenary Undergraduate Scholarship every year, the highest scholarship given to a student interested in combinatorics. The scholarship, which is worth $1,500, is funded by donations from people inspired by Tutte’s work. The scholarship isn’t just a financial gift, though. It also comes with an homage to Tutte’s childhood in England.

“If one gets the scholarship, one gets a bicycle,” Younger said. The bicycle represents Tutte’s journey as a youngster to a high school in the town of Cambridge. He bicycled 18 miles to and from school every day starting at the age of 11.

William Tutte Way was named in Tutte’s honour at the University of Waterloo in 2017. The road connects the three Faculty of Mathematics buildings at the university.

Tutte was one of the foremost scholars in combinatorics. In addition to numerous awards throughout his career and into his retirement, Tutte was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2001. The Canadian government founded the Tutte Institute for Mathematics and Computing (TIMC) in 2009.

“He certainly was the man,” Younger said.

Tutte’s academic legacy includes many students, including prominent scholars Dr. Ron Mullin, Dr. Scott Vanstone and Dr. Alfred Menezes.

Four generations of Mathematicians/Cryptographers. From left to right: Ron Mullin, Bill Tutte, Scott Vanstone, Alfred Menezes.

You can view some of Tutte’s accomplishments in the images below:

Profound Impact academic ancestry graph for Bill Tutte.

William “Bill” Tutte had a long, impactful career as a professor, codebreaker and mathematician. A Profound Impact career trajectory visualization details some of his most significant accomplishments.

Do you have an impact story to share? Reach out to us at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to have your story featured in an upcoming newsletter!

Ronald Cleveland Mullin

Ronald Cleveland Mullin

Dr. Ron Mullin

Distinguished Emeritus Professor, University of Waterloo 

Co-founder, Certicom 

A humble, dedicated professor and mathematician who is modest about his successes, Dr. Ron Mullin has made invaluable contributions to combinatorics, academia and cryptography. His career has spanned over 50 years with notable successes in both commercial and academic ventures. Along with Scott Vanstone and Gord Agnew, Ron Mullin co-founded Certicom, a leading cryptography company whose technology was licensed by the US National Security Agency (NSA), among many others, and later sold to Research In Motion (RIM), now known as  BlackBerry. Mullin was also Professor and Chair of Combinatorics and Optimization at the University of Waterloo and boasts one of the largest lineages in the Mathematics Genealogy project, with 20 PhD students and 180 descendants. 

“Teaching as a whole and getting good students and working with them, it’s a wonderful thing,” said Mullin. 

Even as a student, Mullin’s impact was profound. He was the first ever University of Waterloo graduate to receive an MA in mathematics in 1960. A bright and promising young mathematician and cryptology student, Mullin was recruited by the University of Waterloo to lecture while he completed his graduate studies. His skills were so impressive that the University’s head of mathematics used Mullin as bait to lure world class mathematician, who later was acknowledged as the World War II codebreaker and cryptography expert, William Tutte to the university with the intention of building out the department and recruiting top-tier talent. 

“It was quite an honour,” Mullin reflected, when asked about his role in attracting Tutte to the university. 

After completing his PhD under Tutte, Mullin went on to pursue a career as a professor at the University of Waterloo until 1996, rising the ranks from lecturer to distinguished professor emeritus and adjunct professor. Described by two of his former students as brilliant, encouraging and easy going, Mullin always left a lasting impression on those he taught, as well as his colleagues. 

“Ron taught my first computer science class,” said Alfred Menezes, one of Mullin’s academic grandchildren and professor in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization at the University of Waterloo. “To him, the little details didn’t matter. He thinks about the big stuff – the important stuff…he realized the value of ideas.” 

One of those ideas became the foundation for Mullin’s commercial venture – Certicom, a leading supplier of wireless security solutions. Mullin was heavily involved in the company’s patent program. Certicom’s signature product was Elliptic Curve Cryptography, which speeds up the encryption process, utilizing shorter encryption keys without loss of security. This technology played a crucial role in the advancement of smartphone and other mobile devices and accelerated the growth of a number of companies including RIM. 

“One good thing about it – it’s fast and secure for certain kinds of encryption processes. And these turned out to be the ones that are very helpful in smartphones,” said Hugh Williams, retired computer science professor and Mullin’s academic son. “So in a sense, Scott, Gord and Ron realized this was a coming thing and they were quite skillful in introducing this company.”

