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Alumni Profile Yarko Petriw
BA in Psychology, Simon Fraser University, 2001
MBA, Simon Fraser University, 2013
Co-founder of CounsellingMatch.com; Senior V.P. at Aon
Connect with Yarko on his personal website and/or on Linkedin.
1. Where do you currently work and what is your position?
I am a Senior Vice President at Aon, as well as Co-Founder of CounsellingMatch.com
2. Why did you decide to study psychology?
I decided to study psychology because I felt that it was an area of study that would be applicable to every aspect of my life. Understanding human behaviour (and indeed my own) would allow me to make better decisions, think critically and objectively about the world around me and perhaps even give me an advantage when it came to managing relationships one day.
3. What were your favourite courses? Who were your favourite professors at SFU psychology?
There were a few courses that stood out for me: Drugs & Behaviour, Developmental Psychology, and Sport Psychology were chief among them. I wish I could remember the professors’ names, but it’s been a while! I will make special mention of Dr. Mark Wexler, who was my professor for several courses in my MBA, most notably Organizational Behaviour, a business course that drew heavily on psychology in order to understand how and why organizations behave the way they do.
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 didn’t have a clue what I would do with my degree at first, but I was certain that a firm grounding in psychology would be valuable no matter what lay ahead of me. I decided to embrace my indecisiveness when I chose a career in risk management and insurance at Aon. There, I could learn about and provide value to countless businesses in a variety of industries and apply my learnings in psych to my role as a consultant to external clients and in leading my own team within the firm. Then, three years ago I decided to draw once again on my interest in psychology, teaming up with a few like minded individuals to create CounsellingMatch.com, a first-of-it’s-kind website that allows people to seek and connect with mental health professionals that are matched to them based on personal compatibility. I don’t think I could have predicted myself engaged in either of these endeavours and yet…here I am and I’m loving it!
5. Were there ever periods during your undergrad when you felt unsure about your future? If so, how did you cope with that?
Frequently! At first, I envied those that seemed to know exactly what they wanted to do so early in life, but that changed as I came to embrace and even enjoy the idea of the seemingly limitless possibilities ahead. My “coping mechanism” was to embrace that uncertainty and allow myself to consider any and all possibilities. I focused on building relationships, exploring my passions and being open to opportunities as they presented themselves. I certainly never pictured myself in the insurance industry, and yet here I am thriving at Aon with a career I enjoy. I also didn’t expect I’d ever create a start-up enterprise such as CounsellingMatch, but by allowing myself to be open to opportunities and drawing on my education and what I’ve learned from colleagues, clients and friends, I’ve since created a positive social impact with something I’m extremely proud of.
6. What advice would you give to students that you wish you knew in your undergrad?
At SFU you have a safe space to learn and expand your breadth and depth of knowledge into new areas. Take advantage of this! Soak it up like a sponge and be sure to build relationships along the way. Whether you are ferociously focused or decidedly dabbling in various topic areas, use this time to its fullest to build a strong foundation for the best version of yourself, whatever that may be.