Victoria College Alumnus, Nalisha S. Shares Her UofT Experience and Life Beyond

Welcome first years, to your new home for the next four to five years!

While some of you may not care for the college system that the University of Toronto offers, many will find refuge in it, forming an unforgettable bond with the associated college, alumni, programs and peers. Every college has its perks, but my fellow Vickies will agree that Victoria College is the place to be, and having produced some of the most interesting and inspiring individuals. It is a close knit community that is unique and unlike any other college at UofT!

After the festivities of frosh week, I decided to introduce a Vic alumnus, friend and co-worker/supervisor, Nalisha S. For those staying on residence at Victoria College, or participating in the commuter meal plan, you will meet Nalisha in Burwash Dining Hall. During her five years at Vic and UofT, she has studied English literature and history. In this interview, she shares her experience being part of the food industry, as well as her experience at UofT and life afterwards!

 

Name: Nalisha S.

Hometown: London, England

Program: English Literature and History

Status: Vic alumnus, current George Brown student, and Lead Hand Supervisor at Burwash Dining Hall

 

Tell me a bit of what it is like to work in the food industry as a woman?

So I’ve found, in my particular area, I’ve noticed that many of my managers are male. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because I’ve never encountered a situation where they didn’t support me or where I felt uncomfortable. For the most part, I’ve felt that my managers are great leaders. That might not be the case with some of the peers who are at the same level as me, who sometimes joke around and don’t realize the ramification of those jokes. You’re working in close capacity with those people and so sometimes lines can be crossed and I think you need to realize what’s okay in the work place and what isn’t in the work place. Yes, work can be a social place but it is still work and a degree of professionalism is required.

What are the qualifications of a good leader in the food industry?

I think being a student and moving into the position is really beneficial because you can see both sides of things. For me, it’s hard to see a leader who didn’t start from the bottom and who just got the position because when you start from the bottom, and you know what it’s like. You have a level of understanding which isn’t necessarily attained when you just jump into an organization at the top. I feel like with the rising through the ranks, it gives you an appreciation and understanding for the team that you have and the work that they’ve put in. And so, when it comes to treating them with respect and dignity, you’ve been there and it’s easier to have that with them.

I think that with a manager and supervisor, it’s important to remember that it’s not [ordering them around] but a whole “we” idea. With any hospitality business, without the team you can’t make anything run. Hospitality is very team-oriented; one person alone cannot satisfy x-amount of customers and so, you have to remember that when your team is dissatisfied, your service will represent that and it’ll look negatively on your organization. It’s good to have open communication with your team members; remember that they are human and that though working in the industry requires you to go above and beyond sometimes, you can only do so much. Even though you are supervisor, nothing is beneath you. It’s having that level of modesty.

You started off working at Burwash as a student. How do you think that has negatively impacted how your previous co-workers view you, considering they worked with you as students and now you have reached a higher level?

This is the second supervisory position I’ve had where I’ve moved up in the ranks and my peers have become my subordinates. I have found it difficult because now people who are my friends, I am responsible for maintaining a different type of relationship with them. It’s hard, it’s not easy. But you have to remember when you step into that role, people look up to you and you need to remember that now it isn’t about joking and fun, but it’s about making your organization successful. It’s taking that fun and doing good for the organization as well. You need to distance yourself, not in a negative way.

Do you think your experience at UofT was a positive one or a negative one?

The little things that did make it a negative experience for me were because I did it. I used to be a very shy person and it was really hard to step out of my comfort zone. I always cared about what other people were thinking, and they always say, the best of the best come to UofT. It’s all the big fish in the little ponds and now UofT is this big lake with all these big fish in it. It can be intimidating. I wish I had spoken up more, and participated more. I think those things contributed to it being a negative experience.

Overall, for UofT being a positive experience, it’s a beautiful campus, a great place to learn and study. I was taught by some really great minds, and I had some really great classes that challenged me to change my perspective on things. In high school, I never used to like Canadian Literature. [Then] in university, I took a class on Canadian literature and my whole perspective was changed; and now, it’s my favourite genre. I have a whole new respect [for] Canadian literature. Professors like Nick Mount for instance, he continued to ignite my love for literature. Everyone dismisses the humanities and they’re like, “Oh, you need science and math to make this world go ‘round". Someone like Nick Mount shows that you really need humanities to understand people.

Do you ever regret entering the humanities? Do you wish you had gone to college beforehand?

I’ve always loved learning and I never believed that going to university might get you a job. My perspective is university was intended to further your education. I wasn’t expecting to [get a job after studying in the humanities]. I studied [English] Literature and history because I knew I would be taught way more than I would ever know, and increase my knowledge which is what interested me. I knew I was developing the soft skills I needed like my research skills, analytical skills, critical thinking skills, and my writing, speaking skills. I knew that those would help me towards getting a job but I [also] knew that I needed to get into a field that I wanted to go into. I initially wanted to go into academia but that changed. It was something I wasn’t interested after a while. As soon as a started working at Burwash [as a student], I knew that I like to move, I like to travel, I like food. I like being active. [It] spurred my direction towards hospitality. I’m glad I went to university and then college because college is a breeze now. I like that because now, I can focus on learning about the hospitality industry; I can focus on accounting, and those hard, business skills.

Everyone knows that when they immerse themselves into the UofT community, their pride grows. Does that continue on even after you have graduated? Do you feel a sense of pride?

I do, actually. Every opportunity I get I tell people that I went to UofT because UofT holds a high status. We are one of the best universities in the world. I graduated from UofT with Distinction. I think that’s a big deal. I worked really hard, and I graduated from one of the top universities in the world with a good mark. Yes, it is a little arrogant and I’m bringing it down a bit now but I’m proud of myself. Not a lot of people survive for that long through it. UofT brings everyone in but in terms of graduation, people drop out and give up. I survived it! I’m proud of that!