After retiring from the University of Waterloo as a Distinguished Professor Emeritus and stepping away from his commercial ventures, Mullin went on to enjoy a second career at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. He established a Cryptography Group at the university, a position he held until his “second retirement”, at the age of 75. Mullin also became the first recipient of the Stanton Medal, which is awarded by the Institute for Combinatorics and its Applications to honour significant lifetime contributions promoting the discipline of combinatorics through advocacy, outreach, service, teaching and/or mentoring. In addition, Mullin was awarded a doctor rerum naturalium honoris causa (Honorary Doctorate Degree) from the University of Rostock in Germany. 

While Mullin’s professional accomplishments are impressive, his legacy cannot be fully understood without including his mathematics genealogy. A number of graduate students that studied under Mullin became very prominent in cryptography and computer science including: Hugh Williams, who was instrumental in establishing one of Canada’s leading research centres in cryptography and information security; Scott Vanstone, world-renowned cryptography and co-founder of Certicom; Douglas Wiedemann, who designed an algorithm for linear systems of equations before joining the NSA; Bimal Roy, head of R C Bose Centre for Cryptology and Security in India; and Evi Nemeth, engineer, author and teacher who played a prominent role in the development of the Unix computer operating system.  

“He has had many students and ultimately, for an academic, that’s your impact – your students. What they end up doing and how they add to what it was that you did,” said Williams.

You can view some of Dr. Mullins’ accomplishments in the images below:

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Do you have an impact story to share? Reach out to us at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to have your story featured in an upcoming newsletter! 

Janelle Chalouhi

Janelle Chalouhi

CEO and Co-Founder, Venusverse

Partnership Engagement Advisor, Profound Impact Corporation

An entrepreneur and innovator on a mission to promote gender equity and digital literacy, Janelle Chalouhi is committed to empowering women to advance in the next-generation wealth economy. Chalouhi is the CEO and co-founder of Venusverse, Canada’s first female-founded, female-focused educational program, incubator and NFT collection, with the goal of closing the gender gap and removing barriers to entry for women in the Web3 domain. Through educational and networking sessions, a Web3b incubator platform, and their own collection of NFTs, Chalouhi believes that Venusverse will provide women with valuable insights and opportunities to participate in the emerging digital economy with confidence. 

“Only five per cent of women in Canada are in the crypto and NFT space…that’s a big Canadian problem,” said Chalouhi, who co-founded Venusverse with Natalie Dumond. “The whole digital economy is being created with very few women engaging in it. This is a fundamental equality issue that has to be solved.”

Prior to launching Venusverse in early 2022, Chalouhi worked in fundraising and business development for archdioceses, universities, hospitals and non-profit organizations. She was the Director of Community Counseling Service (CCS) Fundraising, working with the archdiocese of Washington and Boston on fundraising campaigns. She also worked in senior management positions at Hofstra University, the Westchester Medical Center, Saint George Hospital University Medical Center, University of Balamand and the University of Waterloo. In these roles, Chalouhi was responsible for fostering strong relationships and partnerships that contributed to infrastructure upgrades, new programming, and other operational improvements. 

Chalouhi also served as the Vice President of Business Development at Communitech, a Waterloo-based innovation center helping companies start, grow, and succeed. In her role with Communitech, Chalouhi helped co-create and lead Canada’s first ever $1-million Leaders Prize, a competition that explored the use of artificial intelligence to identify “fake news” and limit the spread of misinformation across the globe. She has also been a big advocate for shining a light on the people and technologies that are making the world a better place, which aligns with Communitech “Tech for Good” mandate that Chalouhi contributed to as a part of her role with the True North Conference. 

“It’s about helping companies figure out how they can make a difference and align to something meaningful to them in the process,” said Chalouhi. “I think every single company should build in an ESG (environmental social governance) component into the work that they are doing. At its core, it’s giving back — and that’s the only way we’re going to be able to help make a broader dent and impact.” 

The founders are leading by example by collaborating with Profound Impact™ Corporation and CivicAction Leadership Foundation, to build a community where women are empowered with the knowledge required to advance successfully in the next-generation wealth economy. Ten per cent of revenue from the Venusverse NFT collection will be donated to CivicAction in support of women in the organization’s leadership programs including the DiverseCity fellows and the Emerging Leaders Network. 

