Alum Nilofer Ahmed (MAcc '12) reflects on receiving the Young Alumni Award
by Victoria Hinde
In 2021, the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) presented the Young Alumni Award to Nilofer Ahmed who completed her Master of Accounting degree in 2012. Ahmed’s career has merged a foundation in accounting and finance with an education in business and entrepreneurship, along with her passion for food in her current position as senior director of business and consumer strategy at Motif FoodWorks.
“To have this connection back to SAF is a really special feeling - looking at the list of other award winners I recognize people from my class, the class above me, below me, who have all gone on to do really exciting things and I feel so honoured to be a part of that group.” – Nilofer Ahmed
Ahmed reflects on her time at Waterloo and the role the university has played in her career trajectory. Ahmed highlights the impact of the co-op program in getting her to this point in her career. After spending all her co-op work terms at KPMG, she was able to diversify her experience within the organization and join full-time upon graduation in a more senior role.
“Waterloo was such a formative part of my career trajectory. It’s where a lot of things started; it’s where I first started to explore my interests, where I developed professional skills from the co-op program, and where I started developing my professional network and made many lifelong friends.” – Nilofer Ahmed
During her time at KPMG, Ahmed realized she wanted to expand her experience and explore more of the qualitative side of business, which brought her to enrolling in an MBA program at the Yale School of Management. During these studies, Ahmed split her internship between Boston Consulting Group, working in the food and agriculture space across the United States, Canada and Australia, and a program called MBAs Across America where she worked with small business owners across the United States. This turned out to be a very formative summer for Ahmed, where she was able to explore what became her passion – the food industry. The combination of these events and experiences led her to co-found Fire Ox Foods, a company that carries frozen, plant-based meals inspired by cuisines from around the world as well as joining Motif FoodWorks in 2019, a food technology company focused on plant-based food solutions.
Ahmed comments on the evolving programs at SAF, noting that she feels “excited and energized to see the growth” of all the stream options and career paths now available. For her, the programs’ shift in focus to bring soft skills and strategic business thinking to the forefront is helping ensure graduates of the School remain ready to be future professional leaders. Ahmed has been very generous with her time and is passionate about staying connected to current students, highlighting the creativity she sees amongst them and feels like she continues to learn from them as much as they learn from her through their interactions. Specifically, Ahmed has been an integral part of the Success Beyond the Classroom course this year, a course designed to better equip students who are embarking on their careers by enhancing those non-technical skills or characteristics that contribute to the development of future business leaders.
NILOFER’S PRO TIPS FOR ASPIRING YOUNG PROFESSIONALS
- Put yourself in situations where you are going to attract success - luck will definitely play a role in your career, but you want to put yourself in situations where you are improving those odds. This can be as simple as attending more events and taking the time to network, connecting with new people on LinkedIn, etc.
- Explore things outside of your comfort zone – don’t be afraid to try things that may initially seem like a risk,
- Think about what gets you genuinely excited and find ways to incorporate it into your professional journey,
- Advocate for yourself – no one knows what you want for your career better than you.
Nilofer Ahmed is the Senior Director of Business and Consumer Strategy at Motif FoodWorks, a food technology company focused on plant-based food solutions. Nilofer was previously a project leader at Boston Consulting Group, focused on the retail grocery industry. In 2015, Nilofer co-founded her own plant-based frozen food company, Fire Ox Foods, which continues to operate in the Northeastern United States today. She is passionate about food trends and improving global food systems. Nilofer received her MBA from the Yale School of Management in 2016 and her BAFM and MAcc degree from the University of Waterloo in 2012.
Outside of work, Nilofer is a strong advocate and mentor for women in the workplace. She is a mentor with EverQuote’s leadership program and a Big Sister with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the latest food trends and is excited to continue pursuing innovation in the food space.