As far as I know, neither Shakespeare nor Ruth Bader Ginsburg ever uttered these words. But I’m sure both of them would have agreed.
Now that All Purpose, our Vancouver-based digital creative agency, is playing a big part in helping one of the world’s largest tech companies with two new social impact projects, I feel I’ve been cast in a role I could have only dreamed of a few years ago.
Back in 2007, practicing law in Calgary, I felt unfulfilled in my career. Perhaps I grew tired of the overpriced retainers, fancy expensed dinners, and (relatively) easy life. So I decided to blow it all up and follow my dream to become an actress!
I looked forward to glamorous and fulfilling roles that celebrated my Indo-Canadian roots…but instead, I was cast as “South Asian Woman No. 2,” “South Asian Mom with Thick Accent,” South Asian Doctor Who Has Only One Line”…you get the idea.
It seemed that while talent was secondary, skin colour was always part of the equation. It grew frustrating to be told I was “too fair” to play the stereotypes of my South Asian culture, but “too dark” to be the white girl next door. So I started a sketch comedy troupe, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Chicken,” and got things moving in the right direction. We illuminated some of the truths of being a modern South Asian woman. Still, I felt I had another, more impactful role to play.
That’s when I auditioned for an IBM training video – and everything changed. After casting me for a non-stereotypical part – I got more than two lines, and I didn’t have to do “the accent”! – the director offered me a part-time contract that soon evolved into a full-time gig writing, directing and producing engaging, story-based training material.
This led to my 2017 co-founding of All Purpose, a digital creative agency which is now home to a diverse team of more than 30 creators, innovators and designers, half of whom identify as female. All Purpose helps Fortune 500 companies transform their organizations, amplify their employee experience, and achieve their corporate social goals with digital scalable learning and corporate social responsibility solutions.
The best part: I’m surrounded by dozens of talented, diverse and kind individuals who share my passion for promoting social justice and Diversity & Inclusion (D&I). Our latest project: Working to redesign D&I training for 350,000-plus employees with interactive media and storytelling, to help employees understand and actively work against racism, sexual harassment and bullying and to create a more inclusive workplace.
In short, I’ve gone from reinforcing stereotypes as an actor to breaking them down as a writer and director of a company where D&I is woven into the fabric of who we are.
At the same time, our other big new project, in support of an education reform initiative, is helping underserved populations get the technical and professional skills required for 21st century jobs.
We all have a role to play in achieving the kind of social change needed for the world to be a more inclusive, equitable place, and if I’ve learned anything over the course of my career(s) it’s that nothing compares to finding the right role.