Alumni Profile Mehnaz Thawer

BA in Psychology, minor in English, Simon Fraser University, 2005
MA in International Studies, Simon Fraser University, 2008
Assistant Director, Canada Strategic Pursuits at Ernst and Young

Connect with Mehnaz on Linkedin and/or on her website.

1. Where do you currently work and what is your position? Which jobs or careers have you held since completion of your Psychology degree up until your current role?

I’ve had the opportunity to explore a variety of opportunities since I graduated. After graduating, I worked for a civil society non-profit, serving fragile democracies. I then took some time to work on my graduate degree at SFU. After that, I’ve worked for both consulting and engineering firms as part of their business development teams. I help to strategize and position our internal teams to serve clients through proposal development and presentation coaching.

2. When did you know that you wanted to pursue a degree in psychology?

Ever since I was in high school, I wanted to be a psychologist or a counsellor. I liked working with people to solve complex problems. Psychology and English both valued critical thinking in their approach and I thought that this would be the best combination to equip me with the skills I would need for that career. Little did I know that those skills would come handy is many more ways!

3. What were your favourite courses? Who were your favourite professors at SFU psychology?

My BA was such a long time ago! The ones I remember best were the social psychology courses in intimate relationships and intergroup relations. Those courses still serve me well after all these years! I also had a chance to work in Dr. Stephen Wright’s lab for a social psychology study, which I loved to do. I got to learn the ins and outs of running studies with human subjects – and it was a bonus to see it published after I graduated from SFU.

4. What did you originally plan to do with your degree in psychology during your undergrad, if you had any ideas at that time? Is that different than what you do now? If so, how?

I wanted to go to graduate school and become a psychologist. After I took a break and before my MA, I took some time to think about what kind of work might be available to me as an option. I totally fell into the work I do now, but it uses so many of the skills that I honed over my time at SFU. As a pursuit strategist, I still get to work with teams of people, get to use my knowledge of intergroup relations to manage our projects and still get to work on complex problems that help make society a little bit better.

5. Were there ever periods during your undergrad when you felt unsure about your future? If so, how did you cope with that? 

I think it’s natural to go through that process as an undergrad. We were taught that we had to make life choices in university and then stick to those. Some people are successful at doing that, and others need to do a few different things to find something that they like. I felt unsure (especially after statistics exams!) I dealt with it by speaking with other students throughout, leveraging the excellent student advisors the university has and periodically doing a pulse check with myself (for instance, am I having a bad day or am I unsure of this exam?)

6. What advice would you give to students that you wish you knew in your undergrad?

Life is full of surprises and what you know about yourself as an undergrad will change dramatically in a decade or two. Give yourself the compassion and grace to explore the many different ways that you can use your degree. As our world changes due to technology, the need for human sciences is going to be in demand in virtually every field. Take the time to design a life that not only equips you with skills, but closely considers the things and people you value. Life happens while you’re grinding through your degree. Look up once in a while – there are many more opportunities that you haven’t even thought about yet.