As Sameer Esmail entered the plenary session of the 2022 Y20 Summit in Bandung, Indonesia, he felt honoured to be representing Canada in a significant moment for youth at a historically important venue. The Merdeka Building, the site of the Asian-African Conference in 1955, first served as the backdrop to an influential cooperation framework among 29 Asian and African countries that aimed to promote world peace and freedom from colonialism. Nearly 70 years later, Esmail was heading through the same doors, in step with delegates from around the world, to formalize a landmark agreement for G20 youth.
As the leader of the four-person Canadian delegation at the 2022 Y20 Summit, Esmail’s job was to represent the voice of Canadian youth on the global stage. From July 17 to 24, 2022, the UBC Bachelor + Master of Management Dual Degree (B+MM) student engaged in nuanced negotiations with bright young minds from other G20 member countries in Jakarta and Bandung, Indonesia. Together, they created a collection of policy proposals in the form of the Y20 Indonesia 2022 Communique.
“The ideas that young people have put forward are bold, ambitious and push for strong action from G20 leaders,” says Esmail, Canada’s Head Delegate and the delegate responsible for the digital transformation track. “This experience showed me the power of collective action.”
Set apart from global competitors
After a summer spent advocating in an international arena, Esmail has a newfound appreciation for his academic path here at home.
“The B+MM degree was the reason I chose to go to UBC – I was debating going to a number of schools but it’s what sold me,” recalls Esmail. “Business skill sets are applicable no matter which career you’re in.”
Opportunities in the foreign service and international diplomacy demand adaptable candidates. Esmail says the B+MM program provides a competitive advantage because he’s developing business acumen in areas like strategic management and operations, on top of his geopolitical knowledge.
“With my Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, my focus is on governments and their behaviour in the international space. But it’s important that I understand the role of the relationship between the public and private sectors,” says Esmail. “I want to work at the intersection of business, technology and government, among different countries.”
Every time Esmail seeks advice from mentors in the field, the value of his education becomes all the more obvious.
“In all the conversations I’ve had with people working at the executive levels of government, the main thing they say is missing in many employees is the management skills and ability to succeed in a corporate environment.”
The early impact of a supportive education
Though he represents the youth perspective, Esmail is far from inexperienced. He has managed to build an impressive resume, all while in school. Through his Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, he’s secured Co-op terms as a Political and Economic Assistant at the U.S. Consulate General in Vancouver, as a Junior Analyst at Global Affairs Canada, and as a Junior Analyst at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.
Esmail says he hasn’t yet decided where he wants to go after graduation. From a diplomatic role in a Canadian mission abroad, to a government relations role at a private company, he has a world of opportunities in front of him.
The support provided by the Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre (BCC) at the UBC Sauder School of Business has helped him decipher his career options and identify which ones connect with his personal values.
“I started having conversations with the BCC right away in my first year,” says Esmail. “I remain uncertain of which path to take first, but one thing I definitely took away from my initial conversations is understanding what matters to me in a career.”
The team at the BCC has also connected Esmail with people in the field who can share first-hand perspectives on certain career choices. “I’ve been able to have a number of coffee chats with people who work in government relations for companies in Vancouver,” says Esmail.
On track to elevate youth voices in Bali
Though he won’t be there in person, Esmail’s focus will return to Indonesia once again this November during the 2022 G20 Bali Summit. World leaders are set to meet about three main pillars: Global Health Architecture, Sustainable Energy Transition, and Digital Transformation.
“For the next few months, our job is to take everything we have in the Y20 Communique and push it to different [federal] ministries so they take into account the youth proposals,” says Esmail. “As members of the G20’s youth engagement group, our main goal is to make sure the voices of youth and policies that youth have put forward end up at the negotiation table.”
Esmail is also optimistic about the potential impact of the Communique on domestic policies, from the digital delivery of government services to the advancement of diversity and inclusion initiatives. “There are many different areas where we can push for action within Canada for the benefit of future generations.”
Even in the midst of his global advocacy commitments, Esmail will continue to focus on his B+MM studies and consider his post-graduation plans. As someone who has proven to hold his own against the brightest young negotiators in the G20, one thing is abundantly clear: Esmail’s future is full of promise.