Fruzan Nijrabi (@fruzloops)
Age: 23 | Profession: Marketing Analyst
Fruzan is an ambitious individual that recently launched her career in marketing at an organization based in the heart of downtown Toronto. She is a travelled, globe-trotting millennial that has a unique experience in the cities she’s visited. In this spotlight, she offers career advice for young professionals and shares her own story about steps she took to get to where she is today. She is definitely a young professional to watch out for!
Read more about Fruzan and her thoughts on our generation in today’s Millennial Spotlight.
Answers provided by the participant in this interview are paraphrased.
Hey Fruzan! I am really interested in hearing about your experiences travelling around the world. Can you list some countries you’ve been to, and the reason you travelled there?
Most of my travels are not because of travelling for vacational purposes, but it’s because I moved around a lot with my family. I was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, then when I was 10 years old my family moved to Calgary. I’m an immigrant here in Canada. I’m also ethnically mixed, so I’m Persian by ethnicity (half Afghan and half Azerbaijani).
Since my parents were not Russian citizens, I didn’t have Russian citizenship. That means there were less opportunities for my future which concerned my parents. Our family was lucky to get the opportunity to immigrate to Canada, it was a country that welcomed us with open arms. As most immigrants, it was challenging for my parents to adjust to this new country. A lot happened in Calgary that changed my life forever. Biggest event was when my mom got sick and passed away, it was difficult for my dad to travel for work as he used to do. He would travel a lot to Russia and China when my mom was alive but when she passed away he couldn’t as much. As soon as we got our Canadian passports, we went to China for vacation with my dad and my brothers. We needed a new start in our lives, it was too painful to stay in Calgary. We left our house in Calgary, furnished and everything. When I was 17 during my senior year of high school we moved to Guangzhou, China. I studied Mandarin for three years, but very little is left now. I used to know it! I love China. I finished high school in China where I went to an American International School. I, like most of my classmates, went to the U.S. for my first year of university at Indiana University Bloomington.
I quickly realized that the financial burden was too much on my family, so then I tried to find options to transfer to Canada. The only business school in Toronto that accepted transfer students was York University, so I applied and got accepted! Toronto became my new home for three years. When I finished my undergraduate studies at York, I decided to go to graduate school at the University of Manchester, UK. When I finished my Masters, I had to move back to China because my family is there. I actually wanted to stay in the U.K., but I was applying to jobs all over including the U.K, U.S., Hong Kong, Dubai, and Canada. I was advised by my partents to apply to Canada and begin my career in Toronto. They were concerned that I was moving around too much, and in the end I was happy that they advised me to do that. I love Toronto. Now I’m working in Toronto as a Marketing Analyst.
Why did you apply to Dubai when you’ve never been there before?
Easy answer. I’ve never lived in the Middle East so that’s why I wanted to go. I had no idea what it was like and I knew it was going to be a totally different experience. I like being placed in totally different experiences where I feel like I’m different because I’ve become used to it. Honestly, I feel an outsider everywhere. Sometimes even in Toronto. There’s a word for people like me, it’s called the “third culture kid”. I feel like this term resonates with a lot of kids who are half, mixed, or raised in different countries.
After all this travelling, is there one country that you would consider your home?
That depends on your definition of home. I think I lost the feeling of home when my mom passed away. That warm feeling of home… I haven’t had that since my mom. I’m not sure if people who lost parents at a young age feel that way, maybe they do. For me, home is not geographical.
Off the top of your head, what are some of your best memories in those countries?
Russia: All of my childhood memories are in St. Petersburg. Despite what is happening in Russia and what the media says about Russia, to me, the happiest memories I have of my life are there.
Canada: My happiest memory in Calgary is that my baby brother was born there when I was 12. I named him. He is literally the light of my life, I love him. I also have a lot of memories in Toronto. There are too many good memories here to be honest because this is kind of where I blossomed as an adult.
United Kingdom: When I was in Manchester, it was a point in my life where I was often tested emotionally. I feel like I was trying to discover myself and who I truly was. I thought I wouldn’t have a culture shock living in a country like the U.K., but I did. All my classmates were international as well, so at the end of the day everyone just went back to their countries. It was like one year of temporary friendships. I have a few people I still keep in touch with, but for most of them I don’t know if I’ll ever see again. My graduation was an incredible moment. I tend to not be too proud of myself, so I don’t know if it’s a great accomplishment, but on the outside people say “wow you got your masters!”. For me, I feel like I had to do my masters to be a good example for my family. It was like my duty to do it, but at the same time I loved the subject I was studying.
