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Theresa Azari: Bonafide foodie and lifelong philanthropist

Posted by SVP Vancouver
SVP Partner Theresa Azari

From finance to governance risk compliance, she’s a woman of many talents and a late-night chef to boot! It’s time to meet one of our newest SVP Partners, Theresa Azari.

You’re fairly new to SVP. How have things been going so far?
Even though it’s only been about three or four months, it’s going really great. I’ve enjoyed being part of the SVP family. And with summer now already passed, I’m looking forward to becoming more involved with SVP as time progresses. Most recently, I’ve partnered with John Zaplatynsky on the Opportunities Committee for Blind Beginnings.

How did you first learn about SVP?
I actually learned about SVP through Michael Argast, a current Partner. One day we met up for coffee. At first, we were talking about work and then our conversation moved towards giving back to the community and being of service.

From there, Michael introduced me to Gina and Amanda to set up a Lunch and Learn session … and that was it! Gina and Amanda really showcased the impact that SVP has, and I really wanted to be part of that journey.

Were you much involved in philanthropy prior to joining SVP?
Yes, I have been. I’ve always had a passion for giving back to the community, as far back as I can remember—which was probably when I was 7 or 8 years of age. I received a weekly allowance from my parents, and at the end of each month I would take it to them and ask that they send it to World Vision.

Why?
On the World Vision television broadcast, I was exposed to the impoverished state of the families and children in other parts of the world.  I just knew how blessed I was, especially growing up in Canada. There were other children who needed that money more than I did…and every penny makes a big difference!

That’s remarkable generosity at such a young age. How has your philanthropic work continued in later years?
In the past I volunteered at the Union Gospel Mission and Belkin House, a division of Salvation Army, cooking in the kitchens. I had to stop due to my work schedule, but I did that for several years. I find that volunteering my time helps keep me grounded and provide a wonderful opportunity to actively give back to such inspiring social causes. It also gives me the chance to connect with many of the residents first-hand and hear about their stories.

Tell us more about that. Being grounded. What does that mean for you?
When I think about how human beings generally are … well, let’s just say there’s a tendency for some people to complain about what they don’t have rather than to appreciate what they do have.

I think that when we have the opportunity to interact with people who have less than we do, and to see the similarities between us, it encourages me—us—to be thankful for what we have. Sometimes we lose sight of that.

So, what most excites you now about working with SVP?
For myself, I cherish the opportunity to work side by side with the Investees and SVP members to make a difference for children and create meaningful and positive change. In terms of capacity building and my skill sets and where I may be of service for a greater good, I think it’s pretty diverse. I’ve explored multiple careers in my lifetime, primarily because of my curiosity to learn, grow, and to be continually challenged.

Okay, give us your elevator pitch!
To sum up my trajectory in a few succinct words … I’m a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) with an MBA background who transitioned from leadership positions in finance/business strategy towards cybersecurity and GRC (governance risk compliance). I’m currently an independent consultant who provides advisory services to organizations on how to remain secure and compliant in an ever-evolving digital ecosystem.

How do you fit your philanthropy in and around your life and day job?
The honest truth is that it’s not easy. But philanthropy for me is a mindset and a way of life. I will always make time for it. Right now, that time tends to be on Sunday evenings! And then I try to balance my days so that I schedule meetings and other appointments in a way that doesn’t conflict with my SVP activities.

Right now you’re a consultant, and obviously you’ve worn many hats in the past. Tell us Theresa … what do you want to be when you grow up?
I guess I’m already grown up (but how I wish to be younger again)! Career wise, I have found my niche in the information security and governance space. But more importantly, I want to continue to make a difference in the world and pay it forward—to offer my skills and other assets in contributing towards positive social change and lasting impact.

Are you dressing up for Halloween?
Yes, I am! I’m debating between two costumes. Captain Marvel or Wonder Woman.

Amazing! What’s something most people wouldn’t know about you?
I am a major foodie! I find comfort in cooking food. Just ask my husband. He’s heard me rummaging around in the kitchen at 03:00am.

Three in the morning?! Why so early?
There’ve been cases when I’ve gotten up at 01:00am and cooked until 04:00am just to calm my nerves. Whether it’s the night before writing a big exam or launching a major project, if I can’t sleep, I will get up and cook.

When I get close to retirement or am ready to leave the corporate world, I’d really like to apply to Le Cordon Bleu (the famous culinary school in Paris) so that I can really dive into something I’m passionate about. My husband loves to eat but he doesn’t like to cook, so he’s very happy about it.

What’s your go-to recipe?
I generally mix it up. I never operate from a recipe. I go by taste—add a little of this, a little of that. I generally open the fridge and work with what’s there.

Sweet or savoury?
Both! Savoury for food, sweet for dessert of course. I often just ask my husband, “What country do you want to go to today?” and that sets the direction.

So, if Partners need some cooking tips they can come to you!
Absolutely. I consider myself a people person. If you want to some tips (or just to chat), just come up to me and start a conversation! Let’s have a glass of wine. It’s liquid food!