“I really hope we get to a point where this (gender) gap is closed significantly,” said Chalouhi, referring to the NFT and cryptocurrency space. “Building the confidence of women is really what we want to see happen. Ideally, we want women to be more aware of the digital world that’s being created in Web3. We also want them to be more confident and independent with their finances, making their own money and feeling good with not having to hustle day in and day out — running from dropping off the kids to their job, back and forth. Ultimately, we want more women to be in a place of peace.”

Chalouhi’s approach to cultivating an environment that embraces women’s involvement in the digital economy ties directly into this year’s International Women’s Day theme, #BreakTheBias. This theme celebrates the potential for a gender equal world, free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination that can hold women back in their personal and professional lives — an experience that Chalouhi is all too familiar with in her life. “I’ve seen a lot in my life…I have experienced quite a bit throughout my life and career — everything you can think of, name it, but at the end of the day, those experiences have helped shape me and have brought me to where I am right now, helped me grow as a person and allowed me to have very different perspectives than many others,” she said.  “Of course I’ve experiences discrimination anywhere I have lived in the world, however, due to my vast experiences and perspectives, the discrimination has never gotten in my way and for that I’m grateful”. 

Chalouhi will be joining the Profound Impact team as an advisor in partnership engagement. You can view some of Chalouhi’s accomplishments in the images below:

Do you have an impact story to share? Reach out to us at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to have your story featured in an upcoming newsletter! 

Ivan Yuen

Ivan Yuan

Co-Founder, Wattpad

An accomplished entrepreneur, respected mentor and ambassador for the University of Waterloo, Ivan Yuen has cemented his legacy in the software development industry. Yuen is the co-founder of Wattpad, an e-reading and storytelling platform that has amassed millions of users worldwide. Founded in 2006 with a friend and former co-worker Allen Lau, Wattpad has quickly become a global entertainment company, with over 90 million readers, writers and filmmakers connected through the power of story. While Wattpad’s success is in large part due to the commitment and perseverance of Yuen and Lau, Yuen credits the University of Waterloo’s co-op program for giving him the tools and resources needed to discover his niche in the tech sector. 

Yuen enrolled in the University’s computer engineering co-op program in order to gain real-world industry experience and make professional connections. He spent the first portion of his co-op working in hardware design at some of North America’s top firms including IBM and AMD. While these work placements helped Yuen to further develop his professional experience, it wasn’t until he switched to a role in software engineering at a startup company that Yuen found his true passion. The smaller teams, quick turnaround times and ability to see the impacts of his work instantly were the most gratifying elements of software engineering in a startup environment. “Hooked from that point on,” Yuen would take these valuable work experiences and chart his own path in software development, ensuring that training and mentorship were paramount in his endeavours. 

Now the Chief Strategy Officer of Wattpad, Yuen is passionate about providing leadership and guidance to those he recruits for various positions within the company. He “demystifies ideas about software startups” and offers honest, first-hand accounts of his successes, failures and opportunities for the future. While hiring and retaining the right talent is important to the success of his company, Yuen is incredibly inspired when Wattpad employees transition from their roles to start their own venture. He believes that giving emerging tech talent the training and confidence to pursue their own interests has a powerful multiplier effect and is essential for facilitating the growth of the tech ecosystem across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. 

In addition to employee mentorship and promoting expansion of the region’s tech industry, Yuen’s platform, Wattpad, has been tremendously important to the advancement of writers, storytellers, filmmakers and many more creative professionals whose voices may never have been discovered. Before Wattpad existed, traditional publishing companies were essentially gatekeepers, determining what authors or stories had enough merit to move through the system and onto store shelves. Only those with access and opportunity had any chance of finding success as an author or storyteller—often leaving racial, ethnic and other minority groups without a platform to share their unique experiences. Wattpad challenged and changed this established industry dynamic. The platform empowered those who were otherwise excluded from traditional publishing avenues, enabling those in marginalized communities and young aspiring writers to share their perspectives with a limitless audience. It enabled authors to mix different story genres with important themes of gender, sexuality and race without judgement. It has fundamentally changed the course of modern publishing and given prominence to a diversity of voices, stories and issues that have historically been ignored. 

