AGBU YPs is the best way to meet new people, and it's an opportunity that benefits you both personally and professionally. You develop transferable skills working in YP that end up being useful in your career.
Born and raised in Montreal, Canada, Maral Elliott is a cybersecurity consultant who has maintained a powerful connection to her Armenian roots. That is why, when she was asked to become the new chairperson of the AGBU Young Professionals in Montreal, she could not resist. Having held this position for three years and counting, Elliott shares the successes, hardships, and intricacies of her role — both in her local community and the global AGBU YP network.
You were a member of YP Montreal for two years prior to becoming its chair. What attracted you to this community when you first joined?
I'm half Armenian, but I’ve always been involved in the Armenian community — both generally and through AGBU. Growing up, I was a part of AGBU Scouts and later played on their basketball team. When I left Montreal to study in Ottawa for university, the Armenian community there was not as strong. I felt a profound sense of loss without that connection in my life. When I returned home, I felt this pull, an urge to participate in the community again, wherever and however that may be. So, when Karl Guiragossian, my friend and former YP Montreal Chair, contacted me to work with his team in this chapter, it just seemed like a perfect fit. I started off as just an executive member when I joined. Karl was chair for two years while I was there, and in his last year he had asked me if I wanted to replace him. That's how I got into the chair role of the team.
What are your primary responsibilities in your current role? Are there any skills that you currently use in this position that you developed from your professional work experience?
I have had many responsibilities over the years, but my priority every year involves organizing the team, getting our team mandate and mission settled and then ensuring that we follow through with those successfully. To do this, I work collaboratively with other members on my team. In addition to that work, I serve as a liaison with YP Global, the AGBU Montreal chapter, and AGBU Global. At my day job, I gained a strong sense of what a structured team looks like, so that understanding was something I applied when organizing the YP group in Montreal. Actually, my first management role was as YP Montreal Chair, so it was the opposite. I gained multiple transferable skills while managing the YP team, which served as a huge bonus to help me land my current management role at Deloitte.
How do you balance your work as YP Montreal Chair with your full-time job?
The time commitment can sometimes get difficult. When I am busy with both my personal and work life, it can become challenging to juggle everything. I sometimes find it difficult and stressful, but I think the key is having a good, hardworking team. When everyone contributes, it takes away from individual effort and burden; I can trust that someone will always be there to support me if I need it. What brings me back every time is that I simply enjoy the work I do. I don’t mind transitioning a few hours off my day-to-day work to do YP work. As much as I enjoy my job, what we do with YP is more passion oriented, more heartfelt. We are giving back to the community and contributing to something more important. While it does take work, it’s easier to spend time on when I think about the people we have the potential to impact and the community we are fostering along the way.
What are some memorable experiences that you've had in your current capacity with the YPs?
One recent experience that stands out to me is a boat party we held this summer. It was inspired by what YP Houston does with the Houston Hoedown. We had one of our executives who went to that event in Texas, came back and said, ‘It's a great event, a great opportunity to network.’ So we said, ‘Let's organize the same type of event.’ We worked quite hard on it as a team, and I'm very pleased with how successful the event turned out. It’s the largest and most well-attended YP Montreal event that I have seen so far. It was met with such positive feedback that we are now making it an annual event! Additionally, I really enjoy working and meeting the international YPs, whether it be at FOCUS or during our frequent calls with the Global YPs. I find the conversations so beneficial and enriching. I always leave those interactions with so many new visions for our team. Learning what other YP chairs are doing motivates me to do more with our team. Lastly, I'm proud of all the fundraising that we've done, especially since 2020, and the awareness we have raised around the issues in Armenia and Artsakh.
What has been your strategy to grow YP Montreal in your community?
Each year, we have an internal meeting to set up our yearly goals and determine how we want to structure our team. We divided our work into different pillars to capture and appeal to different aspects and interests in the community. For example, for our education pillar, we organize educational and cultural events. This includes a new initiative — a local mentorship program where we target a university demographic and connect them with more senior members. This also allows us to identify potential future YPs and familiarize them with our work and activities. For our networking pillar, we organize social and networking events. We also have a pillar dedicated to fundraising, which focuses on giving back to the community. This fosters our collaboration with YP Global.
How would you encourage someone with no prior knowledge of the YPs to join the network?
I'd say: AGBU YPs is the best way to meet new people, and it's an opportunity that benefits you both personally and professionally. You develop transferable skills working in YP that end up being useful in your career. YP also connects you to an international community where the results of your efforts are tangible, not only with what we do here, but also in Armenia and in Artsakh. We are always working towards a larger goal, which is the most gratifying part. There is an automatic feeling of community that I get when I’m around fellow Armenians, and I think it’s different, special. What's funny about us Armenians is that no matter where we are in the world, we all think the same way, connect the same way, and have the same triggers that make us feel connected to one another. No matter where we are or where we come from, we are all really the same.