Sept. 27, 2021Print | PDF
Over the last decade, there’s been a rallying cry across the tech world to get more girls and young women interested in pursuing a career in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We caught up with one of our most outstanding alumni to learn more about her journey from Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics to being a partner at one of the world’s most respected private equity management firms.
From an office overlooking Canada’s financial capital on Bay Street, BA Econ ’99 graduate Jaspreet Dehl is Managing Partner and CFO at Brookfield Asset Management. “Generally in organizations and businesses, but especially in financial services, there’s such an under representation of women,” said Dehl. She knows the struggles women face when working to rise in the ranks of the finance world.
Dehl’s advice to women looking for a career in finance is to not self-select themselves out of leadership opportunities. “I’ve made this mistake in my own career and I’ve seen a lot of women that I’ve worked with over the years make as well,” said Dehl. “We’ll have a perception of something. As an example, if I want a family, I can’t work in private equity. That’s just too demanding. I’m going to go look for something that has more regular hours.”
Dehl said this is an internalized debate that many women go through. “The advice that I would give is don’t do that – there is so much support today in the industry,” added Dehl. “You know you’ll have to give a little and the organizations will give a little. But you’ll be able to find that balance.”
For Dehl, the change in tone from business leaders has become more about action than just lip service. “We’re seeing this a lot today. Organizations are recognizing that in order for them to retain and continue to grow their high-performing talent – especially women – they’re going to have to be more inclusive.”
Dehl’s interest in finance started with the economics and co-op programs at the Lazaridis School. Originally from India, Dehl had specialized in business and commerce in high school and chose the Lazaridis School for the chance to combine economics and business. “Laurier had a great reputation as a business school so that made a lot of sense,” said Dehl.
While taking courses, Dehl said she found herself drawn to math and economics courses over marketing and communications. In her second year, Dehl started exploring career opportunities through our co-op program. She started looking at options and decided to pursue a degree in Economics and Accounting. After graduating, Dehl joined Deloitte on their audit and financial services team with a plan to earn a CPA designation.
That decision to begin in auditing is one Dehl looks at as one of her best career choices. “Starting in audit is a great way to begin a career in finance,” said Dehl. “It really gives you the depth and breadth of all things with financial reporting through a number of different industries and companies.”
Being able to get an inside look at how different businesses operated gave Dehl the base to build her finance career. One area that Dehl noted she had a gap in was understanding capital structure. Dehl credited Deloitte with being a workplace where you can explore internal opportunities for growth and learning. She looked at open internal roles and transferred to their financial advisory team. “Deloitte had a rotation program where you could do evaluation, some restructuring work, some capital advisory – it was just a great program that they had.”
Dehl said that when you’re in the early stages of your career, it’s essential to find an industry or sector that excites you. It’s also critical to find an organization that’s going to invest in you and provide learning and growth opportunities.
While at Deloitte, Dehl earned her CPA designation – something she said benefited her career more than she expected. Dehl noted that whether you’re looking to move from one industry to another or from your current role to something new, it’s more important to focus on having the right skills rather than the money or job title. “If you’re building the right skills like that, compensation will come.”
For those future students looking for a career in private equity, Dehl said several skills and experiences need to be explored and developed. “You need your basic skills, your financial analysis, your technical skills – those are table stakes,” said Dehl. “But I think what really sets people apart is having that interest and curiosity in business.”
Dehl said that private equity presents multiple opportunities to explore investing across sectors. “You can buy a manufacturing business, you can buy a construction business. There’s a variety of things that you can be investing in and having that curiosity and learning value drivers really makes people successful – at least that’s what I’ve seen over the last 10 to 15 years working in the industry.”
When it comes to developing yourself as a leader, Dehl said that private equity is no different than any other industry. There are critical people or soft skills that apply to any role in any business. In addition, Dehl said that developing as a leader means understanding how to make everyone on your team feel part of something. “Having the ability to lead teams means being collaborative, being easy to work with and having an inclusive leadership style.”
Whether you’re pursuing a career in private equity, accounting, or sales – Dehl said being authentic is critical – even though it’s not her favourite word to use. “Honestly I hate using the word authentic because it’s used so much – but it really does matter,” said Dehl. “We’re all human and you’re going to get some things right. You’ll do some things wrong. You have to be honest, you have to own up to things.”
Understanding your goals, your skills, and seeing yourself in the role; these are some of the attributes that Dehl says have served her well in her career. They are the guiding principles that have helped her become one of today’s most successful women (and Laurier graduates) in finance.