December 2, 2022


The Joy Of Businnes

How Vanessa Padillo uses her finance background to strengthen Calgary’s arts community

May is Asian Heritage Month. To celebrate, CBC Calgary is highlighting the rich heritage and contributions of Asian Calgarians through a series of 10 profiles throughout the month. We welcomed nominations of diverse individuals with different goals and interests, and a common commitment to giving back to the community. Through an internal voting process, CBC Calgary staff selected the Asian Changemakers for 2022 and asked them each to write a self-profile. Here is the latest, from Vanessa Padillo:

Whether it is performing on stage, co-building a wealth management boutique firm, travelling the world or watering my roots in my hometown of Calgary, I carry my Asian culture and sensibilities everywhere I go, in whatever capacity I am in. I am a woman who takes pride in taking care of others. My name is Vanessa Magpantay Padillo, and I am an Asian Changemaker. I am proudly Canadian-Filipino, born in the Philippines and raised in Calgary.

My involvement in the community began with my passion in dance. From the early age of five, I would perform in a plethora of community events, and at times, I would be the only Asian representation on stage. However, I focused on the things I could control and danced with heart, wearing my Filipino skin as a badge of honour for the audience to take notice.

Fast forward to today — I have parlayed my drive, work ethic and academic sensibilities to the world of business, finance and accounting. The essence of my dance days stayed intact, as I did not let the lack of Asian representation hinder my tenacity for success and allowed my hard work to be at the forefront of my being.

I am an Asian Changemaker because, despite very little Asian representation, I am able to navigate and garner respect from the highest ranks within Calgary’s corporate financial sector. My culture does not hinder my growth, but rather I carry it with me everywhere I go so other cultures can see that our potential is just as promising as theirs.

I am proud of how resilient Filipinos are, and how they do it with a smile. 

Padillo is a board member of the Screaming Goats Collective, a non-profit society which strengthens the connection between art communities in Calgary and Montreal. (Esther Cho Photography/CBC)

Despite being bound to some of the most impoverished conditions, Filipinos will take care of others before themselves. This is our super power. A strength not always translated in the physical, but more so in the spiritual and emotional.  Along with the power of our faith, Filipinos can and have risen with leadership above difficult circumstances and lead proud and content lives. 

My Asian upbringing has created a unique set of lenses that form my perspective in how I see myself and where I stand within my community — a hybrid perspective that is both Canadian and Filipino.

Having to balance the customs and values of both cultures creates a unique set of challenges in my day-to-day.  From which customs take precedent over the other and which require empathy and compromise in any given moment can lead to internal and external conflict. 

Regardless of these challenges, I am grateful that my Filipino upbringing complements the Canadian environment I live in today. It provides more context in guiding my actions to make decisions that perpetuates more success (both in business and in life).

I love Calgary’s growing diversity in the workforce and would like to see more change to reflect this. 

I hope to see more Asian representation in leadership roles in the corporate and finance sectors and to be a part of community events that simultaneously celebrate and recognize as many cultures as possible. 

Over time, I would like to think that these measures will build a communal identity that treats one another based on their morals, character and ethics, and gradually wash away the lines of colour and discrimination truly focusing on genuine diversification.

As I have goals in various facets of my life — career, family, dance and self — I have numerous mentors of varying degrees that have helped me achieve my goals throughout the years. It is essential to identify the mentors in your life. The humility to listen and follow those who embody aspects in their lives you want to emulate keeps us grounded and gives us feedback when we are on the right track and when we may feel lost.

I believe building meaningful connections with my mentors creates a healthy chain of communication and respect that acts as the thread to community building.

As the executive account director of The Wealth Council, Padillo uses her strong finance background to support the arts community by delivering finance workshops for professional and upcoming artists. (Esther Cho Photography/CBC)

To those looking to make a change, start with yourself first. 

Discover who you are, the things you are naturally passionate about, play to your strengths as well as shine a light on the not-so-glamorous aspects of yourself. The first change is to know and accept yourself. In doing so, you will be giving the much needed care and attention in order to find resolve within you. And that resolve will be at the core of your decisions, actions and aspirations. Once you make peace with yourself and heighten your own self-awareness, you can channel all of your focus onto the change(s) itself (and not be clouded by your own perceived limitations).

There is always a part of me that feels I could be doing more to celebrate and fuel our Asian communities here in Calgary. And to all of the worthy candidates that have contributed their time and resources to positively impact the community, I say thank you and to continue doing what you are doing.

With that being said, I would be most gracious in accepting this recognition and grateful to be nominated as an Asian Changemaker!