My name is Taslenna Shairulla, and I was called to the Ontario Bar in 2014. I am
currently a Senior Associate in the Financial Advisory group at Deloitte Canada, with
a focus on Financial Crime. Along with a fantastic team, I help build policies and
processes in financial institutions to prevent money laundering and terrorist
financing. I know what you’re thinking – that sounds pretty cool. However, my
career path has taken many turns into what some may consider the upside down
(yes, I’m a fan of Stranger Things).
In 2015, I quit my first associate role. At that time, I had spent nine years at the firm;
first, as a legal assistant and eventually worked my way up to an associate role when
I graduated law school. My clients were mostly low-income immigrants, and I felt
privileged to serve these underrepresented communities in a justice system many
considered inaccessible and highly complex.
However, less than a year into practice, I quickly realized that I had no clue what I
wanted to do with the rest of my life. Did I want to open my own firm? What area of
practice was I passionate about? Did I really want to be a litigator? Although I loved
advocacy, the pressures of working 6-7 days a week without an end goal led to many
ulcers, anxiety-ridden mornings, and late night tears due to stress and burnout.
As the first lawyer in all the generations of my West Indian family, I also felt an
immense pressure to succeed no matter what the cost. In my mind, leaving the firm
meant not only personal failure, but also failing all the generations of people before
me. Eventually, I left the firm with the goal of pursuing a MBA, hoping further
education would solve all my problems. I quickly realized that I was using education
as a scapegoat instead of spending the time to figure out what I really wanted.
After leaving the firm in 2015, I spent several months unemployed. Looking back, it
was the best decision I’ve made in my life. Although there were many rock-bottom
days, I had the opportunity to travel to places like Norway and Mallorca where I
learned how to be present; or in other words, how to appreciate the ground in front
of me instead of focusing on the unknown road ahead.
Most importantly, I realized that I wanted a job that allowed me to travel, connect
with people and solve challenging problems. I love meeting new people, and as a
consultant, I get to do this on a daily basis. I currently manage a large team, and
using both my legal and project management skills, I get to challenge the status quo
and create solutions for complex issues.
I’m sure my career will continue to surprise me, but I’ve learned that no one should
feel like they have to fit some pre-determined model of what it means to be a
successful lawyer. As cliché as it sounds, life is short. If you don’t feel fulfilled or
challenged in your career, meet with people in roles interesting to you. These
conversations led to two job offers after I left practice, and I landed roles based on
the skills I wanted to develop – not based on the expectations of others. I became the
example of success my family hoped for; someone who pursued her definition of
happiness. Lastly, lean into the fear of the unknown because as one of my favourite
actors Will Smith says: “on the other side of your maximum fear are all of the best
things in life.”