TORONTO: Tina Lee, the Chief Executive Officer of T&T Supermarkets, was among five individuals recognized for their personal dedication, career achievement, and contributions to the community at the 5th Annual Ascend Canada Leadership Awards.
Earlier this month, Lee was named Executive of the Year by Ascend Canada, a non-profit organization with a mission to develop Pan-Asian talent.
Sponsored by TD, this award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding contributions to their organization; delivering business results, demonstrating leadership and being at the forefront of innovation. In 2014, Lee took the reins of the family business, the largest Asian grocery retailer in Canada. Under her leadership, the business has focused on growing their roots, and now set to expand its head office and open four new stores by the end of the 2018, bringing T&T’s total store count to 27. In February 2017, she was named to the Canada-US Council for the Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.
“Leadership is about being purpose driven and people oriented. T&T is so much more than just selling bananas and bok choy,” she said as she accepted her award. “We work hard to identify and amplify the emotional connection we have with our customers, and to make ‘Celebrate the Orient’ come to life.” On stage and eight months pregnant, Tina said she has much to celebrate. The award coincides with the birth of her third baby and T&T’s 25th anniversary.
Ascend Canada hosts the annual awards as a way to celebrate leaders, and showcase Pan-Asian talent. The organization is working with its 18 corporate partners, to ensure diversity and inclusion isn’t an afterthought.
As a 100% volunteer-driven non-profit organization, members of Ascend Canada are passionate about advancing inclusion. Ascend Canada reserves a spot on the gala stage for one of its own, and this year, the honours went to Avni Shah. She was recognized for her enthusiasm, passionate and generous dedication as part of Ascend Canada’s Operations group. She has worn several volunteer hats, one of which was to teach English to children in Guatemala. Avni is part of the TD Securities Internal Audit team.
Three other winners were recognized, each with extraordinary stories that inspire and make an impact to their communities:
• Fahad Tariq was the recipient of the Rising Star Award. Sponsored by RBC, this award recognizes an individual under-30 years of age who has demonstrated early leadership qualities through personal performance and commitment to professional, volunteer, and educational opportunities. Tariq works as a Senior Associate in Equity Research at BMO Capital Markets, covering Fertilizer & Chemical stocks. He is also the Founder of Shift, a nonprofit energy initiative that converts animal waste into reliable, inexpensive energy in developing countries.
• Samra Zafar was recognized as the Mentor of the Year. Sponsored by Manulife, this award recognizes a Pan-Asian individual who has provided significant guidance and leadership to an employee or several employees’ quality of life and professional development. Having fought her own battles of an arranged marriage, Samra has overcome major challenges to gain educational, personal and professional success and has become a source of inspiration to others. In addition to a successful career at RBC, she is Founder & Executive Director at Brave Beginnings, a Governor at University of Toronto, an author and international speaker.
• Jahanzaib Ansari is the inaugural recipient of the Ascend Canada Innovator of the Year Award, which recognizes an individual who has used disruption and innovation to benefit the society in Canada. He is Co-Founder & CEO of Knockri, an IBM-backed artificial intelligence video recruiting tool that promises to disperse unconscious hiring biases. In 2015, Jahanzaib`s previous venture Sartoria Darzi, a fashion artisan tailoring house for men, was ranked among the top 10 made to measure brands in Toronto.
Kelvin Tran, the president of Ascend Canada, says it’s important to celebrate leaders, particularly those of Pan-Asian descent, in order to create role models for tomorrow’s leaders now.
“We’re looking to shatter the barriers that limit us and provide leadership without ceilings. Leadership is about developing critical skills, sharing and solving challenges, and making diversity and inclusion a priority. It is important to recognize leaders and learn from their journey and be inspired. It takes a village and many years to develop leaders. I want the next generation to say ‘if they can do it, so can I.’”
With over 3,000 members and many corporate partners across a wide cross-section of industries, Ascend Canada is committed to offering members strategic professional development programs and unparalleled access to key decision makers. For more information on Ascend Canada, visit ascendleadership.