During his first two years at university, Daniel Jayasinghe focused on academic life. The U of T Mississauga commerce student was looking ahead to a career in accounting and worked hard to load his resumé with great grades and industry related experiences. “I spent two years focused on school—I thought it was what the big firms were looking for,” he says. But when he was passed over for work placements, Jayasinghe knew he had to expand his horizons.
Fellow student Sarah Israr (HBA, ’14), who would become his mentor, gave Jayasinghe some important advice—helping others would help him connect to campus and aid his personal growth. “Sarah showed me how to juggle school with other commitments and how to be a leader and organize a team,” Jayasinghe says. Taking her advice to heart, he looked for ways to make an impact and to follow his passion.
Jayasinghe, who has an entrepreneurial bent, sought a university-level experience similar to the Junior Achievement events he had participated in as a high school student. As a member of the student executive team with the i-CUBE business accelerator at the Institute for Management & Innovation, Jayasinghe helped to organize UTM’s first Hackathon and other entrepreneurial events. He was also instrumental in founding TED-X U of T Mississauga, a lecture series based on the popular TED Talks, in 2015.
Jayasinghe also found a way to use his own experiences by helping new students make the transition to university life. As a Campus Experience Launch Leader with the student transition office orientation programs, Jayasinghe organized a welcome day for 1,300 new students, helped to develop the First Year Experience program and, as part of the Guardians of UTM team, created an orientation gaming app set to launch in September 2016. “I gained a real breadth of experience and new skills,” he says of his work with the transition teams. “It was the most amount of growth I’ve ever experienced, and it really expanded my social network beyond the commerce students I knew from my own program.”
Jayasinghe also participated with two Global Experience excursions, working with fair trade coffee farmers in Guatemala and with rural farmers in Thailand. He says the experiences opened his eyes to needs beyond his own community. “When you’re there, you learn what it’s like to be a local in that community. You eat what they eat, you sleep where they sleep, you do what they do. And when you come back, you know what you can do to make a difference,” he says. “I wanted to give back to continue to develop that relationship between UTM and the community in Guatemala.” Jayasinghe worked his campus connections to collect textbooks and sports equipment to send to the Guatemalan community.
His efforts have been recognized with a number of awards but, for Jayasinghe, the personal rewards are important, too. “I can call UTM home,” he says with a big smile. “I can walk down the halls and run into at least one friend. I can find help when I need it, and I can help guide first and second year students who are looking for guidance,” he says. “To see my mentees grow is really cool. People helped me, and I see it as my duty to help others. Now I get to watch the impact they are now making on other students.”
Jayasinghe will graduate in June with a bachelor degree in commerce, with a specialist in accounting, but he still has some schoolwork ahead. He will spend the summer working towards his CPA designation and learning French through an immersion program in Quebec.
This fall, he will join Pricewaterhousecoopers as an associate, auditing accounts for the firm’s entertainment clients. For Jayasinghe, it’s big step towards his dream job. “I like how fast-paced the entertainment industry is, and how fast it’s evolving,” he says. “I would like to be a part of that industry and use my accounting knowledge there.”
“Following my passions brought me back to my original goal,” Jayasinghe says. “I learned that the big firms want people who can match different situations. They liked me more for the personal experiences I’ve had. Everyone can’t follow the same path.”