Seerat Kaler (BUS ’21) is the daughter of immigrants who came to the United States from Punjab, an agricultural region in India, seeking to raise their children in a place that they believed would offer more opportunities for success. For Kaler, those opportunities came to fruition at the Driehaus College of Business, where she found people and programs committed to empowering her success.
Kaler entered DePaul with an interest in economics, but she didn’t quite know which career path to pursue. That changed when she attended DePaul’s annual career fair during her sophomore year and met representatives from CIBC U.S., including the head of the multinational bank’s financial institutions group. Before she knew it, Kaler and the executive had spoken for more than 40 minutes. She recalls sharing her passions, interests and motivations in life, and “he was gracious enough to look at my résumé and provide honest comments. It was an experience unlike any other career fair visit.”
Later on, Kaler successfully landed multiple internships at CIBC and interacted with stellar mentors along the way. “My internships at CIBC were my first exposure to commercial banking, and I really enjoyed it,” she says. “The hands-on experience taught me about various industries and their business models. The clients we serve taught me substantially about building wealth in America—specifically in business industries that are unexplored by my community.”
During her junior year she was accepted into the Keeley Center Academy, a selective, rigorous, two-year DePaul career-readiness program that provides students with the skills and contacts to become successful in finance. “It was a really intense experience, but what it did was it bridged the gap for people, like me, who have this great ambition to do something, but don’t really understand how this industry actually works. It taught me the ropes and made meeting industry professionals easy.”
Kaler and the seven other women students in her Keeley Center Academy cohort formed a tight-knit group to support each other as they pursued their studies and future careers in a field where men greatly outnumber women. The group began discussing how they could expand this support network to other women and business students from diverse backgrounds. This led Kaler and her classmates to found Females in Finance, a DePaul student organization dedicated to promoting allyship and leadership empowerment for women in finance.
“We launched in fall quarter (2020) and quickly went from eight to 64 members,” Kaler says. The organization also attracted strong industry collaboration, amassing a sizable endowment and support from companies that include Morgan Stanley, BMO Harris Bank and William Blair. The effort helped Kaler earn the Keeley Academy’s 2021 Most Inspirational Student Award.
After graduating with a bachelor’s in finance, Kaler joined CIBC full time as a commercial banking associate and, this past summer, was placed in the Loan Syndications group.
One of the key values Kaler holds as a follower of the Sikh religion is Vand Chhako, which means to share what you have and consume it as a community. Kaler embraces this value as a member of CIBC’s DePaul Campus Champion college recruiting team. Through her continuing contact with DePaul’s Females in Finance, she has helped recruit four female students for internships and full-time roles at CIBC in the past two years.
“This is the kind of progress I am trying to make,” Kaler says. “My main goal is to help as many people as possible. I don’t think there’s anything to gain from competing with people. That’s how I interact with people, and I’m hoping to keep that going for the rest of my career.”
By Robin Florzak