Mark Raheja, BCom'98

April 06, 2018

Why did you choose Queen’s/Smith?

For several reasons. My sister (Christina, BCom’96) was already a student here, which made it easier to get an inside look into the school, program and city. I was also influenced by the usual stuff: that it was a beautiful, top school with a rich tradition; that it wasn’t too far from, or close to, home. That said, the main reason I chose Smith is that I had the sense that it would challenge me. I recall feeling I had something to prove to myself. Smith felt like a place where I could do that.

What was the highlight of your experience here?

I’d say the biggest highlight didn’t happen in Kingston but in Belgium, where I went on exchange during my third year. As a kid who grew up in the suburbs, I didn’t know much about the world until I landed in Europe and began to explore. It was the first time in my life where the aperture really broadened for me, where I came to understand the scale and vibrancy of the world, and my opportunities within it. It was such an important time for me.

If you could tell your student-self one piece of advice, what would it be?

I’m going to cheat and offer two pieces of advice. The first is to recognize your enormous privilege in getting to be a student at Smith and do something with it. If you’ve made it here, in many ways you’ve already won the lottery. There’s a strong chance you’ve had help getting to this point, both visible and invisible to you; help that many others in Canada and the rest of the world don’t have. I’m only now beginning to understand the privilege I’ve experienced and continue to experience in life – in my case, as a ‘white-ish’ male born into an upper middle-class family in Canada. That’s a whole lot of privilege. As a Smith student or alumni, you have a huge opportunity to help others who haven't been as fortunate as you and to play an active role in creating organizations and systems that are truly equitable. Lean into that opportunity, now and in the future.

The second piece of advice is to listen to yourself and use your time at Smith to find out what really moves you. These years are a tremendous opportunity to get to know yourself. Don’t worry so much about what others think or about that first job out of school. And don’t feel constrained to the more conventional paths you see others taking. For instance, my first job out of business school was as an intern at a radio station. Focus on gathering as much data as possible about who and what actually gets you fired up. Some people never figure that out, but if you manage to while you’re young, you’ll be well-positioned to create a spectacular life, over time.

You’re doing really interesting work with your business, August. Can you tell us about a moment you’re really proud of?

August is a young transformation consultancy (started in 2015), and effectively we spend our days helping some of the world’s largest institutions change how they organize, lead and work. Something that’s unique about our approach is that we actively work to make ourselves obsolete by growing our partners’ capacity to do this work themselves, so they don’t need us anymore.

There have been some definite highlights this past year. Probably the most meaningful was when a prominent, global non-profit, whose purpose my team and I care deeply about, actively sought us out, having heard we were emerging as a new, disruptive partner in organizational change. I felt so proud that day. Our business not only felt real – it felt like it mattered.

Anything else to add?

Don’t be a stranger! We currently have offices in Brooklyn and London and expect to soon be launching teams in San Francisco and Toronto as well. Please drop by and say hello. If you’re curious to learn more, please visit aug.co, send me a cryptic, emoji-filled message to mark@aug.co.