Wattpad’s success has quickly expanded into the entertainment industry, with movie and TV producers constantly discovering new writers who have published their work on the platform. Recent examples of stories that have been made into movies or TV shows include After, a romantic drama written by Wattpad author Anna Todd and acquired by Paramount Pictures for film adaptation. The Netflix hit The Kissing Booth also started as a novel published on Wattpad by Beth Reekles, who was only 15 years old when she was discovered. Its commercial success has led to the production of a trilogy of films. With over 100 stories currently in different stages of film or TV show development, Yuen is hopeful that many Wattpad authors will have their works showcased at movie theatres or on major streaming platforms in the future.

Looking ahead, Yuen and the Wattpad team will continue to leverage the power of new technology including blockchain to give writers and content creators greater control over access to their work. Readers will also have the opportunity to contribute to their favourite authors, garnering rewards along the way. As the company further expands into new territory, Yuen will continue to mentor and inspire young tech talent to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across the region. 

You can view some of Yuen’s accomplishments in the image below:

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Sohail Ramzan

Sohail Ramzan
Sohail Ramzan
Technical Product Manager, Profound Impact Corporation

A born innovator with exceptional leadership skills, Sohail Ramzan has made his mark on the international tech community. From working with multinational software companies, Oracle partners and global multilevel marketing companies in Pakistan and the Middle-East, Sohail is now a technical program manager with Profound Impact™, leading a team that is building the company’s solutions including Connection Impact, an engagement and interaction platform; Career Impact, a career trajectory tool to provide actionable insights by analysing alumni career data;  and soon to be released Research Impact, a data-driven tool that assists research universities and institutions to achieve their goals of increasing the effectiveness of their research staff. 

Born in Pakistan, Sohail completed his MBA at Hamdard University in 2003 before pursuing a career as a software engineer. As time passed, Sohail continued to climb the corporate ladder, becoming a software development manager and then a project manager for companies in South Asia and the Middle East. In 2016, Sohail and his family decided to immigrate to Canada, where he continued to explore opportunities to advance his tech career. Sohail joined the Profound Impact team in 2019 as Technical Program Manager, where he has been building the organization’s diverse and talented workforce while inspiring product innovation.

A true advocate of career growth and team culture, Sohail brings compassion, communication and flexibility to his role, embracing a diversity of perspectives that ultimately leads to successful team outcomes. He was recently named a Timmy Award finalist for Best Tech Manager for his role in leading geographically distributed teams through unexpected challenges while inspiring performance and growth. Sohail’s stewardship and expertise has contributed greatly to Profound Impact’s success.

Sohail credits his family for giving him the inspiration and drive to pursue his professional goals. Sohail’s son was born with spina bifida, a neural tube defect that affects the spine. Despite the physical disability, his son has thrived in Canada. He is an ambassador for WeCare Canada, an organization that provides life-changing programs and services for children and youth with physical disabilities. A true advocate for children with special needs, Sohail’s son also represented Easter Seals Ontario by participating in fundraisers, radio commercials, telethons and other events to generate awareness and raise money for special needs children. His son’s ability to demonstrate this type of leadership at 13 years of age inspires Sohail in his professional journey to leverage the power of technology to make a difference in the world.  Sohail is working on his first book about accessibility and inclusiveness, planned to be launched in 2022.

Through his work at Profound Impact, Sohail is using his skills and expertise to lead the development of the company’s products including the Connection Impact platform, which functions as a digital community helping people become aware of undiscovered relationships. Through those relationships, the platform helps to accelerate connectivity and inspire collaborative solutions to difficult global problems. 

One of the most important organizational changes implemented by Sohail since joining Profound Impact was his decision to change the development model from being outsourced to being built in-house. Sohail hired his own team and began building the platform internally, which optimized performance, improved efficiency and expedited timelines. Sohail is also leading the creation of Profound Impact’s visualization tools such as the academic ancestry tool, which combines private and public data using artificial intelligence to create linkages between alumni. This tool has the capability to trace back hundreds of years, demonstrating the global impact of one’s educational ancestry.

Key to Sohail’s success has been his ability to inspire creativity amongst his team while facilitating collaboration and communication. Sohail rallies his team to produce high quality results, while creating an environment that avoids burnout. He celebrates his team’s successes, encourages career advancement through the attainment of certificates and new credentials, and frequently supports causes that his team is passionate about.

