At PDCI, you can connect with, get inspired by and get direct advice from highly successful immigrants, ranging from cabinet ministers to serial entrepreneurs to C-level executives of billion-dollar companies.
The event hosts highly-accomplished immigrant experts that discuss their success strategies and share their inspirational stories with the audience. There’ll be discussions on personal branding, entrepreneurship, soft skill development, mindset, and much more. The participants will have a tremendous opportunity to connect with and learn DIRECTLY from successful immigrants.
See below for the list of the speakers.
Like attracts like. Immigrants love to support and do business with other immigrants. At PDCI, you have a tremendous opportunity to expand your network with other like-minded professionals.
Meet your next client, service provider, and partner at PDCI.
Our sponsors not only support this beautiful cause but they also offer the participants great resources and solutions that will catapult their career/business ahead!
If you'd like to become a sponsor, contact us at [email protected] for more details.
Canada’s Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
The Honourable Ahmed Hussen is the Member of Parliament for York South—Weston. A community advocate and lawyer, he has proudly represented the residents of York South-Weston since 2015.
Ahmed immigrated to Canada at the age of 16 as a refugee. After attending high school in Hamilton, Ontario, Ahmed worked at the Hamilton—Wentworth social services department before he settled in Toronto in 1997. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at York University and soon co-founded the Regent Park Community Council. He was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for his leadership efforts in the Regent Park Community.
Serving as National President for the Canadian Somali Congress, Ahmed worked with national and regional authorities to advocate on important issues to Canadians of Somali heritage, strengthening civic engagement and integration. His results-driven reputation led to an invitation from the Toronto City Summit Alliance to join the task force for modernizing income security for working adults. As a result of his advocacy work, the Toronto Star recognized Ahmed as one of ten individuals in Toronto to have made substantial contributions to the city. Ahmed has also worked as a Special Assistant for intergovernmental affairs to former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Ahmed was elected as the Member of Parliament for York South—Weston in 2015 and sat on the Justice and Human Rights Committee. He was also the vice-chair of the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association. In January 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Ahmed as Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship.
Chancellor of George Brown College / Senior Partner with Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
Noella has served as the Chair of the Board of Directors of UNICEF Canada and has also served on the Board of Governors of St. Michael’s Hospital, the Children’s Aid Society, and the Board of the Ontario Science Centre among others. She currently sits on the Honorary Council of UNICEF Canada and has served on the Advisory Council of the Order of Ontario, the University of Toronto Law School’s Dean Advisory Council, the University of Toronto Alumni Committee as well as served on a Special Committee of Covenant House dealing with Human Sex Trafficking.
In 2010, Noella received the YWCA Women of Distinction Award for her work with mentoring women. She has also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Children's Aid Foundation for her work with children over a twenty year span, and the Arbor Award from the University of Toronto.
In 2012, Noella was appointed to the Order of Ontario in recognition of her continued and extraordinary dedication to the community and to charitable organizations, and received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal that same year.
Noella was honoured by the Women’s Executive Network as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the TrailBlazers/Trendsetters category, celebrated for being a pioneer in her field and for her great contribution to Canadian Society and in 2017 she received the RBC Top 25 Immigrant Award for Mentorship of young people throughout her career.
FILM PRODUCER / DIRECTOR / WRITER
Javier Badillo is a Venezuelan-Canadian filmmaker whose company Spitshine Flicks has been producing independent movies since 2008. After moving to Canada in 2002, Javier worked as an animator, musician, barista and film technician, before starting his own film business.
His movies have played and won awards in numerous countries including Canada, U.S.A., France, UK, and Japan. In 2020, Badillo completed production of ROADS OF ITHRIYAH, a drama following a Syrian refugee soldier struggling with amnesia. The film is currently in post production and with plans to be released in 2021.
For his contributions to Canada’s multicultural communities, Badillo was nominated for the Inspirational Latin Award (Latincouver) and was awarded the RBC Top 25 Canadian
Immigrant Awards . He currently serves on the board of the Venezuelan Canadian Society of
BC , supporting Venezuelan immigrants and refugees worldwide.
Badillo worked as Director of Programming for the annual Vancouver Short Film Festival from
2012 to 2020, supporting hundreds of new filmmakers’ careers. Previously, he moderated the forums of the Institute for International Film Financing and was the first director for
Raindance Vancouver, a filmmaker’s society based in London, UK. He is a member of the
Academy of Canadian Film and Television .
