The future women of finance: Latest Heather L. Main Scholarship winners

March 8, 2021 | Hamilton, ON
Contributed by Chris Gaspic, Marketing and Communications Strategist
DeGroote MBA students, Sana Britto, Monika Kokolari, and Joey Bacaunau

DeGroote MBA students, Sana Britto, Monika Kokolari, and Joey Bacaunau are the latest Heather L. Main scholarship winners.

DeGroote MBA students, Sana Britto, Monika Kokolari, and Joey Bacauanu are the latest Heather L. Main scholarship winners.

The scholarship and associated internship and mentoring program encourages young women to enter the Canadian capital markets, build their skill base and experience and serve as a platform from which to launch their careers.

Passion for finance

What links the three winners? An obvious passion for finance. Each of the winners when asked why they chose to pursue their MBA responded with the following:

“I always had an interest in business and finance in general,” said Monika Kokolari.

“Finance was my natural next step as it was going to give me the intellectual challenge I was looking for,” said Joey Bacauanu.

Sana Britto said, “I was looking for a challenge after doing my CPA. Capital markets are very dynamic, and I tell everyone you will never be bored. Every day in the market is different.”

All three women continue a tradition of DeGroote winners in this prestigious scholarship competition. Since 2016, at least one DeGroote MBA student has won the scholarship every year.

Each of the winners took a different path to their MBA

Monika KokolariFor Kokolari, she hit a wall in her previous role and looked for new opportunities. With a degree in sociology, she admits to not being what one would think of when it comes to capital markets.

[When] you look at me on paper, I’m not an obvious choice. What your MBA program stresses is that it’s not just about academics. The biggest part is your attitude. Your work ethic. Can you ask the right questions but also be mindful of others? Your soft skills are incredibly important.

When asked, Britto reiterates the importance of soft skills and the need to be humble.

Sana Britto

You need resilience in capital markets. As an auditor, you experience the hard-working 24/7 nature of the job. You need to commit yourself in cap markets, but you’re learning something every day. You’re constantly learning.

And it is through this pressure where Bacauanu thrives.

“You have to pay close attention to detail,” said Bacauanu. “A small mistake is a really big deal.”

Added Kokolari, “It’s awesome to be a woman in cap markets.”

“We’re not seeing the same level of women to men at senior levels, but it’s not the 1950s any longer. If you have the attitude and work ethic, you’ll succeed.”

How did each of the women respond when they found out they had won?

“I had my phone next to me right after the interview,” said Bacauanu. “I was really nervous, and then my phone rang with the good news. I was literally cheering on the phone and jumping up and down because I was so happy that I won.”

For Britto, she remembers asking for feedback. As she tells it, “My husband was with me, and the first thing I asked was: ‘Did the interviewers provide any feedback to me?’”

“My MBA brain kicked in because of the constant growth idea. I had to just enjoy this moment. What started as a shot in the dark turned into a pot of gold.”

Kokolari had an entirely different reaction.

“Usually the committee lets you know. I didn’t think they had my file and that it had my number. The director of my team at Scotiabank, who was part of the scholarship panel, called me over the speakerphone in the car and told me we matched. I was confused, so I was like, oh yeah, great… I didn’t believe it because the committee didn’t call me.

“I emailed the committee and they confirmed it,” she said as she laughed, recalling the story.

What advice they would give to anyone who applied but did not get a scholarship?

Joey Bacaunau

Everything happens for a reason. It’s not that you’re not capable of it. When I think of my journey, I’ve been rejected from job interviews and opportunities and you feel gutted. I’ve had those feelings multiple times before, but all those rejections, just meant you weren’t meant to get those jobs. There was something greater. At that moment, it sucks, but just know there is something greater waiting for you.

About the Heather L. Main Scholarship

The scholarship is dedicated to the memory and spirit of Heather L. Main. The goal of the scholarship is to support the continued success of women in capital markets.

The Heather L. Main Memorial Scholarship awards $25,000 for the final year of a full-time MBA program, a paid summer internship at a participating financial institution, a women’s leadership training program, executive coaching, mentoring by a senior capital markets professional, and a one-year Women in Capital Markets (“WCM”) student membership.

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