Career Pathways: Paving the Way for Black Business Leaders with Fahad Yousuf

Posted on February 13, 2023
Career Pathways: Paving the Way for Black Business Leaders with Fahad Yousuf

Career Pathways is a Schulich ExecEd ongoing series showcasing some of our talented alumni. Everyone has something interesting and insightful to share, from independent business owners to corporate managers. We want to bring their stories to life. 

In celebration of Black History Month, we spoke to Fahad Yousuf about his experience taking a Schulich ExecEd course through The Black Entrepreneurship Alliance (BEA). The BEA is a community economic development initiative co-created by the Black Creek Community Health Centre, York University – Yspace, TD Community Engagement Centre, and Schulich ExecEd

The Starting Point

In partnership with Schulich ExecEd, the BEA offers members of the Black community the chance to enrol in the Certificate in Business and Leadership Essentials program. This two-month virtual curriculum is designed for Black entrepreneurs and early-in-career professionals in Ontario. 

Already familiar with the BEA Programs Manager, Olu Villasa, Fahad was encouraged to look into the BEA. He had recently transitioned from the private sector to the public sector in his role as a Community Development Practitioner for a social housing provider in Ontario, and BEA’s programs could help him excel. He came across the Certificate in Business and Leadership Essentials program offered through Schulich ExecEd and was immediately intrigued.

“First and foremost, the appeal to me was that this program was specifically for Black professionals,” Fahad explained. “There are so many different leadership and development programs out there, and I admired the vision the BEA had to work with Black professionals who were already on their career path and wanting to grow.” 

After learning more about what the program offered, Fahad submitted his application. Weeks later, he was thrilled to learn that he had been accepted as one of the 30 professionals in Ontario to join the program’s second cohort. 

The Program

Every Monday for the next two months, Fahad and his colleagues met virtually to participate in educational workshops, collaborate in breakout room discussions, and connect with program mentors. The newly developed Certificate in Business and Leadership Essentials program covered topics such as business strategy, sales and marketing, finance, and what it takes to become a great manager and leader.

We had a wonderful course coordinator, Michel Shah, conduit between BEA and Schulich,” Fahad recalls. “At the first lesson, I remember them saying to us, ‘You know, you are all lucky to be here. There are hundreds of other applicants that also applied to this program, so let’s make this count.’ And I think that set the tone in our understanding of just how special this experience was.”

On November 30th, 2022, the first in-person graduation for the virtual program was held at the Arta Gallery in Toronto, celebrating the graduation of the first 2 cohorts. The event was attended by community leaders, professionals, and entrepreneurs, and it was a testament to the social innovation, change and programs to take place in the near future. 

“Joining this program was probably the most powerful professional and developmental experience that I could have had,” Fahad says. “The collective experience of different minds from the city coming together under one roof was so inspiring. We were all at different points on our career path, so I learned a lot from both the professors and my peers.”

Joining the Alumni Network

To this day, Fahad and his fellow alumni remain actively involved in Schulich ExecEd and the BEA’s mission to build an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem to advance the Black business community. 

“Schulich and the BEA are really helping to reshape the narrative for people that have been marginalized for a long time,” Fahad shared. “We know that successful Black entrepreneurs, young professionals, and executives already exist. We just need to ensure that that barrier of entry is no longer going to be the one thing that’s stopping them from achieving their goals.”

The success of this program and its graduates provides a pathway of inspiration for the next 3 future cohorts, with the next program set to kick off in September 2023. Rami Mayer, Executive Director at Schulich ExecEd, is committed to continuing to nurture the professional development skills in Black business leaders within the community.

“At Schulich ExecEd, our team is accustomed to working with entrepreneurs to support their success. It’s especially rewarding to represent York University in collaboration with other units and craft a program that will uplift and support the local community where we live and work.” he explains. “This program represents our strong commitment to social innovation and the development of equity deserving groups.”

We want to thank Fahad again for chatting with us for the Career Pathways series. If you’re interested in learning more about Schulich ExecEd’s partnership with the BEA, you can read more about it here. If you’d like to learn more about our collaborative Certificate in Business and Leadership Essentials program, you can read more about it here.

Not sure what program is right for you? Our expert advisors can help. Talk to a Schulich ExecEd advisor today.