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Vandana Shares Her Journey With Futures Abroad

Vandana Mahajan

Tell us about yourself and your business.

I have over two decades of experience in the education sector, specialising in strategy development, international liaison, student recruitment, and career counselling. I was awarded the 'Entrepreneur of the Year Award' for three consecutive years.

I have worked as an entrepreneur in India and as the Director of International Liaison at the University of Toronto. I was instrumental in initiating partnership agreements between the University of Toronto and public schools, creating unique programmes for international students coming to Canada, and creating articulation agreements with community colleges across Canada. This experience has given me a unique perspective.

The speaker was part of former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's delegation to India in November 2012. They have been working closely with FICCI for the past 5 years and were the keynote speakers at the 8th FICCI Higher Education Summit in November 2012. The Summit brought together stakeholders, including policymakers, educators, and industry representatives, for deliberations and knowledge sharing.

Futures Abroad is a boutique career and university counselling business that has offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, New Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai. It has helped over 20,000 students attend their dream university with scholarships. The founder of ‘The Next New’ is a student club that helps students gain experience as interns, pursue research, and develop an understanding of the career they are planning to pursue.

She completed a certification from Yale University in Psychology and Cognitive Science in 2000 to understand student psychology, how the teenage brain works, and attention theories. Her main aim is to help students understand their aptitude and choose the right university, and to work with universities on promoting programmes and helping them find the right fit. She is a certified member of ICEF, the Canadian Business Council, and the Dubai Business Women’s Council.

What were your biggest challenges when starting your business?

The biggest challenge in starting Futures Abroad was stepping foot in a competitive market. I knew my business and was confident in my skills and knowledge, but I wanted to get my strategy right to be able to launch a successful brand and beat competitors who had been well established in the region for several years.

How have you handled success and failure over the course of your career?

I have handled success and failure in my career. The failures did not bring me down. They have helped me learn, innovate, and pick myself up with better learning to run for more. It set the stage for me to reach my goals.

What strategies do you use to stay competitive in a changing market?

My experience working at one of the top universities in Canada has been my biggest asset and has helped me shape my career. I have always believed that education is the business of learning. I invest in keeping my learning up to date by visiting universities regularly, attending conferences, and innovating my business.

What motivations drive you to keep pushing forward in the face of adversity?

I believe that the human mind is powerful, and you can choose how you want to train your brain. I maintain a healthy work life balance and encourage my staff to do the same. I invest in training for my staff on a regular basis, which helps them stay positive and motivated along with me.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in their chosen field?

I would advise them to venture outside their comfort zone. One must network and treat every person as a door that may lead to a new opportunity. Never stop learning. One of the most important things to advance in your career or in any circumstance, for that matter, is knowledge.

How have technological advances affected the way you conduct business or operate your venture?

Technological advances have had a positive impact on my business. It has helped me connect with students and parents across the globe with great ease, and I have been able to impact students’ lives thanks to technology.

In what ways has customer feedback or response influenced how you prioritise goals or objectives for your business or venture?

Customer feedback is very important to me. It has helped me change my company's policies and how we work with students. I am constantly changing my company policies based on my clients feedback.

What trends do you see emerging in your industry that are likely to shape its future growth and development?

I see education in high schools and universities changing based on the advancement of technology and how Gen Z is expecting to learn. I see more value-based, focused learning taking shape in the next ten years.

What have been the most rewarding and difficult aspects of your chosen career or business path?

The most rewarding has been to see the enthusiasm in students to strive for the best and focus on their goals more so than ever since COVID. It’s great to see how COVID shaped their thinking, keeping them in sync with their careers and industry focused.

Are there any skills or areas of expertise that you think are essential for success in your field?

Real time experience of working with universities and understanding the admissions and scholarship processes is key to my business. This business involves working with students and advising them about their careers.

How has working remotely or online impacted your business or venture over the past year?

It has impacted my business in a positive way, and I have been able to reach students virtually, which I wasn’t able to do earlier.

What tips would you like to offer to others who are in a similar position to you but looking to take their careers or businesses further?

My advice would be to stay positive and keep working towards your goals.


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