Faces of IMI: Sarah Ogbiti

Faces of IMI - Sarah Ogbiti

December 1, 2022

Sarah is the newest member of the IMI team, and we’re so thrilled to have welcomed her to UTM!  Sarah has joined us as IMI’s Event Coordinator, bringing with her over 13 years of experience in conceptualizing, planning and executing high level professional events and engagement opportunities.  With experience in a variety of industries including hospitality, corporate, education and not-for-profit, she brings a well-rounded approach to event management and has been settling in to her new role over the past few months. Sarah lives in Milton with her husband and two young children, and, in her (limited) spare time enjoys yoga, dance, and reading. 

What do you enjoy the most about your work at IMI? 

The first time I walked the halls of IMI, I was not only intrigued, but outright impressed. The culture here is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The people are warm, friendly, and collaborative – no task is too big or too small, and everyone is always willing to pitch in and lend a hand, without hesitation. IMI is actual living proof that “teamwork makes the dreamwork”. 

With regards to my specific work, I am grateful to be a part of an institution where innovation and leading edge issues are at the core of our scholarship. It is fascinating to provide programming and event support to such a variety of programs, and I’m having fun learning how to frame and design events according to the preferences, tendencies and trends of each audience or cohort. 

What is it that you think makes U of T’s events and programming so impactful? 

At the end of the day, we are all working towards the same goal. We aim to foster innovation, expertise and leadership in an ever-changing world, while building a solid foundation for ethical and inclusive work. We create programming designed to enhance the student experience and to set our students up for success; and we recognize that this does not, and cannot happen only within the confines of a classroom. This is where interactive and collaborative events come into play, where the sharing of knowledge happens, and where our students gain access to alumni, industry experts, renowned faculty and some of the country’s most influential people. Our events are unmatched and we offer unique opportunities that would be hard to find anywhere else. 

What’s your favourite event you’ve ever managed? 

Hands down, the Future Black Business Leaders Conference at the Rotman School of Management. This event made its debut during Black History Month in 2021 and was designed to attract and welcome prospective students from the Black community to the School. The aim was to provide a firsthand look at the opportunities and resources that are available to Black-identifying students and to offer insight into, and support for, some of the obstacles that exist for them. The content included an inspiring alumni keynote and a full day of parallel sessions which included panels and info sessions led by students, alumni, and Black executives from some of the country’s most reputable companies, firms, and banks. The audience heard from a number of influential industry leaders whose stories, both personal and professional, evoked shock, awe, and even tears from many attendees. The day closed out with a moving talk by Dahabo Ahmed-Omer from Black North Initiative and it was decided that the event would happen annually as part of the work that U of T is doing with a view to closing the glaring gaps that exist, and are recognized, within higher education. Diversity and Inclusion are strong passions of mine and this was an event that I was able to throw my whole heart and soul into. I have a strong  interest in social justice and equal opportunity, and I am dedicated to contributing to growth and change at work and in my personal life.  U of T has a longstanding commitment to EDI and it is encouraging to see events like FBBL take place as we work to ensure our classes are a true reflection of Canada’s diverse society. 

What’s your advice for students or professionals who might be interested in a similar career path to yours? 

First thing’s first - roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. The first step to becoming an effective event planner is developing a (true) appreciation for everyone, and I mean everyone who contributes to the execution of a successful event. The most effective way to appreciate is to experience. When I first started my career, I did it all (not entirely by choice 😊). I volunteered at festivals, interned with not-for-profits, spent hours building equipment, constructing displays, lifting tables, and washing dishes. Event management is a team effort and knowing firsthand what goes into every little aspect will most certainly allow you to excel in your role. 

Second – if you aren’t an organized person, it is vital that you become one.  There are so many moving parts when it comes to events and as the lead, you have to be able to keep them all straight. Find the tools that work for you and use them diligently in your day to day.  

Third -  Assert yourself. Believe in your vision, and make it happen despite any naysayers that may try to get in your way. No matter how wild or wacky they think your ideas might be, if you truly believe that they will transpire to success, don’t doubt yourself. 

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? 

There are two countries tied for the top spot on my bucket list - South Africa and New Zealand. Both are rich in culture and history, are home to sublime scenery and wildlife, and as a bonus…they both happen to make great wine! I would love to travel to each of these places with my family some day, perhaps when my kids are a little older.