Class of 2005 – Innis
As a student, Alim Lalani was highly involved in all aspects of Innis life. From student life and governance to athletics, Alim utilized his extra-curriculars to gain valuable experience that has helped shape his career path. Currently the Program Manager in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Alim helps enhance the student experience on a daily basis. He was also a 2014 recipient of the IMPACT Award, an award that honours the work and dedication of exceptional staff in the Faculty of Medicine at UofT.
What were your programs of study while at U of T (i.e., minors, majors, specialist)?
My undergraduate degree was in Commerce. I also completed a Master’s degree program in Industrial Relations and Human Resources on a part-time basis while working full-time at U of T.
In a few words, please outline your career path. What inspired you to pursue your current career?
I had the privilege of working as a Resident Assistant and Summer Don at Innis Residence during my third and fourth year. I found the process of selecting applicants, and helping students (and their parents!) transition to university life challenging and engaging. The staff in the Innis Registrar’s office also inspired me. Donald Boere, the Assistant Principal and Registrar, was incredibly perceptive in identifying the importance of emerging technology to enhance the delivery of personalized student services.
I was fortunate to eventually join the Innis Registrar’s Office as an Associate Registrar – Recruitment & Transition, where I worked on the launch of a new website, focusing on content innovation.
Following that, I worked for three years in Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME), in the Faculty of Medicine, as an advisor to international physicians seeking clinical fellowship opportunities in Canada, through the University. Working in a role that was a hybrid of HR and Student Services gave me a unique perspective into how dynamic and intertwined Toronto’s research and clinical education sectors are.
For the past five years, I have been the Program Manager in the Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy. I oversee all student services aspects of the MScOT program (a professional master’s degree program, leading to the practice of Occupational Therapy), including admissions, recruitment, counselling, certification, and I play a significant role in accreditation.
What types of challenges do you face in your current role?
The delivery of student services in a professional healthcare training program is very unique. Students are often in class or in study groups during the day, and engaged in professional development or clinical practice training at odd hours. They are an incredibly motivated group of adult learners. This also means finding effective and efficient means of delivering services. Health human resources and education are distinct in that we, as a program, have an obligation to deliver highly trained and qualified candidates, while also ensuring students have all the resources they need to succeed. Needless to say, the program carefully manages students’ professional growth and development. For example, providing orientation to inter-professional education, career planning workshops, and opportunities to engage our diverse community in leadership roles. Attention to detail is paramount, as is being available for students in need.
What is the most important lesson you have learned during your career?
Learn everything you can about your industry! Your colleagues depend on you for making sound, informed decisions, rooted in some sort of evidence. This can include continuous learning through graduate degree programs or training certificates, attending industry group meetings, going to networking events, subscribing to industry newsletters or journals, and keeping an eye on relevant news media articles.
While attending UofT, which, if any, extra-curricular activities were you involved with outside of the classroom (e.g., clubs, teams, volunteerism, on-campus employment)?
During my undergraduate years, I always worked part-time, the most significant position being as a Resident Assistant at Innis Residence. I was heavily involved in intramural sports, including captain of the Innis College basketball team for two years, and covered various roles on student council committees, residence life outreach, and safety training during frosh week.
Even though I was working full-time at U of T while completing my graduate degree, I still managed to get involved with my program’s student council as a part-time student rep, and participated in intramural volleyball.
Did you participate in any “experiential learning” opportunities as a student (e.g., fieldwork, international experience, internships)?
Between my second year and third year, for approximately 15 months, I participated in the “Professional Experience Year” program, which is similar to co-op education except instead of multiple rotating work terms, this is a single continuous work term with one employer. I strongly recommend students partake in experiential learning opportunities, as I felt “job ready” with technical and organizational skills as soon as I graduated.
What is your favourite memory from your time spent at Innis College?
I have fond memories of the Innis College Council, and Innis Residence Council. We accomplished incredible things on both committees, from engaging students of limited financial means, or those who happened to be very introverted, in inclusive social activities, to establishing successful safety protocols for orientation events.
Do you have any advice you would like to share with current Innis students?
Start cultivating a professional network, as it will allow you to explore careers and industries you may not have considered. For example, mentee-mentor opportunities, internships, fieldwork, volunteer work, and job shadowing are all great ways to learn outside of the classroom. Many working professionals are passionate about their career and happy to share their experiences with you. The fact you are in Toronto only serves to enhance the diversity of opportunities you have.