President and CEO of Innovate BC
A serial entrepreneur who has extensive experience starting, growing and selling numerous businesses, Gopal recently joined Innovate BC from Accelerate Okanagan (AO), where he was CEO. At AO, Gopal was instrumental in the creation and management of successful programs for technology companies at all stages of growth, and he has been a driving force in the development of the Okanagan’s tech sector into a $1.6 billion economic contributor.
A graduate of New Zealand’s Central Institute of Technology in information technology, Raghwa has also received degrees in computer science from Australia’s Collier MacMillan School and the University of the South Pacific. In addition to his corporate experience, Gopal has lectured in the Faculty of Management (Business) at UBC Okanagan and the School of Arts and Sciences (Computer Science); has been an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Okanagan College School of Business; and serves on the boards of multiple organizations, including as a member of the Board of Governors for University of British Columbia and India Canada Innovation Council. He has also served as a member of BC RCMP's Diversity and Inclusion Board and is a current member of Greater Vancouver Board of Trade's Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council.
Isaac Garcia-Sitton is a respected leader in the Higher Education sector and a seasoned MBA with over 18 years of experience in international relations and business development. Born in Barcelona, raised in Panama, and trained and educated in the United States, Isaac served as a diplomat for Panama, working at the Consulates in New Orleans in 2005 and in Montreal in 2007. At the end of his diplomatic post, he decided to apply as an immigrant to Canada through the skilled worker program in Quebec. Isaac has not only become a thought leader in post-secondary education, but he is also an excellent example that a successful career transition and reinventing yourself is not only for a lucky few, but achievable for all. Isaac was recently appointed as the Inaugural Executive Director, International Student Enrolment, Education & Inclusion at Ryerson University. In this new role, Isaac leads the policy, planning, infrastructure, and operations that drive increased international enrolment and retention of students and help position Ryerson as a premier urban international university. Isaac continuously strives to improve the environment around him through his involvement in national and international professional associations, international boards, and community initiatives. His efforts to positively impact immigrant communities has been recognized by being named one of the “10 Most Influential Hispanic Canadians” in 2018 and as RBC’s Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award in 2020. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Education: Language, Culture, and Teaching at York University. His research interest is immigration policymaking as it relates to the recruitment and retention of international students in Ontario.
Iristel CEO and President
Samer Bishay is President and CEO of Iristel & Ice Wireless, Canada's leading provider of wireless and wireline IP services. As Iristel's founder, Samer led the company from a small startup to an international telecommunications service provider with domestic infrastructure licenses on three continents (North America, Europe and Africa). Samer oversees global and domestic strategies for Iristel and Ice Wireless and their various brands such as Sugar Mobile. He ensures business objectives are in line with telecommunications trends; guaranteeing customers continued success in highly competitive markets. Well known in the telecommunications field, Samer is a frequent contributor to various public platforms; from newspapers and television to social media and industry websites. Samer also actively participates in many public forums that are helping shape Canadian broadband policy; a key to Canada's future, especially related to rural broadband development and bridging the digital divide.
A licensed jet pilot, Samer was appointed Honorary Colonel of 34 Signal Regiment of the Canadian Armed Forces in 2019. In this role, Colonel Bishay serves as an advocate for the Regiment and the CAF in general; and he helps strengthen the military's bond with the community. Prior to founding Iristel, Samer was a lead systems engineer in the Radarsat program at the Canadian Space Agency. He is a graduate of the Space & Communications program at York University, with an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree.
Executive Coach, Leadership Expert
Shiyen is an Executive Coach and Leadership Expert, who works with high-performing ambitious leaders. She is the host and curator of “Lessons in Leadership and Life”, the first of its kind video podcast that features candid conversations with top leaders in healthcare. She holds a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from McMaster University. She is also a Certified Yoga Teacher, and blends her diverse certifications and expertise to create a truly holistic and empowering approach that guarantees results. She has served the most vulnerable in the healthcare industry in Toronto as a frontline clinician, and quickly progressed to leadership roles, leading strategic projects and large teams. She previously co-founded a holistic wellness organization and has trained, coached and mentored top clinicians and leaders in Canada. She is a life-long learner, an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Toronto and also serves as a Director on the Board of the Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists.
Senior Dean, Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology at Humber College
Farzad has authored and co-authored numerous publications and has extensive experience consulting with industry. His career in higher education spans over 20 years and includes time as a faculty member, researcher, manager, director and associate dean. He holds a Master of Science in Engineering and a Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering Systems from the University of Miskolc in Hungary, and a Post-Doctoral Fellow from Ryerson University.
