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"The biggest opportunities I was given at Kwantlen were the co-op experiences."
Gagan Jutla has drive. He has goals. He has his head down.
The son of immigrant parents – his mother is from India and his father was born in Africa and raised in Europe – Gagan watched the tireless work ethic of both his parents who at times “had to take on a job just to take on a job and pay bills.”
“They always made sure my brother and I were taken care of,” says Gagan. “Seeing that work ethic was definitely something that helped me in school and in my career. Put your head down, you know.”
He has certainly embraced that work ethic. In just three years he has pole-vaulted from student intern while finishing his degree to accountant, then to senior accountant, and most recently to manager at one of the top accounting firms in British Columbia: Grant Thornton LLP.
A 2015 graduate of KPU’s highly regarded Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting program, Gagan credits the five co-op placements he completed during his undergraduate degree with propelling him forward through graduate school and rapidly up the ranks of his firm.
“The biggest opportunities I was given at Kwantlen were the co-op experiences,” says Gagan. “I did five, which is more than the typical three co-ops most students complete. I took longer to graduate than some of my peers, but I think that additional real-world experience helped me to succeed more quickly and early on in my profession.”
As an accounting manager at Grant Thornton, Gagan has grown from managing money and clients to becoming responsible for the growth and development of a team of people – something he takes very seriously.
“I’ve got mentees,” he explains. “I sit down and help these accountants map out their futures, their next five to 10 years.”
That pivot from mentee to mentor may have happened quickly, but it was a natural next step for the young leader who continues to give back to KPU through an annual scholarship he created for working accounting students who find themselves in financial need. Recognizing that not everyone has the same opportunities, Gagan wanted to give back.
“I worked throughout my time at Kwantlen. I really wanted to give back any way I could and a scholarship could really help students who have work commitments and can’t spend all their time studying.”
Gagan recently received the Outstanding Young Alumni award from the KPU Alumni Association. The award recognizes KPU alumni under 30 years old who have demonstrated excellence professionally and through community service.
In addition to his career and philanthropy, Gagan makes time to contribute to the local arts community. He is a board director and treasurer for the Jericho Arts Centre, a non-profit theatre in Vancouver that provides space and opportunity for any artist who has the drive, but not the money, to put on a show.
“Drive” is a reoccurring theme for Gagan. Now that he has achieved his five-year goal of becoming a manager in less than three, he has his sights set on a partnership within the next 10 years.
“I’ve got drive. I’ve got hunger. It goes back to work ethic.
“I’ve seen my parents work super hard and I see myself doing the same,” says Gagan. “Kwantlen really sets students up to succeed, but you still have to work hard. I see my future. I have goals.”
What are you currently working on? I just finished a billion-dollar IPO [initial public offering]. I can’t say more. [laughs]
Which faculty member had the biggest impact on you? Lindsay Wood, my co-op instructor. She’s a great individual who always helped me. If I have any questions or doubts, I can go to her. I’ve always been in touch with her.
What was your best KPU day? The massive live Lego build for Career Day. I helped organize the event during my first co-op with the KPU Career Services Office. The theme for the event was “build your career.” I came up with the idea of bringing a professional Lego builder to campus.
I found the only Lego-certified builder in Canada and hired him to come to campus to do a massive interactive live build during the event; it was really cool.
Why should employers hire KPU alumni? I recruit from all of the big B.C. universities and I see the quality of our accounting graduates in comparison to others. Kwantlen students are given everything they need to succeed. One of our [Grant Thornton’s] biggest concerns when hiring is, “Are our students going to being able to pass their CPA exam?” That costs money. Knowing an employee’s undergraduate education has set them up to succeed is a load off the mind of any employer.
What do you tell people about KPU? I’m always talking about KPU’s accounting program. KPU’s biggest asset and competitive advantage is teaching real-world applications and critical thinking. They really set students up to succeed.