Understanding and Celebrating Differences at the Core of this Management Consultant’s Practice

posted by WMC

Narmin Ismail-TejaNarmin YMCA Tree is a citizen of the world. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, her ancestry is Indian and her life experience Canadian. She grew up in Vancouver after arriving there as an immigrant at the age of nine.

Thus, this Management Consultant with expertise in leadership development, diversity, inclusion and cultural competence in Calgary’s Western Management Consultants(WMC) office comes by her work naturally. The new chair of the YMCA Calgary board, Narmin is a woman of influence and accomplishment.

Diversity training in Calgary – and the city itself – she notes, have come a long way in the 27 years she’s lived here.

“The city is definitely far more cosmopolitan than it used to be – with interesting restaurants and people who look different, and come with different histories and stories,” says Narmin, one of Calgary’s first diversity trainers. “In terms of the work of diversity and inclusion, in the past, the outcome we were looking for was tolerance. Today, the outcome we are looking for is about valuing individuals for values and skills they bring and help organizations tap into this diversity in a way that sets everybody up for success.”

Understanding and celebrating “differences” is Narmin’s life work. That’s why she says she finds great alignment with the YMCA. “The Y’s areas of focus are the health of children, youth and adults, building community and providing leadership opportunities,” says Narmin, who’s been a volunteer with the YMCA for almost 20 years. “These pillars intersect perfectly with my passions, and my volunteer work there provides me the opportunity to connect authentically with people from many different social circumstances.”

INarmin cropped headshotn today’s Canada, every group has differences, notes Narmin, whether it is gender, age or personality style. What she does is create an environment where people get to know each other, and get to know each other’s story. “I’m interested in pluralism,” says Narmin. “How do we take our differences and turn them into value for all of us? How do we turn them into respectfully working and living together?”

“The progressive leader understands that if we don’t find ways to value our differences, we create communities and workplaces where people feel like they don’t belong and we get tension,” she says.

Narmin has delivered diversity training for the past 20 years to everyone from oil industry executives to non-profits and volunteers, to clients as large as Shell Canada, Suncor Energy and Husky Oil, and as small as Vertigo Theatre and as far away as the Kurdistan government and the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance in Switzerland.

She believes having workplaces and communities where people are engaged in their own future and the future of their community is essential.

Civic engagement is the other driver in Narmin’s life, work and volunteer choices. In addition to her community work at the Calgary YMCA, she serves with the Board of FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance and a number of other local and international initiatives. She says commitment to building a better community and improving the quality of life for people locally and globally is driven by her faith. “My faith is a big part of who I am – it shapes who I am and everything I do.”

By Paula Arab
March 2015

The opinions represented here do not necessarily represent WMC’s views as a whole.