China: High school in general was really fun. I was this new girl who was ethnically different so automatically I was put in that “oh wow she’s so cool” category when in reality I was just a nerd from Calgary. Even though I went to an international school, most people have not met someone from my specific background.
Do you think millennials are travelling more than previous generations?
Yeah, but I’m not sure if they are travelling properly. If you are going to a new country, I think it’s best to try to immerse yourself in that culture. You can’t do that in three days. I have travelled to places for three days myself, for example, I went to France, but in general I think you should go somewhere for at least two weeks to really immerse yourself in the culture. If you are going to Mexico on a resort that isn’t really travelling properly. You should try to spend time with local people. What I think personally, is that the purpose of travelling is to understand culture and see the beauty of diversity and of our world in general. It’s not to just for hashtaging something like #shoppinginparis. If I had the money and means to stay longer than a short period of time then I 100% would. After my trip to Paris, I started to learn French because I love the language – it’s so beautiful. Every time I travel somewhere, I love it and find that I want to move there. This is what happened to me with the U.K. I travelled there for a week to see my best friend and after seven months I ended up living there for a year to do my masters.
You are now based in Toronto for work. What steps did you take leading up to your job?
Long story short, in 2016 I did a case competition for VISA and my team presented at one of the biggest FinTech conferences in the world. There were a lot of banks, startups and entrepreneurs there. Initially, when my friend approached me to join the team for this, none of us knew that we were going to present in front of these people. We literally did it for fun. We then competed against actual startups, and mind you we were all a group of students, and we won! We got first place. We shocked everyone, including ourselves, with our idea which was a digital bank for millennials. This idea really thought about the future. The features we wanted to have in an app are actually what a lot of startups and the government are trying to make happen. That is where I met the CEO of Fintech Growth Syndicate (FGS).
She came up to us and asked how we did this, how much money we spent, and we looked at her and said “we didn’t spend anything, we did it all ourselves.” It took us two weeks to make a demo of our app, and she was so impressed. A lot of people came up to us to talk about our ideas and how us kids came up with it. She was very kind. Fast forward to 2018, I finished my studies in September 2018 and I went back to China. I applied to all these big consulting firms because I thought I had a good shot since I had very high grades and a lot of university extra-curricular experience, but I got so many rejections. I built my resume and I worked so hard to be accepted by these corporations, it made me think that I wasn’t good enough for them. None of them asked me for an interview, and it was very disappointing. I started applying for jobs for over a year starting in September 2017 when I began my masters program.
Everyone was just as shocked as I was, because I was the nerd of the class (I was even the class student representative!). I did things from my heart and genuinely loved it, and no one cared. I was a founding member of a society on campus called Blockchainers because I did my dissertation on Blockchain. It was risky but I did it anyway. This is one of the stepping stones that led me to FGS. During my Masters of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, I discovered my passion for innovation and I became very intrigued by disruptive technologies like blockchain. Another example of a disruptive technology is the internet, because it literally disrupted the world and changed the way we do things today. There are a lot of technologies that are growing to be disruptive such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. FGS is all about these things.
What do you think is one of the most important things to do to get a job?
Networking. And using LinkedIn. I saw the CEO of FGS post on LinkedIn about expanding her team and I messaged her. She was looking for a Marketing Analyst for FGS. People have misconceptions that your skills and experience will land you your job, but it’s more about who you are. Honestly, I think I was hired because of the person I was. On LinkedIn right now, people are asking what is your recommendation for getting a job and I just say to be yourself when you’re meeting new people and looking for opportunities. The CEO looked at me as a person, and she could see the potential in me. The first meeting I had, she told me the vision she had of me and I actually cried. I was like “wow”. She could see in me what I wanted other people to see in me.
How would you explain FinTech for readers that are unfamiliar with this field?
The definition of FinTech is not set. Everyone has their own definition. I would explain it as literally financial technology. Every single company and product that deals with any sort of aspect of finance would fall under FinTech. For example, Wealth Simple, Transfer Wise, and Interact are all considered FinTechs. This is the simplest, most basic description of FinTech. I’m still learning myself, it changes a lot.
You recently wrote a LinkedIn post about how exhausting job hunting is and it blew up with about 37K likes and 1.9 million views. Why do you think it was so well received?
