Grad launches new business with an eye on leading equitably

Photo by Dan Toulgoet

Not everyone’s career journey leads to a Hollywood ending, but Anand Kanna’s has come pretty close. A veteran of the Vancouver motion picture industry who’s worked in film directing, location scouting, and now health and safety, Anand graduated from SFU’s Leadership Essentials Certificate program in late 2022. Half a year later, he became not only his own boss, but he’s also turning his vision for a truly equitable and inclusive workplace into reality.

Still, Anand notes, the SFU program wasn’t what he initially expected. At the time he enrolled, he was employed as a health and safety manager in a motion picture safety organization. To prepare for a senior leadership role, he was looking for practical management skills in areas like strategic planning and finance.

“But when I started diving into the content of the courses, I realized it wasn’t necessarily about the business administration side of things,” he says. “It’s more about people management, through the eye of equity and inclusion.”

As a person of colour, Anand was no stranger to racism, but the program gave him a new perspective on its systemic nature: “It helped me identify how systems are structured for people who understand the system or are part of the system. It gave me a critical eye I didn’t have before.”

Anand took his learning back to his workplace, with a goal to promote diversity and encourage everyone to have a voice. But while he was still taking courses, Anand started to notice a cultural shift when it came to equity and inclusion at work.

“I could see all the things my instructors were talking about as I moved through the certificate program,” he explains. “I noticed we were going in a different direction now. And this program empowers you to speak up and ask questions.”

So, Anand began to raise questions in staff meetings about what he saw as inequitable practices. “I ruffled some feathers,” he chuckles.

Shortly afterwards, he and the organization parted ways. Fortunately for Anand, one door closing soon led to another one opening. Leveraging his years of industry experience, he struck out on his own, launching One Eleven Entertainment Health and Safety Consulting in 2023. The new company has since worked on developing safety plans for several motion picture and live performance productions around town.

Now, as leader of his own business, Anand remains focused on advancing equity and diversity, actively supporting immigrants and visible minorities whose lack of English fluency or Canadian work experience may limit their opportunities. He’s even found ways to work with past colleagues. “We’re supporting each other, sending clients each other’s way and looking for other ways to help.”

Although the Leadership Essentials program didn’t provide him with the traditional business management training he’d originally expected, Anand laughs that starting his own company has given him a crash course in business administration anyway.

“This program isn’t what I expected, but I’m glad I took it,” he says. “It’s definitely worthwhile, because the only way we can change the system is by understanding the system.

“It’s given me a laser focus on where I want to be and what type of organization I want to be a part of,” adds Anand. “I hope that continues with the organization that I’m building now.”

By Kim Mah