Alumni earn Top Immigrant honours

Western alumni Kundan Joshi, BESc’04 (Software Engineering), founder and CEO of TheAppLabb, and Dr. Boluwaji Ogunyemi, BSc’08 (Medical Sciences & Sociology), a dermatologist, have been named among the 10th annual RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrants, a list that includes other artists, academics, entrepreneurs and champions of worthy causes.

“The RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards celebrate the outstanding accomplishments and leadership of newcomers across Canada. Now in its 10th year, and with more than 250 newcomers recognized (since 2008), the awards highlight our country’s diversity and the contributions and positive impact newcomers have been making in our communities,” said Ivy Chiu, Senior Director, Newcomer Strategy at RBC.

The award is presented by Canadian Immigrant magazine and sponsored by RBC. Winners were honoured at ceremonies in Toronto and Vancouver on June 27.

Hundreds of nominations were received, from which 75 finalists were shortlisted by a diverse judging panel of past winners. Nearly 60,000 online votes were cast. The 25 winners were chosen based on a combination of votes and a second round of judging.

From among the Top 25 winners, two individuals are selected for special recognition, the RBC Entrepreneur Award and the Youth Award. Joshi is the fourth annual recipient of the RBC Entrepreneur Award for excellence in entrepreneurship.

JOSHI

TheAppLabb, a product innovation firm founded by Joshi, is focused on strategy, design and development of cutting-edge apps. With six global offices in Toronto, New York, Hong Kong, Melbourne and India, it has created more than 500 apps for a variety of clients.

“Today, we are at a stage where technology has progressed to a point where our only limitation is our own imagination,” said Indian-born Joshi, who also serves as a partner, investor and advisor to more than 20 tech start-ups, including Urbery, an on-demand grocery delivery app, and Mygreat, a chatbot for new immigrants. “If you can imagine it, with technology, we can achieve it.”

Joshi came to Canada from Mumbai in 2000 and attributes his success to “grit, persistence, never giving up despite failures — and staying focused on the ultimate vision.”

He also credits Western for helping him pave a path to his entrepreneurial success in a new country.

“My overall Western experience was a highlight in my career and a time full of rich experiences,” said Joshi. “I was a new immigrant learning about a new culture, learning about myself and finding my strengths.”

Joshi believes his experience at Western Engineering shaped his way of thinking and sharpened his ability to create innovative solutions for tech industry problems.

“My professors really challenged me to think differently, which led me to develop an out-of-the-box style of analyzation and reasoning. Outside of the classroom, my peers inspired me to work harder and smarter,” he said.

He believes in giving back, serving on a variety of groups and boards, including as vice-president of the Indo Canada Chamber of Commerce, and as part of the information and communications technology leadership team at Mississauga Board of Trade.

Joshi is known as a passionate advocate for new immigrants. He hires them, mentors them and has established an internship program at TheAppLabb for newcomer co-op students.

The budding philanthropist is also a founding director of Startups Give Back, a charity that unites start-ups with others in the community that are less fortunate.

“To become a good leader, you need to empower others to become good leaders,” he said.

OGUNYEMI

Boluwaji Ogunyemi’s Nigerian parents brought the 11-year-old and his older brother to Canada to give them the best possible opportunities in life.

“With my immigrant parents as my earliest and greatest role models, I learned the importance of hard work, dedication and sacrifice from an early age,” said Ogunyemi.

In June, he completed his five-year postgraduate training at the University of British Columbia where he was named chief resident in the department of dermatology and skin science, becoming a board-certified dermatologist.

“I plan to work as a medical dermatologist, diagnosing and managing patients of all ages with skin diseases ranging from eczema and melanoma to acne and severe drug reactions,” Ogunyemi said.

He also hopes to seek an academic appointment and continue his work in leadership and advocacy, having as president of the Medical Student Society at Memorial University of Newfoundland, as director of communications for Resident Doctors of British Columbia and on the board of directors of the Canadian Dermatology Association.

Ogunyemi has also spent time mentoring youth and encouraging those from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue careers in health sciences. He was recently awarded the American Academy of Dermatology Members Making a Difference award for contributions to patient advocacy and mentorship.

The 31-one-year-old has been published in several peer-reviewed scientific journals and regularly gives presentations at scientific conferences.

Ogunyemi, recipient of the Harry Jerome Award in health sciences, a national award celebrating excellence in the African-Canadian community, regularly writes about issues related to diversity and inclusion, social justice and medicine for mainstream publications.

“I think that embracing different ways of thinking has contributed to my success,” he said.