Nath Gautam(NG): My dad was an Indian Diplomat and so he met mum in Prague and we 3 kids are born in different countries and have lived and traveled around the world. Finally he retired and we moved to New Delhi where I completed my higher education from Hindu and MBA at FMS. I then embarked on a corporate journey as an intern to reach the Board of Directors with global multinational corporations enjoying a great career. My love for travel also took us around the world and happy to have been to over 35 countries and 150 cities till today.
This need to learn more about what life offers made me apply for Canadian PR (dad was posted here and did my schooling, fond memories) and my wife and I landed as new Canadians literally this day ten years ago.
SM: How was your Canadian experience since landing ?
NG: I lived here as mentioned during my teenage years and travelled twice with my wife Vineeta while waiting for our PR visa to come through.
Those memories are fantastic; enjoyed the snow and ice hockey and friends while young. And on later trips, we traveled through the province of Ontario in an RV experiencing the beauty of nature, the lush green flora and fauna, birds and butterflies and deep blue lakes. Variety and abundance of food and wine, music, plays, art shows and indeed overall a beautiful country to experience. However when we landed here now as a new Canadian, things were different; this is now home and you are no longer a tourist. You realize how costly the rents are, the amount of paperwork required for every step of settling in, Cracks on the sidewalk, homeless on the streets and despair in people’s eyes.
In Toronto, you see the amount of multicultural population and each one struggling to get a foothold in their new home of choice. You are a stranger, no one cares about what you did before as it means nothing to them. You literally are starting afresh.
Knowing the language is indeed an advantage coming from India but accent reduction then becomes important.
SM: How did your career develop here?
NG: I realized they needed to see who I was and so began to volunteer from week 1, it was the best decision I made as my key strengths of leadership were kept honed. It also gave me confidence and perspective of the corporate landscape and I soon got my first Director level position not through an application but through networking. My corporate journey saw me working for Canada’s largest research agency and on to becoming a partner at a growing communications agency and then as VP in one of the country’s biggest multicultural communications firm. But the volunteering continued, I wanted new Canadians to shine and spent countless hours days months and years in various capacities working to motivate and help settle people in their new home. This note could run 30 pages with details but will summarize that my passion in giving back was such and is reflected in three milestones – In 2011, I received Canada’s Top 25 Immigrants Award, in 2017, I received The June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Voluntarism, Ontario’s Highest and in 2018, The Sovereigns Medal, Canada’s highest recognition for volunteers.
SM: So what made you run for office?
NG: My passion as reflected by the milestone awards mentioned earlier and my professional capabilities (Reflected by receiving Canada’s Top 50 Diversity Board Professionals in early 2018), led close friends to recommend that I run for mayor of Toronto. I am an experienced corporate professional and added with this deep passion of giving back so decided to consider it. I spoke to a dozen people of influence and did my research. Everyone said Gautam Go for it!
And the first line in the mayors job description is The Mayor is the CEO of the city. So that emboldened me to move on ahead.
I was in transition from my previous corporate position and so felt this experience was god given and he moved things to give me full freedom to take up this opportunity.
It took one month to get all the paperwork in order and finally the city accepted my nomination and in early June, I was an official candidate for mayor.
The first Indian candidate ever to run for Mayor of Toronto within 10 years in the country. Just being here indeed was an honour and evidence for all immigrants to be motivated to strive for your own success.
SM: And now that we are here (question answered 3 days prior to election date), how was the journey?
NG: Oh my God! for a man who has travelled the world, been there, done that – this was indeed a wonderful experience, one of a kind and would not change it if I had to do it again.
I truly have never been busier in my life and had to use all my corporate training to go through it. It lives with you 24/7, during your waking hours and during the time when the world sleeps. I would wake up every night at least three times to make some notes and that has been my life since June.
Other candidates with party backing have funds and machinery at their disposal. I as an independent and am not Richie Rich had to work within my capabilities.
I was surprised by the number of people who extended a helping hand and gave their time, passion and energy to get involved. Too many names to give here but my wife, Vineeta, was my strongest pillar pushing me at the times I would falter and supporting me with her energy.
The team I had was fantastic, each had their own lives but walked the extra mile to give whatever support they could. I was the fulcrum balancing all the million little pieces. Press releases, community outreach, graphic designs, sponsorships, social media activation, strategic planning, video shoots, editing, script writing, public events, content development, Website development and management, SEO, global conference calls, financial analysis, lunches, coffee shop meets and more – it was indeed an massive global exercise in project management and intensive planning. And much had to be online using social media and digital marketing.
If only for one reason this article should be published, it should be to acknowledge the passion of all these people. In going beyond the call of duty to rally together to support my effort because they genuinely believed in my goodness for the cause. And that, like this article, is the gem of good reporting.
I also learned a dark side; people and companies that I had supported or was connected with for years suddenly went dark. A very interesting learning in life.
The race has been eye opening, the leading candidate is the current incumbent and he has all the support of Team, finances and blanket media support. The closest and second candidate also has backing that has allowed her to be positioned as the only other strong opposition. We are 33 others of which about 10 are active and really have had little support from the media in our drive.
We will emerge richer by our experience and hopefully some will remain connected for future community roles and service.
It has been tiring, we are on the third last day to D day and for sure a beginning of a new chapter in life’s journey.
SM: Wow! That seems truly an experience, would you like to say a few closing words to our readers all over the world?
NG: Yes for sure!
Guys, never let life stop you from following your dream, it is not always the destination but the journey that changes you forever and makes you ready to address the next journey. You only grow when you go and you stagnate if you stay still. If you have read the article, you have seen that I like you came without a silver spoon but took what I had and made the journey into an experience. Never say never and always believe in the goodness of fellow humans.
If you have passion, you will find support coming your way.
All good wishes, Gautam !