Shawn Kanungo

Jenna Marynowski, BAA Communications Committee Volunteer - 13 December 2021

Shawn Kanungo, '07 BCom, has made his career as an innovation and disruption consultant, investor and entrepreneur. Here he shares how he got the hang of student life, started his career and is now taking it to the next level by venturing out on his own as a speaker and business owner.

Shawn Kanungo

BAA: How was student life for you? What are your favourite memories of your time at the University of Alberta?

My first semester of university was a crash course in managing time. I had never met so many interesting people in my life. It was a circus. I remember spending an extraordinary amount of time socializing, eating and hanging out that my grades really suffered. In my second semester, I finally got focused because I was at risk of not getting into business school. When I ended up getting into the Alberta School of Business, it was one of the happiest moments of my life. I thought I wouldn't make it. My first year really set me up for the rest of my university life as I was able to finally navigate the craziness of school and social life.

BAA: Can you tell us about your journey since graduation?

Like many students, I didn’t know where to start. I chose one of the safest routes. I started working at Deloitte and pursued my CPA (formerly known as the CA) designation. I quickly transferred into management consulting within Deloitte’s Strategy group and fell in love with the work. It allowed me to pursue my passions for technology and innovation — working with clients all over the world. As side projects, I was building mobile apps and films with my friends. After 12 years at Deloitte, I knew I wanted to bet on myself. I was building up a career in technology, performing keynotes and also investing in more experimental ventures.

BAA: You speak regularly about disruptive innovation, including at the U of A's Alumni Week. Can you share how your career developed in the disruptive innovation space?

It all started with the work and my love for underdogs. At Deloitte, my teams really started experimenting with new innovative concepts and technologies within our projects — leveraging concepts such as crowdsourcing, film, human-centered design, artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, behavioural science, mobile apps and more. At the same time, I was obsessed with how organizations were starting to get disrupted by new upstarts. I started being known as the “innovation” guy internally, and also by our clients. By performing talks, and creating video content in the space, I started to carve out my expertise in the "disruption" space.

I’m also active in the startup space. One of the companies that I’m invested in and advise is called, and they’re about to disrupt the healthcare space when it comes to chronic conditions. I’ve also started a company with my wife, Deepa Maisuria, called DMSK in the men’s skincare and wellness space. I don’t want to just talk about disruption, but also be in the game.

BAA: Can you tell us how you shifted your public speaking business when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted live events?

When the pandemic hit, I knew everything was going digital. To me, it was a home game. I was already filming all my keynotes and shooting with the filmmaking duo, BAD Films. I knew by creating a fundamentally differentiated virtual experience, we could deliver world-class live streams. In April 2020, after the pandemic wiped out all in-person events, we took up residence at the Myer Horowitz Theatre and have been live-streaming to organizations and individuals worldwide ever since. We’ve done 250+ livestreams with some of the world’s best companies: Microsoft, Pfizer, Dell, Walmart, Bell, TD, RBC, Lincoln and more.

BAA: How has your Alberta School of Business education influenced your career?

The Alberta School of Business is really a platform for change. The school helped me explore what I really wanted to do. One of the most pivotal moments of my life was working with the Co-Operative Education office, where they set me up with some great companies. I was able to secure a position with Singapore Press Holdings in Singapore, and it really shaped my views on disruption and gave me the confidence to work within a global environment.

BAA: What advice do you have for graduates just starting out in their careers?

Take as many risks as you can. I see so many graduates getting caught up in brands, mediocre salary raises, titles, benefits and more. It doesn’t matter anymore. The world values the bold. The power has now shifted from institutions to individuals. Build your own power by finding what you’re good at, taking risks, sharing ideas and collaborating with others.

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