U of T Scarborough management student wins national co-op award for unique business idea

A photo of Ahnaf Rahman
Ahnaf Rahman has won the prestigious Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada Student of the Year Award (Photo by Junyoung Moon).

Alexa Battler

Ahnaf Rahman was 12 when he used an Excel spreadsheet to predict the winner of the 2015 Cricket World Cup. He’s used technology to solve problems ever since, most recently at one of the largest accounting firms in the world. 

“I get excited when I see numbers and am able to spot patterns,” says Rahman who is pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Specialist in Finance (Co-op) degree and aspires to be a management consultant — that is, someone who helps organizations solve problems for a living. 

“Management consulting is a rather competitive field to break into, which is why co-op is the right fit for me.”

Rahman has won the Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning (CEWIL) Canada Student of the Year Award, a prestigious accolade that recognizes college and university students across the country. Rahman completed an eight-month co-op work term at KPMG, one of the world’s “Big Four” accounting firms, and became the first co-op student to win the KPMG Spotlight Award, open to the company’s hundreds of analysts across the country.

He won in part thanks to his engagement management dashboard, a tool still used heavily across KPMG a year after his work term. Made with Microsoft’s data visualization software PowerBI, the dashboard streamlines how the company tracks its progress on a project versus its remaining budget. He says it generates reports dramatically quicker than it took to create them manually, with more accuracy and enough detail to show when a specific employee has, say, completed only 20 per cent of the work but used 50 per cent of the budget. 

“Senior managers can keep their managers accountable, managers can keep consultants accountable, and the data is used to show clients that we’re on track,” Rahman says. “Data can be overlaid too so it allows for year-by-year comparison.”

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Rahman was introduced to PowerBI in a management course at U of T Scarborough, and grew a strong appreciation for it across his two roles at KPMG. He began as a technology risk consultant (TRC), a role more focused on clients in the financial industry, but knew he wanted to explore his lifelong love of strategic problem solving. He got himself cross-appointed to KPMG’s management consultancy division, and worked with a team using PowerBI to create a similar dashboard that tracks equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) targets. Upon returning to his TRC role, he set out to find a way he could use the software to help his original department in some way. Thus, his dashboard was born. 

He later noticed there was a growing Muslim population and spearheaded the department’s first Iftar, the fast-breaking ceremony that ends Ramadan, along with education campaigns about the religious observation. Back on campus, he'd been simultaneously climbing the ranks of the Management and Economics Students’ Association (MESA), winning associate then executive of the year then becoming co-president. Rahman launched a networking event that brought almost 100 students to his KPMG office, as part of a series that had students tour seven companies including Microsoft, CIBC and TD.

It's been a busy couple years since he won the most prestigious international student scholarship at U of T – the Lester B. Pearson Scholarship. He landed it in part for the initiative he launched after noticing that his fellow high school students were having trouble finding places to complete their mandatory volunteer hours, while local non-profits needed volunteers. He launched Fair Care, which he advertised as “Tinder for community service,” a website that allowed students to search for and connect with local NGOs.

At U of T Scarborough, he’s been an operations specialist with the Management Consulting Group, one of the 17 management clubs on campus, and he’s working as a research assistant on a project to help best distribute a historic $23.3 billion reparations settlement to Indigenous people across Canada. 

For his third co-op work term this May, Ahnaf will join the global management consulting firm Kearney as a business analyst.

He credits every achievement to his family back in Malaysia, who immigrated from Bangladesh when he was nine. They talk every day despite the 12-hour time difference. 

“They support me not just emotionally and mentally but professionally,” he says. “All of these things that I've accomplished and that I’m still trying to accomplish, I would dedicate all of this to my parents.”