By Zara Khurana, Communications Generalist Mental health for newcomers
MOSAIC’s Immigrant Professionals Conference (IPC) 2023 keynote speaker, Sobhana Jaya-Madhavan, is an inspiring woman with a remarkable journey. Embodying the essence of leadership, volunteering, and community service, Sobhana’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance and the impact one can make through dedication and selflessness.
On October 28, her keynote presentation will focus on the importance of making the best of the immigrant experience, strategies for immigrant success, giving back to society and taking care of mental health, especially as newcomers.
Born in Malaysia and raised in India, Sobhana graduated from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) with a master’s degree in social work. She worked in Malaysia prior to immigrating to Canada in 1995. However, her credentials were not initially recognized, and she encountered closed doors. She started her Canadian career as an usher at GM Place (now Rogers Arena), earning minimum wage. This experience echoes common challenges of those starting out their lives in Canada.
Reflecting on her journey, Sobhana advises to embrace volunteerism and think like an entrepreneur. She believes that the immigrant experience becomes more positive when individuals ask what they can do for Canada rather than what Canada can do for them. Mental health for newcomers
One significant moment in Sobhana’s life occurred at the age of 16 when she became the youngest president of her hometown’s Rotaract Club in India, a club that brings together people to exchange ideas with leaders in the community and develop leadership and professional skills. This experience ignited her passion for community service and laid the foundation for her future endeavours. Over the years, she has volunteered for various organizations in both India and British Columbia, creating meaningful partnerships.
Sobhana’s dedication to community service extends far beyond her volunteer roles. She serves as an advisor to the International South Asian Film Festival, Global Emerging Leadership Programs and Immigrant Women Initiative in Canada and the National Federation of the Blind in Maharashtra, India. In India, she also holds the position of Chief Impact Officer for HashHackCode, an organization focused on providing technology education to neurodiverse individuals with different abilities.
Furthermore, Sobhana is the president of the BC-India Business Network, a director with the Burnaby Board of Trade, a board member of The Inclusion Project, and a member of the United Way B.C. Campaign Cabinet. Her extensive involvement in these organizations reflects her commitment to making a positive impact on both local and global communities.
After working in the Government of British Columbia for nearly two decades and ending her public service career as an executive director, Sobhana moved back to India in 2015 and was the head of HR for an international firm. In 2017, Sobhana came back to Canada to join Simon Fraser University (SFU) as Associate Vice-President of External Relations. In this role, she engages with all levels of government to help advance SFU’s priorities and fosters partnerships within the community. Her efforts have garnered recognition from the Women Economic Forum, which awarded her the Woman of the Decade and Iconic Women awards in 2019 and 2022. Additionally, in 2022, she received the International Inclusion Champion Award from the National Federation of the Blind Maharashtra in India. In 2023, Sobhana was one of the Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award recipients.
Sobhana’s experiences have shaped her outlook on life, and she has a deep appreciation for diversity in people, cultures, and ideas. She says, “Organizations like MOSAIC play a critical role as they provide newcomers with access to professionals, mentors, supporters, coaches, and essential services. These organizations serve as lifelines, helping newcomers navigate the challenges of settling in Canada and providing a platform for both newcomers and supporters to collaborate effectively.” This year’s IPC takes place on October 28 at UBC Robson Square. Register Today.