What keeps Sohail motivated is leveraging the power of data to make a difference in the world. His impact, both tangible and intangible, is quite significant. Sohail is incredibly proud of the effect he has had on younger people he has trained in the industry. Over his 18 years in software development management, Sohail has taught many people who have gone on to successful careers with multinational companies. His passion for mentorship and commitment to product innovation have made Sohail a true innovator, committed to leveraging the power of data and technology to inspire global change.

Sohail holds many technical certifications including:  AWS Certified Solution Architect (CSA),  Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA), Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Project Management Professional(PMP) and PRINCE2 Practitioner.

You can view some of Sohail’s accomplishments in the image below:

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John Loeprich

John Loeprich

Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Director
3iQ Corp.

Passionate about democratizing the financial services sector through innovation and bold leadership, John Loeprich is making his mark on the global economy. As Executive Vice-President, Chief Financial Officer and Director of 3iQ Corp., Canada’s largest digital asset manager, John is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the company’s finance and operations and leads the formulation of the company’s strategic planning. Part of his vision for 3iQ is to provide new financial opportunities for people around the world that are marginalized by traditional financial markets and limited in their business opportunities. Using blockchain technology, digital assets and distributed networks, John hopes to level the playing field and ensure everyone around the world has the opportunity to build wealth. 

John graduated from the University of Waterloo with a degree in mathematics, while also majoring in finance and business. He was enrolled in the university’s mathematics co-op program, which he credits as being integral to his professional development. Through various co-op placements, John was able to immerse himself in all elements of the business world, enabling him to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world situations. For a person who dreamed of one day becoming an entrepreneur, this type of exposure to specialized knowledge at such a young age would prove to be invaluable to his professional endeavours. 

After graduation, John worked in the traditional financial services sector with Smith, Nixon & Company Chartered Accountants, TD Bank Group and Fidelity Investments Canada Ltd. Holding various positions with these companies, John gained a deep understanding of a range of business sectors including finance, fund operations, internal audit, systems and operations, sales, project management, navigating regulatory processes and much more. He transitioned from traditional finance jobs in 1997, launching his own consulting firm, Magellan Consulting Group. From there, John became a partner at @rgentum Management & Research, where he helped introduce quantitative-driven mutual funds, as well as Canada’s first long-short mutual fund. This experience in the alternative investments field fed his desire to find other solutions to wealth management that would offer investors different options to traditional market-correlated investments.

As technology began to evolve in the financial services sector, so too did John’s desire to explore new opportunities offered by the digital assets sector of investment management. With the advent of cryptocurrency, John was given the opportunity to join 3iQ and to introduce a new asset class, using digital assets and blockchain technologies to ensure people around the world have affordable access to financial services and investment products that provided a hedge against inflation. By reducing the need for using financial institutions that charge large fees for money transfer services, blockchains and cryptocurrencies can help to reduce or eliminate fees as well as barriers to entry for those who don’t even have access to financial services.

Since its launch in 2012, 3iQ has become the first company in the world to have a regulator-approved, publicly listed bitcoin fund on a major exchange. Now the largest digital asset manager in Canada (and third largest in the world), 3iQ plans to continue to be innovative and break new ground in its pursuit of new financial opportunities in digital assets. 

Inspired by the transformative power of digital assets and cryptocurrency in global wealth distribution, John is optimistic about the opportunities that are beginning to emerge for so many people around the world that have been marginalized by the current financial systems in place. The hope is that investors will now have access to a new non-correlated asset in their investment portfolio and those who are currently financially disadvantaged will no longer have to pay exorbitant fees or resort to dangerous lending practices with high-interest rates. Entrepreneurs and business owners will also be able to receive payments in various currencies with less friction costs, helping fuel innovation and economic growth. 

While John’s legacy will undoubtedly be his role in the democratization of wealth across the world, his most rewarding work is being a mentor. By imparting knowledge to others, John has been able to hone his understanding of a multitude of business practices and distill it in a way that others can understand and apply in real-world situations. A self-proclaimed lifelong learner, John is passionate about teaching others the many aspects of the financial services industry, including its traditional roots and all aspects of the digital transformation currently underway. 

John’s contributions to advancing the use of blockchain technology, digital assets, cryptocurrency and distributed networks are “game-changing” and the impacts of his work will be felt for years to come. You can view some of his accomplishments in the image below:

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