I actually thought about this a lot and consulted with my co-workers about why my post was so popular. Number one: it was very honest. I was very honest. I was emotional in my post, because it was an emotional experience for me and it was very personal. It was not staged, it was real and raw. It took me three months to put my thoughts together on how to announce that I’m working at FGS. It took me three hours to write the post because it came from my heart. Which leads to the second point: people resonated with it because they can feel that it came from my heart which is the most humbling and most incredible experience ever for me to have so many people commenting and sending messages about how it inspired them and that it resonated with them. And the third point: there is a problem with job security in our world in general (people commented from all over the world). We think if you go to school then you’ll get a job, but that’s far from the truth. We are not taught to be ourselves, we are taught to fit into this box, and I think that needs to change.
What would you say to people who are struggling with their job search?
If you don’t know what to do, go meet people. Go for a coffee, go to networking events, talk to them. Ask them questions. No question is stupid. Be yourself is number one. Everyone has something that you might find interesting. If you find something that is interesting, research it and learn more about it. I was really intrigued by cryptocurrency which led me to discover blockchain, so I did my research and joined Blockchainers. While you are a student, don’t just go to class. I got my job because I did things outside of class. Use internships or other opportunities to put yourself out there, and don’t underestimate yourself.
I noticed you have a ton of awards listed on your LinkedIn. Which one are you most proud of?
I would say, my most recent one that I was nominated for. I never got it but it was the Post-Graduate Student of the Year Award from University of Manchester. It was so special because I was the post-graduate from my program that got nominated (one student gets nominated out of the 7 programs). When I went back to the U.K. for my graduation in December, the program director said that she nominated me and that she sent out an email to all the faculty in our program and every single person in the faculty (the professors and program administrators) all sent in their nominations for me. This was very humbling. I was very involved in my program as the student representative, so it felt good to get nominated. Their comments on how they described what I did was so humbling when I got it. It was an honour. I still have the letter from the university.
This is more of a fun question: what are some of your hobbies?
This is so funny because I don’t have a hobby. I need to find one. I’m trying to figure that out. In university, my hobbies were my extra-curricular activities, and now that I’m working honestly I just go to sleep when I get home. On the weekend I go for walks. I want to bring value to the world and I’m already doing so many cool things with my work, so anyway I’m trying to figure it out. I’ve been telling people that I’m learning how to adult. The transition of paying my own rent and other adulting responsibilities is challenging. Having work 9-5 and not being able to take a nap in the middle of the day is different. I’m adjusting.
Finally, what are some of the main thoughts or concerns on your mind right now?
A real millennial problem: student loans. That is literally on the top of my mind every single day because I think, how am I going to pay this off? The lack of education for things like paying off your student debt, how to save up while we are students, the interest rates, is mind boggling to me. In university, you all have to take general education courses. I would say most of them are total B.S. They are supposed to teach you how to think critically, but I need to be taught about taxes, personal finances, and the Canada Revenue Agency! How do I take care of myself without calling dad? How do I maximize tax returns? What do I need to know about buying a house? Calculus brought no value to my life. There are all these questions that our beautiful country has resources to help us with but we don’t know how to access those resources, all we know how to do is accumulate debt. It’s a big problem. Justin Trudeau if you are reading this then you should forgive everyone’s loans. It sucks that we are being burdened for getting educated. We’re bringing value to this society. We went to school, we studied very hard, some of us even have to work while studying, and yet we finish it and literally have to suffer with the consequences of debt. We should be like European countries that offer free post-secondary education. Education is a right. Nowadays everyone has a bachelors degree, so why are you making it so expensive? If you don’t have a degree, what are your job opportunities? Things need to change.
I think about other things all the time. I think about my relationships with my friends and work. I am a very open person if you cannot tell. I assume that the world is just as open and nice as I am, but that is not true, and here I am publicly sharing my story. I’ve been suggested/advised by friends and family to be careful with how I share my opinions. It’s like you have to have this filter. I go to business events where there are the banks and corporate people, and that filter is real. You have to be careful what you’re saying, and I don’t like that, but I should be careful, but I don’t want to do. I’m trying to figure out a balance. Speaking freely is a good thing in my life. It makes me who I am, and I don’t want to lose that. I’m also focusing on myself this year. It sounds so basic, but it’s my year! It’s me time. I’m learning about myself and hoping to bring value to the world. I love people. I love our planet and the people in it. This year is about me to figure out myself so I can add value to this world, because if you don’t know yourself, then how are you going to give back?
Thank you Fruzan for chatting with me! Do you have any last messages to leave with readers?
Our generation is so cool. We are so diverse and accepting of many cultures. I feel like the millennial generation is like a melting pot. Our parents are used to seeing people from their own country, culture, tradition, language and religion, but our generation in general is accepting of different views, cultures and backgrounds of people. Let’s open up this world, and welcome it with open arms.