Simply put, Seema Lakhani is one of the reasons that Embrace Disruption Public Relations exists today. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Seema at Torstar Digital for quite some time, and can’t express how much she’s meant to me as a mentor, leader and friend. Seema’s ability to empower and encourage her co-workers, combined with her undeniable passion make her a invaluable person to know and work with. After reading her interview below, I’m sure you’ll agree that Seema is a fantastic addition to the EDPR profile series.
- Cory, EDPR Founder
What’s your ‘official’ job title, and what do you do at Torstar Digital?
My title is Manager, Strategy & New Ventures for Torstar Digital. I do a variety of things for Torstar Digital including staying on top of the latest changes in the digital media space, identifying new opportunities for us to play in and working with entrepreneurs to either invest or acquire their businesses in order to help them scale. I also work closely with the senior leaders across all the business units to help them develop and hone their strategy. It’s definitely busy, but always exciting.
Where’d you go to school, and what for?
I went to the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western, Ontario.
How did you land in strategy and was this always your plan?
I was never somebody who had it all planned out but I was lucky enough to be very clear from a very early age on knowing what I loved – media & the arts AND entrepreneurship. I went to business school because I believed this would give me lots of options to find my passions in a career.
Unfortunately, I found it disillusioning instead. We were given four career option given our degree choice: accounting, finance/investment banking, management consulting or marketing. The recruiting process was contrived and frustrating so I decided to stay out of it. Besides, I didn’t like being put into any of those boxes. So I decided I was going to go to film school and become a producer.
Then, I happened to be participating in a case competition hosted by the management consulting firm, Monitor, in my final year at business school. After the competition I was approached about applying to the firm, given my aptitude in strategy. I made it clear I was interested in media and I was sold on the promise that strategy consulting was a great way to get into media.
Following my time at Monitor, and after getting a strong discipline in strategy, I followed my entrepreneurial heart and worked for the Toronto innovation centre, MaRS Discovery District. There I worked with early stage digital media entrepreneurs and had fantastic exposure to constant inspiration and learning about building a startup in the digital space.
Starting at Torstar Digital gave me the opportunity to move from consulting and advising on innovation – to really living it.
My path was certainly not linear or planned – but I am truly grateful for it as it’s allowed me to discover my own talents and follow my passions.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your position?
My role is to drive innovation forward in the company – and that isn’t always an easy task. Change is always hard for people and the new and unknown can be scary. I’ve learned a lot about how to influence and how to motivate.
What’s the best part of your job?
I know it’s a cliché, but it has to be the people I work with. Working with a diverse group of intelligent and passionate people has always pushed me to grow and challenge myself. Whether it’s a leader who truly understands me and pushes me to reach my potential or employees who inspire me to ensure they reach their full potential – there’s always something to be learned from everyone.
Who do you look to for mentorship and advice?
I’m a big believer in mentorship so I actually seek out advice from a number of people including my current and former managers, the wonderful network of advisors I met at MaRS, former teachers and inspiring people I’ve met along the way.
What are your 3 favourite industry blogs/sites/news outlets?
What advice would you give for people seeking out a position in a similar field?
Don’t let your fear of failure or what anyone else says prevent you from pursuing your dreams. This could apply to anyone really, but it’s definitely been a life lesson for me. Fear is a perfectly normal thing to feel. Accomplishment and self-satisfaction come from learning and growth. Learning and growth comes from experience and failure. Experience and failure comes from facing your fear and taking action. They say you regret the things you didn’t do, not the things you did. I’ve failed at plenty of things (and I’m sure will fail at plenty more) and I’m proud of it – because I tried, learned, grew and got back up again. I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for that.