As the first female in her family to graduate with a STEM degree, Farzia Khan (BA ’17) is very passionate about giving back to her community and has a commitment to the greater good both locally and internationally. As an award-winning community builder, technologist, and entrepreneur, Farzia studied computer science at York’s Lassonde School of Engineering. After visiting and “absolutely falling in love with the campus,” she was also drawn to Lassonde because of its forward-thinking vision—one she wanted to contribute to.
While in the program, she was the President of Women in Science & Engineering (WISE), a student-run organization that aims to ensure that women in STEM can achieve their full potential. The organization aims to encourage, inspire and provide a safe haven for women in STEM by providing a supportive environment and networking opportunities. As someone who works in what she describes as a “male-dominated field,” and is part of an underrepresented Turkic ethnic group, Farzia empathizes with those that may feel like an outsider, just like her.
"I’d love to create more opportunities in STEM and entrepreneurship for girls and people from underrepresented groups. I truly believe that in order for any country to achieve economic growth, it must have a diverse workforce and have representation from all backgrounds."
“I’d love to create more opportunities in STEM and entrepreneurship for girls and people from underrepresented groups,” says Farzia. “I truly believe that in order for any country to achieve economic growth, it must have a diverse workforce and have representation from all backgrounds. As a proud Canadian, I feel like it's my responsibility to play my part in making that happen. This country has given me so much and one day I hope to give it back as much as it has given me—and more.”
In the years since graduating, she has explored this passion within her field tenfold. A peer mentor while at York, she now has her own mentorship program to support students from under-represented backgrounds, a passion and sentiment that were greatly influenced by York. She has continued these activities since graduation.
Her professional career began at Bank of Montreal (BMO) during her second year at York after being selected as one of the top 30 female students to advise the CEO on the “future of work.” Shortly after, she was offered the role of a business tech specialist and consultant at BMO, working full-time while also taking a full course load. Since then, she has quickly progressed up the corporate ladder with numerous achievements under her belt. Now a senior manager of cyber security experience at TD Bank, she’s focused on enhancing the cyber experience for employees, customers and community members.
Farzia also founded two hackathons: Ellehacks, the first all-women hackathon in Canada; and Robocon, the first international hackathon on service robots.
“A lot of the things that I did in school I’ve continued doing after graduation as well, but just in a bigger way,” says Farzia. “Life is quite unpredictable, so instead of making long-term plans, I like to focus on seizing the right opportunity when it comes along, and if it doesn’t, I create my own opportunities. I aspire to become a recognized global leader in technology, innovation, and digital entrepreneurship, and travel the world to expand my knowledge.”
In addition to these goals, Farzia hopes to give back to the community and help others realize their true potential through mentorship, sponsorship, and creating more scholarships. The youngest board member of the non-profit organization Community Door, Farzia is also the founder of the subscription service MyGuideBox. This bi-monthly subscription service delivers boxes of curated education materials rarely covered in school curriculums, including investment, personal finance, mental and physical health, career development, relationships, and self-development, among other topics. It also educates subscribers on the United Nation's 17 sustainable development goals, and each box includes ways that subscribers can contribute towards achieving these goals in small ways.
Her passion for her field goes beyond her interests; Farzia is continuously giving back to her field and mentoring alumni and students, reminding them to continue on their path, regardless of the obstructions. In 2020 she created the Farzia Khan Champion for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Prize scholarship that awards students who demonstrate leadership and promote an equitable, diverse and inclusive culture at Lassonde.
“The best investment you can make is in yourself, so be a life-long learner and don't hesitate to spend time and money on things that will help you grow and achieve your goal,” says Farzia. “Don't compare yourself to others. Everyone has a unique journey and timeline so comparing your lowlights to someone's highlights will only demotivate you further; instead, focus on creating your own legacy, because you haven't come this far to only come this far.”