Over the span of his career Farzad has also taken on volunteer leadership roles within a number of professional associations and organization, and has been the recipient of numerous leadership awards. He currently holds memberships in numerous organizations such as the Professional Engineers of Ontario, the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers to name a few.
Global Channel Chief, Dell Technologies
Leadership is not simply a role that you fill; it is an action that you take each day. It is this philosophy that guides Dell Technologies’ Global Channel Chief, Rola Dagher.
Dagher believes in diversity of thought and has made it her mission to empower, support, and foster diverse talent. Her commitment to empowering women is shown through her recognition as one of the 2020 Top 25 Women of Influence™, by WXN as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100™, and by Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) as the 2019 Woman of the Year.
She was selected as one of RBC’s Top 25 Canadian Immigrant winners for 2019, was named the “Lady of the Cedar” by the Lebanese Embassy, and received a 2018 Leadership Award from the Lebanese Chamber Business of Commerce.
In addition to her role at Dell Technologies, Dagher sits on the board of Cedars Cancer Foundation and is an advocate for pediatric and young adult cancer patients. She is a co-founder of the BlackNorth Initiative, an active member of the 30% Club, and sits on the Circle of Champions for the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, promoting growth through diversity in the workplace.
A champion of mental health, Dagher sits on the foundation board for the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health. She also sits on the advisory board for Catalyst, where she supports their work to accelerate progress for women in the workplace and is a member of the Kids Help Phone board.
CEO, Peace by Chocolate
Tareq Hadhad is telling his story. He was a Syrian refugee and now living his new life with his entrepreneurial family in Canada’s east coast. He is the founder and CEO of Peace by Chocolate, the recipient of Start Up Canada’s National Newcomer Entrepreneur Award, named one of the Top 25 Immigrants in The Maritimes and selected by Google as the National Hero Case for 2018, and was awarded RBC’s top Immigrant Award and Entrepreneur of the Year in 2020. All of this has happened since Tareq’s arrival on Canada’s East Coast in December 2015 as a Syrian-Canadian newcomer.
In 2012 the Hadhad’s home and factory that housed the family chocolate-making business were destroyed which forced them to seek safety in other countries. A former medical student at Damascus University and long-time peacekeeping advocate, Tareq joined medical relief efforts after arriving in Lebanon. A new life began when Tareq and his family were welcomed to Canada on a community-based sponsorship.
Passionate about peace and entrepreneurship, his family relaunched the family business to recreate the chocolates they once exported across the Middle East and their story turned into and international inspiring phenomenon.
Tareq and his family have a focus on job creation, utilizing a network of local community members and refugees from across Nova Scotia and Canada to help support the local economy. Now that their chocolates are distributed across Canada they look to offer more employment opportunities as their business grows.
In September 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opened his speech to the United Nations Leaders’ Summit on Refugees detailing the family’s success story. In January 2020, Tareq became a Canadian citizen, an honour he says is the greatest of his life. The book Peace by Chocolate, by Jon Tattrie was released in October 2020. The book outlines the remarkable journey of the Hadhad family from Syria to Canada and has become a best seller. In June 2021 we see the release of Peace by Chocolate, the movie.
Tareq has spoken at Amnesty International’s Human Rights Conference, TEDx events, Chambers of Commerce Dinners, keynote presentations in Jamaica and London England and spoken to several corporate and government organizations. He has done over 500 interviews with different news teams across the globe. Tareq speaks on the compelling story of his family, the positive impact of Syrian newcomers and the spirit of entrepreneurship.
the team at North Star Success Inc. led by Dr. Shahab Anari
As part of this online event, we will launch our latest multi-author book, The Courageous Move, which is a collection of inspirational stories of immigrants.
We believe immigrants are incredibly brave people who move (sometimes) half way around the world to start a new life in hope of creating a better future for themselves and their families.
In this book, we have featured five inspirational immigrants: Mara Aalipour, Javier Badillo, Raghwa Gopal, Devina Kaur, and Azita Ziaei.
Immigrant professionals and/or entrepreneurs who are interested in personal and professional development. Attendees will get a chance to learn from, network with and get inspired by our amazing speakers.
And this is all for free, thanks to our sponsors!
Entrepreneurship for immigrants
Personal branding for immigrants
Resilience and mental toughness for immigrants
There are lots of networking opportunities embedded in the program. You will have multiple chances to meet other like-minded immigrants (on Zoom) and expand your professional network.
And this is all for free, thanks to our sponsors!
Messages from Prime Minister Trudeau, Mayor John Tory, and MPP Michael Parsa